Carport Roof ~ Part 1

The heavy rains of a week ago turned out to be just a passing storm. We are back in a dry pattern and were able to get a lot done this week even though Armando only worked four days. In my most previous post, I said that we were going to erect part of the carport roof. Here’s what we have done so far:

We started by digging a footing for a column. The footing is one meter by one meter by one meter deep. We filled the hole with rebar, concrete, and large rocks. This mass will keep the roof rooted to the ground during heavy winds:

Then it was time to form the column. A friend had given us some plastic sewer pipe to use as a form for round columns, but this didn’t seem to have the look that I wanted.

We could make a square box column out of M2 panels (2″x4’x8′ Styrofoam sheets with a wire mesh on each side). We could leave a hole in the center of the box for the rebar to go up through, then pour concrete into the center of the form, embedding the rebar and making a good strong column. It would look like this:

To join the M2 panels at the corners, pieces of wire mesh bent at right angles are clipped to both panels. This makes a unit that is not likely to crack at the corners.

But wait. A plain round or square box column would certainly do the job, but these columns are just plain static. They don’t add much of a design element to the entire project because there is no sense of motion or tension or even something being comfortably at rest.

I’ve been playing with shapes and forms in my head for months, and one design kept pushing the others aside. This shape is the wedge, or flying buttress. This isn’t an original idea of course, and it can be seen throughout history and throughout Panama today. Most of the concrete block bus stops have the shape, as well as the gas station in the center of El Valle. So I laid two sheets of M2 on my shop floor and drew a diagonal line on them. I cut the metal mesh with the angle grinder and sliced through the Styrofoam with my pocket knife. When I snapped the panels on the cut line, I was left with four pieces; two for the front and two for the back side of the column. I think that this design gives a nice counterbalance and motion to the static mass of the shipping containers. My design looks like this:

You can see three pieces of rebar extending from the top of the form. We welded these pieces to the beam above the column. Now the roof is connected all the way through the column and into the concrete footing.

Armando and I clip the corner mesh pieces to the column. All totaled, the column took just three sheets of the M2 panel.

Cynthia thought I should include a picture of the clips that connect the corners together. Here they are. I think I look as if I am auditioning for a new character on The Simpsons.

Here Armando trowels on a first coat of repello (stucco):

If I move just a few more inches to the right, you can see the alignment of the flying buttress column with my shop. This is the effect, the optical illusion if you will, I was aiming for:

You can also see that it aligns perfectly when viewed from the front gate and the right side of the driveway curbing:

Did you notice in the photo above that Armando was performing his incredible “white bucket floating in mid air” trick? I would swear on a stack of Popular Mechanics magazines that this photo has not been manipulated and that there were no strings attached. Here is a closeup:

Floating a bucket in mid air. Look ma, no hands, no strings, no wires. Armando seems nonchalant as he reaches for more mortar to spread on the wall. You can see Sammy looking on in amazement. Such is the craft of the magician.

In the next photo, Armando applies the finish coat of repello to the column. You can also see that we have been busy welding beams and joists (2″x4″ carriolas) into place. We’ll put the roof metal on next week after we pour concrete into the center of the column form:

The long shadows give a clue as to the length of the day. Armando is tired.

That’s it for progress this week. Here are some odds and ends:

While welding up in the air, it is always a quandary where to keep extra welding rods. I solved the problem for myself by looking in the junk pile. An empty urethane tube (aluminum) and a piece of string made a perfect welding rod quiver to sling over my shoulder:

When we put the polymer sealer on the interior walls in my shop I got the idea to use the walls as a chalk board. It works perfectly; here I show Armando my plans for the column:

I checked my math twice. It's been many years since I did long division by hand!

The month of April holds one of the negatives of living in Panama. Just before the anticipated start of the rainy season, all the farmers and large landowners burn their fields and all the accumulated dry vegetable matter. Sometimes old tires will find their way into the piles, too. Here’s a view to the mountains. Note the smoke haze has nearly obscured the normally visible antenna towers:

Outtake (Cheap) Shot: Cynthia thought it would be an “art shot” to take this photo of me on the ladder. Reminded her of the book, Under the Bleachers by Seymour Butts:

That’s all for now. More next week.

9 thoughts on “Carport Roof ~ Part 1

  1. A glitch prevented Lynn M. from leaving a reply, so I’ll post it here:

    Great pics.I think I would enjoy Seymour Butts’ photos. Hope you are having a nice spring. I love to see the steady building construction photos. I pretty much skip most or the tech talk and still really enjoy the posts. Give my love to Cyn. Lynn

  2. Hey Fred,
    I have been following your blog for a while now. I am planning eventually to retire in Panama. I have been designing and redesigning my shipping container house plans for the past 3 years. Panama has been my primary vacation destination for the past 15 years, and I must say “You my friend are living my dream” Take care from a fellow Michigander,

    John

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