BIG TILE FLOOR DONE!

With the exception of a couple finishing details, the living room floor is DONE! We are just so wildly excited; this place is now a house for sure!

In the last week-and-a-half, tile by tile, Hanibal worked his way across the entry/living/dining room floor. My job as usual was to cut all the perimeter tiles. Here we work around the steps to the master bedroom:

P1010907While we were in the neighborhood, we decided to set the tiles for this set of steps, too. In the next photo Hanibal places mortar and I stand squat ready with a jig that I made to determine the height of the mortar on the steps:

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The next photo is a closer look at the jig — I measured the total height of the staircase and then divided by three (the number of risers), equaling even steps of four-and-three-quarters-inches. To that number, I added the thickness of the tile (five-sixteenths-of-an-inch) to yield a jig height of five-and-one-sixteenth-inch. In the shop, I cobbled together a few boards, making this:

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The jig rides on the tiles already in place on the step above the one being worked on, thereby setting the height of the mortar to set the tiles on.

We decided to tile the steps with some left over tile from the bathroom floors. The different style of tile sends a safety warning to a person walking nearby that says, “pay attention, something is different here.” Here is the end of one of the steps where I cut the tiles to fit against the rock wall:

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We still need to install tile on the risers and grout the staircase.

Finally, with the exception of a few finishing touches, the floor was done. Here it is looking from the living room toward the front door. The little set of stairs at the far end goes to the second bedroom:

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We planted some Mother-In-Law Tongues in concrete pots on the landing.

And looking from the front door into the living room:

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The next photo looks from the master bedroom landing into the living room:

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We went shopping on Black Friday and got some good sales on some big pots for the living room.

You may have noticed in the above pictures that the long container wall, the one with the long bench, is no longer white. Hanibal didn’t need me for a day, so I painted the wall two coats of a warm-grey satin latex. I’ve found that a brush works just fine to paint the container walls:

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Once I got two coats of paint on the wall, both Cynthia and I commented on how tranquil the room had become. We think that this tranquility will make a great backdrop for a few vibrant punches of color:

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One of those punches of color will be the dining room table. One day I had a chance to roll five coats of “Red Hot Mama” polyurethane (fifteen-minute drying time) paint onto the table that Ramiro and I made some months ago. The name of the color is written on the can in English — I translated it for the guys and they couldn’t stop laughing:

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A thick slab of glass will top the table. After painting the inside corners with a brush, I found that a small foam roller applies a nice smooth finish. When you look at the front windows you’ll notice some squiggly lines. Cynthia put those up with a yellow highlighter so the birds wouldn’t try to fly into the windows. Apparently the birds see the lines”fluoresce” and we’ve avoided many head-on collisions.

With the big floor done, it was time to move upstairs to tile the roof deck floor. We laid one long row first; Hanibal calls this row El Maestro (the teacher):

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Cynthia inspects the first row. As we near the outside edge, we’ll move the plants inboard so that we can finish tiling the floor. A tarp protects the recently-laid end tiles from an imminent afternoon rain.

On the second day, Hanibal continued laying tile and I spent most of the day marking and cutting the border tiles. I am happy to announce that I have officially cut THE VERY LAST TILE that abuts the intricate innies and outies of the container walls. Glad to have that done!

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With so much mortar and tile to carry up to the roof, Hanibal brought his son-in-law, Francisco, to be his helper. Francisco had to do double duty with the edge tiles — after bringing them up to the roof, I marked them, he carried them back down to the saw, I cut them, and he carried them back upstairs. You really don’t want to carry more than five of these tiles at a time as they are thick and heavy. Here is Francisco ready to hand a tile to Hanibal:

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When a new guy comes to work for us, I take his picture and send him home with a copy. The next day they always come back smiling, saying that their family responded, “Guapo!” (pronounced wappo), or “handsome.” This was the photo I gave him.

As of today, the roof deck looks like this:

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The roof deck pitches about a quarter-inch-per-foot toward the outside to shed rain. Armando’s job this Saturday was to grout the floor, making a space ready to move the plants to.

The rainy season is going out with a bang — we’ve had some pretty good downpours in the afternoons and also in the hours just before dawn. Here is one at two in the afternoon — we are really happy with the water management on the property:

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As wet as it looks, we’ve also had some lovely sunny days. The rainy season will end around December 15th.

Once the roof deck is done, the last big tile job is the front steps. We’ll probably get started on that project sometime this week. Can’t wait.

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

 

I Thought The Day Would Never Come

I thought the day would never come when we had the house painted all the way around. But it did! With the exception of a couple small spaces and a bit of trim paint, the outside house painting is DONE. Even the trim paint around the roof line makes a huge difference as you can see in the next two panorama photos:

Before:

Panorama -- 23 Feb 2014

Of course the outside of the house isn’t totally done. I still need to tile the front steps.

After:

Panorama -- 13 April 2014

I spray the body of the house and Ramiro brush paints the green trim. We painted the wall under the carport:

We still need to paint the door hardware the dark green trim color.

Ramiro still needs to paint the door hardware the dark green trim color and I need to paint the triangle above the window. The chair is for the night watchman (Jabo). He feels just that much more human when he sits in it.

Container #4 is all painted:

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When I took this picture this morning the sky was gray gray gray and ready to rain. It didn’t rain, but it will soon…

Here is a panorama photo of the back of the house.

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Armando still needs to rock the foundation under the screened bump out on the master bedroom.

Some time ago we purchased an electric opener for the front gate. I decided to take a day and install it so that Cynthia and I wouldn’t have to flip a coin to see who would open the gate during a downpour. Poncho helped me dig the two-foot-deep hole and pour the concrete. The gate works great:

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Now that I have electricity to the front gate, Cynthia and I can decide on light fixtures for outside on the columns.

Armando and Poncho are still rocking the house. In the next photo they are up to the bottom of the living room doors. They still have to rock the small area to the left of the doors and the large wall area to the right of the doors. Next week Ramiro will tackle the window trim paint and the roof rake trim as well:

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I have to remember to punch a hole in the wall (to the right of the living room doors) for a vent for the half bathroom under the stairs. Please remind me before Armando gets all the way to the top of the wall…

One day I went to Armando’s house early in the morning. He had some ground cover plants and a couple hundred cintia plants that we could use to border the new path around the house. We drove back with the truck loaded:

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We planted the ground cover plants (foreground) in the area over the septic drainage field. The roots won’t go too deep.

Armando and Poncho spread some new black soil and divided and planted the cintias at one side of the path. Later we’ll get a bunch of purple flowers similar to the cintias and plant them between the rows of cintias. And so begins the disappearance of the grass in the back yard:

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Even though the weather is still dry, we had to move the plants from Armando’s house because he doesn’t have enough water to keep the plants alive. Who knew that the tropics could be so dry? But so far in this El Nino year our well is producing very well and we have plenty of water to keep the plants moist.

I gave the young Ballerina (Ramiro’s local, unofficial name for the tree) tree a good drink of water a few days ago and the flowers popped:

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And this Roble (Oak) tree next door is all in bloom against a threatening sky to the east:

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A few more of our exotic hibiscus (papos) collection have flowered:

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Cynthia wants me to let you know that not everything is inexpensive here in Panama. Here are $5.50 worth of tomatillos. She makes a killer green salsa to pour over black bean enchiladas:

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

Paint! ~ We Paint Some Interior Walls And Ceilings

We are making progress. With the interior walls framed and ready for Plycem (tilebacker), it is time to paint. I want to paint before hanging the Plycem because the Plycem will have a clear finish and will not be painted. Doing the job in the paint first, Plycem second order will save us from having to do a lot of masking and taping.

I debated on whether or not to paint over a note that someone had written on one of the walls. The paint won, but I did take a picture of the note. I find it endlessly fascinating that our house has been around the world:

F.C. The best from St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands. 5/14/2008

I wonder what F.C. and his crew were loading or unloading?

Here is a photo of the paints I chose for the interior walls:

The tube of urethane caulk is actually a windshield adhesive. The tube is aluminum and double sealed to prevent the caulk from drying out. Even so, I wore a hole in the palm of my hand trying to pump it out of the tube with a caulking gun. I ran new beads of this caulk where container walls meet the ceilings and at weld joints that I have made.

The Lanco Oil Red Oxide Polyurethane primer is thinned with mineral spirits and sprayed on nice and smooth.

The Lanco Super Dry Enamel (Esmalte) is thinned with lacquer thinner and dried in just a few minutes.

I’ve seen the question asked on the Internet, “Can I use latex paint to paint a shipping container?” The beauty part of latex is the easy cleanup. It is a lot more work to clean the spray gun when using oil based paints, but it doesn’t make sense to me to spray water on metal and expect it not to rust. When I started painting years ago, I don’t think there was such a thing as latex paint. All I remember is cleaning my first boss’s brushes with turpentine. Oil based paint really is not that bad once you get used to the regiment of cleaning up after yourself. I allow a half hour to forty-five minutes at the end of the day to get everything squeaky clean.

Here’s container 3 all primed and ready for the white top coat:

I bought a roll of yellow "caution" tape to use as masking on conduits and on the hardware on the container exterior doors. Jabo awaits further instructions.

There is hardly any over spray with the HVLP spray gun.

After we sprayed the primer, the next day it was ready for the first of two top coats of white:

This is the north wall of container 3. I really savored the moment when I cut out the two doorways. The nearest doorway goes into what will be our dry (dehumidifier) room. The further door goes into the hallway that will connect to the living room. With the doorways cut I don't have to crawl through walls and go out of my way to get where I am going. It feels more like a house now.

Partly painted. I'm standing in what will be my shop, looking toward the master bedroom. The unpainted square area is in the master bath. It will be cut out and the wall pushed out four feet for the shower. We plan to use glass blocks for at least one wall of the shower.

First coat all done. Note that 34 sheets of half-inch Plycem have been delivered. I can't wait to start hanging it on the interior walls.

We still have to cut holes for windows including above in the clerestory wall, but for now I’m happy with the progress.

Here’s a photo from outside (west side) looking in. The big hole in the wall will be wall to wall, floor to roof windows. The view of the night sky from the bed should be spectacular as there is no artificial light for miles around.

The left container (#4) is part of the master bedroom as is the large open area. This end of the right container (#3) is the hallway between the bedroom and the living room (yet to be built).

Rain has been starting by noon most days, but in the mornings Armando has been working on delineating the east side of the driveway. When we built the driveway we put large rocks in the mud then covered the rocks with tosca. At that time we had no design idea of how the driveway edges would meet the rest of the yard. Now, we have stretched a string line and Armando is digging a ditch. We’ll pour a concrete footing in the ditch then lay a course of concrete block as a curb. Here’s Armando working on the ditch:

With the new garden on the left side of the driveway and this curb on the right, the lot is getting more and more defined.

That’s all for now. Thanks for visiting, and feel free to leave a comment below.

Pop Up Garden

In this post, we plant a flower garden.

It is a frequent occurrence that neither Cynthia nor I can remember who’s idea it was to do something. There is an organic process that happens between us, a decision is made, and a day later we are oblivious as to how we got from point A to point Z. “Honey, do you remember how we decided to do such and such? Who’s idea was it to get started?” “Um, I dunno.” Well, it just happened again; a huge flower garden just popped up that stretches sixty feet across the the front yard.

Some background: We’ve been living in a nearby rental house for nearly three years. We really wanted to be in this neighborhood and this rental house was the only option at the time. It has a big fenced in yard, big enough for our long-legged, gotta-run dog (I’ve clocked him at 28 mph).

But the house wasn’t love at first site. We saw the outside, figured we could re-assemble our five-man crew from a former project and get the yard cleaned in a week or so. We signed a one-year lease without seeing the inside. When we finally got the keys and opened the front door for the first time, Cynthia cried so hard and so loudly that a neighbor way at the end of our road and up on the hill came down to see if everything was okay.

It wasn’t. The house — how do I say this nicely — had a lot of deferred maintenance “issues.” (Cynthia says this is an understatement.) As I said, the outside was overgrown with weeds and tall grass that we cleared away. Additionally, we spent a couple thousand dollars making vital repairs to the inside of the house to make it habitable. In return we got periods of no-or-reduced rent. Our elderly landlady, who often wears a stylish vintage hat and white gloves, loves us and often says in her broken English, “Oh, you make me new house!”

Here’s a photo of the kitchen as we found it, except we had already removed the termite-ridden upper cabinets. Remember, click a photo to enlarge it, click the back arrow to return here.

Here’s the new kitchen we built:

Some change, huh? Does Cynthia's apron coordinate with the curtains on the cabinets? She's a clever one, I tell you. Oh, and is the chicken coordinated, too? By the way, I made the pendant lamp over the sink, and three others like it, from stainless steel kitchen utensil holders and plumbing supply hoses that we found at a DoIt Center store in the city.

The point I am making here is that this place was a disaster, and relating to this post about our new garden, there were no nice plants in the yard. Here is a photo of part of the yard after the tall grass was cut and a lot of the weeds were hauled away:

And here is exhibit B, a photo of the yard once it was almost cleaned. Note that there were no flowers.

So, for the next few years, Armando would from time to time bring plants from his house, charging us only a small percentage of what we would have paid if we bought the plants “retail.” We ended up with quite a lush yard, and recently with our attention more focused on our new property than on the rental, it was really, really lush. I think I may have said it elsewhere on this blog, but my joke is that you can stick a METAL fence post in the ground here in Panama and a month later you have to come back and prune it. Everything grows so well here in the tropical mountains.

So a few days ago Armando and I dug up a slew of plants and trucked them to our new house. This photo is one of three loads:

Armando and Jabo ready to unload the truck.

With not much to do while all the welding and other infrastructure work has been happening, Cynthia has been chomping at the bit to contribute to the project. So she was on hand and was Project Leader as to the design of the garden and placement of the plants. Nice job, Cynthia! A very productive three days.

Here are some photos. Sorry some are blurry; it was raining fairly hard when I took them.

Overview of the new garden. Later, we will make the stone borders more permanent.

Ornamental ginger, antherium (little boy plant), spider plants, and a blue walking iris make up our new garden.

There is also a tree trunk that we have been debating whether or not to remove. Included in the garden, we think it will look great with orchids and bromeliads covering it. Maybe it will get a bird house on the highest point.

We have these in red, white, and pink. Armando put some rotten tree trunk pieces around each of the antheriums as fertilizer. How does he know this?

All the plants have started out good and healthy. I hope they like their new home.

Not bad for three short (rain by noon) days. We can’t wait to see the garden all filled in a few months from now. I hope that this post has given some enjoyment to those of you heading into winter. The key is under the mat.

To finish the project, Armando and I are getting a few yards of larger rocks and he will construct a more robust border around the garden and the path.

In other progress, when it was raining over the past week or so Armando and I sanded (random orbital sander) the interior container walls and ceiling in the space between 3 and 4 and number 4, and sprayed on a coat of oil red polyurethane primer. Here is the job in progress:

To spray, I am using my Fuji HVLP (High Volume, Low Pressure) spray gun. There is very little paint mist in the air when using an HVLP unit. The gun is powered by the black box which is basically a vacuum cleaner blowing in reverse. HVLP is nothing new — I remember that my parents had one back in the ’50s — it was an attachment to the Electrolux vacuum cleaner that I think they bought from a door-to-door salesman.

Fuji and I met on the world’s largest online tool dating service, Amazon.com, about five years ago. We have been very happy ever since. I quickly clean the gun after every few hours of spraying, and when I am done for the day I clean it within an inch of its life. I recommend this unit if you need to spray a lot of projects.

Bonus photo: Our neighbor cuts the grass early in the morning, kicking up the dew on the grass.

Tomas cutting the grass.

We are getting more and heavier rain of late. Now at mid-September, we are headed toward November, time of the heaviest rain of the year.

That’s all for now.