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.




17 thoughts on “Another Hangover And A Good Roughing Up

  1. As always, looking good Fred… I have a question about the drainage canal that you built into the concrete overhang… I have been to Panamá during the rainy season and I remember how hard it can come down… So my question is, how do you know that the canal is deep enough to handle that kind of downpour?

    Saludos from Chile…

    • Hi John,

      I’ve been watching the amount of water that ran into the old 2″x4″ carriola and it seems to me that this will be okay, especially because there is more and more width as it flows toward the six-inch downspout. There shouldn’t be any bottleneck. But ask me in about three months…! If it isn’t enough, I can always form a birm with a small amount of mortar and it still won’t be seen from the ground. Always have plan B when building a shipping container house!

      Thanks John, Fred

  2. I am curious about the reasons for a concrete roof vs just using the sheet steel. Also the feasibility of using temporary supports for the overhang and then removing them after the concrete cures. Thanks.

    • Hi Jon,

      We chose concrete for at least four reasons: 1. The rain in Panama comes pounding down. On the steel roof you couldn’t hear yourself think. Scares the hell out of the cat, too. With concrete it sounds much, much better. 2. Heat. I put an inch of Styrofoam insulation on top of the roof then poured three inches of concrete. No heat transfer to inside. 3. Longevity/maintainance. Armando and I painted the container roofs and a year later the paint was all but gone. Rust never sleeps in the tropics. 4. Usability of the roof. You really can’t use the container roof for anything like a roof deck. The metal bounces up and down. With the concrete you can use the roof for parties if you want.

      As to the supports, yes, temporary supports holding form work, maybe welding rebar (to be embedded in the concrete) to the container for strength, would be fine. We wanted a more architectural look with the repetition of the brackets. I know that we did it the hard way…

      Thanks for your questions. Fred

  3. Hey Fred,

    It’s been months since I chimed in, but rest assure I have been keeping up with exploits and still very much impressed. I was wondering if you have any plans for solar, wind or other alternative energy sources. Does Panama have schemes where you can pay back into the grid for any excess energy you produce?


  4. Hi Steve,

    We have two solar hot water panels on the roof of container #4, not connected yet. I would like to have solar electricity — we are planning for it by using only LED light bulbs for example. Sorry, but I don’t know about running the meter backwards. Wind could be good here in the dry season but no real plans for it yet.

    Thanks for your comment. Fred

  5. Concrete Roof ? what did you put in that concrete to help with expansion cracking? You are going to need to get some snow seal (brand ) rubber coating on that soon.

  6. Hello,
    We live in Coronado, Panama and we have the project to build a container house too.
    Can you tell me where did you buy the containers ?

    Thank you


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