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If it would be easy everybody would be doing it

What’s up people!

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but that means I was too busy building!

Here is a short wrap up of the work done since… The first container got delivered on the foundation, it went quite well considering the fact that no one got hurt, the crane guy dropped the container on the next delivery after ours… :( I spent a few weeks of back and forth to get our land connected to the power grid so I could start cutting and welding the windows and doors. It was a bit of a painful process and had to pay another electrician to re-do the work of another guy that I paid to install our meter box… frustrating that’s for sure. But a great relief when I had the power to my main breaker box. From there I designed and installed our electric system for the shop but also planed ahead for the first 2 rooms, kitchen and bathroom.

Getting a good feel of the height of the container and what will eventually a sick roof terrace. The container delivery was pretty damn sketch. The guy didn't really seem to know what's up with manoeuvring this 4000kg 12M metal box. He banged our electric post, break one of the center column and overall been a bad crane driver. Glad this thing is in place and ready to build!
Un-shackling the container from the sketchy crane setup

Building the window frames and doors, simple as cutting pieces of metal and welding them together right…NOPE! Gotta research to find the metal you need/want, which is not available in the area, so change the concept a bit, to finally source some 1.5’’x4’’x3/16’’ beam right here in Pescadero for cheaper than in the big hub… (how and why, I don’t know) Even before finding these beams, I had to get a hold on someone who can build custom sized aluminium windows and see what are his specs and re-design and build accordingly. So yeah it’s not really as simple as welding a few pieces of metal together.

Even if the container looked in somewhat descent shape for a rusty 2006 sea-can, it’s actually way more banged up than what we thought. Have you ever driven a fork lift with an 8 foots tall pallet at the front? Well, it’s no easy task and most likely you would run in some obstacles, our container was one of them obstacles for some years. And what about the compression that this can has suffered over time. Years of top loading have put a considering stress on the corrugated walls. Not sure what 2 cents comparaison I can do with trying to cut a straight line in a banged up corrugated metal wall that’s been bearing loads for sometimes can feel like, scary maybe would be a great word to describe it… Definitely improved my working process to make a faster and safer work with a result reaching the “as good as it gets’’ level of quality.

The frames are made of metal 1.5''x4''. There are extra strong, maybe even too strong but we really wanted to make sure that when we will be putting a second container on top our walls will remain with a good structural integrity. The frame are welded from the outside all around for three main raisons: 1. Industrial look, it's just part of the container 2. To prevent any water from leaking inside, most container builder don't weld all around and need to apply caulk. I hate caulk! 3. It's just plain way stronger and we'll be able to load up the container with more containers!
Frame of the bed window with futur ocean view and a nice breeze

Cutting is one thing, welding is another. Need to fit a custom 5’x 3’ 40 pounds window frame in a not straight wall. Cannot lie, I followed a couple certificates at the Youtubeuniversity of building stuff by yourself. Lots of great ideas and concepts out there but no one can say how to turn something that was ready to send for scrap metal into straight as an arrow again. So I follow the rule of thumb, hammered the most dented spot back to a “as good as it get’’ level. Then i used the “hold this fucker in place while I weld’’ technic. I was actually really surprised by the results.

We are really happy how the windows turned out. Lot's of work that for sure but sitting at the desk and enjoying the breeze is a blessing! We will be growing some vine, bougainviliar and Pallo de Arco on the south side of the container to create shade and preventing sun to hit directly the outside wall which should help even more to keep the temperature down.
The window in front of the desk with view over the ocean

The price of material and labour in the area have been going to the roof in the last year. A lot of big projects have been taking over all the labour leaving the small projects like ours a non-attractive business for the workers and builders. We just have the feeling that we’ve been served the gringo price on many quotes. So we decided to just do as much as we can by ourselves. Normally I would’ve gone to a window and door place buy something off the shelf and design around it. But there is no such place around here except home depot but the quality is next to garbage. So we went custom and DIY on almost everything. We contracted the windows to a local guy that did an awesome work. But I took on to build the doors. A Lot of work has been put into these doors but I’m proud of the results. My girlfriend said: “They are exactly like your drawings.’’ Me: “Well I hope so, that was the plan’’ haha.

It's hard to find good quality product here in Baja, so we decided to build as much as we can by ourselves. Those doors are made of raw metal and off cuts from the door opening. It was quite a bit of work to make the whole thing fit and specially to fit the corrugated inline with the rest of the corrugated of the container. The pattern is something we had in mind for quite a while and it's nice to finally build it. For the light, we used a piece of corrugated that fit perfectly in between the two doors.
The metal doors for the room and the exterior light

Number one question people ask: “Isn’t hot in those containers? And the answers is yes, but… That’s where some classes in heat transfer come handy. Why is it so hot in a container? It’s something call the ‘’beer can’’ effect. A metal tin, with a high coefficient of thermal conduction that is enclosed. So the sun heats up the metal, which conducts the heat through the inside where the heat is now transmitted to the internal air. Simple, right? How to counter that effect that is less than suitable in a country where the temperature averages 25deg Celsius? Insulation and great ventilation are the answers. So we went on and framed the interior walls with metal studs then added 2.5’’ of mineral wool on the walls and 3.5’’ on the ceiling. The idea was to break that thermal bridge from frying hot sun on highly conductive metal to our surprisingly comfortable rooms with nice cross ventilation from the windows. We have been living in the room for about a month now with no ceiling fans and I haven’t broken a sweat a single night yet even in July... We will also soon be planting vines and trees on the south side to prevent the sun to directly hit the metal. We also have the plan to build a roof terrace overhanging the doors and windows for even more shade! Building your house using passive heating or cooling is something that’s been used for ages but somehow forgotten in the new ages of expensive AC units and central heating. For any great reference check out the : Barefoot Architect.

Because we wanted to had insulation from the inside, we decided to frame the interior of the container with metal studs. Then we add 2.5'' of mineral wool on the walls and 3.5'' on the ceiling. The result is awesome! We have a fresh room with natural cross ventilation, plenty of natural light and a nice view!
The walls structure of the rooms and the insulation

So we have doors, windows, insulation, power, dry walls… now what? I’m so done searching my stuff around in crates and bags, having the bed on the ground and the Rubbermaid plastic table as a desk, time to build furniture! Our concept for these two rooms is first for us to live in at the beginning but also to rent to people that would love to come enjoy Cerritos for a more extended period of time. Providing a comfortable, small but well designed functional room with a nice bed, plenty of storage, a spacious desk and a great view. Most of houses design don’t really need to have custom built furniture because they are spacious, with an incredible amount of wasted space that one might feel the urge to fill up with useless crap… (sorry for the social critic here). If you are more into tiny living, van dwelling, motorcycle adventure riding, backpacking - all together a minimalistic person - you would know how much making good use of the little space you have is important and packing light is the way to go! All that said, well I just finish to build a bed/shelf/desk/chest-dresser. I hope to incorporated a similar design in some of our futur rooms so our guest can have there little work-away spot with us and go on adventures right at our door steps.

We finish the interior walls with sheet rock. The room design will be a balance of wood and metal. We wanted to keep an industrial look in remember to the container life, so we left a window on the old corrugated and with the industrial metal pipes for the light switches. The rooms are 7'x10'x8' so a good usage of space is important and the choice of colour also. So we went for black for all the metal details, white for the walls and all the surfaces are made out of wood with a natural finish except for the OSB floor which we tint a Nogal colour.
Details of the interior finish from the container
We just put the final touch in the room that will be ours to live in for a while. If this isn't tiny living? Two person in 560 cubic feet, everything will eventually have is place and should stay that way. We designed and custom build the furniture to optimize the used of the space, have a nice 2 person desk with over head light spots, dimmable artsy antler like reading spot over the bed, double size bed over 91 cubic feet of storage, shelving for books and other storage. It makes it the perfect size for a work away surfer or diver that wanna have a comfy room, good internet and few steps to the beach.
The freshly finished and moved in room!

Did I said at the beginning short wrap up? Sorry, I have a lot to say about our project and it’s day to day evolution. I should take more time to write about it but when I type on keyboard I don’t build on the land so it’s a hard struggle… So yeah the project is going good and we are slowly working on making an actual master plan with a young local architect. We will have our share of new chalenges coming our way but as I say almost everyday: ‘’If it would be easy everybody would be doing it’’.

A nice hike from Punta de Lobos to Old Port in Todos Santos. Nice place to go for a swim after the 1 hour walk
Old sugar Cane port beach, Todos Santos

I’m looking forward to have you guys as guests real soon and show you the beauty of our land but also of the area that we are eager to discover more!

Saludos amigos


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