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 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 planned for the first 2 rooms, kitchen, and bathroom.
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 aluminum windows and see what are his specs and re-design and build accordingly. So yeah it’s not as simple as welding a few pieces of metal together.
Even if the container looked in somewhat decent shape for a rusty 2006 sea-can, it’s way more banged up than what we thought. Have you ever driven a forklift with an 8 feet tall pallet at the front? Well, it’s no easy task and most likely you would run into some obstacles, our container was one of them; obstacles for some years. And what about the compression that this sea can has suffered over time. Years of top-loading have put huge stress on the corrugated walls. Not sure what 2 cents comparison 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.
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 of certificates at the Youtube University of building stuff by yourself. Lots of great ideas and concepts out there but no one can say how to turn something 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 an “as good as it gets’’ level. Then I used the “hold this fucker in place while I weld’’ technic. I was really surprised by the results.
The price of material and labor in the area have been going to the roof in the last year. A lot of big projects have been taking over all the labor leaving 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 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.
Number one question people ask: “Isn’t hot in those containers? And the answer is yes, but… That’s where some classes in heat transfer come in handy. Why is it so hot in a container? It’s something called the ‘’beer can’’ effect. A metal tin, with a high coefficient of thermal conduction, is enclosed. So the sun heats 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 Barefoot Architect.
So we have doors, windows, insulation, power, drywalls… 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 to 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 houses design don’t 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 - simply 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 finished building a bed/shelf/desk/chest dresser. I hope to incorporated a similar design in some of our future rooms so our guests can have their little work-away spot with us and go on adventures right at our doorsteps.
Did I say at the beginning a short wrap-up? Sorry, I have a lot to say about our project and its day-to-day evolution. I should take more time to write about it but when I type on a 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 challenges coming our way but as I say almost every day: ‘’If it would be easy everybody would be doing it’’.
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!