In No Particular Order ~ The Past Few Weeks

Panorama: First, reader Missy has been asking for an overall panorama shot of the entire project. I downloaded Serif PanoramaPlus Starter Edition, plugged in a couple photos, and a few seconds later the program delivered a panorama. Here you go Missy:

Here’s what you are looking at in the above photo:

Left: two containers that will be the kitchen, home office, and TV. Cyn will be able to watch Law and Order while she makes dinner. There will be a roof deck above these two containers.

Between the two sets of containers: this will be a parallelogram-shaped area for the front entry, living room, dining room, and staircase to the roof deck. We hope that the walls will have a lot of glass.

The back set of containers: this area is for two bedrooms, two bathrooms, the laundry, a big dry (dehumidifier) closet, a half bath, and storage for outdoor tools.

My shop is the block building on the right of the photo.

Now on to the grist of this post:

Septic: The new septic tank is done and covered with dirt. When Armando cut a hole in the sheet metal under the concrete to make the inspection/pumping lid, he recoiled as fast as he could. Seems that an opossum had crawled into the intake pipe and had fallen into the tank. I was fine with leaving it down there, start the septic-izing if you will, but Armando had Sammy fashion a hook and fish it out for disposal off site. Sammy donned a respirator and there was a lot of laughing and retching going on. It is good to get the septic tank project off the to do list.

By the way, the big plastic septic tank that we dug out has now been re-purposed. We cut the bottom off at the first reinforcing ring. This part is now a swimming pool for Armando’s young son. Then we cut the remaining part of the tank to make a ring two-feet tall. This ring is now a chicken corral for baby chicks at Armando’s house. All that is left is the cone at the top of the tank and maybe we will dream up a use for this, too.

Moving Dirt: This sounds like something Yogi Berra would have said: “There is a lot of dirt in a hole.” All the dirt that the guys dug out for the septic tank had to be moved. The guys put the better top soil on the garden and the junk dirt became fill for areas in the driveway. This gave a better entrance to my shop. I had them put a layer of crushed stone on top of the fill to keep muddy feet out of my shop. Here’s a picture:

My Shop: From the above photo you can see that I built a sliding door for my shop. You can also see that I painted the concrete floor with garage floor epoxy to keep moisture down and to make it easy to clean.

In my makeshift shop at the house we are renting, I had three small benches. They were painted black at the factory and rust was beginning to break through the paint. So I disassembled them, buffed the parts with a wire brush on the angle grinder, and primed and painted them yellow. Here I am reassembling them with all 96 bolts:

Now they have a nice home in my new shop. I still have to make new shelves and tops; termites demolished the old ones. You can also see that the floor is painted and lights and electrical receptacles are completed. You can’t see it in this photo, but I am using the walls as a chalkboard. The surface is perfect for sketching out plans and doing math. Bit by bit, I’ll move my tools and big workbench into the new space:

Concrete: The sheet metal roof overhangs the shop by five feet on the west side. I decided to pour a slab under the overhang. I plan on installing a deep sink in the space, and thought it would be a good place for a clothesline. But the more I thought about it, the space seems ideal for Cynthia’s hot glass studio. I’ll put up some walls later. Here’s the new slab:

We mixed a bit more concrete and made a ramp next to the slab to access the back yard:

In the photo above you may have noticed the concrete drips running down the side of the container. That’s because we poured a concrete roof on container four. Why? Shipping container roofs are metal. It gets hot as an oven inside. Also, the torrential tropical downpours pounding on the metal makes it unbearably noisy inside.

We started the concrete roof project by welding 2″x3″ steel carriolas around the edge of the container. This will hold the concrete and can be painted a house or trim color. Next we went to work cleaning any rusty spots on the roof and then painted on two good coats of polyurethane red oil primer. Next, we put sheets of one-inch Styrofoam on top of the container roof. We held the foam away from the edges to thicken the concrete in these places. Next, we cut rebar for embedding in the slab. We tied the rebar together with baling wire. Here it is at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, ready for concrete.

At 6:30, Armando and Sammy arrived, along with two additional men to help with mixing all that concrete:

This pile of concrete has 18 wheelbarrows full of sand and gravel! What a lot of work, and they still have to carry it up to the roof bucket by bucket.

Here’s Armando walking a five-gallon bucket of concrete to the far end of the container. As we poured concrete, we pulled the walking boards back and lifted the rebar into place in the slab. Some time ago, I found in the road an eight-foot piece of aluminum 2″x4″ rectangular tubing. It made a perfect screed to level the concrete:

Here is the finished roof slab. You can see that there is a pitch to the outside of about an inch. Later I’ll fashion a rain gutter so the rain doesn’t spill down the side of the container:

Of course, after not raining a drop for several months, just as I was about half way through putting a broom finish on the concrete, the rain gods decided to play a funny joke on ole Fred. So now the concrete has a broom finish with rain dots. But it didn’t turn out that bad really, and this is just a utility slab and doesn’t have to be pretty.

A Bit More Concrete: It is as if someone threw a switch. For the past week the rains have been frequent and heavy. This is right on schedule, even a bit early, as our neighbor Tomas told me a couple weeks ago, “We should expect rain some time after Easter.” Today is Easter. We are all hoping that this is a false start and that there will be more sunny days to pour more concrete.

The rains have made it perfectly clear that for the next months it will be difficult to go the few feet from container four to my shop without getting soaked. We have decided to construct some of the carport roof.

When we built the shop roof, we extended a 4″x4″ carriola beam beyond my shop another twelve feet or so over the driveway. This is the area that will get roofed.

First, we need a column to support the outside corner of the roof. In the next photo, Armando is digging a mega-footing, just like we did for the container support columns. It isn’t that this footing will carry much weight. Much to the contrary, the massive winds that  we experience here will put the roof under tremendous uplift forces. So the footing is mass that will keep the roof from blowing off:

This footing is a meter square and a meter deep. We'll fill it with concrete and large rocks. In the foreground is a rebar mat and rebar for the column.

Here’s the rebar in place and the hole filled with concrete and large rocks:

I have a design in mind for the column, stay tuned.

More Doorways And Stair Landings: While Armando and Sammy were moving dirt, I got to work and cut two more doorways from container 3. These doorways will connect the parallelogram area (living room, etc.) to the bedrooms. After I cut the metal shipping container siding, I made and installed door frames.

One important detail is that because of the slope of the land, the front containers were intentionally set 15-inches lower than the back set of containers. Eventually there will be three steps up from the living room to the bedrooms. To accomplish this, I needed to build stair landings. So, taking the angles of the parallelogram walls into account, I welded carriolas to make landings. Soon, when the carport roof area is finished, we can pouir concrete floors in container 3, and these floors will encompass the landings, too. Here are photos of the landings and doorways:

This hallway goes past the half bathroom to the master bedroom.

This doorway leads to the second bedroom.

Bonus Photos:

Walking to the house today I passed two big vultures having snake for breakfast:

After the dry season, the grass is becoming green again.

Walking home from the house yesterday, I picked a handful of tiny wildflower weeds for Cynthia. How romantic can a guy get?

Well, I think that that is just about enough for today. Thanks for stopping by.




11 thoughts on “In No Particular Order ~ The Past Few Weeks

  1. Love all the pictures! Thanks Fred and Cynthia. Looking good you guys sure have accomplished alot ! ! ! Can’t wait to see the walls go up for the center part of the house.

    Love your shop (both of you :::smile::::;)

    Anyway thanks again…enjoyed the post once again…

  2. Hi Fred,

    We have a hillside property in Paraguay where we have a 20ft container that is being used as a workshop but we need more space and making something suitable for construction is a lot of work and money so we’re thinking about pouring a concrete slab on top of the container and use ladrillos huecos with a light roof to make the workshop. With your experience do you think this is possible?

    Best regards,

    Monica & Doug

    • Hi Monica & Doug,

      I am sorry for the long delay in answering your question. I haven’t been active on the blog for about three years and you got lost in the electronic limbo. You can definitely pour a concrete roof on the container. Just be sure to support from the underside or your metal roof will bag down. I poured three-inch slabs on our roofs and tiled them no problem. Again sorry for the delay. Fred

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