Here’s The Plan

Regular readers will remember a previous post or two when the price of containers went through the roof and we were having difficulty finding a crane that we could afford to raise two containers to form the second floor. We decided to amend our plans to make a one-story house. Now, we rarely think about that old two-story plan and we are happy with what we are currently building.

For some time I have been promising to take some pictures of the (rudimentary) scale model of the house and post them here.

Here they are:

This is the view from the east. The four containers are marked 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Referring to the photo above, the kitchen is at this end (east) of containers 1 & 2. The TV, computer space, and our hang-out area is at the far end (west) of 1 & 2.

Between 2 & 3 is a 24-foot space that will form the front entry, the dining room, living room, and stairs to the roof deck above 1 & 2. The roof over this space is very simple, but creates a big surprise, exposed in the next two photos.

This end (east) of containers 3 & 4, as well as the 12-foot space between them, will be my shop. The far end (west) of this space will be our bedroom, master bathroom, a half bathroom, and a big closet that will have a dehumidifier.

The location of the laundry area is unconfirmed as of this moment, but I have promised Cynthia that we won’t have to go into town to do our laundry!

When we were buying containers, we wanted to get a 20-footer to make a guest casita and storage room (deposito in Spanish), but the price was the same as for a 40-footer. So the plan now is to take some of the metal that I cut out of the containers and build the casita myself.

The roof surprise is next:

View from the south-east.

Above, rotating just slightly to the south-east, you can see that the roof has a low-slope, late-1950s style. But it is on an angle creating some interesting geometry. Roofs in Panama are all about shedding a large amount of rainfall, and this low-slope is very common. Steep snow-shedding roofs just aren’t necessary here and look out of place in my opinion. Swiss chalet in Panama? Huh? Maybe if you are homesick for Switzerland, but don’t push it.

Hot air balloon view from the east.

Above, you can clearly see how simple the big roof is; it is just a big rectangle with one corner cut off at the bottom. But on its 45-degree skew it packs an understated design punch.

To give you a better idea as to the size of this roof, the long beam on the leading east edge will be 65-feet long. I’ll weld it up on the ground and have some fun with ropes and mirrors getting it up in the air.

The triangular open area between 2 & 3 creates a covered entry, and the prow of the roof forms cover over much of the roof deck.

Monster gutters and a sloped concrete roof on container 3 will move rainwater off to the west. It should provide a dramatic cascade during our tropical downpours.

So that’s our new plan.

My window painting gig is coming to an end. I had to weld up another scaffolding to safely get one last window done. Now I have to second and third coat a few windows and touch up some tired areas of the house and I will be done. The owners of the house and I are really happy with the way the job is turning out; the new transparent paint really showcases how badly the polyurethane failed after only three years. But ask me in another three years how our grand experiment in paint vs. varnish turns out; I’ll be hanging by my thumbs in the meantime.

The top window is done and we have moved the scaffolding down one level. Armando sands and preps this window. Compare the top left window with the one on the right. What a difference!

IN OTHER NEWS: In It Takes A Pueblo, I made two errors because of my incomplete grasp on the Spanish language. I now have the full stories:

1. The 500 sacks of cement were a gift to the families in the pueblo from their elected representative, the diputado (deputy). Aparently the diputados have discretionary funds. Some fix the remote dirt roads, some give sacks of cement. Remember this come election time, dear voters.

2. The young boy with the goose egg lump on his forehead that I took to the Central Salud wasn’t in a car accident as I thought. Turns out that he and his older brother were playing with rocks. Big rocks according to their sister, and the younger boy got in the way of an airborne boulder. No TV for a month… wait a minute, they don’t have a TV because they don’t have electricity in their home. At least the kids aren’t couch potatoes!

That’s all for now.

7 thoughts on “Here’s The Plan

  1. Fred,
    Great design (very 6o’s) roof. I believe your roof design will also be great for a rain water catchment system should you choose to implement one.

    If your well water is as hard as mine, you will find it will deposit calcium and magnesium scales that will wear out your water heater coils, dishwasher and and deposit residue on your shower head, toilets and wash basins. More importantly, hardwater will not promote vegetable growth very well due to higher concentrations of mineral content. I see people watering their grass and they can’t figure out why it won’t grow. So, collecting rainwater may be an option you may want to consider. Your roof is perfect for a simple rainwater collection system.


    • Alan,
      Thanks for the comment about our retroroof.
      I agree about the hard water. Our solid brass, tripple chrome plated shower head is covered in a mass of white mineral crust.
      I can’t see using a water softening system unless I bypass it for drinking/cooking because of all the added sodium in the softening system.
      I agree that water catchment could be a good use of our roof, but I wonder about the water running over all that zinc roofing metal. And how to store a bunch of water during the dry season is a question. I think I need to spend some time investigating this question!

      • Fred,

        You would have to paint your roof with a specialized coating in order to solve the zinc issue. The water would simply run through a drain pipe into a buried resevoir that you can purchase in plastic, either in food grade or just regular grade depending on the use. The old fashioned way is to build a concrete resevoir and paint the interior. Either way, you will have to deal with the hardness of the water eventually and should you choose to store rainwater, that roof would be perfect!

        I’m currently looking into a electronic water conditioning system that does not soften the water but changes the charge on the calcium and magnesiium molecules so they do not stick or creat scaling. Not sure about how well it works. The other option is to build a water distiller. This is probably the best option for drinking water. A 3’x7′ water distillation unit will create 3 gallons of water per day and takes no power just the use of the sun.

  2. Great plans, I have just obtained land here on Guam where I live and I’m going to be building a home out of containers. Are you going totally off grid with this home? What’s the size of the house? after all is said and done what is the total amount you have spent? Thanks, I can’t help but get lost in your blog!

    • Hi Isaac,

      Sorry I didn’t see your comment before today. We are making the house off-grid-able if you will. We have a well (can be run with solar but we don’t have the solar yet…). We have solar water-heating panels to provide hot water (with propane backup). We are using only efficient LED lighting. So yes, off-grid is on my mind but I have so many other fish to fry at the moment! Maybe in a year or two… we’ll see.

      The house is about 3,000 square feet. I never would build a house this large if I had to heat and/or air condition it. But we need to do neither here in the mountains as our temperatures are more or less in the 65-85 F. range every day of the year.

      And not including the land, and with me doing a lot of sweat-equity labor, we will spend in the $100,000 to $125,000 range not including the land when all is said and done.

      I’m happy that you are enjoy my three-and-a-half years of writing this blog. I get lost in it too…!

      Thanks for your comment. Fred

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