Flush With Pride & Lofty Ambitions

It has only been a week since my last post, so don’t expect much. But to the women out there who have been rooting for an in-house toilet, you know who you are, root no more. REJOICE!

I am very excited to announce that I was able to find a couple of hours and have installed the toilet in the half-bath off the kitchen/under the stairs. It flushes and everything! I also installed a grab bar for Cynthia, although she is needing it less and less; today she climbed the stairs to the loft, without me and without her cane (she is more- and more-frequently forgetting where she left it). Here is a photo of the dual-stage flusher:

Not very colorful at this point. Maybe we will have to dye the TP pink or something.

Hanibal, his brother Bolivar, and I put in a full five-day week working tile. We got most of the master bedroom floor tiled. Today I cut perimeter tile for the outside porch area; Hanibal will install them next week:


We are working our way out of the bedroom and into the hallway and the landing in the living room. Lots and lots of complex cuts to make on the tile:


The little pieces of blue tape mean, “Don’t step on this freshly-set tile.”

But wait, there’s more. While I cut the perimeter tiles, the guys moved upstairs into the loft. They laid two of the six rows of tile there, and I joined them to begin cutting the forty-feet of complex-cut edge tile. We have a lot of stuff stored in the loft, so we will complete one side, then I’ll move the junk to work the other side:


Jabo always thinks that it is his picture that I am taking. I don’t have the heart to tell him that it isn’t always the case. You can see the cut edge tiles standing against the wall. I put yet another one-hundred-dollar blade on the saw before starting these tiles. 

On our next work day, I’ll stay in the loft cutting tiles and the guys will pour the concrete floor in the master bath shower area, sloping the concrete toward the drain.

On most Saturday mornings there are two or three people in front of Central Comercial (the first supermarket as you drive into town), selling home grown veges and plants. A very, very mini farmers’ market if you will. I like to buy from them if they have anything we can use, although sometimes they are kind of pushy, chasing me down inside the store or coming to the car window, not giving up even if I am on the phone. Determined entrepreneurs. Today I picked up some fresh spinach and a pretty bromeliad for eight-bucks.

Armando only worked a couple days this week because he had two really sick kids at home. But he did grout some of the tile and planted the bromeliad in the dead tree in our front garden:


We’re not sure what next week will bring work-wise as it is November, the wettest month of the year and a month chock-a-block filled with holidays, including two or three independence days.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.



First, I want to post a couple progress photos. The first one is the last banner photo that I had at the top of this site that I took on April 13th:

Panorama -- 13 April 2014

And here is the photo that I took today, July 20th:


Some difference with everything greened up and that eyesore sand and gravel pile gone!

July is Cynthia and my favorite month here in Panama. Technically it is the rainy season, but there is usually a dry period in July. And there aren’t many tourists and there isn’t a lot of smoke in the air. To take advantage of the lack of rain, Armando and I have been concentrating on the driveway turnaround. This area hasn’t been seen for several years as we have staged piles of sand and gravel here. But now, there aren’t many more jobs requiring big concrete, so we were able to scrape away and find the driveway below.

After clearing the area, we laid a six-inch drainage pipe across the turnaround area. Left as is, the car would crush the pipe in short order. To support the pipe, on either side of the pipe we poured a foundation and then laid a row of concrete blocks. Finally, we poured a slab above the pipe and blocks. Like this:


Soon we’ll buy some more four-inch rocks so that Armando can rock the edging as he did on the other side of the driveway.

Armando spent a day leveling the area. We had been using the area as a dumping ground for extra concrete and mortar, so there was a bit of pickaxe and sledge hammer work to do.

Soon I’ll buy some crushed gravel to give the driveway a top coat. But we have to wait at least a month before driving over the concrete that protects the pipe. Here are other views of the turnaround:



In other news, I spent a day installing another section of the kitchen ceiling. This section is a couple of inches lower than the other sections due to the pipes that come down from the sink in the loft. The lower ceiling creates a cozy nook for the TV that will be mounted on the wall:


I still need to trim an edge or two and install a pop-rivet or two.

I also painted the beams white  (I used a four-inch foam roller to get a smooth finish) and installed four LED mini can lights in the four beams. These lights will light the aisle in front of the sliding pantry doors:


One rainy day Armando and I poured the black concrete that we formed and described in my previous post. Here are two of the five pours:


This is the eighteen-foot-long bench in the living/dining room, useful for overflow seating for parties. Colorful cushions will make for warmer seating; even in the tropics the concrete feels cold on one’s backside!

This is the sink counter for the half-bath off the kitchen and under the stairs:


The back garden looks good:

Panorama -- Back Garden -- 19 Jul 2014

For a year now, Armando has been promising that the hydrangeas will bloom…

There are a couple localized riots of purple:


And last but not least, lunch:


My tasty salad (Cyn wouldn’t be caught dead with the cheese) of avocado, carrot, zucchini, celery, and red bell pepper, dressed with herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, complimented by an aged, hard goat cheese.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Another Hangover And A Good Roughing Up

In our push to complete as many outside details as possible before the rainy season begins, this past week we focused on the north wall of container #4.

Ramiro and I fabricated and installed 21 support braces just like the ones on the hangover overhang at the front of the house. Here we are on the second day:


Ramiro is welding the brackets onto the container. After we had a few brackets installed, we lifted the 2″x6″ carriola into place and welded it to the brackets. This made aligning the remaining brackets quite easy:



When we had all the brackets in place, we ground the welds smooth with the angle grinder and prime painted them. While the paint dried, Ramiro sanded the side of the container. He used a wire brush on the angle grinder to remove the areas of heavier rust around dents and dings. Here is Ramiro hand sanding the container:


Ramiro gives the paint a good roughing up.

While Ramiro sanded, I took the last three hours of the day and hand sanded, two-coat primed, and two-coat finish painted (latex) the outside east wall of my shop. We still need to paint the window blocks the teal/green trim:


This is the same color as the rest of the house. In full sun the color looks blue-ish. In actuality it is a soft gray green, almost the color of sea foam.

The next morning we slipped pieces of roofing metal, that I had previously cut, into place on top of the brackets:


Armando and Pancho joined Ramero and me to mix and place the concrete slab above the roofing metal:


I used the 2″x6″ metal carriola instead of a 2″x3″ so that we could have more thickness and build in a drainage channel on the top of the slab. Here is the finished slab:


It is hard to see the channel. The next photos show it more clearly.



I cut a six-inch hole in the roofing metal and inserted a PVC pipe as a downspout to carry off rainwater.

We finished the slab at 11:00.

The back garden was filled with weeds so I asked the guys to weed for an hour and then they could take the rest of the day off.

At noon, Armando took a shower (now at the end of the dry season there is very little water at his house) and he and Pancho left right at noon. But Ramiro said that because he arrived a bit late that he wanted to work a bit more. I told him it was okay if he wanted to leave, too, but he insisted on working for another hour.

The garden now looks like this:


Cousin Christine — this is the palm that you gave us (in a small pot) a couple years ago.


And Christine T. — even though the dirt is dry, dry, dry, your plants are growing by leaps and bounds. One of our neighbors told us last night that this plant is in the taro family and that the young leaves, stalks, and roots are edible. The grasshoppers sure love to eat it!

Here is a panoramic view of the back garden from the roof. We need more plants!

Panorama -- Garden --031

A couple hibiscus bushes have bloomed, including this dainty one:


And this big yellow flower:P1010185-002

Armando and Pancho have been rocking the container support columns:



And Cynthia, after placing an order on January eleventh, finally* received from the States two spray cans of mold release for use in slumping glass. She is going to make lamp shades for the lights over the kitchen counters. Stay tuned.

*The mold release took two-and-a half months to arrive because it had to be routed through the Panamanian Pharmacy and Drug agency (among others) because one of the many ingredients in the spray could possibly be used in the production of illegal drugs. Really? I mean really?

Tomorrow Ramiro and I plan to paint the north wall and its windows and then move on to other exterior walls.

I think that’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by.




A Lofty Accomplishment

This won’t be a lengthy post. It is pretty much a repeat of my last post, All Decked Out, but I did want to get it posted in the official record. We can now cross concrete the loft floor off the to do list.

We started the day mixing 35 wheelbarrows of sand and gravel with 18 bags of cement. This was the largest batch yet. We ended up having to mix an additional two wheelbarrows more:


The guys put Alex up to clowning for the camera with a small shovel. I reprimanded him (in jest) for using the boss’ shovel. Everyone laughed hysterically:


We did the same pass the bucket game as last time:


I finished wood floating the floor at about 6:30 p.m.:


Tomorrow, Armando will mix some mortar and fill the gap along the wall. It was just too late in the day for me to do it by myself.

Here is looking at the slab from the other end:


Now the only big concrete left to pour is the kitchen floor below the loft/roof deck plus the greenhouse and fish pond. We’ll do the kitchen floor in a couple weeks, but the rest will have to wait for the dry season.

I have ordered one-eighth-inch, four-foot by eight-foot diamond plate steel floor decking sheets for fabricating the stairs to the loft; it will be delivered next week. I’m looking forward to engineering this project; my DIY metal bending brake will come in handy. Stay tuned.

The garden is going great guns. Here are the maracas:


That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.



Almost Ready To Move In

The Big Push To Move In continues, although surprisingly not everything we are doing will get us in sooner. I asked our landlady for another week; she said, take two or more and don’t pay. Seems that she wants a night watchman until they can find another renter or can get a contractor to fix the many woes of the place.

But a week will do it because some of our large glass window panes have arrived, and more will arrive next week:


The glass was delivered by Moly and his family in a pickup truck that barely ran. One of the men rode in the back of the truck to steady the glass for the hour-long drive. I understand that they probably wouldn’t own glass-moving suction cups, but I was surprised to see that none of the men and boys were wearing gloves. This is a bare bones operation (no pun intended) but their prices are fair!

I installed one of the panes in one of the guest bedroom windows:


With the heavy rains eroding the soil where all the water runs off the Big Roof, it was time for Armando and Alex to pour a concrete splash pad. Here it is almost done; Armando is pounding rocks into the wet concrete and Alex is finishing the job with a small paintbrush. Fortunately, the rain held off for the entire job:


A day or two later it did rain. Not hard, just a gentle tropical drizzle:

While it rained, Armando and Alex moved indoors to repello (stucco) the master bathroom M2 (foam building panel) wall (not shown) and the wall over the master bedroom bump out:


Aramis has been working nonstop. Here he is putting 3/4″ angle iron into a door that will go at the master bedroom bump out; there will be four, eight-foot-tall glass doors there:


And here is Aramis welding a sink stand for the concrete sink that will go in the laundry. The sink sits on the lower part. The upper part will have a sheet of tile backer and will be tiled. The faucet will sit on the tiled part:

The next photo shows parts of three metal projects in process; a new four-posted canopy bed, the sink stand, and a pair of doors ready to be hung in the bump out. You can also see that in my free time I hung the two white doors. We will paint them a different color:


My days are somewhat chaotic. I have to keep an eye on both Armando and Aramis; whether simply observing progress and watching for problems, making suggestions or giving the next marching orders, or jumping in and working with them when an extra hand is needed. I also run for materials in town. But sometimes I have a small block of time to accomplish something extra, as I did when I installed the doors (above) or this sink just outside of Cynthia’s studio:


These sinks are ubiquitous here. Every one that I have seen is set on concrete blocks at each side of the sink. But this makes a nasty little area that collects spiders and leaves. I decided to weld an angle iron bracket and screw it to the wall. I used urethane caulk to stick the sink to the stand and to the wall. Some touch up of the repello is necessary where I cut the groove for the pipe and around the drain pipe.

Cynthia’s bailiwick is the gardens. She recently stole Armando and Alex from me for a day to clean the back garden, eradicate the ant colonies in the garden, and plant some new plants. While they worked, she divided some asparagus ferns and re-potted them. Another thank you to Christine and Clark who gave us cuttings of most of the plants from their garden:


Christine, what is the name of this plant? I see that it is starting to flower:


The flower heads are a good four or five inches tall.

And there is a dainty little orchid on the dead tree in the front garden:


Even though we haven’t officially moved yet, we are spending more and more time at the new house. On Sundays, we spend most of the day here just hanging out. Here is a happy Cynthia:


And if she is happy, I’m happy:


Happy but tired. I’m working ten-hour days right now. Can’t wait to move!

Some of you have emailed me personally to say that they can’t leave comments. I’ll check it out as soon as I can.

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by.

A Bunch Of Things

Thing #1: Soon we will need to be working in container #1. I know, I know, what a concept. But we have used the space for storage, and that stuff will have to find a new home. One item in particular is the supply of metal that we have on hand for windows and doors. So one afternoon I built a roof-hung rack in my shop. I used 1.5″x1.5″ angle iron, welded the pieces together and then hung the unit from the carriolas with roofing screws. Here is the finished rack loaded with some steel:


Now my shop has a roof rack.

Thing #2: With the concrete for the walkway by the front door completed, there is only one more piece of front entry concrete to go — the first step at the bottom of the stairs. Right now it is just a muddy mess:


Tackling this last slab, Armando and I spent a day making forms for the pour and setting rebar. The next day he picked up another man and the three of us made easy work of pouring the concrete. As usual, after the guys finished pouring and screeding (striking the concrete flat), I stayed late to trowel the surface.

As I waited the sky became darker and darker. I got most of the slab finished, but still needed another hour or so before I could trowel the last part. While I waited for the water to evaporate I kept an eye on the sky and prepared a couple tarps that I could pull over the slab at the last second.

Ultimately I lost the battle with the rain. Cynthia and I pulled the tarps into position; it rained for several hours and by that time, the rainwater had run off the steps above and onto the new slab making streaks, and the slab was too far gone to work any more. So the next day, Armando troweled on a thin layer of cement and fine sand to even out the damage. Aside from a color difference (which will be a moot issue when we tile the steps five years from now), the step is just fine now.


This is the view from the front door. I like the geometry a lot. Because of the slope of the driveway, the bottom slab is actually tilted down about eight inches. It is really a ramp, but it is difficult to tell because of the triangular shape of the slab.

Thing #3 — Curing the floating house feeling: Now when you look at the house, it looks very tied to the ground except for containers #1 and #2. The house has too much “float.” We don’t like the black holes under the containers. Take a look at this panorama:


Cynthia and I held a design committee meeting about the issue. When the house is done, the two doors on container #1 will be open. We’ll build a roof and a floor, and the end wall will probably be glass block. So to ground this part of the house we decided to extend the foundation around the front of the house. We had a few of the six-inch foam building panels on hand so I decided to use them instead of buying concrete blocks. Here is Armando digging the foundation:


The foundation is poured and the panels are in place.


I’ll have more on this little project as it progresses.

Thing #4 — Doors!: Time is passing rapidly and our date for moving-in keeps getting pushed back. I have a lot of fabricating to do on the doors and windows and I have to get to it. But I have to spend a significant amount of time working with and supervising Armando on other projects. The other day I was expressing my anxiety over all of this to Cynthia. “Why don’t you hire a man to weld,” was her question to me. I want to be clear; Cynthia gets full credit for this — I wanted to do it all myself but it just wasn’t reasonable with our desire to move from The Pit. And so I hired another man. Arimas, a local young man with a lot of welding experience, was available and was anxious to hire on.

I worked with Arimas all his first day and we nearly completed three doors. I could have done just one myself so we are already ahead of the game. Cynthia took this good photo of Arimas:


I showed him how I made some wooden jigs to get the size of the door just right. In the next photo you can see that I formed the door inside the door jamb so that even if the jamb isn’t perfect, the door was custom fit. I held the cut-to-size door pieces in place with clamps, then had Arimas tack weld the corners so that the frame would hold square:


Sticks at the floor allow enough clearance for the floor tile plus space at the bottom and top of the door. The shims at the right side of the door provide for opening and closing clearance. This door frame is ready to be tack welded.

Next we took the tack-welded frame out of the door jamb, put it on the workbench, and completely welded the corners. Then we took the piece of container siding that used to be where the door opening is and cut it to fit into the door frame:


We tack welded the panel into the frame and now it is ready for sanding, urethane caulk to seal the panel to the frame, and paint:


After I got him going and over the course of three days, Arimas completed three doors, got the frames for two more doors ready for the metal panels (these are for the laundry and I still need to cut the panels from container #1), and made a door jamb for the kitchen door in #2. I’m happy that I actually listened to my very smart wife. Full credit to Cynthia!

Thing #5 — Dealing with a lot of water: A lot of water runs off the Big Roof and drops close to the house. In just a couple weeks, the falling water dug quite a hole at the west side of the house and this isn’t good. I decided to extend the roof away from the house.

Armando and I erected two posts for the roof extension:


Then Arimas and I spent a morning framing the little roof extension:


As Arimas set the next rafter into place, I ground the previously-welded joints smooth, cut the tops of the columns off, and applied a coat of paint to the welds.

We were just about ready to apply the roofing panels when our Internet provider arrived to install service here at the new house. (We’ll have overlap for a month or two, but it is worth it; Cynthia and I are sitting in our new house today, Sunday, both enjoying some peace and quiet. She is reading about soap making and I am writing this entry. It is so nice to hear the chirps of the birds without hearing all the car and truck traffic that we get at The Rental Pit.)

Armando was digging the footing trench for the foundation extension, so I pulled him off that to help Arimas install the roof panels. With the panels installed, now we just need to pour a small concrete slab for the water to drop onto.

Thing #6 — Internet: We are now up and running with 3 megs at the new house. Because we are out of town we have few Internet options. We could get a measly 1 meg from the telephone company, Cable & Wireless, for about $45 per month. We had them before but service is very iffy because the signal has to travel through a long, old, buried copper cable that comes several kilometers from town. For a long time we paid them for 2 megs, but I never got more than 1 when I would run a speed test. One time we were out of service for thirteen days!

Other companies say they can provide service, but when they get here they see that their antennas don’t point in our direction. But one company agreed to put a small antenna pointing our way, so we can get a pretty good 3 megs for $110 per month. It puts a dent in our budget, but we depend on the Internet for so much. Maybe now we’ll be able to have reliable entertainment video downloads and better Skype conversations. We had Netflix in the States and watched a lot of movies but because of the slow speed available to us here we haven’t been able to watch movies much at all. Here’s a screenshot of a speed test that I just ran:

Fullscreen capture 7212013 24449 PM.bmp

To be clear, the speed test was run through Cable & Wireless, but we are not using them as our service provider.

That’s a pretty darn good speed. And oh, Cynthia has been sitting next to me watching YouTube videos and reports that the videos run without stopping to load all the time. Life is good.

Thing Hot Item #7: Here’s a photo of Cynthia cleaning some of the beads that she made:


That’s all for this week. I think we made some good progress. Thanks for stopping by.

Walkway Roof, Rain Gutter, Front Walkway Floor

Before we could pour the front walkway floor, I had to complete the small section of roof over the walkway. With the roof done, if it rained while we were pouring the floor, we would be covered. The geometry of this small roof section follows the walkway floor below:


Here I am grinding a weld smooth.

Here is the roof section with the zinc panels installed and the support column cut off at the roofline:


Now we can pour the walkway. Oops, wait a minute. Any water that runs off the new roof section will spill onto the carport roof. And because there is no gutter on the carport roof, the water will drip onto the fresh concrete below. I gotta go get a gutter and install it. Common practice here is to use a four-inch PVC thin-walled tubing as a gutter. You snap a chalkline the length of the pipe, then cut along the line with a saw. I found that the saber saw made quick work of the cut, although most installers will just use a handsaw. Here neighbor Tomas came to my rescue, helping me spread the pipe and set it over the end of the roofing panels:


Here is the gutter all installed. I still have to deal with the lower end of the downspout to make it plumb on the wall:


Armando and I spent the good part of a day setting rebar and forms and then… Finally, finally I say again, we are ready to pour the top step/front walkway to the front door. Armando and I and two extra men, Elia and Manuelilto, repeated the 5:45 a.m. start to make the pour. I won’t show you again how they filled the wheelbarrows. Suffice it to say that today we used a mere 24 wheelbarrows of sand and gravel and a dozen sacks of cement:


Elia smooths out a hump of concrete, and it looks like I am about to step off into the abyss.


Elia wood floats a section while Armando and I strike the concrete level. Actually, the walkway isn’t level, but slants a bit toward the front of the step to allow rainwater to run off.

Armando does The Swim.

Armando does The Swim.

Jabo is very confused. This new concrete changes all his usual “crossings.” But he doesn’t try to carve his initials into the wet concrete. Not even once. Good dog, Jabo.


At the end of the day, Cynthia and I stepped back and reveled in the fact that we can now drive into the carport, unload groceries or whatever, and walk to the front door and into the house, all under cover and out of the rain. Today was truly a red letter day!

I also spent a day cutting and installing flat stock to the outside of the clerestory windows. I applied a good coat of primer to all the window metal so now I am ready to install those four windows. When I get the time.

That’s all for now. I haven’t decided what’s next…

The Big Roof ~ Part 4

The Big Roof isn’t done yet, but progress is perceivable. I like the next photo that Cynthia took of me welding an X brace onto the roof. I used 1/16″x1″ flat stock (called platina), welding it to each rafter as it crossed the roof. This will keep the roof “square” and keep it from wracking in the wind:


I’ve welded in a lot more of the rafters:


One nice day Armando, our neighbor Tomas, and I started at 6:00 a.m. and screwed down nine, twenty-foot roofing panels. Each panel is 42-inches wide. Although that’s a lot of sheets and square feet, you can see that there is still a lot to go. It’s a big roof!


Since I took this photo, I have completed the rafters in the little square area to the left of the sheets.

The next picture gives a better perspective on the size of the roof. I still have to weld in the rafters on the left section, plus I have to build the roof that will cover the roof deck:


The rains have been washing the tree blossoms away, so that means that the bees are almost gone too. I am going to try to get to that upper left corner of the roof (previous photo) tomorrow and see if I can weld without raising the ire of the remaining bees. Wish me luck. If I can, then I will start welding in the remaining rafters in that area that overhangs the front of the house. Then more panels, then the section over the roof deck. I figure that I have until the fifteenth of June to work on the roof, then I’ll have to start working on doors and windows so that we can move in the fifteenth of July. Maybe the end of July.

Here is what the place looks like from the front steps:


I took a short 360-degree panarama video from the Big Roof. I can’t believe that we live here:

In other news, Armando has been digging the fish pond. He is putting the dirt in the big gardens and also across the street to improve his yucca and guandu (wan-doo — pigeon pea) garden:


We have a pump to extract the water when it gets too deep.

And he has been cutting the grass and weeding the gardens, both growing rapidly with the arrival of the rains:


Where’s Armando?

The photo above reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Henri Rousseau (link):

Henri Rousseau 2

And when it has been too rainy for me to weld outside, I’ve been doing odds and ends inside, including preparing the stuccoed walls for paint by wet grinding them. This process uses an angle grinder with a diamond grinding/polishing pad. A garden hose is attached to the grinder to wash away the gritty debris. It is all a big mess and is quite scary — water and electricity is never a good idea — even though I have the tool plugged into a GFCI protector. Here are a few photos that Cynthia took:


I’m wearing the latest in fashion: rubber gloves, rubber boots, boxer skivvies, and a plastic trash bag cut for my head and arms.


Cyn insisted that I post this photo. She said I was “cute.” Go figure!

And then there is this NSFW atrocity:


I’ll leave you with that last photo to ponder. What I will do for art. That’s all for now.

Big Wall Upright

Whew! I can finally cross this project off the list. The 40-foot long wall that we removed from container #2 and dragged onto the roof is finally standing upright. Here’s my stand up routine:

In order to strengthen the floppy wet noodle wall section I needed to weld a frame of 2″x2″ square steel tubing onto the two ends and onto the top of the wall. At the same time, I needed to make a way for the under-the-roof heat to escape. I decided to make a seven-inch-high space that would remain always open, always venting. Why seven inches? It’s big enough to move a lot of air but small enough that an enterprising thief can’t climb through. I can make and attach some window screens to keep the bugs and bats out. The next photo shows this framework in process:


To start I needed to weld two, 20-foot lengths of tubing together end to end. I clamped other pieces of tubing onto these two to keep the line straight.

Here’s a close up of the butt joint just before welding:


The next photo shows the assembly a day later as I welded the seven-inch uprights between two 40-foot lengths of tubing:


There really is no way to do this without putting in the time and effort. With the work on saw horses (burros in Spanish) I made a total of 72, two-inch welds and then ground them all flat with the angle grinder. This part of the project, including cutting, welding, and grinding, took me about two-and-a-half days.

With the tubing assembly completed but still up on the horses, the last piece of the puzzle before welding the framework to the wall section was to deal with the bottom of the wall where it will touch the floor. I needed some way to keep the bottom of the wall straight and well-attached to the container below. There must be eleven different ways to do this; I settled on welding 2″x2″ angle iron to the roof of container #2. Then, when I finally lift the wall I can weld the wall to the angle iron. The angle iron will also keep the bottom of the wall right where I want it while I raise the wall. Here’s a photo of the angle iron as I weld it to the roof of #2:


After the wall is up and welded to the angle iron, I’ll paint everything really well. The angle iron will disappear under the concrete floor slab

Finally it was time to weld the square tubing framework to the container wall. Here I clamp the frame to the wall in preparation for welding:


In the next photo I have the frame all welded to the wall, a come-along connected to the 4″x4″ (4×4) steel post that I welded to the container, and we are ready to raise the wall. You can also see a piece of 5/8-inch rebar (near Armando) that I welded to the top of the wall. When the wall is vertical, I will weld the free end of the rebar to the 4×4 post:


I started cranking on the come-along. The top of the wall raised a few inches off the floor, but then the pipe that I was bracing the 4×4 with bent in the middle. It snapped up pretty fast and belted me in the chin. Some ice and some homeopathic Arnica and all is well. Still no serious injuries on the job.

So I let the wall back down and spent about an hour welding some rebar braces between the bottom of the 4×4 and the pipe. The braces look like this:


Back to the come-along, I managed to lift the top of the wall a couple feet, but then the cranking got difficult. So I connected another come-along, this one at the center of the top of the wall. A few cranks on one, then a few cranks on the other. Back and forth and the wall lifted almost effortlessly.


We had to stop midway to adjust one of the come-alongs, so we put a couple supports under the wall:


It was anticlimactic after that until we got the wall almost vertical. Armando was really nervous that a gust of wind would catch the wall and send it too far, but I was cranking the come-alongs with one hand and had the rebar aligning with the 4×4 post with the other hand. As the rebar touched the 4×4 I gave one final crank on the come-along and then welded the rebar to the post. We supported the ends of the wall with planks, then we welded the wall to the angle iron at five points to secure the bottom of the wall. Here’s the final product standing proud:


In the photo above, the far side of the wall will be a roof deck. The near side of the wall will be a loft. My next task will be to cut two, eight-foot long sections from the wall in container #1, and move them up on the roof to make end walls in the loft. And of course I will have to cut windows and a door in the wall too. The fun never ends!

In other news, Armando has been working on cleaning the drainage ditches. The rainy season is on its way; the sky is cloudier in general, black clouds are gathering in the south-east in the afternoons, and passing sprinkles are becoming more common. One day I welded all day in a persistent light mist, called bajareque (ba-ha-RAY-kay). I’ve got to get the roof on soon! Here’s Armando’s current project:





Armando has been putting most of the extra dirt on the other side of the road by his yucca plants. The plants have been too low and too wet to produce a good crop.

Armando has a lot more digging to do, but by the time he is done I may be ready to have him help screw down a few roof panels on The Big Roof.

And here’s something you don’t see every day; a white frog hung out for a day on one of the container doors:


That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Progress On Big Floor And Front Steps

Lately we have been working on framing the big floor (front entry, living room, dining room) and on building the broad staircase leading to the front door.

While Armando is occupied digging footing trenches for the steps and laying block, I have been welding the floor joists that will support the concrete floor. Here is a photo with some of the joists in place:


These joists are 24-feet long and fit perfectly between containers 2 and 3. The joists sit on three beams that are supported by the columns that we poured earlier. We still have to raise the third beam into place, but we are waiting for our neighbor to cut and remove the tree at the west end of the floor; the tree is blocking the space where the beam needs to be and he has the best chainsaw in the neighborhood!

The front steps will have the same long-and-low design as the steps from the carport up to my shop. While I am welding, Armando has the more difficult job of digging footings, pouring concrete, and laying blocks. During the dry season, much of the clay-based soil turns rock hard and has to be attacked with a pickaxe. I try to plan his day so that he does the most strenuous work in the morning before the 80 to 85-degree afternoon sun bakes us into the soil.

Each one of the steps has its own concrete footing and row of concrete blocks, so these steps are an ambitious several-week project. Here is the main wall that will support the east end of the big floor and another slightly shorter wall that will support the top step:


While Armando set the blocks, I drilled holes to receive pieces of rebar which will support sheet metal, which in turn will support the concrete steps. Here are the rebar supports in place:


I used a bunch of scrap metal to make the support for the concrete:


The next photo shows the top step all poured and the next one down ready to be poured. I am using 2″x6″ metal cariolas for the front-of-step form. I cut the cariolas on an angle and welded them together where the two cariolas intersect so that each step will have the same slant at the front of the step:


Here are two steps all poured; only three more to go! Preparing a step and pouring it takes the two of us an entire day:


The next photo will give you a feel for what the front entrance steps will look like:


I knew that this stairway would eat a lot of concrete, rebar, blocks and labor. But I also knew that the entry sets the stage for the house. I just couldn’t bring myself to build a one-day, contractor-grade, four-foot-wide puny set of stairs. It just wouldn’t have been right.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.