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building small on St. Croix  

 

wpcl
 wpcl
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April 13, 2008 3:09 pm  

In terms of new construction, does anyone ever build small (less than 1000 sqft) homes here? Something that might be considered a one person retirement cottage. Are there reputable builders that will take this type of project? I'm aware that many areas have HOAs with minimums, but assuming one owned a lot without restrictions.

At $250/sq ft, that's about all cashing in my 12 acres and 3 BR contemporary home here in the states would buy me. Am I being unrealistic?

-WPCL


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aschultz
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April 13, 2008 6:17 pm  

A condo might be more up your ally. There is a large investment up front with land, driveway septic & cistern. All of that and still no living space. So the smaller the house the more it cost per square foot. One more reason if you want a mortgage on it you want it to be Worth what it cost to build.


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Betty
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April 13, 2008 6:27 pm  

Unless you have some building knowledge I wouldn't build here, I would buy, maybe renovate. Before you buy or rent live here first for a while and see if you even like living here before you start a massive project like building here. And like stateside most construction projects will go 30% to 50% over budget, so you have to pad, unless you are handy and can do alot of stuff yourself. Or do it the way the locals do, buy the land, pay it off and build as you save up money. Building a house here usually takes a couple of years anyways.


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Bombi
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April 14, 2008 1:26 pm  

I'm just finishing a 1 bedroom West Indian cottage style house. The total square footage is @ 1000. I contracted the weather tight shell, electrical and plumbing. I did the roof and the interior walls, drywall, paint, doors, cabinents myself. I had the tile installed. The cost minus the land is $180K. It's built of poured concrete .
Building is a challenge here and expensive. My project took about a year.
There are builders that will do the entire project, that would add 15-20% on to the cost.


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Exit Zero
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April 14, 2008 9:41 pm  

Bombi - I bet that house is sweet -- does it have the WI style wooden shutters? Hip roof I am sure - any balcony or deck? Any gingerbread ornamentation? I continue to try and give my house more WI details so it looks like it has been here forever.


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wpcl
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April 15, 2008 4:50 am  

Thanks for the input folks. I would love to hear more. I have not actually "lived' here yet, but have been visiting for three years, not in resorts. I like it very much. I come from a southern rural area in the states where the pace and the attitude is not much different. Patience is probably one of my better virtues. And I am of enough years where excitement is not my biggest requirement. Warmth and loud frogs are, though.

I'm not much of a condo type person, and I've already bought and paid for a small unrestricted lot northside. I'm in the investigative stage right now, all part of a 10 year 'retirement" plan. Just have to make it fit the budget. I'm not high maintenance, no "amenities" required, just a tiny little place that won't blow away with enough character to befit the eccentric little old lady I assume I will become. Bombi, I would love to hear more about your place-I'm a traditionalist at heart-please pm me if you have the time.

And if at some point plans go awry, I still feel better about what I have sunk in this lot that what I have in the stock market right now.

wpcl


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heepajeep
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April 15, 2008 1:52 pm  

wpci,
I am with you 100% in your thinking small. My plan is to use precast insulated cement walls for a simple small hip roof house/cottage. With a wrap around veranda-porch. The roof area above the veranda will be hinged at the house walls and lower down to ground level during a hurricane. Forming a pyramid shape to weather the storm.


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Afriend
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April 15, 2008 1:54 pm  

I'm not sure I can add much to what has already been said but agree that no matter how "small" your house will be you will still have certain "fixed costs" like your cistern & foundation which will govern your overall cost. Also, you'll have to plan on spending extra for site work. If you are builing in the lowlands near the water you could be dealing with a high water table. By contrast if you are building up in the hills you could encounter solid rock. Either way, you are probably going to encounter expenses just to get your lot "buildable". Take it from someone who's "been there, done that" - when building in the islands you are going to be behind schedule and overbudget almost from day one. Keep in mind that everything except the labor, and concrete for your foundation, floor slab and walls has to be imported to the island so that adds to your overall costs and the aforementioned site work could add substantially to your final cost.

Here's a hint someone gave me before we started to build that turned out to be very accurate - Before you begin building get your best pre-construction estimates for the "finished product" from your builder and your architect. Take that number and add 50%. If the result doesn't scare you, proceed.

As someone who has built a house in the islands I can tell you that my experience is no different than all of my friends and acquaintances who have also built their island homes. It is an intense labor of love and it is not for someone on a strick budget. It helps to have deep pockets as building costs have a way of escallating quicker than anything else.

Good luck in attaining your goal.


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Bombi
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April 15, 2008 3:00 pm  

I agree totally with a friend. The VI is not the place to build if you have a fixed budget and time line. Read Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wolk. The story captures the essence of the experience. I've worked in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and on STX the process was more difficult with moments of frustration.

Exitzero, Yes it has a hip roof and the gallery has a broken back shed/hip. The living area is 600 sq. ft.(Ithink the minimum) and has 400 sq. ft of gallery. The shutters arena,t on yet. I am trying to respect the west Indian style of architecture.


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stephaniev
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April 15, 2008 10:55 pm  

so, what do you all know about building yourself? my husband is a construction man, and what about building with solar panels, instead of being" on the grid" ;elevated water tower for the cistern? please advise!!!


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wpcl
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April 16, 2008 2:19 am  

Gee thanks stephaniev-you gave me a back-in. Everyone-thanks for making me aware that it's difficult and and expensive, but again, I have that grasp, or wouldn't have chosen this road. Not a spring chicken, have built before with some knowledge of the "normal, stateside') hassles and KNOW they will be doubled or tripled.. That's why I'm so willing to downsize downsize till I can get to a point where I can DO this. Again-retirement plan, lots of time, and while money is not unlimited I think I can be in the ballpark if I do it right.

My original thought/question was whether there were any constraints re: general building code(as opposed to HOA rules) about building small(Bombi-600sqft min.?), and about technical aspects such as having lesser roof for cistern and all the other things that would never occur to me. Thanks again stephaniev-tell me what you know about elevated water towers., when you have the time.

I obviously need to hook up with an architect or builder, there goes my next question: can anyone recommend someone reliable who would be willing to work with me on what I guess would be considered a smallscale project?

I've been lurking on this board for two years and love it. I'm trying to learn. Don't say yankee go home-just tell me what to do. I'm sure I'll screw it up along the way, but that's the journey, right?

wpcl


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heepajeep
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April 16, 2008 2:51 pm  

wpci,
I don't think an elevated water tower is practical for the cistern volume typically required.
From another thread this was posted: "You can buy the VI Zoning, Building and Housing Laws and Regulations from Lexis Nexis (www.lexis.com, isbn 0-327-13651-0, $31). It says 10 gal/roof_sqft."
https://www.vimovingcenter.com/talk/read.php?4,80918

An elevated tank kept full from your cistern via a farm style windmill might be beneficial for a little bit of gravity fed water pressure. But you want to make the windmill in such a way as it can be lowered to the ground and secured to the ground for hurricane purposes. Or maybe a solar powered water pump to an elevated tank.


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terry
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April 16, 2008 6:00 pm  

I do see some big plastic above ground cisterns. However they don't look very nice.


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Exit Zero
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April 16, 2008 10:49 pm  

Your pressure tank is basically performing the task of an elevated water tank. You could have a tank higher than your plumbing and downgrade from the gutters that fills 1st and overflows to your cistern. Then you could have gravity water feed but not much water pressure. You would need a pump to refill it from your cistern if you outused the capacity so why bother?


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aschultz
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April 17, 2008 7:52 am  

I think why bother, is the real ?


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Chin4-islandlife
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August 3, 2016 12:27 pm  

That's awesome!
Do you have any pictures?
I love small houses , even tiny house.
Nicole


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Alana33
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August 3, 2016 12:54 pm  

Architects
http://www.stjohnusvi.com/architec.html


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Alana33
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August 3, 2016 1:11 pm  

This is about building a home in STJ so the transportation of building materials via the barge won't apply but it's an interesting perspective of building in the islands.

http://bongobongostjohn.com
Plus it's funny!


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Exit Zero
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August 3, 2016 5:47 pm  

The smaller the house, the smaller the roof area.
Even considering the size of the cistern you build you may not to realistically be able to collect enough rain.


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Gator's Mom
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August 3, 2016 6:07 pm  

If building on STX, I suggest using a local architect with proper connections to help with permits, site plans, etc.


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Scubadoo
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August 4, 2016 1:35 am  

Just watched a tiny home HGTV episode on STJ last week.


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sunshinefun
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August 4, 2016 11:06 am  

so, what do you all know about building yourself? my husband is a construction man, and what about building with solar panels, instead of being" on the grid" ;elevated water tower for the cistern? please advise!!!

There are no more permits being issued for net metering on St. Croix. If you want solar panels, you'll have to get batteries too and go completely off the grid.

And many are...


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sunshinefun
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August 4, 2016 11:08 am  

An elevated tank kept full from your cistern via a farm style windmill might be beneficial for a little bit of gravity fed water pressure. But you want to make the windmill in such a way as it can be lowered to the ground and secured to the ground for hurricane purposes. Or maybe a solar powered water pump to an elevated tank.

It would be highly unlikely that you could get a permit for such a windmill.


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SunnyCyn
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June 29, 2017 11:20 am  

Thanks to you Alana, I stayed up til 1am reading the saga of BONGO BONGO!
Wow, eye opening! We'd actually been discussing buying a lot on STX and "taking our time" to build...which we figured was a year.
Ha!

This is about building a home in STJ so the transportation of building materials via the barge won't apply but it's an interesting perspective of building in the islands.

http://bongobongostjohn.com
Plus it's funny!


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Alana33
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June 29, 2017 2:55 pm  

You're welcome, SunnyCyn.
I was actually sorry when they finally finished the house.
I loved their blog.


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