First, let me start by saying we have not abandoned our construction and left island. 🙂 I haven’t posted in a while and a bunch of you are asking for updates. Yes, yes, it has been a bit frustrating, however, the thoughts of quitting haven’t crossed our minds. At least not yet. It has been a little over a month since my last official house update and I believe we have made some progress. However, it does still feel as if we are just crawling along.
Where shall we start? How about the roofers. Well, like I mentioned before I am glad we not paying them by the hour, at least not directly. They have spent the past two weeks framing (just the rafters, not decking or cypress yet) the main living area roof. Prior to watching these guys work I would have guessed that the work could be completed in 2-3 days. Either my estimating skills are piss-poor or these guys are slow. There are three of them, one mostly just stands around and tells the other two what to do. I was told yesterday that there would be two other guys joining the roofers next week. We will see.
Plaster. So at the recommendation of John (builder) I purchased 80-pound bags of pre-mixed plaster/stucco from Best Products in Miami. I ordered 2 pallets (84 bags). The plaster mix comes in different colors so that you wouldn’t have to paint afterward should you choose not to do so. We aren’t sure what color our house will be so we went with white for plaster mix. The plasterer says this is the best stuff he has ever worked with and faster to mix as you simply mix it with water. According to the the instructions those bags should have covered about 26,000 sq/ft which would be plenty for all the interior and exterior walls. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Those 84 bags covered the back fence and about 20 percent of the exterior of the main house. That fence and 20 percent exterior completed took nearly two weeks to apply. I have mentioned several times that maybe we should add another guy to the plaster crew. But my thought process is apparently illogical as “he isn’t slowing us down”. To make matters slightly worse, the plasterer cannot plaster the walls the roofers are working on because the fascia boards aren’t completely in place yet.
We are in the process of choosing tile, but can’t put that in until the inside is painted. Can’t paint until the inside is plastered and drywall is put up. Can’t put drywall up until windows are in. Can’t put windows in until exterior is plastered. Can’t do anything until the roof is on. I don’t know, it seems we could have done things exponentially more efficiently. Next house. Anyway, yes, we are deciding on travertine for the interior and exterior. We are between two suppliers in Miami with the cost of 18×18 between $1.69 and $2.25 per sq/ft. Then roughly 70 cents sq/ft for delivery to the site. Depending on where the tile is from (Turkey) we will also have to pay import fees for it. Got to love the Virgin Islands and their double taxation.
On a positive note, last week was the first full week we were not impacted by rain since April. Woo hoo. And since it is Friday, even though it rained some today, they worked through it and made it two weeks in a row. Love it. So, concrete. Where are we? Well, with the pour of the guest house slab today we surpassed 500 yards of concrete. In the past 30 days we have finished the garage (concrete work) and now have the guest house slab poured. Their goal is to get the guest house walls poured by next Friday. That may be pushing it, but John is leaving for three weeks and I know he wants that completed prior to his departure.
In building this house I have met many characters. Some good, some bad. Some, like the concrete delivery guy who said “you are going to regret building here” referencing the salt spray or another concrete delivery guy who said “you will regret building here” because of tsunamis. Everyone has their opinion and everyone seems to want to share it with me. Then we have characters that are simply characters because of their name. Snapper. I met Snapper a few weeks ago. He was going to be delivering some fill dirt to my lot. He brought a few loads and I mentioned that I would eventually need topsoil and to let me know if ever ran into any. I got a call from Snapper on Wednesday asking me if I still wanted topsoil. So after negotiating a price for the topsoil and delivery I asked when he could deliver it. Turns out he was already at the lot. He brought two truckloads pretty much assuming he was going to sell them to me. I probably didn’t convey the humor in that, but I thought it was hilarious that he was trying to sell it to me while sitting at my site. I mean it isn’t like he is selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door.
One other footnote of sort since this relates to our move to the Virgin Islands. I made the USVI national soccer team for the World Cup qualifiers that took place earlier this month. We beat the British Virgin Islands, both home (St. Thomas) and away (Tortola) to advance to the group stages that start in early September and run through November. It was the USVI’s first win ever in WC qualifying. While I didn’t get on the field in either game, it was still great to be a part of it. I am currently the oldest member on the roster. We practiced up to 4 days a week for two months leading up to the games and will continue to practice through November.
Below are a few of the photos from the hundreds I have taken over the past month.
Love everything, well almost everything (Spider – yikes!!)
Chad & Emily,
Slow doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word! Are you acting as your general contractor or is that John (who’s leaving for 3 weeks!)? Guess you’ll be able to take advantage of the new Home Depot after all.
Vis-a-vis the roofers, we had a 2300 sq. ft. home built 6 years ago and it took 2 guys 2 days to do the rafters, so your estimate was spot on!
We will be at our place at Villa Madeleine from 8/31-9/14 and look forward to seeing your place, if you aren’t off winning the World Cup somewhere!
I am not the GC but feel like it most days.
I will send you my contact info via email.
WOW. Looks great. Sounds like the pace is driving you crazy and would certainly kill me. I hope things turn out great in the end and I hope to see it someday… Rob
I was looking at you pictures you posted. It look like your house will look great when it is finish. I am starting construction next year. Do you have any recommendation for who to hire and not to hire. I am trying to build my house very cost effective. Thanks
Hi Sam. Thanks for the comment. I will state it this way, if I were to build another house I would use my electrician (Jimmy Adams) and my plumber (Mike Scizm) without hesitation. I would absolutely not use the Pro Shop as the contractor on the house. I won’t get into specifics at this time, but do your due-diligence with whomever you decide to use and I would make sure that one of the contractors you talk to is Raul Ayala.
I am looking into moving to St. Croix, and am interested in your experiences there. The spider is Argiope argentata, the Silver Argiope, which ranges from California to Florida, Cuba and it appears its range extends to the Virgin Islands. I looked it up and it said the following: The bite can be stingy and itchy during the first approximate hour, then the pain usually passes away. However, it may have several health repercussions on children, seniors and physically weak people.
The house is looking amazing. My husband and I are thinking about St. Croix as a retirement. My question is what is the average cost per sq.ft to build a home in St. Croix and soon after you move can you become a resident.
I appreciate your feedback. I look forward to seeing the finish product.
Thanks Elizabeth. We finished construction 2 years ago. As for cost per sq ft, there are so many factors. It can likely range from $100 to thousands, depending on what you want, how much work you do yourselves, etc, but a general rule of thumb is about $250-$400 for a nice house.
Why did you choose the lot you chose? How big? And have there been after completion problems?
Congratulations. A new life, a new adventure. You are very brave. My husband and I would like to move to St. Croix ( more I than my husband). We need to sell in MD first then start looking for land, then constructions. You are way ahead of us. I cannot imagine how frustrated has been for you; but just think when finish, every tear, every nights and weekends that ad infinitum to your new home that need more than a little work., every dollar, every stripping and shipping and reinforcing and scraping and painting and dirt and confusion and tiredness, and then furniture, has been all worthy. I love to read your blog, please continuing in doing so; because I am learning as it goes.
Chad & Emily
This has been very informative. My wife and I are hoping to move to there in the next few years from MD. She wants an existing house (because of your frustrations) and I want to build. I’m and remodeling contractor so if I could get a few subcontractors to do the things I cant I think I would be OK. Do you have any recommendations for site prep and concrete work?
Hi Mark. If you have the patience you will be fine to do your construction. There are quite a few option for site prep. I recommend talking to a few and finding one that you think you can get along with. Someone like Raul Ayala would be a good option.
You had mentioned his name earlier but I wasn’t sure what his trade was. I do a lot of my work in Washington DC and you better be on time and on budget(unlike congress) but we have done enough traveling to know there is “Island Time”. If I can get site work and concrete finished I can complete the rest. I hope to be a neighbor some day thanks again!
Hi Chad & Emily, I am originally from Houston, Texas and my husband is from Michigan. We have lived in North Palm Beach, FL (close to Juno Beach) for 15 years. Florida is nice but we have no view. We are retiring to St Croix in approx. 2 years. e all want that ocean view, especially the Caribbean sea view. We have started construction now, knowing how long construction takes. I lived on St. Croix about 25 years ago and thru hurricane Hugo. With Home Depot, Cost U Less and the internet, Things have changed for the better. We bought a 1.29 acre lot in Grapetree Estates facing south shore on Terrace rd. We know how slow construction and permitting is on the island so we have started this past January. I saw your blog on Google while searching for Jimmy Adams the electrician on St Croix. Our construction is stalled for a few weeks now waiting for our electrical permit. We are building a house & pool at 180 foot, elevation, an apartment and safe room below and then the cistern & storage rooms below that starting at 150 foot elevation. So if you are driving out east and want to check our site out, take the cut over road to South shore, before you get to Cramer’s Park and look for Terrace Rd. on your right before you get to South Shore Rd. Go up to the crest of the hill, that is our construction site. We are directly below the “Contessa’s Castle. We would love to get together sometime to compare notes. You are way ahead of us on construction.
You guys are my inspiration. I am looking to purchase a modest lot and build a cabin-like structure on it for a place to retreat now and then. Can I build a house under 1000 square feet? Am I required to hire local people? How long do I have after purchasing my land to start building? Your house looks great. Keep going, you are almost there! Thanks and best wishes for a wonderful future.
Hi Lisa, all of the answers to your questions would likely depend on what you were building and where.
I love your blog. Do you happen to have any of your most current pictures. I would love to see how it turns out 🙂
My spouse and I plan to retire and move to St. Croix in early 2020. We would be in need of an inexpensive, month to month rental, during our condo search. After we find one, I would love to have your input on finding building materials for remodeling and reliable contractors. Thanks.
Yes, please post recent pictures of your house.
I just bought some land there. Even that was challenging, Realtor was great. Lawyer, you must hire to buy realty was not that great. Looking forward to building or maybe not .
Hey Chad & Emily and everyone else
This is Mark from March 2015. After a few vacations to STX we developed a network of friends which was awesome. So much so that when a property went up for sale that had been abandoned for 10 years (If you recall I’m a remodeling contractor in DC area) I received a call from one of my new friends. We bought the place on the North Shore for about what the land value was. Since then I have made several trips and saved about 1100 sqft of living space (the apartment). To all the people following your blog DO IT the people are wonderful ! There was an old geo dome that is not very attractive, which was the main house, future plans are to demo the dome portion and build a structure that resembles a sugar mill. From our property we have wonderful water views but also views of Rust Op Twist ruins (my inspiration ). All the sub contractors I have worked with (seems like they have all come to STX from another Caribbean island) have all been great to work with. Hard working and affordable. I honestly forgot about you but I will make an effort to connect with you next time I’m there. Thanks again Mark
Good morning everyone – Bob Gregory from Sunny Southern California. When I was a contract Engineer in Puerto Rico, I bought a lot from another Engineer who was working on St. Croix but had to leave when his company was booted off the island in 1976 (showing my age). He had bought 2 lots; one lower and one upper – he built on the lower and was planning on building on the upper and renting out the lower when he had to leave – anyway (Readers Digest version), wife and I are working on what to do with the lot – Union 24 and Mr. Washington on the south side overlooking the Great Pond. I figure $300.00 per square foot as a budget – lot is 1/2 acre; so, will probably put a mobile on it during construction. Love to network with everyone – and Chad, thanks for starting this – used to Coach soccer while raising the family and was a die-hard Cobi Jones fan when he was active – Landon, before USNT, lived close by. When in Puerto Rico, qualified for the PR Wrestling Team in 76; but, couldn’t get off work –
Your journey is impessive… having built a few of our “dream” homes over the past 35 years I will tell you once completed, all the bad memories will fade into WOW as you look out ot the sea…
If I may be so bold… we, too, are coming that way… at 70 it will (probably) be my last building adventure. Can you tell me what you believe you building cost will be per square foot? Just want a general idea so as not to be happy or sad.
Thank you.. and live the dream…
Hi James, I would estimate $300-$350 per square foot, but there are so many variables that go into that number. Good luck.
Good afternoon. My wife and I have purchased a lot on St Croix with an unfinished structure. It is a very small building with the floors, walls, roof, and deck completed. The cistern was poured but plumbing, electrical and septic not completed. We have been a little frustrated with the incomplete or unprofessional bids we have received to complete the work. Any advise or referrals to complete the work still needed to finish and be able to use? Any help or advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks from Colorado
Hi Ross from Colorado, without knowing what unprofessional bids entail, I can only recommend that you have excellent drawings that you hold the contractors to. If you need better drawings I can recommend Design Lab VI. Jimmy Adams is a good option for electrical.
Hello. We have enjoyed your blog. We are moving to STX and building a house. I was wondering id you had contact info for your plumber Mike Scizm. Any information that you can forward about life on the island would also be greatly appreciated.
Jason Sunny and Lesli
Jason, the number I have for Mike Scizm is 340-513-0056.
Hello, thank you very much for posting this blog. My husband and I are thinking of moving to St. Croix. We have located an unfinished home on the island. The home structure is completed, and I am trying to get some more information on how much a contractor would charge to finish the home. I spoke to the original architect and she is quoting prices in the $2M USD which i think is extremely high…but being that she is an architect and not a contractor, I am not sure that she has her pricing correct. If someone can forward me the contact information for Raul Ayala I would appreciate it!
Hello , my wife and I are still looking for either property or pre existing needing work. I have been flipping properties in the SE for about 10 years. Taking notes of your experiences and hopefully will be able to learn from them. Would love to find a fixer upper with ocean view , don’t think I have enough patience for “island time”
I have a question, I am thinking of moving to saint Croix , but I want to build a shipping container home, do you know if they permit that
Thank you so much for posting this blog we found on Google. I used to live in St Thomas almost 20 years ago and will be traveling to St Croix for the first time ever in about 3 weeks. One of my very good friends born and raised in St Thomas moved there a while back since that is where her husband is from St Croix. I have never stopped day dreaming of moving back to the USVI again one day so I am hoping my husband likes it there as much as I do once he gets to see it with his own eyes very soon! We have been searching for land to build on, fixer-uppers, move it ready etc as well as trying to educate ourselves better on cistern systems other building materials costs to live somewhere that has such tough tropical storms to weather. I know this blog was started many years ago, but just wanted to check in with you and see how well your concrete home took to Hurricane Irma and also ask what you chose to build your roof out of as well. My friend that lives there has a concrete roof as well as solid concrete roof and she says her place is definitely strong for the hurricane that pass through. Something build very strong is very important to us.
Hi Sunrise, we definitely haven’t kept the blog up to date since the construction was completed. Our house held up very well in Hurricane “Maria”. We had some significant damage to our solar system, gutters, exterior lighting, some AC units, etc, but the poured-concrete structure held up just fine. The roof is plywood with very minimal overhang which is helpful in windstorms.
Hi Bobby, I don’t have the answer as to whether or not you can build a shipping container home on St. Croix. I do know that my neighborhood, Judith’s Fancy, would definitely not allow that. You are probably better off investing in a concrete structure.
It was nice to find this page online. Based on your experience, do you have an estimated or average cost/sqft to build a house now in St.Croix assuming you can find a contractor that has the availability?
I am planning to do an ICF house so based on your feedback in since then… I would assume that your poured-concrete is good and got good sands mixed to it. That is my major concern right now… Cheers
I haven’t given up on the house down the road from you. I am researching the costs to determine how much I will need to purchase and rehab. Hoping to make an offer soon!