1,000 Rivets Later…

I told you that I had a big project in the works. The outside of the house is virtually done, so Ramiro’s days here were numbered. Ramiro has been a very good worker. He can think logically and creatively and is always ready to jump in and help me carry something. He even goes to the car when Cynthia comes home from shopping and helps her carry groceries into the house. So I didn’t want to lose him before it was time. I decided to do the last big project that we need an extra man for — install the ceiling in the living room/dining room. Here is the underside of the roof before:


As in other parts of the house, I decided to use zinc roofing panels. Washed and waxed with car polish, the panels should last many years. The big bonuses are that the ceiling will never need to be painted and water will never leak through and stain the ceiling. Ramiro and I measured the ceiling for size and quantity of the panels, and I made a plan of which panels would go where.

For a long time, I had planned to use a two-part spray urethane foam insulation. But as I really focused on using the foam, I saw a big weakness of the plan. If I sprayed foam on the underside of the roof panels, I would be blocking off the holes that create the roof’s ability to vent itself. The spray insulation would probably cost $1,500.

I decided instead to use radiant barrier insulation, basically bubble wrap with an aluminized face. I planned to place the bubble wrap, aluminum face facing up between the rafters and the ceiling panels, (sometimes it comes with both sides aluminized, sometimes it comes with one aluminum and one white face). This insulation works by radiating heat back up to the roof panels, then with the hot air rising the roof vents itself through all the holes provided by the undulations in the roof panels. The radiant insulation cost only $300.

Armando and Poncho were working on the rocks on the west wall and I hated to disturb them to have them help Ramiro and me. So Ramiro enlisted one of his cousins to help on the ceiling.

We erected the big scaffolding and once the zinc panels arrived, got right to work. First we washed and waxed the panels, then we started hanging the sheets. We started in the loft area, installing a row of ten-foot sheets with insulation above the sheets. We used 1/2″x5/32″ pop rivets to secure the panels to the carriolas:


Managing the floppy insulation made installation a bit challenging, but we managed okay.

After the ten-footers were hung we tackled the twenty-four-footers:

Ramiro drills for a pop rivet while his cousin readies to hand him the rivet gun.

Ramiro drills for a pop rivet while his cousin readies to hand him the rivet gun.


Using a stick, they mark locations for the next row of rivets.

Installing a thousand rivets gets tedious, so they would swap off from time to time.

Installing a thousand rivets gets tedious and tough on the neck and arm muscles, so they would swap off from time to time.


Fifteen feet off the floor, the scaffolding was invaluable. The row of rivets that they are installing in this photo really tightened the joints between panels.

After five days and a thousand rivets, the ceiling is all but done. We still need to make some patches for where we had to cut around the columns, but 99.9% isn’t bad! Here is the mostly-completed ceiling:

P1010293It sure feels good to have this big project DONE! And it feels good in the loft — the radiant insulation is performing very well with very little heat gain into the house from the roof.

Outside, Armando has completed the wall. And yes, I remembered to cut the ventilation hole in the bathroom wall. In the next picture, Armando is finishing the wall while Ramiro paints the west trim:


In the small project department, there was a problem with the roof coating on container #4. I used the recommended primer under the “snow coat,” but the primer separated from the concrete, allowing water to filter into the concrete. Although I cleaned the concrete really well, I think that the primer sat on top of the concrete and the concrete continued to powder a bit under the primer.

Not all of the primer had failed, but I wanted to remove the entire mess and start over. So Ramiro and I worked a day, he with the pressure washer and I with a putty knife. At the end of the day there was no evidence of the previous sealer. When the concrete dried, I applied two coats of a penetrating acrylic polymer sealer, the same one that I used on the kitchen counter tops. I also put down a test patch of the snow coat. So far I can’t separate the sealers from the concrete so I will probably choose a dry day to apply the snow coat:


Cynthia and I want to have a few glass-topped tables in the house. So I ordered some metal and Ramiro and I spent a few hours cutting components. More on this in a future post:


The dining room table will be 4’x9′, easily seating eight people.

Yesterday a very tired sloth took a nap in the trees in the lot to the west of us. Who needs a hammock when you have a few good branches? Poncho didn’t show up this last week, and Armando doesn’t know why. So the big joke of the day yesterday was the naming of the sloth, Poncho:

P1010285-002And one of our local falcons/hawks (?) sat on our front fence:

P1010239-001 P1010238-001

A new hibiscus is blooming:

P1010290-001The flowers and birds and humans (those who have been without water for weeks) are happy again. We have had our first few rains of the rainy season, including a whopper of a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. It went on and on, so finally I took Armando and Ramiro home.

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


At some point during construction, a Project becomes a House. Later, when the floor coverings and furniture and other creature comforts are in place, it becomes a Home. Yesterday, some of the glass for the living room/dining room arrived and although we have been camping here since September, we felt a very real emotional shift from Project to House.

Ramiro and I got right to work and installed the four panels that arrived Saturday morning. It was satisfying and rewarding to see reflections in the glass. In the next picture you can see the glass. You can also see that we chose a dark green for the trim color (also on my to do list last week). Eventually we will repaint all the window security bars and the front gate the same color:


While we waited last week for the glass to arrive, Ramiro and I made the hand railing for the stairs to the loft and roof deck. I want to install lights on the underside of the railing, so I decided to use 1.5″ x 1.5″ square tubing for the railing. Here we are cutting and welding:


And here is the completed railing waiting until I can find some hand rail brackets (or make them…):


After we install the window glass (so that rain won’t rust the stairs), I want to clean the steps with muriatic acid and finish them with boiled linseed oil to give a nice homey industrial feel to the metal. You can also see that Ramiro burned up a lot of welding rods — he ran continuous beads at the inside corner of all the steps. The steps sound much more solid now.

Using my DIY homemade sheet metal bending brake, Ramiro and I fabricated the remaining pantry shelving in the kitchen. Plus, we made three, five-foot wide door frames for the pantry. One door is in the picture below, we still need to pop rivet the diamond plate aluminum sheets to the back side of the door frames once the paint is good and dry:


I still need to buy wheels for the three sliding doors. The doors will hang from the two tracks that run under the beams.

Additionally, we installed the ceiling panels in three of the five sections between the beams in the kitchen. We had to quit because my arms just wouldn’t raise over my head any more!

We chose to install a ceiling under the shipping container roof because the roofs in these containers had a lot of welded-on patches and were not very attractive. The suspended ceiling also gave me a good wiring and plumbing chase for the upstairs wires and pipes. Here is a photo between two beams:


The ceiling panels are 16-foot-long zinc roofing panels. We had to cut about 7-inches off the end of the panels. You can see a line of screws that screw up into the shipping container where the two containers meet.

At the outside edges of the shipping containers, we screwed a 1.5″ x 3″ steel C channel (carriola), on edge, to the corner of the container. The zinc panels simply sit on the lip of the carriola. Like this:P1010027-001

For another little task, I wanted to install a digital door lock on the front door. Standard door handle/lock sets are made for 1+3/8″ to 1+3/4″ thick doors. But I used 2″ thick steel tubing to make the door, one-quarter-of-an-inch thicker than the lockset would accommodate. I installed the lockset, but it wouldn’t lock or unlock. I determined that the little tab of metal that goes into the lock/unlock turn-thingy on the inside handle wasn’t long enough. So Ramiro and I welded a 1/4″ extension onto the tab.

Actually, in order to clamp and electrically ground the metal for welding, we welded on a piece much larger, and after welding I ground it to size with the bench grinder. The little extension is on the right side of the photo:


The little piece of extend metal on the right will now fit into the door handle lock thingy.

With the door lock installed and working, we will be all locked up once we install the rest of the glass.

Armando and Francisco worked four days last week, continuing on with the back yard path project. They still have at least another week to go, but here it is to date:



Note the hand of bananas that is developing.


Jabo at a gallop. Note that Ramiro has finished welding the top tubing onto the fence. He ground his welds smooth and applied two coats of paint to the welds.

So that was our week, more glass next week. Installing the glass is easy, just apply sealant to the angle iron and press the glass in place. But then we still have to make another set of angle iron for the inside of the glass and pop rivet it into place, quite time consuming. But that’s how you make a shipping container house. The hard way!

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

Ceiling The Deal ~ Installing The Ceiling Between Containers 3 And 4

Armando and I have completed the first coat of repello (stucco) on the interior walls in the stick built space between containers #3 and #4, and in container #4.

As we prepared to apply the second coat of repello, I gave more thought to the ceiling in the stick built area and how the ceiling and the repello would join each other. From the get go we completely ruled out drywall on our project because of the humidity (read: mold) issue here in the mountains.

But Plycem (tilebacker) also comes in 4’x8′ sheets, and for a long time seemed like a viable alternative. It is impervious to water. But the more I thought about it, the more the drawbacks outnumbered the pluses. Plycem, like drywall, is heavy; twelve feet off the floor, it was going to be an installation nightmare for Armando and me. Then there is the cost at about $30 per sheet. Next, the joints would have to be dealt with. The edges aren’t tapered as they are in drywall, and I couldn’t see a classy way to deal with all those joints. Lastly, the cement gray sheets would have to be painted. It all added up to too much time, effort, and money.

Looking for an alternative, I got a scrap of the galvanized metal roofing that we have been using throughout the project. I cleaned it and applied a coat of Turtle Wax. I presented the gleaming sample to Cynthia. “What if…”

She liked it! I was as surprised as the boys in the vintage Life Cereal Mikey Likes It commercial. “Sure, why not. It goes with the industrial nature of the construction.”

And I like the idea too. The sheet metal is economical at $22 for a 42″x12′ sheet, waterproof, lightweight, doesn’t need painting, and goes up fast with just Armando and me. Hot dog!

But first, we needed to consider insulation. Here in the mountains we need neither heating nor air conditioning nor very much insulation. The big thing to consider is the noise on the metal roof when the sky opens full tilt with a day-long tropical downpour.

The two local options seem to be foil-faced bubble wrap that we could put on the underside of the roof joists (I used this in Cynthia’s studio) or sheets of polystyrene insulation. Luckily we had a chicken coop full of 2’x8′, six-inch thick sheets of polystyrene. I would have to cut it in half thickness-wise so it would fit in the spaces between the 2″x4″ roof joists, but a handsaw could easily handle this.

While Armando was second coating a small non-roof adjoining wall, I took the truck to the rental house and ventured into the torrid old chicken coop. Here is the coop after I removed most of the panels:

Nice, huh? I like how the whole thing is gradually being taken over by the jungle.

Under the last sheet was a big ant nest. Enlarge the photo and you can see all the ants working away on their own housing project:

It took me two trips:

I cut a bunch of panels in half and worked them into the ceiling, cutting the panels a bit proud and forcing them into place; no other fastening was needed. Here is the laundry room:

I knocked together the tee-bar support (in front of the window) to hold the sheet metal panels in place during installation.

And the second bedroom:

While this was going on, I found time to go down the mountain to buy the metal roofing panels. I had to look a few places to find nice shinny, un-dented panels. Cynthia volunteered to clean the panels and apply Turtle Wax to what would be the visible side of the ceiling. Here is one all polished; she wasn’t feeling all that photogenic in her rubber boots and the rest of her “outfit” to match. I told her she was stylin’, but no-go for a pho-to:

Polishing cloth??? Ah, so that’s what happened to my perfectly good pajama bottoms. Yeah, they had holes in them. I liked them that way…

The next photo is of the laundry room ceiling all done, ready for the second coat of wall repello to meet up smartly with the ceiling panels. The piece of conduit hanging down is for a light fixture. But where are the screws you ask? There are none. I decided to use pop rivets and they are all but invisible. We think the ceiling has nice clean lines, and notice the light pattern splaying across the panels:

Now the noise on the roof from heavy rain is reduced 80% or so. Nice.

With the tight joint between the repello and the sheet metal (and I can easily caulk it with a clear sealant if I have to), there will be no spider webs. Spiders build webs where there is air flow. Food comes to them.

We are still working on hanging the rest of the panels, but we have already accomplished the second coat of repello on several walls so an update will follow soon.

But wait, there’s more. I’ve been working on my sheet metal brake and will have good news to report soon!

Bonus photos: 

Paint rags, waiting:

Jabo, waiting:

And my favorite Edwardian era-esque photo, Fern In An Urn, Jabo In A Chair:

Jabo celebrated his fifth birthday this week! We just noticed that he is growing wider in the chest. What a runner!

That’s all for now, more soon.