Building Costs

As I get work done on my house, I am collecting more and more data. What I have found are good construction workers that I can afford. By good I mean they know what they are doing and they work hard. Typical house construction is bricks surrounded by reinforced concrete. When all is done, costs look like they will be about $10 a square foot. What is really cheap is labor.

  • Works foreman: $7-8/day
  • Carpenter, bricklayer: $4-5/day
  • Laborers: $2.50-3.50/day
  • General office help: $90-150/month

Expect cement and wood to cost about what it does in the US. But, you need to remember that you don't need a heating system or an air conditioner. No insulation. ... And, you can get cement tiles for your floor for $.30 square foot up to almost $1 square foot for multi-colored with groves in it. In other words, think local and costs are amazingly low.

Here is some more information that is by "work done" rather than salaries. It turns out that the construction work I had done was done this way. Prices are in Cordobas. The current exchange rate to dollars is about 16.5 or to Euros is about 21.7.

  • 15 meters of bathroom tile C$1350
  • 8 meters of "vigas sismicas" (footing is close enough) C$400
  • 147 square meters of putting down ceramic tile C$10,290
  • Installation of a toilet C$180
  • Installation of a laundry sink C$120
  • 30 square meters of (cement) floor tile C$1050
  • 13 electrical boxes C$455
  • 30 meters of "vigas areas" (above ground cement and rebar beams) with finish stucco C$C$3300
  • 36 linear meters of brick wall C$12,240
  • 44 linear meters of much too tall (about 10 foot) brick wall with reinforced concrete columns C$14,520

Bottom line was C$64,276 for all the upstairs work done by the bricklayers. That's leveling the floor, about 1600 sq ft of tile and maybe 800 sq ft of real construction. Or, a little less than $4000. I will eventually add up the other stuff but let me just say that labor is not the serious cost for anything.

Suspended Ceiling

I have a room that needs a suspended ceiling. It is about 11 x 13 feet. So, I went back to the house receipts to find the cost of the pieces. Here are the basics:

  • 12' Cross Tee - C$30ea
  • 12' Angle (edge) - C#$22ea
  • 4' Cross Tee - C$10.50ea
  • 2' x 4' x 5mm Plycem textured tile - C$32ea

Bottom line: About US$70 worth of materials to do the ceiling including some wire and nails. Makes me wonder why I put up with the zinc roof in my rental house last summer.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Constructions in Nicaragua 2012

hi guys.

I want to offer my construction services. Im a nicaraguan civil ingenieer and I own a company called SILCAR Constructions. We have one of the best constructions team, with a really large experience building homes, offices, hotels and so much more in Nicaragua. We want to help you build your ideas. We guarantee HONESTY, punctuality, fast work, qualitiy service, respect and low costs. We also offer law Consultancy, we can guide you in subjects like permissions, taxes, property buying. We want to help you get nice real estate and protect your money.

We also attend small repairs.

For more info you can contact me.


April-May 08 Construction Table

The April/May edition is out and the Aprox construction costs for new constructions are:

Square Meter of Construction - Aprox range in Prices

40 to 60 mts 15.000 -25.000 U$

60 to 75 25,000-40,000

75 to 90 40,000-50,000

90 to 110 50,000-70,000

110 to 150 70,000-95,000

150 to 170 95,000-120,000

170 to 220 120,000-160,000

220 to 280 160,000-185,000

289 & above mts 185,000-& above

These are aprox. prices for NEW construction in Managua

Jorge Giraldez-Benard Latin American Advisors Company Ltd Texaco El Cortijo 1/2 C al Sur Casa 300 Res. El Cortijo, Managua, Nicaragua C.A.. e-mail Skype, YahooPager & MSN User name: JGiraldezB Managua Office: 011 505 8258505

Seems about right

but this includes only the house--add on security wall, landscape, hardscape, garage, etc. if you want suburban type housing.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

What Level Of Finish

are we talking about with the above referenced costs?

It should run about like this


Roughly equivalent to a cheap spec house in the US, but with skimpy utilities and no guarantee of structural soundness.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

2011 Construction costs?


I am looking for basic new construction (cement blocks with cement roof) cost per meter. Anyone with information - would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Minumum wage for construction is 4,571.90 Cordobas Per month

Plus government deductions and other costs such as vacation pay, Aguinaldo and the accruing liquidation is about 46%.

On the above wage portion alone, at a normal 45 hours a week of work. We have 45 x 52 weeks = 2,340 hours per year or 195 hours per month. 4,571.90 divide by 195 hours is 23.44 Cordoba's per hour or $1 (one) per hour.

Now add the 46% to that and you should be being billed (by the contractor) or paying them yourself about $1.50 per hour for a legal employee.

So its nearer $12 a day for an 8 hour day and that's based on minimum wage.

How Does This

work for casual labor?

First let me say that I want to fully comply with Nicaraguan labor law. I know that the day rate for casual labor in my area is $4. This is not a living wage, in Nicaragua or anywhere else. However, If I pay more without getting "more", I will be resented by the other farm employers in the area. This resentment could lead to all kinds of issues, and I might wind up like Jason Puracal -or worse. Jason obviously pissed someone off, and paid for it with two years of his life. Also, paying more with expecting more just puts me into the "stupid gringo" category, and the lack of respect this engenders will lead to other problems, like theft.

Further complicating things is the fact that most of the casual day labor prefers to work by the job, clear brush /Mz; dig well /meter; and so on. I would prefer this too, as I don't have to pay for supervision. I don't have the issue of terminating non-performing workers; I just don't hire them for the next job that comes up. Eventually, I should wind up with the cream that responds to the incentives of better net pay and working conditions. From this pool I can then choose my full time help.

I'd hoped to come up with a bonus system that would fatten the day's wage by providing incentives such as additional money for a job completed on time, a hot lunch and a place to eat it; etc, etc. This way I can say that I am paying the prevailing wage but still provide a bit more.

Does anyone have any suggestions or comments on these thoughts? I've had extensive labor management experience in the US, and I built a house in Mexico (and learned a lot during that process).

2008 costs

I just got an estimate for some construction. A few of the line items seem like good update information here. Note that this is for work near Estelí and this is but one estimate I have received. The contractor said that it was negotiable.

  • Excavation: C$95/m3
  • Compaction of selecto: C$85/m3
  • Placing rebar (foundation, vigas, losa): C$5/lb.
  • Foundation concrete work: C$1050/m3
  • Losa concrete work: C$600/m2 (yes, one is m3, the other is m2)
  • Install toilet: C$350
  • Install wash basin: C$300
  • Floor (tile): C$160

Again, this is just labor. No materials are included.

2009 Labour Costs

I have the official numbers from CADUR The prices are per hour for both for professional and helpers In Cordobas-U$ Dollar

2005 12.93/9.13 0.79/0.56

2006 13.75/9.71 0.78/0.55

2007 14.49/10.54 0.80/0.58

2008 17.53/13.46 092/0.67

2009 17.53/13.46 1.03/0.75

In four years labour costs have increased 61% in Cordobas and in Dollars 32.5%

Jorge Giraldez-Benard Latin American Advisors Company Ltd Texaco El Cortijo 1/2 C al Sur Casa 300 Res. El Cortijo, Managua, Nicaragua C.A.. e-mail Skype, YahooPager & MSN User name: JGiraldezB Managua Office: 011 505 825-8505

Where to start

Hi everyone, this is my first post here. I am going to Nicaragua at the end of April for one week. We have our land their (my family still lives there, but now my parents wish to return back to Nicaragua to retire) Anyways, we have our land and want to know where to go in order to build -- builders/contractors etc.

Not sure where to start so any helpful directions would be useful


With Building In Mind

Hola friends,

we just got back from a week in Nicaragua and loved every minute of it. Regarding construction I was wondering what precautions (seismic-wise) are being made in new single story structures. What thickness concrete pads are used as foundation? We're looking at putting up a single story with open courtyard on an acre in the area outside of Granada. Do people put in containment tanks for collection of water during the green season, for use during the dry season. On another note we noticed several children with oxen hauling water . . . are there no water haulage companies with so many sources?

Water systems...Rain water harvesting

Howdy Arlington, It is new to Nicaragua, but a standard practice in other parts of the world to collect and store rain water for use during the dry season. In fact, it is even required by law in all new construction in the US Virgin Islands - you can't get a building permit without a rainwater roof collection system and an appropriately sized cistern. I have established a new company to offer rain water system design and construction services to home and business owners in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador. All countries with large Pacific coastal plains, where a large proportion of the popultion lives, and where rivers, wells and traditional water sources are often over utilized and/or contaminated. Especially if you are not served by a reliable municipal source, and are contemplating drilling a well, I suggest you seriously consider 'harvesting' the only certain and sustainable source of pure water - the rain.

Re: Water Systems

That sounds like a plan. What sizes of cisterns do you offer and what's the typical installation run? Does anyone have any idea how much water might be collected during a typical green season?

Rain Water Harvesting Systems

Arlington, To answer your questions: 1) Cisterns come in virtually any size you may need. These can be polypropylene tanks as produced by RotoPlas or even ferro-cement or block tanks designed and built to meet your individual size & shape requirements. Tanks can also be above ground, below ground or partially underground - all have pro's and con's depending upon your specific project's characteristics. 2) It impossible to offer a meaningful idea of price without knowing anything about your project - I can send you a Survey form, which when completed, would allow me to quickly give you price info. I can send you this Survey 'off-line' if you want to proceed. 3) Nicaragua has abundant rainfall, even in 'dry' years there should be ample water to meet your needs. However there are significant micro-climates and variations in rainfall depending upon location, elevations, etc. If you tell me exactly where your house or business is located I can compare that to the database of historical precipitation data I've compiled and then provide you a very good idea of the collectable rain water where you live. As a general rule of thumb though, for every inch of rain that falls upon a roof of 1,000 sq ft, you can collect approximately 630 gallons of water. So, if you get 50 inches of rain at your location, that is well over 30,000 gallons of pure rain water! Remember, some of the big benefits of rain harvesting are that you a) are in control of the quality of the water you have for your home, b) the water source is sustainable, and not subject to the interruption due to low or over-utilized groundwater (from wells, streams, etc.), and, depending upon your circumstances, c) you don't have the risk and expense of drilling and operating a well, which may or may not be productive or of good quality. We can also build you a 'dual supply' systems, where the primary water source is either rainwater or municipal water, and when the primary source is not sufficient, the supply automatically switches to the secondary source. I will write to you off-line to ask if you are interested in discussing specifics of your project.

Rain Water System

Jim - i would like to find out more about this rain water system - I am on the island of Ometepe - how much does a system cost?

Water saving

If you need a well or work I can give you a great contact. I will be in Ometepe to start building in about 30 days and have some great workers coming from the main land where I have seen their work and talked with the owner as to just how good they are - all I got back is "They are great and have not had ONE problem with their work" if you want more email me at

$10/sq ft:Interesting . . . will you be your own "contractor"?

meaning, will you be hands-on, or do you have a foreman or supervisor in mind?

do you have construction experience?

I just ask because I don't (never built my own house before) and will require a boss on the site to keep things going in the proper order. I've been quoted turnkey, California-quality homes at $40 / sq ft. down near JJ's place in Salinas/Guasacate. I'm talking with a civil engineer who builds as well, I'm interested to see if there could be some cost savings.


Does that mean they fall down in earthquakes? :-) I know a lot about construction but not a lot about how it is done here. My friend Stephen is checking by every few days to see if stuff makes sense. So, that is maybe 2 hours/week for 2 months. At local wages that is $15. If he was there full-time for two months that would be $300. I don't know what you are getting but that sounds way out of line.

Let me tell you what I am and am not getting: * No heating/air conditioning stuff. Just not needed. * I will do my own electrical. But, the $10 was assuming I paid for electrical work as well. * The roof with be Nicalit rather than some fancy and heavy clay tile * The floor with be cement tile (made in Estelí rather than ceramic

But, all these decisions were made because I wanted to build a "local house" rather than be "the Gringo in the California-style" house. I will have more electrical than is typical because I need it, Ethernet cables installed and a ceiling rather than just having the roof exposed (because that will make it cooler inside--the same as using Nicalit instead of zinc) and a cement railing instead of iron. But, these are not big expenses.

One other important ingredient is that I have a Nica doing the buying. She has the money, gets the orders from the workers, buys stuff and pays them. I am paying her way too much for this (probably be $600 total) but she is finding Nica prices instead of Gringo prices for everything.

The construction is progressing fine (which you can see from the pictures). I was there this morning and Oscar (pretty much the guy in charge) wanted to show me a few things related to the drains but it was mostly because I had been interested to figure it out before.


New to this site ... enjoyable reading. Tried logging in with just "Robin" but there's another one ... "Hello Robin #1" ...

Some of these are hard; that is I'm a little hesitant to address "dirtbag" as such ... but "Hi" anyway!

Would like to ask "fyl" a question ... I've been looking for some time, on line, for well (water) drilling outfits, but there's not a single one, anywhere, listed on internet ... makes me wonder, does anyone drill for water there?

Well Drilling

There are three well drilling businesses I know of in Estelí. One is owned by the husband of a NL member. I forget her login and didn't find her in a search.

We got quotes a year ago and they varied from about $25 to maybe $40/foot for a 6" well with casing. (That means drill a six inch hole, add a 4" liner surrounded by sand.) This was for a guestimated 100-120 foot well.

As soon as we get the MARENA ok for the Geek Ranch project, we will be drilling a well which should give me updated information. Note that there is a lot of water on the property but most is pretty far from when we are doing the hotel/restaurant (in distance and elevation). So, we are guessing a drilled well with submersible pump will cost less in the long run than running power to where the water is and pumping it up the hill.

As for looking on-line, (both the Business Directory and the new Product Finder) have been attempts to get business contact information on-line. My conclusion is that 99% of the people running businesses in this country don't see on-like as how to get customers. Too bad but that is just the way it is.

I know of one in Esteli

That did a well "Poso Artesiano" just outside of Esteli for my Father in Law's house,I believe it cost him around $5,000 USD, not sure how deep it was,but he charges by the foot,he's got the entire equipment to do the job.

I will get his contact info,next week and will post it here.


If you wish to drill a well

you are now required to perform a Geophysical Study and a Hydrological Study. The laws changed on the 4th of this month.

Let me know where you wish to drill. Our sister company performs these studies for most of the drillers in Nicaragua. We should be able to recommend a dependable company.

I have much to learn!

I don't know what I don't know yet, sounds like you have a good handle on it though!

thanks Phil

We all do

We all have a lot to learn here. I just happen to be a bit ahead on construction because I am in the middle of it. If you get up this way I would be happy to show you what we are doing/did, why we made some decisions and maybe even introduce you to some of the workers.

Construction Costs

I just wonder how can I find local assistant(s) for myself that I can trust. What to use? newspapers, lawyers, expats? Thank you. 600$ a month for buyer in Nica is very good salary I guess, should keep her away from kickbacks, etc. Or this just the total compensation?

$600/mo would be huge

You might pay a full-time Secretary between $350 and $500/mo. She was not working full-time and I was shooting at more like $200/mo. The work went on longer than expected so it cost more.

Finding someone you can trust here is really not much different than anywhere else. The main advantage here is that word of mouth is much more important than in the "advertising blitz"-filled U.S. Thus, talking to your neighbors, a person at the hardware store, ... is likely the best way to find someone.

The one rule I would apply up front is to be concerned about people that speak English. That doesn't mean they are all bad but you need to think about why someone in a business where English should not be an advantage knows English. The manager of one of the banks here speaks English. Well, he had lived in Canada for a while. That makes sense.

But, I have met a lot of people who only know English so that they can better help non-Spanish speakers spend their money. That isn't the kind of help I am looking for.

What I have seen here are a lot of honest, hard-working people and a few scumbags. I don't think that is a local feature--you can get that anywhere. For example, during the construction work, I was bringing things over here. Sylvia did a less than perfect job of making sure access to this stuff was restricted and an electric drill of mine got stolen.

The workers were horrified that it happened. Now, there were about a dozen people here and they didn't know a few very well. They are pretty sure they know who stole it but they have no proof. But, they all chipped in to replace it.

Now, having people making from $3 to $7/day chip in to replace a $60 electric drill made me feel like a scrooge on one level but I also felt it was important that I let them do this. This sort of relationship will not happen unless you get to know the people that are doing the work.

Construction Costs

Thank you fyl, I agree about people. Made mistakes before couple of times, and now I am just cautious about those who ususally pop-up around newcomers in any country. When you bring tools to Nica if you did, did you have to pay customs fees? Or maybe its just doesn't make sense to bring tools at all?

pre-fab houses

anyone tried the pre-fab houses. I got a couple quotes in managua and they were very reasonable!


Jorge...tell me about the prefabs available in Managua. Have they got a website? What type of prefab are they?


I called a number I saw in an ad en La Prensa, they said they don't have a website yet. From what I understand they are solid cement walls prefabricadas that they put together on a cement foundation. It doesn't include roof.

cement pre-fabs

There have been quite a few of those built in Estelí--they were donated by someone. Ana's aunt lives in one.

They are quite amusing to look at/watch be built. They pour the slab with some flexible metal channels in it to go between the wall sections. The next day they slide the wall sections in and attach the roof with, more or less, clips. House in two days.

They look like a good "starter house" but other than speed, I don't think they really cost less than bricks and cement columns when you add in the special metal strips and having to transport the pieces.

AAR Panels

I have seen some hybrid cement panels. I think they are called AAR panels. They are virtually indestructable, load bearing for walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs, have a very high R-value, and are light-weight. Apparently, they are in wide-spread use in Europe, but almost unknown in the slow-to-change, change-resistant USA. From what I can tell, these panels are superior & can take any finish from stucco to siding. They are kinda/sorta like SIPS (but not), if you are familiar with SIPS which use OSB & EPS or Polystyrene. Ya'll ever heard of AAR's?


They said there are three models offering at this time.

Pre-fab pricing ?

Jorge, Any word on the pricing for the models ?? Website ?

Thanks, Timcat