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Building a Traditional Tico House on Your Finca: Embracing Costa Rica’s Authentic Charm

Last updated on March 9, 2024
Tico house

Ah, the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle of Costa Rica! The joy of waking up to the melodies of tropical birds, sipping coffee grown in your backyard, and enjoying life at a leisurely pace.

One of the most authentic ways to immerse oneself in the Costa Rican way of life is by building a traditional Tico house on your finca (small farm). This article dives deep into that process, sprinkled with some local insights only an expat-turned-local would share.

Understanding the ‘Casa Tica’

A traditional Tico house, or ‘Casa Tica’, is a reflection of Costa Rica’s cultural and climatic nuances. Typically, these homes:

  • Are single-story structures.
  • Feature large, open-air corridors or patios known as ‘corredores’, which serve as communal spaces.
  • Have a straightforward, functional design, focusing on natural ventilation.
  • Use locally-sourced materials like wood and cane for construction.

Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Tico House

Selecting the right finca: Before constructing your Casa Tica, you need the perfect plot. Prefer lands with a slight elevation to prevent flooding during the rainy season. Ensure the finca has access to utilities like water and electricity. Fincas closer to local communities (pueblos) are generally preferable, ensuring you’re connected yet secluded.

Hiring a Local Architect: While a traditional Tico house has a straightforward design, hiring a local architect ensures it’s attuned to the land’s topography and climate. They can also incorporate modern amenities without compromising on authenticity.

Sourcing Materials: Traditional Tico homes predominantly use wood, with species like cedar, melina, and teak being popular choices. Local sawmills often provide better deals than large suppliers. For the roof, zinc sheets or clay tiles are common, with the latter being more traditional.

Incorporating the Corredor: The heart of a Casa Tica is its corredor. Ensure it faces the most scenic part of your finca. This space is ideal for hanging hammocks, another Tico tradition. Remember, the broader the corredor, the cooler the house stays.

Ventilation and Light: Costa Rica’s tropical climate necessitates good ventilation. Large windows, preferably with wooden slats or ‘jalousies’, allow continuous airflow. Design rooms to be interconnected, ensuring cross-ventilation. Opt for tall ceilings to keep the interiors cool.

Foundations and Pillars: Unlike modern concrete homes, Tico houses traditionally rest on wooden pillars, keeping them elevated from the ground. This elevation protects against pests, moisture, and ensures additional airflow.

Another variation is a waist high wall made from concrete block, a poured concrete floor, and walls made from wood. These wood walls can double as the inside walls.

Water and Sanitation: If your finca doesn’t have access to municipal water, dig a well or harvest rainwater. Many communities have water systems managed internally by locals with water run from a spring with PVC pipe.

For sanitation, consider a septic tank system. Again, local guidance is crucial for these aspects, ensuring you adhere to community norms and environmental regulations.

Local Insights for Building Your Tico House

Community Involvement: Involve the local community in your project. They are a treasure trove of knowledge, from understanding microclimates to recommending skilled labor.

Beware of Termites: One challenge with wooden houses is termites. Locals often use a mix of diesel and used motor oil as a cost-effective wood treatment against pests. Regular maintenance and checks are crucial.

Embrace Sustainability: Locals have a harmonious relationship with nature. Consider integrating sustainable elements like rainwater harvesting systems, solar panels, and organic gardens.

Local Decor: Decorate using locally-sourced materials. Handwoven ‘carpets’, traditional hammocks, and artisanal wooden furniture not only support local crafts but also accentuate the Tico charm.

Know Your Permits: While rural areas tend to be more flexible, ensure you have the necessary permits for construction. This might involve land-use rights, environmental clearances, and building permits. Engaging a local lawyer can simplify this process.

Festive Housewarming: Once your house is built, follow the Tico tradition of throwing a housewarming party or ‘fiesta’. Invite neighbors and friends for a day of music, dance, and delicious Costa Rican cuisine. This gesture fosters community bonds and introduces you as a valuable member of the community.


Building a traditional Tico house on a finca is more than just a construction project; it’s a journey into embracing Costa Rica’s rich culture and ethos. The process teaches sustainability, community living, and the joys of simplicity.

As you sip your morning coffee on the corredor, watching the mist lift over your finca, you’ll realize that the essence of ‘Pura Vida’ lies in these very moments — and in the choices that led you here.