It occurred to me when I was reading Kris’s recent post about Panameño construction that I hadn’t really shared what our house looked like in the beginning stages on the blog. (Click the link if you’d like to compare housing.) It’s come a long way since March of 2012 but I have several pictures that I took and I’d like to share them today and reblog Kris’s post so people can see some of the choices for housing and how different materials are used. One day this week I’ll also try to give an update on the house in the “cow pasture” that I posted about before. The construction materials and the method they are using are brand new to this area and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.
Kris mentioned houses with tin roofs, and it’s true, many houses here have tin roofs. There are other materials also used such as newer fibreglass and fibreboard materials. Our roofing materials are handmade clay tiles typical of the Los Santos province and underneath the tiles is corotu wood roof rafters and roof decking and we have very high ceilings helping to make the house cooler. The outside posts that help to support the roof are carved at the top and are also made of corotu.
Our windows, doors, and cabinetry are hand-made from local hardwood and our counter tops and sinks are all concrete except for the ½ bath and now the kitchen sink, which we have replaced. Everything in the house is modeled after old style Santeno houses, typical of the area we live in. We have modern air conditioning in the two bedrooms and six ceiling fans with lights, including two on the back porch. These help to keep the air moving through the house we don’t need them so much during Dry Season but during Wet Season the fans are usually running in the main living area for most of the day because of the humidity. The fan in the bedroom is usually enough for us at night except on those nights where there is high humidity and no breeze. Then we shut the windows and turn the air conditioner on. Using the air conditioner constantly makes the electricity bill much higher so we try not to use it too much. We also have a tankless gas water heater, so we do have hot and cold running water throughout the house and not “suicide” showers.
One thing we really like about our house is all the storage space. The house came with two dressers and we have six lower closets and what we call “upstairs” storage of eight upper closets. We also have a recessed area for our refrigerator, the stacking washer/dryer and our gas stove. We have what we call “central” gas, meaning one propane tank runs the house. The propane tank is stored outside and is changed out as needed for $5.00 a tank. A tank will last us about three weeks depending on how much cooking and baking I do with the stove and if we use the dryer or not. I don’t use the dryer very much as I have a clothesline that collapses against the wall on the back porch so I can use it rain or shine.
We brought some Ikea furniture with us but we’ve replaced the coffee tables already. The mold and mildew that the paper underneath attracted was horrible. (I’ve posted about this before.) We had one of the woodworkers here recreate the almost exact style in dark stained wood and they are much nicer, although they are much heavier than the originals. SU also insisted on keeping our bedroom suite but the drawer bottoms are horrible in Wet Season. They don’t mold but they “bow” in the middle and it makes it difficult to open and close them. I’ll soon be looking for another design to take to the woodworker and have them replaced and we’ll probably move them to the spare bedroom where they won’t be used as much. Our Ikea couches are doing fine, but the frame is metal and there are slip covers on them, they aren’t fancy but they make into beds. We love that we can take the covers off to wash them. Friends who brought regular furniture wish they had thought of the same thing because the dampness gets into the furniture cushions and it’s difficult to dry them out leaving the furniture with a “sticky” feeling.
The first year of living in a newly constructed house made of concrete and brick will be a battle against mold and mildew no matter what kind of furniture you have. The concrete and blocks hold the moisture and it takes about a year of constant airing out and if you have them running the air conditioners on “dry”. We had the added dampness of having the antique style native clay tiles and rustic wood ceiling. Everything takes a while to dry and settle but this year we have had minimum issues with the house except for a little mildew in traditionally damp spots like the bathroom.
Even though our house isn’t as big and fancy as some houses that are being built or have been built in the housing developments it suits us just fine. We have the convenience of window screens and doors which we are thankful for every day. We’ve really noticed that there are no more bug carcasses in the house with the new screen doors on. We just have to look down the corner to our neighbors houses to see the concrete block windows that Kris talked about in her posts. But even the neighbors are slowly improving their property by putting a coat of repeo over their blocks and filling in their mud driveway. And they seem very happy with their humble home in the campo; as are we.
These pictures were all taken during the latter stages of construction in March/April of 2012: