Wallito (The Little Wall)

In Spanish the word ending -ito signifies affection or diminutive stature. In this post, I tell about the short wall I just built, hence the new English word I coined; wallito.

There has been a lot of rain recently, including a few complete rain-outs, so progress has been slow. But I have managed to work on the two-foot high wall above container three that holds up the low end of the roof between three and four.

Originally I was going to use some of the 20-foot scrap wall section cut from container three for this new wall, but we have amended the plan and now are cutting only doorways from the container. Because we decided to use tilebacker (cement board) for the interior walls, it seemed like a natural to use the tilebacker for this little wall overhead.

First I cut eight 2″x2″ square tubing “studs” and welded them in place to receive the tilebacker. Because I was working by myself, I made the runway scaffolding so I wouldn’t have to lift the welder.

The wall will go in that long open space above the container.

Speaking of the welder, I got tired of the anemic factory-installed wheels and put on some wheelbarrow wheels. Now I have an ATW (all terrain welder).

Some difference, huh?

Then Armando and I hauled the four sheets of 3/4″ tilebacker from container one to container four (it’s always a treat to carry heavy stuff through the mud). I cut them to shape with a tile blade on my circular saw and Armando sponged on the first coat of sealer. The sealer will resist water and dirt stains.

For the sealer, we decided to go with a wet-look acrylic polymer. Two coats sponged on quickly is all it takes to protect the surface. Ask me in three years how it worked. Here’s the sealer sitting on top of a piece of tilebacker after the first coat. The second coat brings up the shine.

Rain stopped production for the day, but this morning I swept the water off the top of the container roof and installed the tilebacker sheets on the studs. I used the same sheetmetal roofing screws that I used to screw the roofing to the steel framing. Here’s the wall all finished except for the second coat of sealer.

I sealed the tilebacker to the top of the container with urethane caulk. To control water runoff from the roof, I will make the standard Panamanian roof gutter system: take a piece of 4-inch PVC tubing and slice the length of the tubing with a saber/jig saw. A circular saw is faster, but the PVC will most likely shatter, making a mess of the tube. Out in the pueblos in the mountains, they use an old rusty handsaw. Tedious work for sure.

Anyway, after the cut is made, you spring open the tube a bit and slide it over the tail end of the roofing metal. Pieces of bailing wire wrapped around roofing screws holds the gutter in place. You can paint the gutter any color you want, but our previous gardener Miguel liked to use tar thinned with lacquer thinner as the paint. Any color you want as long as it is black.

Ultimately the container roof will be covered with a concrete slab, sloped toward the center of the container and down and off the back end of the container. The slab will cover and protect the urethane caulk. I hope.

I am concerned about the corrosion/rust between the metal container roof and the concrete slab, so I am considering painting the roof with an elastomeric roof coating. I could paint the coating up over the caulk and a few inches onto the tilebacker, then pour the concrete slab. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Here’s a picture of the wall from the inside:

Later, when I work on the interior of the house, I will apply a second sheet of tilebacker on the inside of the studs. For protection from potential smashers/robbers, I will probably weld a couple pieces of 1/2″ rebar in the stud cavity. The tilebacker is strong for the elements, but probably is no match for a big boot and would be a weak point in the building envelope. But for now I am only interested in getting the building dried in.

Tomorrow I will work on putting tilebacker on the triangular section you see up in the first photo. Before that, I need to paint the exterior of the wall below the triangle with white paint.

When I don’t need Armando to lift and tote, he is busy working on leveling the lot and preparing it for grass. Sod grass can be had here, but it is expensive. Armando said that he wanted to clear out some of the grass close to his house because he has had some close encounters with the slithering kind in his house lately. Replacing the grass with gravel will slow the critters down. So early one foggy morning, I went to his house to get a pickup full of grass. He lives on a dead end off a dead end off a dead end, and by the time I get within a few hundred yards from his house, the road is very narrow. I can’t make the turn into his “driveway,” actually only a wide path. So we worked for an hour with two wheelbarrows and got the truck loaded.

Sod from Armando’s yard is somewhat of an exaggeration, as he dug up the grass shovel by shovelful, pieces breaking, some only a few inches square at best. We kidded that planting the grass in my yard was like getting a hair transplant, hair by hair. But he got the job done in two days, and now the yard is starting to look like a yard.

(Normally when I write these blogs, I re-size the photos to be a bit larger on the page. This time, the re-sizing option doesn’t exist. Sorry. You can always click the photo to make it larger.)

I’m glad to have this little wall out of the way. Soon I can haul the welder up to the roof of container four and finish welding the upper wall to the container roof. That’s all for now.

9 thoughts on “Wallito (The Little Wall)

  1. Hi Fred,

    Thanks for your most recent update. I’m enjoying the process of your build and I am taking notes for that day when I will also build a container home or container something.

    In any case, I wanted to chime in regarding your roof and give you an unsolicted opinion. You know what that’s worth!

    You may have already thought through your process so please don’t look upon my advice as expert, other than I’m building my own home and have lots of experience with leaky buildings especially where I come from (Pacific Northwest). I am also building a home in Panama and it’s a learning experience for me also.

    With regards to mixing different elements like concrete, caulking, and metal; these are all materials that expand and contract differently. So it’s almost guaranteed that eventually your caulking will separate from your metal. If you put concrete over the seal, it may help but the mass of the concrete will expand at different rate as the metal on the roof. If the concrete cracks due to this dynamic, it’s possible water could penetrate the concrete and this will require you to seal and paint the concrete regularly to keep it from taking on water.

    So, my thought is to suggest a slightly sloped roof for the top of our container made from concrete board (plysem) that is corregated and also conveniently stained red. The plysem overlap each other in the installation so you have a sealed, overlaping joint wherever they meet. The corrugated look may not be what you are looking for so this is also a consideration. I have installed on my own roof and it looks good the way it is despite the fact that I am installing reclaimed clay roof tiles on top of the plysem.

    With regards to where the plysem meets your newly installed concrete board wall, you would simply install an L shaped flashing that covers the top of the plysem where it meets the wall by at least 5 inches and goes up your concrete board wall by the same amount. You can later cover your concrete board with a repelo to hide the flashing that’s attached to the concrete board wall. Ideally, the flashing would have been placed behind your concrete board and extended outward to cover the plysem but you’ve already got your board up and this will work just as well.

    This should also allow you to install a radiant barrier (plastised aluminum sheet ) underneath your plysem directly on the top of your container roof. This is a cheap way to reduce your cooling and reduce the temperatures of your house. You can pick radiant barrier at Hopsa for about $96 per roll 4’x100″.

    The other thing you need to be aware of is if you choose to use concrete to cover the top of the container, it wll also collect heat all day and dissipate into your interior as it will be directly connected to the metal on your roof that I believe is also the ceiling in your rooms.

    You can overlap and tape the radiant barrier by a few inches and it also acts as an emergency secondary barrier for any leaks that may come through your plysem roof. The radiant barrier will most definitely reduce the amount of heat entering your home as it acts to deflect infra-red heat back up and into the plysem. You need to make sure there is at least one to two inches separating the radiant barrier and the plysem and the corrugated part of this concrete board provides sufficient space between the two.

    Again, only a thought and most likely not what you’ve spec’d but may be worth the consideration.


  2. Fred,

    I am constantly impressed with the way you look at each step in building your home. I always wonder if I would have made the decision as well. I always look forward to the next installment of your blog.


  3. Just thought I would throw a new product your way for your future needs. It’s just hitting the market and my company is a distibutor. It’s a composite OSB , That won’t rot and insects wont eat it and it takes a nail and screw like no board could. http://www.newwood.com. it was also nice to see that you added Titanium Oxide to that paint that I suggested. Was it hard for you to find in Panama ?

    • Thanks Marty,

      Haven’t seen newwood here yet. This would be an incredible proving ground for the product. Termites, incredible wet seasons, good hot sun. You name the threat we have it except the freeze/thaw cycle I guess.

      The Titanium Oxide was difficult to find. After checking numerous auto paint stores and shops, I took one last chance on a store I spotted serendipitously. I went back later to get some more and they were out of business. The rule here in Panama is if you want it and you see it, buy it because it may be permanently out of stock tomorrow. Cynthia likes to drink carbonated water so at a kitchen shop I got her one of those bottles that takes the co2 cartridges. I got the cartridges for several more months, then they vanished from the shelves. Seven months now no co2, but they still sell the bottle!

  4. Be careful on this roof/detail. I’m a bit concerned that you have a seam (sealed or not) below the level of the future roof plane. Regardless of the type of roof structure, I believe you’ll need a continuous membrane of some kind that wraps across the roof surface (regardless of slope/shape) and up the adjacent walls, at least 8″, perhaps more depending on rainfall. I’m a new and big fan of an underlayment by tarco – ice and water shield; it’s basically a self-adhesive bituminous rolled product. I used tarco PS200 HT (high temperature) under a recent metal roof I did, and I love it for several reasons: It is self-sealing at joints and laps; It is very easy to apply; and for metal roofs, especially, it tends to seal the penetrations of the roofing screws.
    Not sure if it’s readily available in panama, but it comes in rolls that cover about 200 sf and costs about $90 here in Houston….50 cts a sq foot, pretty good as an insurance policy…I’ll never use standard roofing felt again, for sure! I assume it would work well over a concrete substrate, framed and decked roof, under tile, metal or whatever. feel free to drop a line if any of this doesn’t make sense.
    Keep up the blog, it’s an awesome vicarious (learning) experience.

    • Thank you Juan,
      I used ice and water shield back in the States about 5 or 6 years ago on a really troublesome roof. But had forgotten about it. At the time I thought it was terrific. I think I remember that it sealed itself around nails, etc. that were driven through it. I wonder if it would stick to the tilebacker?

      This is a learning experience for me for sure. I hope I provide some learning and entertainment even if it is at my own expense!

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