1,000 Rivets Later…

I told you that I had a big project in the works. The outside of the house is virtually done, so Ramiro’s days here were numbered. Ramiro has been a very good worker. He can think logically and creatively and is always ready to jump in and help me carry something. He even goes to the car when Cynthia comes home from shopping and helps her carry groceries into the house. So I didn’t want to lose him before it was time. I decided to do the last big project that we need an extra man for — install the ceiling in the living room/dining room. Here is the underside of the roof before:


As in other parts of the house, I decided to use zinc roofing panels. Washed and waxed with car polish, the panels should last many years. The big bonuses are that the ceiling will never need to be painted and water will never leak through and stain the ceiling. Ramiro and I measured the ceiling for size and quantity of the panels, and I made a plan of which panels would go where.

For a long time, I had planned to use a two-part spray urethane foam insulation. But as I really focused on using the foam, I saw a big weakness of the plan. If I sprayed foam on the underside of the roof panels, I would be blocking off the holes that create the roof’s ability to vent itself. The spray insulation would probably cost $1,500.

I decided instead to use radiant barrier insulation, basically bubble wrap with an aluminized face. I planned to place the bubble wrap, aluminum face facing up between the rafters and the ceiling panels, (sometimes it comes with both sides aluminized, sometimes it comes with one aluminum and one white face). This insulation works by radiating heat back up to the roof panels, then with the hot air rising the roof vents itself through all the holes provided by the undulations in the roof panels. The radiant insulation cost only $300.

Armando and Poncho were working on the rocks on the west wall and I hated to disturb them to have them help Ramiro and me. So Ramiro enlisted one of his cousins to help on the ceiling.

We erected the big scaffolding and once the zinc panels arrived, got right to work. First we washed and waxed the panels, then we started hanging the sheets. We started in the loft area, installing a row of ten-foot sheets with insulation above the sheets. We used 1/2″x5/32″ pop rivets to secure the panels to the carriolas:


Managing the floppy insulation made installation a bit challenging, but we managed okay.

After the ten-footers were hung we tackled the twenty-four-footers:

Ramiro drills for a pop rivet while his cousin readies to hand him the rivet gun.

Ramiro drills for a pop rivet while his cousin readies to hand him the rivet gun.


Using a stick, they mark locations for the next row of rivets.

Installing a thousand rivets gets tedious, so they would swap off from time to time.

Installing a thousand rivets gets tedious and tough on the neck and arm muscles, so they would swap off from time to time.


Fifteen feet off the floor, the scaffolding was invaluable. The row of rivets that they are installing in this photo really tightened the joints between panels.

After five days and a thousand rivets, the ceiling is all but done. We still need to make some patches for where we had to cut around the columns, but 99.9% isn’t bad! Here is the mostly-completed ceiling:

P1010293It sure feels good to have this big project DONE! And it feels good in the loft — the radiant insulation is performing very well with very little heat gain into the house from the roof.

Outside, Armando has completed the wall. And yes, I remembered to cut the ventilation hole in the bathroom wall. In the next picture, Armando is finishing the wall while Ramiro paints the west trim:


In the small project department, there was a problem with the roof coating on container #4. I used the recommended primer under the “snow coat,” but the primer separated from the concrete, allowing water to filter into the concrete. Although I cleaned the concrete really well, I think that the primer sat on top of the concrete and the concrete continued to powder a bit under the primer.

Not all of the primer had failed, but I wanted to remove the entire mess and start over. So Ramiro and I worked a day, he with the pressure washer and I with a putty knife. At the end of the day there was no evidence of the previous sealer. When the concrete dried, I applied two coats of a penetrating acrylic polymer sealer, the same one that I used on the kitchen counter tops. I also put down a test patch of the snow coat. So far I can’t separate the sealers from the concrete so I will probably choose a dry day to apply the snow coat:


Cynthia and I want to have a few glass-topped tables in the house. So I ordered some metal and Ramiro and I spent a few hours cutting components. More on this in a future post:


The dining room table will be 4’x9′, easily seating eight people.

Yesterday a very tired sloth took a nap in the trees in the lot to the west of us. Who needs a hammock when you have a few good branches? Poncho didn’t show up this last week, and Armando doesn’t know why. So the big joke of the day yesterday was the naming of the sloth, Poncho:

P1010285-002And one of our local falcons/hawks (?) sat on our front fence:

P1010239-001 P1010238-001

A new hibiscus is blooming:

P1010290-001The flowers and birds and humans (those who have been without water for weeks) are happy again. We have had our first few rains of the rainy season, including a whopper of a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. It went on and on, so finally I took Armando and Ramiro home.

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

10 thoughts on “1,000 Rivets Later…

  1. Hi Fred,
    Fantastic work as always.
    Your choice of radiant barrier was the best one. I installed it stapled to the underside of the rafters in our home in Fort Worth and it cut our cooling bill in half. The heated air seems to rise to the roof vents and draw cooler outside air through the attic. On 105°F days, that’s quite a breeze.
    Waiting now to see how the tables turn out but I have been lead to expect perfection! haha
    Great job to all the guys helping.
    jim and nena
    Fort Worth, Tx

    • Big jobs are extra satisfying to be over. Just thinking about the roof vents. They may become bat houses if left open. I had to use a foam spray at my place but that would negate the venting in your case. Whatcha think?

      • Hi Charles,

        Yes, we love bats, see them every night. But we don’t want them in the house. I plan to make window screens to keep them and other critters o.u.t.
        I’m really happy that I decided not to use the spray foam. We just don’t need to insulate the entire building envelop as is necessary in a heating/air conditioning environment. I made a living in the States building right, sealing tight, and ventilating right. Different rules here.

        Thanks Charles, Fred

  2. Hi, its really cool your home, I want to make some simillar construccion for my home, could you give me some tips to do it ?
    could you call me? or write me.


    I live In Panama, city of Panama.

    THANKS I will appriciate.

    • Hello Juan,

      Thank you, I am happy that you like our home. Wow, there is so much to know when you build a house from shipping containers. But really, all I know I have discovered from doing the project. Everything is written in these blog posts. Briefly, if you want to build an affordable and fast home, don’t do it like I am doing it! Just use shipping containers and don’t build extra spaces between containers. You are more than welcome to read all my posts and learn from my successes and mistakes. Good luck with your project. Fred

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