All Decked Out

This past week saw the completion of the concrete roof deck on top of container #1. Here is the story:

In many aspects, shipping containers are massively strong. You can stack them many containers high because the corner columns can carry an almost unlimited amount of weight. The roofs themselves, however, mainly serve to keep the weather, insects, and thieves out. When you walk across the roof, the metal bounces up and down. So if you want to use the roof as a roof deck, as we do on container #1, you will need to significantly reinforce it.

Before we ever saw our first container up close and personal, I thought that I could probably lay down a moisture barrier, and then lay concrete pavers on top of the moisture barrier. However after an actual physical inspection, I saw that the roof would still have way too much bounce. So how to reinforce it so that twenty or thirty people could stand on it? A couple of ways to accomplish this come to mind. You could

  • build a structural floor out of wood. You could install pressure-treated wooden floor joists, then deck the joists with pressure-treated lumber or plastic decking. The joists could be longer than the container is wide to create an overhang to protect the container from sun and rain. One big weakness of this approach is that the container roof would continue to rust underneath the floor with no way to maintain it. A second option is that you could
  • pour a reinforced concrete slab on top of the container.

We chose the concrete option because we wanted to keep a low profile and keep the finished deck at the same height as the floor in the adjoining loft (container #2). Also, the concrete option uses a lot less material, and I just don’t want to use wood in the tropics.

In my previous post, we built a roof overhang. This prepared the perimeter of the roof deck for concrete. In the next photo, Armando and Alex are having a good time installing the rebar:

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In the next photo you can see the rebar all installed and ready for concrete. I also hung tarps just in case it should rain when we poured, and placed a runway for the wheelbarrow that would deliver the buckets:

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By the way, all that wet concrete on the roof will cause the roof to sag significantly. So we put some chocks between the beams in the kitchen below and the roof. We also propped the roof with some floor-to-ceiling posts:

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Pour day arrived and as usual when we have a larger crew, I picked up the men at 5:45 a.m. Back at the job, they changed their clothes and got right to work:

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The day before Armando suggested that instead of a ladder, that we set up the scaffolding so that buckets could be passed from man to man to man on the roof. This worked well. Here it is in action:

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This worked well until about 9:30 when a heavy rain opened fire on us for the remainder of the day. We moved to a smaller scaffolding inside of the house, passing the buckets of concrete up to the loft, then out a window to the roof deck. Using the covered walkway from the carport to the house, all of us managed to stay out of the rain. In the next photo, Armando and I work the screed. This was tough work for my arthritic everything, but I did get a good sweat going:

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With a three-inch carriola on the outside edge and a four-inch carriola on the inside edge, a small slope was created to allow any rainwater to run off the deck.

Aramis received the half-filled buckets, put them in a wheelbarrow, and wheeled them to Armando and me for placing and screeding:

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Waiting for the next shipment:

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As the concrete set up, Armando ran a wooden float over the floor. We didn’t steel trowel it so that it would be easier to install floor tiles later:

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The next morning Armando and Alex took down the tarps and cleaned all the concrete splash and hand prints from the walls and windows. Using a putty knife and an old pocket knife, Alex “specialized” in cleaning the white wall in the next photo:

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I brought two lounge chairs to the roof deck, and Cynthia and I spent most of the morning Sunday sitting and admiring the view:

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Here is another view. Now, all that is left for the roof deck is to install the zinc roofing panels on the ceiling, paint the walls, install lighting, and tile the floor. Oh yes, and make a door. Mere child’s play!

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Cutting the floor tiles around the innies and outies of the container siding will be a challenge…

Next, I think that we will move to the loft side of the roof and pour that slab. I would rather be working on building the kitchen, but it is so much easier to brace the roof from below before the kitchen construction begins.

In other news, Cynthia’s bruises are starting to dissipate and her back is feeling better. But she still has a lot of shoulder pain. I bought her a sling to use, and we are trying to find a good orthopedic doctor in the city. We think that she may have a torn rotator cuff or similar injury.

In the Local Lore Department, the rainy season is usually not very windy. But the other day the wind picked up and it has been considerably more windy since. I mentioned this to Aramis and he said that it was, “brisa Navidaña,” or the Christmas breeze. He said that the breeze brings Christmas.

Also in the Local Lore Department, one of our Panamanian neighbors came to visit last Sunday morning. He mentioned that Panamanians will often refer to a waste basket as a tinaca (tee-NAH-kah). It seems that when the Canal Zone was under the administration of the United States, that wastebaskets from the States had TI NA CA embossed on the side. The initials stood for the name Tina (or something like this, I can’t remember…) National Company, the manufacturer of the baskets. So from there, a new Spanglish word was born. Tinaca!

And lastly, in the Who’da Thunk It Department, a while back I noticed something interesting (to me anyway). Having lived most of my life in the States and way above the equator, I was used to the north side of the house always being in the shade. I always avoided buying a house in which the front door and garage were on the north. Ice and snow always take longer to melt on the north side.

But here in the tropics, at only eight-degrees north of the equator, we get sun on the north side of the house from March to September. Then from September to March, when the sun is south of the equator, the sun is on the south side of the house. It is a good thing that it doesn’t snow here, I wouldn’t know how to orient my house!

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by. More concrete soon plus a surprise addition to our landscape!

16 thoughts on “All Decked Out

  1. I guess I just don’t understand how a person’s mind (Fred’s) can conceptualize all the steps, stages, timing and details of these kinds of complex projects and make it happen. So awesome. Sigh.

  2. Wow, a jefe that keeps his workers dry! No wonder you get such good work crews. I am sure they appreciate your thinking of them.

    I totally understand the sun angle thing. When I was stationed at Ft. Amador, the first morning the sun rose out of the Pacific!? As a lad from the midwest, I was completely disoriented from then on. To this day, I have trouble with directions when visiting, just could never get my bearings.

    The house is looking great but all that concrete is giving me flashbacks. haha

    We hope Cynthia gets healed up quickly (and your aches, too).
    jim and nena

  3. Very interesting. I’ve followed your posts for a while now and cannot wait to have the space to start my shipping container home. Did you have any issues with the concrete cracking over time? Reinforcement seems key. I was thinking of using a concrete roof, but am hesitant if it will be exposed directly to the elements. Thank you for sharing!`

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