The Big Roof ~ Part 3

The roof shows progress, but not enough, not fast enough. Whenever you work off the ground, multiply the time times two. Or three. For every rafter that I weld into place, I have to move the scaffolding, advancing two feet at a time. So it is up the scaffolding, down the scaffolding; I’m getting more-than-enough Jungle Jim Fred time in on this project! And sometimes I get to the top of the scaffolding and find that I have forgotten to turn on the welder. Down the scaffolding, up the scaffolding.

And the rain is making its debut. Friday and Saturday I lost much of the day to huge downpours that lasted several hours. But I am not complaining, we need the rain; Panama is currently in a drought because of the several-week delay in the seasonal rains. We get 50% of our electric power from hydroelectric dams, and the reservoirs are perilously low. School has been cancelled and government offices have shortened work hours. Air conditioning in businesses has been restricted, fish are dying in rivers because of low water and/or warmer water than usual, and cattle are dying due to the lack of water and grass. If we all don’t cut back enough, there will be rolling 4-hour electrical blackouts. So I won’t complain about losing time; the greater good is much more important.

In my last post, I had three of the main beams in place. In the next photo I have a lot of the rafters welded in place and I am in the process of sliding the east beam into place:


Looking down, you can see the welder on the top of container #2 — the future loft. Yes, I’ve been wearing my safety harness!

I had difficulty getting the eastern-most beam into place. There are a lot of bees in the trees at the front of the house, and all bees in Panama are Africanized. They were paying a bit more attention to me than I would like, darting rapidly closer and closer to me; they even swarmed at the end of the carriola where I had placed my hands. So I moved the beam the last few feet with a long 2×4, then tied the beam into place. I’ll weld it later when/if the bees go away. Here is a photo taken from the carport roof:


The yellow tow strap and the come-along are holding the roof “square.”

Because of the bees, I decided to work at the far end of the roof. I welded together two more 40-foot 2x6s to make the last beam, plus I welded together two, 8-foot 2x4s for a column on top of container #2. Armando and I raised the beam to its perch and I clamped it, then welded it into place:


Here is the last beam, ready to receive columns below to create the west wall of the living room:


Because there isn’t much Armando can do on the roof while I weld, he has been busy digging the fish pond that will be near the hydroponic greenhouse. No photos yet, it’s just a hole in the ground.

In other news, I couldn’t sleep last night (Saturday) so I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood from midnight to about 3:00 a.m. With the recent rains, the frogs and toads and other water-loving night creatures have come alive. Here is a video of the raucous sounds of nighttime in the tropics just a few steps from our rental house. Actually, it was too dark to make a video but the audio came through loud and clear. Turn up your speakers:

And by the way, Ramiro (with the head injury) just came to our house with a big bag of star fruit (fruta de china [chee-na]). I gave him an extra hardhat that I had. The wound is healing very well and he plans to be back to work soon.

It is now 2:00 Sunday afternoon and the sky has just opened to a downpour. I guess that Armando and I will have to switch to our rainy-season start time of 6:00 or 7:00 a.m.

That’s all for now. More welding next week.

10 thoughts on “The Big Roof ~ Part 3

  1. Hello Fred,

    I really like how things are coming together. I am really starting to picture it. I have been amazed at your vision throughout your build. I am curious, would you be willing to give us an idea of how much this project is going to cost? Was there a starting budget? How is the actual comparing to the projected? I’m just curious going forward for my own future projects. Of course, cost will fluctuate on where you are building.

    If that is too much to ask, just say so.


    • Hi Kyle,

      Thanks for the compliments and the question.

      We hoped to keep the project under $100,000 including the containers but not including the land.

      Given that I am doing most of the work myself including plumbing and electrical and welding, etc., enter $0 for my labor.

      Armando earns less than $20 per day. Per day, not per hour. He works an average of 4 days a week.

      We’ve had another man or two here and there but it isn’t a lot of money in the scheme of things.

      The current number including the $16,500 or so for the four containers placed on the columns, plus a recent expenditure of $10,000 for floor and wall tiles, is at about $45,000. I’d say that we are way under budget.

      We still have doors and windows, normally a big part of a budget, but I am building the doors mostly from container siding scrap, and I’m building the window frames myself, too. Not much purchased metal involved. Just glass to buy and a few louvered windows.

      Also still to go is the kitchen and paint inside and out of the entire project. Because of our mountain tropical climate we don’t need a heating plant nor air conditioning and not much insulation.

      I think we’ll end up under budget, but we have been very lucky to build here where the cost of labor is so low and an energy package is nonexistant.

      Your mileage may vary.

      Thanks again Kyle,

  2. You are in a tough spot the moment, but keep on pushing through safely. You’ve got many cheering you on. Thanks again for including all of us in on this amazing home build. Best to you and your “crew”! Looking forward to part 4 … of the big roof.

  3. Hi Fred,
    1. The sound, the frogs, my childhood.
    2. The greater good comment, such a simple philosophy but difficult for most to follow and for some difficult to even comprehend.
    3. I see each step of your labor and there is nothing that can compare to the fruits of your own labor specially when they end up “under budget”!
    Thank you for for playing your small role in the greater good (helping people out, showing them another view of things) of Panamá.

  4. Hi Fred , just a few words , roof lines look great , all other questions already answered , how is the rain . Has the season actually set in , raining here in Perth last night , anyway looking forward to your next blog , regards Mike

    • Hi Mike, Yes, I’m welding between rain drops most days. It rained all night last night and up until 2:00 or so today so no welding today.

      I spent today trying to get the pump working at the rental pit we are living in. Actually it won’t shut off. No success. Pump technician is coming tomorrow. Today I also changed door locks on two of the rental house doors. The front door we were using will no longer open because there are so many cracks in the walls that the house has shifted and put too much weight on the door. Also the ceiling is falling in in our bedroom so I put some 2×4 supports to keep it from falling on us while we sleep. I hope we don’t have any earthquakes! I’ve set a date of July 15th to move to the new house. I hope that I can make it happen because we are patching this rental pit together with duct tape and bailing wire. Can’t wait! End of rant.

      I hope to have another installment on Sunday, the bones of the roof are starting to look like something. Glad you got rain. Fred

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