Carport Roof ~ Part 2 ~ Dry Underneath

The carport roof is done, and it is such a pleasure to have all that dry space beneath it. Now we can mix concrete, only having to get wet when we get sand and gravel from out in the driveway. Here’s how we did part two of this project:

First, we built a second column the same as the first, except with slight adjustments for the slope of the land and the overall height. You can see all the column construction details at Part 1 so I’ll just show a couple photos here:

When the column was done, Armando and I installed the shop roofing out to the first column that we had built. In the next photo, notice that the temporary center support is still in place under the roof.

Next I welded 2″x6″ steel carriolas together to make strong main beams to support the new roof. In the next photo you can see that I welded one of these beams above the termination point of the roof over the shop, in effect making a truss. This made the roof strong enough to remove the temporary center post. It’s funny, but even after more than four years living in Panama, I’m still concerned about snow load on roofs! You can also see that I am in the process of raising the second beam between container 3 and the new column. By the way, the laser level came in very handy in setting the top of the new column level with the roof of the container.

I welded the front main beam to the pieces of rebar that extend the full length of the column and down into the footing a meter deep in the ground. The electrode cord on my welder wasn’t long enough to reach where I needed to weld, so I used the winch to raise the welder a few feet. This worked, but was time consuming and I had a lot more welding to do on the roof. Before I welded any more, I went to town and purchased wire to extend the electrode so I wouldn’t need the winch:

I like how the roof aligns with the front gate:

Then I fabricated three more beams for headers for the joists; one 4″x4″ (4×4) and two 4″x6″ (4×6), all 22-feet long. Here are the two 4x6s:

In the next photo you can see that the 4×4 went up against the house where I bolted it through the wall. You can also see that one of the 4×6 headers went in the center. I put the other 4×6 at the edge of the roof. I’ll weld the joists between these header beams, just as I did for the other part of the roof.

Of course, for the header beams to sit at the same height on the main beams, the larger 4x6s had to be notched two inches. These headers then sit on the main beams like Lincoln Logs:

Here I am cutting a notch in the beam.

Cynthia made sure that I wore my new safety harness and tied myself to the ladder in case the angle grinder kicked and threw me off balance. Ever the risk manager, I appreciate her attention to my safety. The harness was made in China and is brand named Savior. I knicknamed it Savior Ass:

From this point it was pretty straight forward to weld the joists in place. Then Armando and I hoisted the 22-foot sheetmetal panels onto the roof and screwed them into place. I’m glad it took only one day because I couldn’t raise my arms above my head the next!

You may have noticed that the two sections of the roof don’t meet at a ridge, but instead, the shop side of the roof is lower than the carport side, leaving a big horizontal clerestory opening. One big benefit of this is that when the sun hits the roof and heats the air below, all that hot air can escape through the clerestory opening, leaving the carport pleasantly cool below. Here are some photos of the completed roof.

The center beam doesn't look straight, but it is just an optical camera delusion.

This is a (somewhat nauseating because of the software-induced curvature) composite panorama.

I was concerned that the roof would look massive from the driveway, but the angle is just right and the roof doesn't draw attention to itself. Notice the mist in the air in the background; the rainy season is certainly upon us.

This is a telephoto view from the road. We CAN'T WAIT to paint a unifying color on the house and shop so that it doesn't look like Shantyville!

Now that all that is left to this big project is a front gutter and a small piece of roofing near the outside bathroom, the big question on our minds is, “What’s next?” I’ll let you know soon.

In other non-house news ~ Our neighborhood watch has another victory. We were awakened early the other morning at 4:30 to two gunshots right in front of our house. Seems that there was a thief or two in the area and someone in our neighborhood watch called the police. The police arrived, saw the thieves, and fired two shots in the air to get them to stop. (If there had been three thieves would the police have fired three shots?) But warning shots were to no avail; the thieves dropped their booty, including a large screen television, a large parrot, and some sacks of rice and beans, and disappeared into the nearby jungle. The police, using only the lights from their cell phones, were searching in tall grass for a discarded walkie talkie, but they couldn’t find it. I got our two, big, LED Maglite flashlights and loaned them to the police. They were loathe to return them to me and we had fun pulling them back and forth in mock jousting for possession! The police didn’t know which house had been broken into or where the stuff had come from, but I made some phone calls and was able to reunite everything with its owner. Although we didn’t get the bad guys locked up, at least they now know that the signs with the big eyeballs in our neighborhood are there for a reason.

And in other non-house news, Cedelinda, the Panamanian high school student who lives with us during the week, got a call from her father out in their pueblo of Chichi Bali. Seems that a snake had bitten their dog, Connie, and everyone was very upset. The snake killed one of their chickens and Connie ran in to help, getting bitten in the fracas. (Or should I say that there was a fracus and the dog was bitten on the nose?) I drove the now very much more rain damaged road to their home, picked up their dog, and took her to the local zoo. The zoo vet looked her over, and even I could see although there was now a third hole in her nose and some flowing blood, there was no swelling and she was in very good spirits. We decided that I would take the dog home, observe her for the day, and give him a call later that afternoon. The snake, it turns out, was a boa; a big fat one, five or six inches in diameter and at least six feet long according to Cedelinda’s dad. Luckily, boas don’t inject venom, but bite, hold on, and constrict their prey to crush it to death. The next morning Cedelinda and I returned Connie to Chichi Bali, not much worse for the experience but with a heck of a tale to tell her dog friends.

That’s all for now.




Carport Roof ~ Part 1

The heavy rains of a week ago turned out to be just a passing storm. We are back in a dry pattern and were able to get a lot done this week even though Armando only worked four days. In my most previous post, I said that we were going to erect part of the carport roof. Here’s what we have done so far:

We started by digging a footing for a column. The footing is one meter by one meter by one meter deep. We filled the hole with rebar, concrete, and large rocks. This mass will keep the roof rooted to the ground during heavy winds:

Then it was time to form the column. A friend had given us some plastic sewer pipe to use as a form for round columns, but this didn’t seem to have the look that I wanted.

We could make a square box column out of M2 panels (2″x4’x8′ Styrofoam sheets with a wire mesh on each side). We could leave a hole in the center of the box for the rebar to go up through, then pour concrete into the center of the form, embedding the rebar and making a good strong column. It would look like this:

To join the M2 panels at the corners, pieces of wire mesh bent at right angles are clipped to both panels. This makes a unit that is not likely to crack at the corners.

But wait. A plain round or square box column would certainly do the job, but these columns are just plain static. They don’t add much of a design element to the entire project because there is no sense of motion or tension or even something being comfortably at rest.

I’ve been playing with shapes and forms in my head for months, and one design kept pushing the others aside. This shape is the wedge, or flying buttress. This isn’t an original idea of course, and it can be seen throughout history and throughout Panama today. Most of the concrete block bus stops have the shape, as well as the gas station in the center of El Valle. So I laid two sheets of M2 on my shop floor and drew a diagonal line on them. I cut the metal mesh with the angle grinder and sliced through the Styrofoam with my pocket knife. When I snapped the panels on the cut line, I was left with four pieces; two for the front and two for the back side of the column. I think that this design gives a nice counterbalance and motion to the static mass of the shipping containers. My design looks like this:

You can see three pieces of rebar extending from the top of the form. We welded these pieces to the beam above the column. Now the roof is connected all the way through the column and into the concrete footing.

Armando and I clip the corner mesh pieces to the column. All totaled, the column took just three sheets of the M2 panel.

Cynthia thought I should include a picture of the clips that connect the corners together. Here they are. I think I look as if I am auditioning for a new character on The Simpsons.

Here Armando trowels on a first coat of repello (stucco):

If I move just a few more inches to the right, you can see the alignment of the flying buttress column with my shop. This is the effect, the optical illusion if you will, I was aiming for:

You can also see that it aligns perfectly when viewed from the front gate and the right side of the driveway curbing:

Did you notice in the photo above that Armando was performing his incredible “white bucket floating in mid air” trick? I would swear on a stack of Popular Mechanics magazines that this photo has not been manipulated and that there were no strings attached. Here is a closeup:

Floating a bucket in mid air. Look ma, no hands, no strings, no wires. Armando seems nonchalant as he reaches for more mortar to spread on the wall. You can see Sammy looking on in amazement. Such is the craft of the magician.

In the next photo, Armando applies the finish coat of repello to the column. You can also see that we have been busy welding beams and joists (2″x4″ carriolas) into place. We’ll put the roof metal on next week after we pour concrete into the center of the column form:

The long shadows give a clue as to the length of the day. Armando is tired.

That’s it for progress this week. Here are some odds and ends:

While welding up in the air, it is always a quandary where to keep extra welding rods. I solved the problem for myself by looking in the junk pile. An empty urethane tube (aluminum) and a piece of string made a perfect welding rod quiver to sling over my shoulder:

When we put the polymer sealer on the interior walls in my shop I got the idea to use the walls as a chalk board. It works perfectly; here I show Armando my plans for the column:

I checked my math twice. It's been many years since I did long division by hand!

The month of April holds one of the negatives of living in Panama. Just before the anticipated start of the rainy season, all the farmers and large landowners burn their fields and all the accumulated dry vegetable matter. Sometimes old tires will find their way into the piles, too. Here’s a view to the mountains. Note the smoke haze has nearly obscured the normally visible antenna towers:

Outtake (Cheap) Shot: Cynthia thought it would be an “art shot” to take this photo of me on the ladder. Reminded her of the book, Under the Bleachers by Seymour Butts:

That’s all for now. More next week.