Dishwasher Installation – Stories by a Former Expat in Costa Rica
Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Have you ever tried to do your own dishwasher installation in Costa Rica? Ralph did!
Ralph and Gloria have lived in Costa Rica in the nineties and moved to Florida. Now, they miss Costa Rica a lot. Ralph loves to read Ivo’s blog every week Ralph has some great stories that will help understand how things “work” in Costa Rica.
Those who have lived in Costa Rica for a while will love his stories. And those who plan to move here will get a good idea about how things function in paradise. Please be aware that Ralph’s experiences happened during the 1990s. Here we go:
One of my first projects after receiving our container was hooking up the “portable” dishwasher. It could be portable or under counter. The only space was at the end of the counter and a couple of feet from the kitchen sink.
Dishwashers are/were rare in CR, so I’d better do the dishwasher installation myself, instead of leaving it to a handyman. Hook up material was scarce. I realized I did not have everything I needed, so proceeded to make my plan of action.
In the States, the water and electrical are normally right there and even from scratch, the hook up is minimal. I had to figure out how I am going to do this with the quality I demand of myself. I needed a drain line, a water line, and electrical from the machine to the plug. No problem in the States, again, but here you would not believe the opportunity you are faced with. God help those that have to have a Costa Rican do the dishwasher installation!
At least then (1997), I planned my supplies needed list for my first dishwasher installation. Then I proceeded to determine where I was going to find these items.
There is a special dishwasher drain sink connector that I was most worried about. I have never seen flexible hot water lines anywhere. If they were here, they had to be requested over the counter from a clerk that spoke only Spanish. How would I ever get this accomplished?? Since first of all, they had no idea what I was installing! I should add here, that I spoke absolutely NO Spanish.
All In One Place
One thing I have not mentioned yet is that whenever you buy items for a project, you must buy all of them at the same place. If you buy at different places, there is a very good chance they will not fit together. AND there is no returning except for credit only!
I found the dishwasher sink connection at Ace Hardware and was very excited. It was important to determine how much of the sink drain I would replace. I knew I had to do some repair because I saw one section wrapped with a plastic bag you get from the grocery store with your items! Therefore, I decided I would replace it all and only had to decide what size I would be hooking up.
Water Supply Line
The electrical I had figured out from wire I had brought with me. The drain line was now decided. The water supply line was the problem. I could run a plastic pipe from the source through the cupboards to the general location of the dishwasher. The only problem was the flex line from this pipe to the dishwasher. I had searched too many places to remember for brass fittings that are almost nonexistent. That is almost a moot point if I don’t know what I am going to hook them up to. I tried to ask where I could find these items.
The First Store
When I did receive a reference, it came with the Tico address – so many meters to some direction from someplace I had never heard of. And when I ever did find the place, it never fit the directions I received.
We finally ended up at a very commercial-looking place. There, I went to the cashier to see if anyone spoke English. She called a gentleman and I explained what I wanted and he said he would be right down.
I was encouraged because I saw a lot of brass fittings and other commercial items on display. This was strictly a “take a number” to get to see a clerk. The gentleman greeted me and proceeded to take me to the counter and we explained to the attendant what I needed. They had the hose and the connection to go into the dishwasher. I had the usual samples of sizes and types I needed from the stuff I had brought with me.
The problem was to connect the hose to the plastic water supply line. I told them I know how to do it but needed a hardware store. They told me there was one down the street two blocks. I told them to keep my plans in mind and I would be right back.
The Second Store
As I walked out, I told Gloria and Sherlock (our dog), who was waiting in the car, that there may be light at the end of the tunnel! I went to the hardware store and they had everything I needed.
Back to the First Store
Keeping in mind I wanted to buy everything at the same store, I went back to the first store. There, I got a different clerk, but the original clerk had told him what I needed. I got out my sample sizes and newly acquired connector and we finally came up with a match.
I was thinking of clamps over the hose onto the fittings since this water was under pressure, and I needed a secure connection. Therefore, I made sure the clerk included the clamps. I went through the usual procedure of going to the cashier to pay for my goods.
The ticket that reaches the cashier has my name on it so they knew which one is mine. Then I proceed to the counter where they check my merchandise with what I paid for. My stuff was not there yet, so I waited and waited and waited. I could not imagine what was going on. Finally, it arrived, and low and behold they had made a commercial hydraulic line that is designed for very high-pressure usage!!! This exceeded even my dishwasher installation specifications!!
The only problem is that one end of the hose was too large for the adaptor they gave me. Everything has to go through the chain of command, so the clerk tried to get his boss on the phone and could not reach him. Twenty minutes later he reached him and I had to explain what the problem was. And my wife does not think I know how to play charades!!!!
He says fine and goes back to the counter clerk, who is now in the installation room making hoses. He has to finish what he is doing and then proceeds to make another hose. When that is done, he realizes he overcharged me because the larger fitting cost more.
Now we go back through the cashier and back to the pickup counter.
Gloria says it was 2-1/2 hours from start to finish. By now the day is shot, so it is time for a drink to celebrate. I decide it is too late and not enough light to tackle the sink drain. These are always a puzzle under the best of circumstances. I will finish the dishwasher installation job tomorrow and that will be my one thing for that day!!!
My Dishwasher Installation
First thing in the morning, I start my dishwasher installation. I proceeded to disconnect the fittings and immediately the whole drain system disintegrates in my hands!!!
A good Costa Rican had repaired a previous leak by using a plastic grocery bag. The system did not leak and worked fine!!! He had worked around rusting out a pipe and did it all with just the bag. I learned quickly they can be very ingenious if repairing stuff for nothing.
The rest of the installation when wonderful and never had any troubles with it all.
This all goes to prove you have to learn the language. I knew just enough to get me in trouble and this caused nothing but frustrations in most of my activities. Lesson number one in moving to a foreign country: Learn the language!
The author of this blog, FloridaTico, lived in Costa Rica during the ’90s. He and his wife moved to Florida and look back often to the great time they had in Costa Rica. This is one of his stories.
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