August Is National Tile Month

August is National Tile Month, at least as far as our project is concerned!

After several weeks of searching for a truly-professional tile installer, we succeeded and hired Hanibal. We know Hanibal. His daughter Yamileth cleaned our house for quite some time when we were in our last rental. Fortunately, he had just completed a four-month job at a new beach resort. He came by to look at the job on a Saturday and agreed to work for us starting on the next Tuesday. Perfect!

Hanibal agreed to let me be his helper. He laid the tile and I cut all the odd pieces. I also made sure that he had a ready supply of tile, tile spacers, clean water and sponge, and all the tools he needed at his finger tips. I’m a good helper; my first job working for a carpenter when I was fourteen was good training. My boss told me to watch him and try to figure out what he was going to do next. For example, if he measured a board, the next thing he was likely to do was to mark a square line at the mark. I was to hand him the framing square. Next he would need the hand saw, and etc. Anyway, the only thing that I don’t do for Hanibal is to mix the mortar as he is very particular as to how much water is in the mix. I’ve seen him add just a few more drops of water to make the mix just right.

We started on the wall by the staircase. Cynthia and I chose a natural tile that brings a lot of warmth into the living room. Here are some pictures of the process of tiling this wall. It took us a little bit more than two days to complete the wall:


I used the laser level to strike a level line on the wall. We worked up and down from this line. I nailed a board at the line to support the tiles.




I can’t believe it. We ended up one tile short. I have it on order.


Our next project was to tile the balance of the kitchen floor. In the next photo you can see that months ago I left off at the stove island and the microwave:


Hanibal said that the floor was not quite level and he wanted to make it level so that the tiles would lay nice and flat. He drove nails into the floor at various places and we strung strings. The taut strings showed places where there were dips in the floor. In the next photo you can see the strings. Hanibal is in the process of rolling a bonding agent onto the floor:


The bonding agent is all spread and is drying:


Next he put daubs of mortar (equal parts sand and cement) at various places under the strings:


Then, using more mortar and long boards as straight edges, he connected the dots, thereby making the floor flat and true:



I made a print of this and another photo and gave them to Hanibal. He said his family, especially his grandchildren, loved the photos.

We spent a day with this floor-truing process, well worth the time, effort, and money. Here is our tile-laying progress at the end of the first day of tiling:


By the end of day two of tiling (next photo), we were nearly to the west wall of the kitchen. All the white thingys are spacers to keep the grout lines accurately spaced. I was truly impressed with his quality of work. So many of the local “tile men” won’t use the spacers and end up in trouble when they reach the far wall. Notice that we had to use a plank as a bridge to keep from walking on the freshly-set tiles:


So this is as far as we have progressed as of this blog entry.

In other news, while I was searching for a tile guy, I took some time to attend to some details in the kitchen. The ends of the ceiling beams were quite crude looking where we had welded angle iron to attach the beams to the container walls:


I used several tubes of urethane caulk, smoothing the caulk with a wet finger. Then I touched up all the white paint. I also painted the window frames a warm red that Cynthia had chosen:

P1010486-001Cynthia wanted to make glass lamp shades for the kitchen lights that will hang from the beams. She started with regular window glass. She sprinkled and spread granulated glass (called “frit”), onto the window glass. At this stage of the process, much of the frit is white, but it will change color (called “striking”) when fused in the kiln. This is her first foray into fusing and slumping projects:


The blacks will stay black and the yellows will stay yellow, but the whites will change to red tones.

After nearly 24-hours firing and cooling in the kiln, the colors develop, in this case reds and orang-y-reds.:


The glass pane on the left is actually a stack of three test panels to see how the frit would react, to see what colors she wanted to use, and to see how much frit she would need for rich colors.

Now that the clear, flat panes of glass are colored and fired, she will put each one back into the kiln on top of a stainless-steel form. In the heat, the glass will drape over the form, thereby creating a glass lamp shade.

While she waited for the firings, she got engrossed in an eBook on our tablet, An Echo In The Bone in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series:


Moving on, Armando moved the 15 spider plants up to the roof deck:


He also planted a row of Cola de Camerones (shrimp tails) along the driveway. They add a nice splash of yellow:

P1010439And one day Armando and I spread four-yards of gravel in the turnaround:

P1010442-001The Anthuriums, also called Flamingo Flower or Little Boy Plants, are in bloom in the front garden:

P1010433-001Meanwhile, Jabo styles the mop head look:

P1010475-001We know to look in our shoes for scorpions, but now we have discovered that we have to look in our shower scrubbies for … frogs! Still using the outside bathroom, in the shower I was about to scrub my pits when I spotted this little one:


P1010459And finally, we got to put our feet up for a weekend. Jackie Lange, from Panama Relocation Tours, invited us to the nearby Sheraton Bijao (pronounced Bee-how) resort for a weekend if we would talk to her tour group about what it is like to live in Panama. Thanks very much Jackie, we had a great time:


We got to put our feet up.



Cynthia and I take our first selfie. What if there are more than one person in a selfie? Is it still a selfie? Is it selfers? Selfiers? Usie? I’m confused.


Me, past my mid-sixties, rocking a 20-pound weight loss. A big thank you to Cynthia’s cardiologist for the information about gluten and other dietary changes we have taken on!


And lastly, has anyone noticed that as of today my blog is only a few thousand page views away from a million? Who’d a thunk it?

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

16 thoughts on “August Is National Tile Month

  1. Wow, we always look forward to your updates, and while in this one, someone ELSE was doing the hard work (laying tile down on my knees is TOUGH work!) the end result is …spectacular, and the tile color gorgeous. Cant wait to see the end result of the lampshades, and love the orange color! Thanks guys … always an inspiration!

    • Hi Patricia,

      Yes, this is tough, tough work. Hanibal is supposed to work, by his own suggestion, from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. But we are both obviously tired by 2:00 or so, so I send him home. He is 57 and lives in the pueblo of Macano (I blogged about it a few entries back). He has an hour’s walk each way to and from his home. Even if our day is shorter, he still produces a significant amount of work and Cynthia and I are more than happy no matter his hours. Thanks for your comment and compliments. Fred

  2. Fred & Cynthia: I’ve been monitoring your blog for the past few months. Your posts always bring a smile to my face. My parents are retired and live in El Espino near La Chorrera (not too far from you). The wife and I spend a couple weeks down there every year visiting them. Your blog posts always bring back the spirit of Panama to me as I read them.

    Perhaps the next time we are down there we can arrange a tour of your place. Meanwhile – keep up the good work. Love the progress you’ve made so far.

      • Yeah I know…there are 2 El Espinos. (no wonder I have a hard time understanding directions down there). I know the one you are talking about on the road to El Valle. The other one is just off the Carretera – a couple miles your side of the La Chorrera exit. That’s where the folks live. I’m guessing about 30 miles from you (just from memory)

  3. Dear Fred,
    I have just one comment – where is the INDOOR bathroom. Okay, and another couple of comments; the tile looks great and the glass work is amazing. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

  4. Hi Fred and Cynthia,
    Your comments on being a helper struck a chord. I too am in my 60’s and remember my dad sometimes working 3 jobs. I learned the value of a good helper early and know that a helper can more than double the work accomplished by one person. El Sr. Hanibal’s work is excellent, he probably stays very busy, you were fortunate to have him.
    Cynthia’s glasswork is amazing. We may have to look into trying some of that.
    Good to see Jabo still inspecting all the work! haha

  5. Spoiler Alert: Wait until everyone sees what we’re doing with the scraps of glass that were cut from the window glass to make the lampshades…nothing is going to waste, not even the cut corners! I’ve been fusing for more than a week and have only two more firings to go. Hint; They’ll be used in the dining room.

  6. Fred and Cyn, wow everything is coming together so beautiful. Thanks for keeping us informed. Jabo is so funny.

    Don in Reno

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