Odds ‘N Ends

I know, I know. A lot of you read my blog to see how we are working with the shipping containers, and there hasn’t been a lot of that lately. There will be, but not just yet.

Cynthia and I were remarking last week that other than the inside of my shop, nothing else is completely done. At two years into this project, and although we have accomplished a tremendous amount given our small crew, six-hour work days, long rainy seasons, and time out for health issues, everything has raw edges. We decided to focus for a few weeks on getting a few items DONE.

Columns: We thought it would be nice to drive up to the project and see the front entrance columns  done, so I started there. About a year ago, we built these two columns for the front gate:

May, 2011. Note how much has been done since then.

The columns still needed a concrete roof cap like the one on the electric service wall, so I set about making some forms. Here is one ready to be installed on a column:

It was somewhat strange working with wood again. I almost tried to weld it! For the nice tight corner joints I used my Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. You clamp your board in the jig, then insert the special drill bit into the appropriate hole in the jig and drill away:

Then you use special screws to screw the corners together:

Here are the forms in place and the concrete poured:

To prevent rainwater from flowing over the edges of the roof and staining the edges with dirt and mold, I pitched the concrete down toward the center line of the roof (to create an interior gutter) and toward the drain pipe.

Here is one of the roof-itos after I stripped the forms:

Of course, the columns are still too stark, so we went down the mountain and picked out a porcelain tile, to be delivered next week. We chose porcelain because the color goes all the way through the tile; regular ceramic tile has a thin layer of color that would be sure to chip when Armando cuts the grass and the weed whacker throws a stone at the tile. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but here is a peak anyway:

This tile will go on the two front gate columns, the electric service wall, and the two buttress columns at the carport.

Driveway: With the rainy season upon  us, the driveway has been muddy nearly every day. We had a big pile of crushed gravel, so Armando and I spread it on much of the driveway. I rolled it with the Honda Steamroller. Quite a difference from the first photo in this post:

Carport Wall: The carport columns and roof are in place, but we wanted a short wall in line with the columns. Because the carport roof is done, Armando was able to work even when it rained:

When the wall block work was done, Armando and I built a form and poured concrete for a shelf on top of the wall:

Here’s the wall and shelf with one side of the forms removed. It was raining cats and dogs all day so I couldn’t get to the outside forms:

Next week Armando will repello (stucco) the wall inside and out (weather permitting).

Plant Pots: I’ve had this little wall in my head for some time. I thought that the shelf would be a great place for plants that don’t need a lot of sun. One of us said, “How about bamboo?” Pots of a nice thin, leafy bamboo would look great on the shelf. It would create a natural curtain for the carport and create some mystery when viewed from the side road. That brings us to pots. We could spend a bunch of money on nice pots, so I said, “I could build them.” In the next photo I put some plastic on the floor of one of the containers and nailed forms to the floor. Armando and I will pour plant pot parts (say that three times fast) next week, then let them sit for a few weeks to cure. I plan to screw the concrete pieces together with plastic anchors and stainless steel screws unless any of you have a better idea:

I'll reinforce the concrete with 1/4" rebar. I'd like to mix in some strengthening fiber, but I haven't seen any in Panama.

Paint: Now that the shop is done and the repello has cured, its exterior walls can be painted, as can the container wall under the carport roof. This will do a lot to unify disparate parts of the project. Cynthia and I have had a Dickens of a time deciding on a color for the exterior of the house. Most Panamanian houses are white or cream or yellow or shocking pink or shocking green or, you get the point, and we would like something different. Any shade of gray was blah and reminded me of my military Navy days so that was out. A light yellow would be pleasant but it is overdone in our neighborhood. So after choosing the porcelain tile (but before we bought it), we went to a paint store to look at colors. Surprise of surprises, we chose a gray teal I guess you could call it. We think the house painted this color will blend nicely with the surrounding greenery. But as always with paint, we could hate it. So we bought a test quart and will withhold our decision until we see what it looks like on the exterior walls. 

Even though I am aching to get back to the windows in the containers, it felt good to work toward completing a few projects. I think seeing more pieces and parts finished will keep us jazzed and moving forward. Even Cynthia looks happier:

That’s all for now.

 

8 thoughts on “Odds ‘N Ends

  1. Thanks Fred for listening to my request about finishing a few projects before moving on to something else. Having so many loose ends was leaving me at my wits ends! This project feels like it’s back under control once again.

    For those of you who haven’t seen the tops of the columns, they’re truly designed well; kind of like Fred knows what he’s doing channeling water! I was impressed.

  2. Awesome job, I mean the whole of it. It’s a win-win for all as long as people need a place to live.
    npr.org/2012/05/30/153574677/forget-big-box-stores-how-about-a-big-box-house

  3. Hello, Great site. I have been following you for some time now. I normally do not post anything on the web but I have a few question about M2 panels I was hoping you could answer.
    Where can you buy them? and How much do they cost?

    thank you

    • Hello Richard, Thanks for the compliment. I buy the M2 panels at Hopsa in Panama City. I think they cost around $32 for a 4’x8′ sheet. Remember to factor in cost for the extra pieces of metal mesh that go in the corners and around window and doors, as well as two coats of repello (stucco) over the wire mesh. You can also buy a knock off brand at many of the local hardware stores, but there doesn’t seem to be as much wire mesh on them. Fred

  4. Wow, I recently inquired to an American company which I won’t name (Hadrian Tridipanel) selling a similar product and it came to $112 per panel. Any reason why you did not build your shop from this material?

    • Wow indeed. Is the wire mesh gold plated? I think the price here in Panama is set to be competitive with the typical block construction. I priced my shop both ways and the final costs seemed amazingly similar. Perhaps with the higher cost of construction in the States that unnamed company set their price competitively, also.

      I went back and forth between M2 and typical block for my shop. The block won because I am working with a very unskilled labor pool and block is what they know. It is in their DNA I believe. I think I also factored in the significant winds when I was preparing to build the shop. Styrofoam goes skyward easier than blocks!

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