Big Wall Down

For the past two days I have been removing the 40-foot wall in container 2 that abuts container 1. The wall is now flat on the floor, ready to be “lifted” onto the roof directly above. This post is the story of how I removed the wall.

My tool of choice for cutting around the perimeter of the wall was “The Beast,” the big DeWalt angle grinder with a thin, metal-cutting disk. Yes, I believe that a plasma torch would have been easier, but I chose the angle grinder for two reasons: Reason A: Containers 1 and 2 are right next to each other. I only wanted to cut the wall from container 2 and the plasma torch would have also cut through to the wall in container 1. Reason B: I don’t have a plasma torch!

I wanted the wall to fall flat on the floor after I cut around the perimeter. The height of the wall is just under 9-feet, but distance between the walls and the doors at the end of the container is only 7′-8″. Obviously, I needed to remove about a foot from the top or the bottom of the wall. I chose to cut the bottom because there was a lot of forklift damage at the bottom of the wall.

In the next photo, you can see the wall that I wanted to remove, plus a board and a Sharpie that I used to mark where I would cut the wall short:


I made the vertical cuts at either end of the wall first, then I cut along the bottom of the wall. In the next photo you can see how nicely the angle grinder slides along the floor on the guard. This was the easy cut:


You can see the process in the following video. Watch the long muscle in my right leg work as I fight the forces of the angle grinder:

Next I made the top cut, but I left about five one-inch spots uncut to keep the wall from falling down before I wanted it too. This was the most difficult cut; I had to hold The Beast up in the air for about an hour-and-a-half. I put an old shirt over my head because the sparks sting like little needles:


Cynthia caught this epic photo as I was adjusting the position of the guard:


While petting Jabo, I felt a lump on his shoulder. I asked Armando if he knew what it was. Yes, a large fly bit him and the lump is a larvae worm that is growing under the skin. The remedy was for me to hold Jabo, really tightly, while Armando squeezed really hard and expressed the worm. We finished it off with some peroxide to clean the wound. I won’t say what the worm would have done if I hadn’t noticed it. The whole deal was pretty gross:


In the next photo you can see how wobbly the wall panel is when it is not part of the unitized structure:


After cutting the ceiling line, it was time to cut off the bottom piece of scrap:


I flopped the scrap on the floor and rolled it into a circle. I figured that because of all the forklift damage that this truly was scrap. I had Armando lift it and tell me if it weighed more or less than a 94-pound sack of cement. “Poco mas,” was his answer. So, if a one-foot strip weighs about a hundred pounds, then the remaining almost 8-feet of wall should weigh about 800-pounds. It’s going to be some fun moving this onto the roof!

Anyway, just after I rolled the bundle outside, along came one of the pickup trucks that bring fresh fish up the mountain in the morning, then canvas neighborhoods for scrap metal on the way back down the mountain. Armando and I flagged them down and got rid of the roll of scrap along with a few pounds of scrap iron plus a trash bag of crushed aluminum soda cans. I gave Armando the $5 proceeds toward a new pair of boots. So far not much real trash on this entire project! Here’s the strip of scrap:


Yes, I am tired. But I look damn good in a dress, don’t you think?

Next, I cleaned out the space, propped a couple planks against the wall, and severed the remaining ceiling tabs, and the wall dropped the foot to the floor. Then I removed the planks and dashed out of the container as the wall crashed to the floor:


So that’s this part of the move-a-wall project. I’m going to take tomorrow off!

In other news, we have a new batch of bananas:


And as much as we hate fly season, they do serve to pollinate the bananas:


In the next photo you can see the other batch of bananas in the background; just about ready for harvest!


That’s all for now. Next, up on the roof.

28 thoughts on “Big Wall Down

  1. Heavy work indeed Fred , you and Armando be very carefull getting that metal out and up onto the roof of the container . I take it you have already welded the two containers together at the roof , no doupt in an earlier blog otherwise that roof would of sagged , Containers as shown by your pictures are very strong , till you start cutting walls out , need to go back and look at a few earlier posts , looking forward to the pics of getting that metal sheet onto the top of the container , stay safe and take care , regards mike

    • Hi Mike,

      Safety is job one here. I often start the day saying to Armando, “Let’s work safe today, no accidents.” So far, so good. Armando has learned that safety glasses are not an option. Take the time to go get a pair when you are sharpening the machete on the grinding wheel.

      Yes, I welded the containers way back when they arrived. We also painted the roofs, but it is amazing to see how much rust has developed in just two years. We’ll have to address that before pouring concrete floors up there.

      Today is an engineering-in-my-head day, doing imaginary dry runs of how I’ll actually raise the wall up on top of the container.

      Thanks for your concern, I’ll take all the advice I can get! Fred

  2. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G !!! What more can we say … other than NO … cant IMAGINE you getting that wall up on the roof. You need to have a “wall-raising” party …
    AND Kudos to Cynthia for than nifty, practical, functional PANT-APRON …
    All the best …tener cuidado!!!

  3. YOU are the beast!! Grueling, but satisfying work, I’m sure. I can’t recall illustrations of the roof configuration. If you can’t drum some up, no worries. I’ll just wait for the real thing!! Good luck with hoisting that wall up to the roof!

    • Hi Steve,

      If I am The Beast, then The Beast has to take a few days off! I’m exhausted. This is the long Easter weekend and no one is working, so I am going to take this opportunity to recover in the hammock.

      No, I don’t have any drawings of the roof. But it will be coming to life in another week or so. Should be interesting, I can’t wait to see what it will look like! Fred

  4. Fred , very rough thinking . 21 disks to cut the wall down , being 3 forty foot cuts and 2 eight foot cuts or there abouts given that a door way used up three disks in the process hope you are buying those disks by the box : ) also depends on when you are changing out the disks maybe add three more to original number , say 24 ?

  5. So you weld two containers together and leaving the frame, cut out the whole wall? That would be great! Now you can have 16 foot wide rooms!

    • Hi David,

      Yes, eight feet really isn’t a pleasant space to live in. And yes, 16-feet is a great width. But once you cut the walls out, or I should say, before you cut the walls out, you have to put extra supports under the walls you are going to cut out plus you need to support the roof(beams and/or columns) as the roof frame becomes spaghetti! Thanks for your comment. Fred

      • Fred, I have a project I am planning. I want to place 3 40′ HC’s on a full basement foundation. I want to cut out a wall about 8′ from one end to about 3-4′ on the other end on the two of the adjoining container walls. That shoud leave some support but I was thinking about welding a metal plank on top of and along the length of the upper frame rails where they meet on the roof outside. Where, how and with what did you use to support the frame rails before you cut and what kind of reinforcment did you incorporate to keep the containers from twisitng and pancaking under wind loading? This a concern since I have both wind and snow in my area.

        • Hi Don,

          Sorry for the delay. With no new posts, I have been remiss in checking my blog for a while. Sounds like you have a great project on your hands! I used temporary 2x4s for support when I cut out walls. I like your idea of support from the topside. I used steel 2x2s for columns, welded in place under the cut out roof. I can’t really speak to how much support is needed, I just used my best guess rule of thumb. I can’t say I did any special work for wind loading, and snow puts an element into the mix that I haven’t had to deal with here in Panama, at least not yet! I have seen absolutely no evidence of any twisting so far. Good luck with your project.

  6. do you get any sag in the roof by removing this wall. I am toying with the idea of putting 3 40ft high cubes next to each other, and cutting both walls out of the middle container. do you think I will get sag if I did this? I could possible weld a steel across the roof inside if it did start to sag.

    would appreciate your advice thanks tom

    • Hi Tom,

      Sag? Oh yeah, big time. Containers are like unibody cars. Take out a wall and the structure is significantly compromised. Your options are beams that go from outside wall to outside wall or columns. There is no “if” they start to sag. They will, and you will have to engineer enough support into your project. Sorry, I am not an engineer, just seat-of-pants go at it. Good luck and have fun! Fred

  7. Am planning on converting a 40 ft Hi Cube to a semi-portable workshop in Belize. At my age I have to hire locals but they rarely have tools. To cut two doors (one each side) which tool(s) would you buy. Power shears, Nibbler, oxy ace cutter, or side angle grinder? Or??

  8. Just wanted to say thanks…I live in the Philippines and I am going to build me a nice a container home with your help…you kept it clear and simple for me to understand…i need the safety tips most of all…

  9. I hope my question about i-beams across the roof loaded. In case: would welded steel 4″ i-beams across the roof of 2 x 40 ft spaced every 10 ft stop/ reduce the sag caused by removing the inner walls? Thanks, Ian

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