Big Wall Up But Not Upright Yet

The move-a-wall saga continues. Last week was Easter week, a big event in Panama, so Armando took a lot of time off. And I was really tired from cutting out the big wall and the doors and window, so I took four days off myself. When I was ready to go back to work there was a power outage that lasted most of my work day, so it was more hammock time.

But this morning there was no escaping it. It was time to lift the 800-pound wall, that I cut out last week, onto the roof. The project took about two-and-a-half hours from start to finish and there were no injuries! Here is how we did it:

First, I put a v-groove wheel at the edge of the container to guide the cable to the winch below on the ground. A funny thing happened; as I put the screw into the shipping container metal tubing, I heard a hissing sound. What happened is that that the tubing was so well welded that when I drilled into it here at about 2,200 feet above seal level*, the now-pressurized Chinese air was released:

*(About a week after publishing this post, I noticed a typo in the paragraph above. I wrote, “seal level” instead of “sea level.” I proof many times and then Cyn has a run at my post, too. But we missed this one; I think I’ll leave it as is, because I have never seen a seal swimming in the mountain lakes around here, only at sea level.)


Then we wanted to move about ten-feet of the wall out of the container. We first tried with crowbars, but the wall was just too heavy. Nothing happened. So I got the come-along and tow straps out of the trunk of the car. We hooked onto the wall where I had welded one of the tie-down loops that I had cut off inside the container, then through the chain link fence, and onto a tree in the lot next door. Here is the wall pulled out and the cable connected from the winch up and over the container:


I had Armando stand clear, then tapped a few times on the Up button on the winch and the wall raised effortlessly into the air:


Cynthia got into the action, too, pushing the Up button:


When the wall got to the top, and a few feet over the container, we didn’t notice that the wall got hung up on a small piece of metal. There was too much strain on the cable and it started to fray. Oops! Here is how bad it was:


Here is the big winch freed from its mooring. You can see the frayed cable just below the window. Although not completely severed, the cable was too damaged to use. Time for Plan B.

Here’s Plan B. We switched to the come-along and tow straps that we had used earlier to pull the metal out of the container. I cranked the come-along and Armando used a big pry bar to encourage the wall up onto the roof:


At this point the pulling got difficult; we needed to move more of the wall out of the container. I cut the damaged cable and Armando tied it off at the far end of the roof so that we wouldn’t lose any ground when I removed the come-along. Then we took the come-along and tow strap downstairs and hooked them up like this:


Armando had to stand on the wall so that it wouldn’t lift into the air. I told him I was going to deduct 25-cents from his pay for the ride. He said it was like riding on the new MetroBus system in the city.

It was very hot and strenuous work so we took a break:

Armando likes a drink called Valle Fresh. We buy the orange-colored drink in three-liter bottles. We pour it into smaller bottles and freeze it; Armando likes that it stays cold throughout the morning.

Armando likes a drink called Valle Fresh. We buy the anything-but-fresh orange-colored drink in three-liter bottles. We pour it into smaller bottles and freeze it; Armando likes that it stays cold throughout the morning.

Back to work, we moved the come-along back up to the roof and inched the wall bit by bit. This was a good cardiac workout:


Here the panel is almost all the way up:


It’s a great sight from inside, too:


After rearranging the tow strap and come-along one final time like this,


The come-along is at the top of the yellow strap; the cable rides on the v-groove wheel at the top of the container.

we finally had this 800-pound gorilla completely moved onto the roof:


Whew! That was a hot and grueling task! Armando and I did a big high-five and Cynthia said that I was her man. Life couldn’t be better.

…Did you notice how rusty the roofs of containers 1 and 2 are? Armando and I sanded and painted them about two years ago. In some places big flakes of metal are peeling off. Shipping containers are made of coreten steel, alloys that resist corrosion. Even so, if you are planning a container project, know that containers are not without maintenance issues. I’ll be cleaning and repainting the roofs before pouring concrete slabs over them.

The Banana Report: Harvest time! Armando said that because all of the petals had fallen off the flower at the bottom of the bananas, it was time to harvest them. Although they aren’t quite ripe yet, birds had already pecked away at one of the bananas. I cut the crop, moved them into the shop, and hung them by a rope from the ceiling. Another week or so and they will be ready to eat!


How much does 30 pounds of bananas cost in the States?

Next step? I have to weld a frame of 2″x2″ steel tubing around the wall that we just lifted onto the roof, then lift it vertically to make the wall between the loft and the roof deck. The fun isn’t over yet!

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



16 thoughts on “Big Wall Up But Not Upright Yet

  1. Great work Fred , happy to see how you did that lift . Is the other wall going to end upstairs as well or do you have that earmarked for another project .

  2. Thanks Mike,

    The other wall that was this wall’s neighbor is going to be cut into smaller pieces for eight-foot long walls and other uses. More cutting but much easier to move. I’ll be cutting the pieces out one at a time and installing beams at the ceiling as I go so that there is no sagging of the roof.

    Thanks again, Fred

  3. Ugh, those jeans HAVE TO GO! How come someone (FF-RR-EE-DD) didn’t tell me they were THAT unflattering. Time to donate them.

  4. Bananas here, cheap ones that will look funky when ripe $1.00 a pound. Used unflattering jeans even less. Panama, the experience, no price.

    As usual resourcefulness, ingenuity and plain will seem to trump everything else. Too bad that during my spring break I couldn’t make it that way. Never been there (alto Cocle) anyways.

  5. Yes. Total them all, 44 years. If a guy can’t learn in that amount of time, there is something very wrong.

    Answers for married men to memorize:
    Q: Does this dress make me look fat?
    A: So, how about them Yankees?

    Q: Should I wear the red dress or the blue dress?
    A: Which one would you feel best in?

    Q: Is she prettier than me?
    A: So, how about them Yankees?

    Q: What would you do if I died?
    A: Grieve.

    And remember, never, never answer yes/no questions if her ego is involved. There is no safe answer! So, how about them Yankees?

  6. Hi
    I just found your blog. Very interesting. I acquired 2 -40′ high cubes I’m planning on converting into cabins. I have been wondering how to remove large sections of the side walls for windows and additions to make areas wider than 8′. I don’t think I’m going to use both on one structure. Instead I was thinking of pouring concrete on the roof, perhaps 12′ wide, below would be framed rooms and the roof a deck.
    Thanks for all the good reading and info
    Blake Kaiser. Bastrop Texas

  7. Hi Fred, just found your blog, suitably impressed.
    We will be starting a similar container project later this year here in Australia, so yes I will read through your adventures..
    I hope all went ok with the build and probably more important the end result of its live-ability, i.e.temp, humidity and ventilation has worked to your expectation.
    Well done on taking the time to document the procedure, I will endeavour to do the same.
    Best regards

    • Hi Brad, Sorry for the delay, there is a pandemic or something going on. Thank you for the kind comments. It has been a labor of love for sure. All has worked well with air flow and etc. The only slight issue is a small amount of occasional condensation on the north wal in the rainy season. A wash once or twice a year with a weak bleach solution keeps it clean. I wish you success with your project in Australia. Fred

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