23 June, 2017

Finishing the Street-side (Back) Porch

The back porch of the Mennonite House. This is also the street-side porch. We originally were going to redo this porch at the same time as the front porch.

Naturally, as things go, our money had to be spent on other things that had broken or worn out that had a higher priority than just rehabbing a porch.

Street-Side Porch Work
Once the guys got started on the porch, it took them very little time to strip the old screen materials out and have a nice clean porch to start with.

Ender Cleaning Up
Ender's busy bashing the old screws and wood out of the porch structure. It was tough going for some parts of it, like around the 4x4 posts which are very hard wood and after being in place for about ten years, have become only that much harder.

Framing Going In
Here, they've cut the treated lumber for the screen frames and are doing a trial-fitting of each of them. Once they fit properly, then it remains for them to be stained and then the shade cloth screening to be stapled to each frame.

Staining Screen Frames
The guys set up a regular assembly line for this project. Here, you can see the staining shop in action.

Sanding Screen Frames
Here's the assembly shop. Rene puts each frame section together and then sands them smooth. After that comes the trial fitting.

Time For A Snack
Some of the crew are still growing boys and require an almost continuous supply of food to fuel their growing bodies.

Attaching the Shade Cloth
Here's Ender getting the roll of shade cloth ready to attach it to the frame. This shade cloth is amazingly resistant to sunlight. All the screens on the walls of the pool house were originally the roof awning in the previous incarnation of the pool. So, they had been in constant use for eight or nine years already before we reused them on the wall screens, where we expect to get another eight to ten years use out of them before we need to replace them.

Of course, if we suffer some other damage, like from hurricanes or other storms, that's different and isn't part of the longevity equation. If they don't become damaged from something other than sunlight, they should last eighteen to twenty years. Not a bad investment and the stuff works as well as regular screening to keep bugs and such out.

Shade Cloth Going In
This porch job is speedily coming to an end and is a vast improvement over the old screening, which was really falling victim to sunlight and storm debris.

Porch Is Done
Now, the porch is done. Here's a view looking right up to the door. Really looks nice and clean.

Another View of it Done
The view from the other side of the porch looks just as good.

Long View South
From the inside, looking to the south, very nice and finished.

19 June, 2017

A New Shed

We (that is, I) just don't seem to be able to leave well enough alone. I just had to go ahead and start a new project, in fact, two of them simultaneously.

One project is replacing Elsie's palapa with a work shed, and the second is rehabbing the street-side or back porch of the Mennonite house.

Both projects started at the same time, but I've separated them into two postings. Replacing the palapa comes first simply because that's the way the photos showed up.

It's Seen Better Days
So, here's Elsie's palapa. We call it that because Elsie King, a friend of ours from Canada, used to own this half of the property and she built the palapa.

It's seen better days and is in dire need of re-thatching. Thatch is becoming more and more expensive. I have been wanting to build a shed of some sort so that we could move all the paint, bug killer chemicals, and yard tools out of the 'basement.' I also wanted to move the gas cans out of the well pump house, and the lawn mower needed a protected storage area as well. I'm hoping to also be able to shoehorn the storage rack in the west breezeway into the shed. That all will leave the breezeways clear and clean, instead of the junk collectors they are at present.

Cross Piece Coming Down
The first part of getting the palapa to come down is unbolting all of the supporting structure. Here the guys are unbolting cross braces. Even then, they still had to saw several of the timbers to get it to come down.

Reached the Ground
Finally, it's beginning to come down. It may look flimsy, but keep in mind just how heavy lumber is down here. This thing weighs a ton.

It never did really crash to the ground. It more or less, eased itself down gently.

The final dismantling of the palapa is well underway. All the thatch went off to the burn pile. It's several years old and has become much to brittle to even think of using it to patch holes in the parking palapa, which is in dire need of some serious thatch patching, as it were. But that's another story for another post.

Just the Posts Left
The only things left at this stage are the vertical corner posts. They're sunk deeply into the marl, and they also weigh a lot. They're made from a very dense hard lumber..

In the meantime, marking the dimensions of the shed are taking place around them.

Digging the Footing
Even though the marl is almost as tough as concrete, it really doesn't take the guys long at all to dig a nice sized ditch, which encompasses the outer boundaries of the proposed shed.

Most of the marl that comes out of the footing work will end up being spread along the fence behind the shed.

Sand Arriving
Of course, even though we have a couple of nice piles of gravel and sand around, one can never have too many of each. Especially the sand. That's very popular with both the dogs and the cats, but for very different reasons. The dogs love to play king of the mountain, and the cats, well, they put the piles of sand to a more practical use, you might say.

Adding Steel
With posts still in place, the footing trench is coming along quite nicely. Here, the guys are adding the steel (rebar) to the trench which helps strengthen the concrete.

Footing Poured
And, just like that, the trench is full of concrete. Well, a bit slower than that. Actually, it's a lot of wheelbarrow loads of concrete. Soon we should see the walls begin to rise.

Floor Ready for Pour
Next came leveling out the middle section and laying a rebar mat of concrete which will form the shed floor.

You can see the wood forms already in place to contain the concrete that will be poured to made the floor of the shed.

Collection of Rubble
The rubble is mostly old curbing that once defined the driveway edges. We had to take some out so that the new parts of the driveway could join with the old.

This also has the piece of curbing I fell against two or three years ago when our dogs Cindy, Secret, and Deeohgee, all got into one of those weird fights that happens now and then with dogs. Unfortunately, Cindy ended up losing her life as a result of the fight. I almost broke my back trying to separate the three of them. I fell, rather violently backwards and landed square across my lower back. I was bedridden in mucho pain for about a month.

There's other bits and pieces of concrete rubble, like our birdbath that mysteriously flipped off of its pedestal, broke into a bunch of pieces, and cracked the base. All that ended up in the pile as well. We suspect Noel of being the guilty party by jumping from the circular staircase onto the bowl of the birdbath. But, she won't admit to it.

First Row of Blocks
Now, the first row of blocks is going in. When the weather is nice, things move fast. Of course, now we're entering the rainy season, so we're expecting to have some delays in the construction.

Landing Hold Some Rubble
Here's some of the rubble going into the landing for the shed. As it turns out, the guys were only able to use about half of the rubble in the shed. They'll be hauling off the rest of it at the project end.

Floor Poured
And now, the floor of the shed has been cast. The PVC piping you see is where the water supply and electrical service will be coming through.

We're going to have some LED lights inside and an LED porch light with an electric eye. That will be centered over the shed door. I also want to have a couple motion detection lights at either end of the shed.

Wall Tools Installed
I couldn't figure out what they were doing when these steel 2x4s were installed vertically. I asked Rene and Ender about these. Turns out they're tools that they use to help ensure straight edges of the blocks in the corners, and as tools in determining window, lintel, and roof height and pitch (I think). Anyway, there's marks all over them. They have a collection of eighteen of these things. Well, as long as it works for them.

Just About Done for the Day
This is day two of the block-laying. It rained quite heavily early in the morning, but really cleared by 9:00 AM.

Window and Sink Location
This shows the window (louvered) location. The utility sink will also go here. It's only going to have cold water, and will drain into a rock-filled drum buried in the marl just outside the building.

This rather plain wall will have a set of shelves to hold the paint and yard/bug chemicals. I'll be using the standard and brackets type of shelving. As long as you anchor them with epoxy applied to the plastic wall anchors, the shelf system becomes basically bomb-proof.

Daisy's First Inspection Tour
Here's my newest supervisor. Her name is Daisy. She's a rescue dog and is about a year-and-a-half old. A sweet girl, she's a quick learner.

She's busy checking out the inside of the doorway, looking out to the landing.

I mentioned the rain. It's Monday now, and no work today. Heavy rain has been in the forecast, but of course, so far, we've had just a little. Maybe tomorrow.

25 May, 2017

A New Experience At Casa Winjama

It wasn't a strong odor, just enough to remind you of what you were dealing with. Some septic tanks, that we've had the experience to be traveling nearby as they were being pumped out were noticeably stronger in odor. Some so much so that you nearly retched as you went by.

To start the process of cleaning out the first tank, we had to open the hatch. This turned out to be no easy task. When we built the original pool house, there was some leftover floor tile. One of the workers suggested tiling the utility room, which also meant tiling the hatch. Naturally, some of the Thinset and grout managed to slip into spaces between the hatch and the floor, effectively sealing the hatch in place.

We didn't realize it at the time, but that makes opening the hatch quite problematical. We had to chip away at a couple of the hatch corners so that we could eventually slide a large prybar into the opening and managed to free the hatch and lift it far enough out of the way in order to allow the pumper's suction tube access to the tank and its contents.

The Hatch is Free
As you can see here, we finally managed to get the hatch free and out of the way. The pool house and septic tank were built about nine years ago, and it's never been opened till just now.

Back in the day, this was how the tank was accessed. Now they add a four-inch PVC tube, so that all you have to do is open the tube, and you have easy access for the suction tube to reach into the tank. Why didn't we think of that back then?

Running the tube from the truck was no problem. They bring several lengths of tubing, and actually only used one length for this project.

Suction Tube At Work
Surprisingly, it was a mostly non-smelly operation and quite neat and tidily done too. I had envisioned having to hose down the whole area immediately afterward, but such was not the case.

Here the 'Suction Master' is hooking up the tube to the truck. Once that's done, a quick signal to the truck driver and pumping begins.

Suction Master At Work
This job is one of those 'Mike Rowe' things. A necessary job, and I'm just glad that I don't have to do it.

The whole process took about ten minutes to completely empty this tank. It still had about ten to twelve inches clearance before it was totally full. I don't know if it would have ever gotten that high as liquids go naturally to the drain field and evaporate.

Final Cleanout of the Tank
Towards the end, the worker does need to direct the tube end to suck up whatever is left in the tank.

Making A Graceful Exit
When it's done, they encase the business end in a plastic bag and haul the tube away.

When they finished with this tank, their truck mounted tank was full. They departed to empty it and returned about 20 minutes later to do the second tank.

No Fancy Slogans Here
When I 'helped' Denis when he had them clean out Sara's tank, we asked where they dumped the contents. They said on their property in Ranchito, they have a couple of excavations they use as settling ponds.

Since both tanks were about the same age (a year or so apart), we had them pump the tank for the Mennonite house as well.

This Tank Opened Easier
 This one opened much easier (no grout to gum up the works). You can see a tube inside. That's part of the drain pipe coming into the tank from the house. We put a tee on the pipe and ran a short length of pipe down into the tank and just left the upper end of the tee open as a kind of vent.

Suction Tube At Work
The operation proceeded just about the same as the first tank. Another routine pumping job.

Bye Guys, And Thanks
And there they go. We'll see them again in another eight or nine years.