19 February, 2016

The Beat Goes On

The construction beat, that is (click here to listen).   I believe the last construction update (not related to solar power) was “Sunshine in the Rainy Season” back in September.  We have have made quite a bit of progress since then:
  • rainwater caching system with new vats connected to the new rainwater downspouts
  • electrical wire runs on the main level prior to finishing the wall
  • tongue and groove hardwood floor 
  • tongue and groove hardwood wall paneling
  • plumbing supply and drain lines for the bathroom and kitchenette
  • plycem walls in the bathroom and kitchenette
  • shower base
  • shower wall tiles
  • bathroom vanity and cupboards
  • layout of the stairs to the upper level
The pictures tell the story.  But I added words, too. :-)

Downspouts to the new vats and plumbing lines connect them to the water pump.  We have enough vats now to take us through a prolonged dry season.
The electrical wires are in the wall and the subfloor is cleaned and prepped to get ready for the installation of the flooring and the wall paneling.
The wires are neatly organized to tie in to the circuit breaker box.  We keep a CO2 fire extinguisher handy - no fire department to call, not even a volunteer department!

We hired Margarito Ortiz of Keystone Design and Construction Management to do the floors, wall, bathroom vanity, stairs, and kitchenette.  He is letting our able crew assist them to help us keep the cost down.  It seems to be working out well, plus our guys are getting some advanced training from professionals.
One of three large stacks of hardwood flooring acclimating to the space before installation. 
More wood leaning against the wall. This wall separates the bathroom on the other side from the closet space where the wood is leaning for now.  
View from the front door.

The first piece of flooring is going down!  Things should move along quickly now.

Or not.  The flooring came in 3 lengths - 8, 10, and 12 feet - with a nominal width of 5 1/2 inches.  Key word is nominal.  Turns out that the widths varied a bit.  At the end of the first day of laying the floor, we had not progressed very far.
The new day sees us starting with quality control - organizing the wood by width.  We now have 4 big piles of different widths that are accurate along the full length and 1 pile of rejects where one end is significantly different in width from the other end.  As long as we use the same width for each run, it will go faster now.
Happier faces now that the major frustration of the wood has been sorted out.  The chop saw is ready for business.
And the now work moves along quickly.  La de da de de, la de da de da.  Clamps are used to hold the tongue and groove joints snug while the next piece is toenailed into place.  Finishing nails anchor each piece to the subfloor.  The finish nails are set in with a nail punch.
Looking down at the progress.

 More than half is complete by the next day.

 I really like the angle of the sun and shadows across the floor at the front door.

The last pieces with tricky angle cuts are fitted at the back door.

In the meantime, the bathroom has gotten some attention.  That is the snazzy Nature's Head Composting Toilet sitting where it will eventually be situated.  It separates the liquids from the solids so that the liquid, which is actually the smelliest part, can be emptied more often.  The black strap is attached to what we affectionately call "pee jug".  Behind the pee jug is the main container for the solids.  You add either coconut coir or wood shavings to it after each use and crank a handle to mix it in.  A little exhaust fan that vents outside through a conduit runs constantly.  The Nature's Head Toilet was designed for marine use, but we think it will suit us very well.  The biggest advantage is that we won't have to build another septic tank.
The shower base is a 4 foot square with a corner cut off.  We have a frameless glass enclosure that will be installed as the last thing in the bathroom.  Two niches are set into the shower wall.  They show up better in the image below.

We are using Daltile "Mont Blanc" in ivory and with a grey-blue glass tile for accent around the inside edge of the niches. 
 Graphite colored grout to set it off.
 Grab bars installed in the shower.  Another will go next to the toilet.  

The wood paneling was going up at the same time the bathroom tile was.  The paneling is 3/4 inch thick tongue and groove Santa Maria wood with a V groove along each side.
The paneling pieces were cut to fit around the window opening which will be trimmed out with wood stained to match the floor.
Plycem wall board will fill the gap between the paneling and the ceiling.  The floor will be stained a dark espresso color and we are undecided about the walls.  We will either keep them natural or go with a pickled or limed finish that is similar to a white wash.  Right now we are leaning toward natural, knowing that we can do the pickled finish at any time.
Time to sand the floor now that the walls are up.  Dust protection is essential at this stage.  Do we have enough power cords?
 Lots of dust from the sanding.
Once the floor was smooth enough, filler stained the color the floor will be is pressed into all the seams and nail set holes holes. 
 It looks worse before it looks better. We hope ...

The room was vented out the back while sanding and just look at the dust that blew up onto the solar panels!
The sanding dust was so thick on the little solar panels that charge up our little portable solar lights that they weren't fully charging until I cleaned them.

The floor and windows are covered before the first coat of finish is applied to the walls.
The first finish coat is lightly sanded and another one gets applied.  Then the floors are sanded several times to even out the fill before the first stain coat goes down.
The stain has to be applied quickly and evenly in the direction of the grain.
This is a water based stain that will take several applications with a final finish coat later on.

The plycem is almost complete on the wall that separates the bathroom from living space.  The stairs from above will start at the right of the image and come down along the wall with a dog leg turn so that the last 8 steps come toward the camera.  The kitchenette will be positioned underneath the tallest part of the stairs.  The plumbing for the sink has been roughed in.

The plumbing has also been roughed in for the bathroom sink.  A large bathroom vanity will cover this wall.

Our crew has been working on the wood trim for the windows and door.  An old sock of mine has been put to use as a dust collection bag/filter for the small sander.

Our guys custom cut the wood for the window frames and stained it to match the floor.

The first part of this trim is in place.

 We used a nail gun with headless finish nails to mount the trim pieces.

The first windows are trimmed.  The top piece of the window trim is a moulding strip that caps the seam between the paneling and the plycem wallboard.

The massive vanity was built off-site.  It arrived and was installed 2 days ago.

A faux medicine (seen laying on its side) will cover the electrical circuit breaker box.

 A matching, but real, medicine cabinet goes on the right side of the mirror.

They got it aligned, level, and plumb and then fastened it the wall.

I used my phone to get this shot and the one below because it has a wider angle lens than my big camera.  The whole thing is just shy of 12 feet in length.

Some open shelves will go over the right end. 

That almost brings us up to date.  Our crew is continuing to work on the window and door trim and to complete the tiling in the bathroom.  Then we will install the glass shower enclosure.  Tomorrow, the Keystone crew will return to finish the floor and walls.  In a couple of weeks they will come back with the stairs.  Once the stairs are up, we can finalize the cabinet for the kitchenette.

And the beat goes on, including my beat.  Today is my 61st birthday and the 4th birthday I have celebrated here in Belize.  Dennis tells me he is cooking a birthday dinner for me of tamarind chicken, spinach and mushrooms over rice, with a garden salad.  Port and chocolates for dessert.  La de da de de, la de da de da. 


  1. A VERY Happy Birthday to you, Wilma!

    Looks like things are coming along very nicely; looking forward to more photos.

    1. Thanks, Cranky! I had a lovely day.
      It will be a weekend with construction happening all day today and on Sunday, too. More photos soon.
      Now I am off to find your new blog.

  2. Brilliant pictorial diary of your construction work and what a great team of men you appear to have, they seem very good at what they do.
    Also, congratulations on your 61st, look forward to photos of that day.

    1. We do have a great team of workers. It has been a long, slow process; almost 3 years since we broke ground. Even in first world countries construction projects always take longer than planned and then when you factor in the third world realities, well let me just say that it gets to be an exercise in endurance. and patience. The end is in sight now.
      Thanks for the b'day congrats. Sorry, no photos. Mostly it was just another day in the life. :-)

    2. Ah well, just how my birthdays pass by these days.

  3. Belated birthday wishes Wilma. With luck all will be tidy, cosy and peaceful by the next one. What a spectacular view from your front door.

    1. Thanks, John. A year should do it! I do love that view.

  4. Those vats make it look like you have a brewery downstairs!

  5. It's nothing short of a miracle what you've both achieved in your superb retirement home.

    1. Thank you, David. We are very happy with how it is turning out.

  6. Happy belated birthday! Your house is coming along quite nicely. Did I see Paschal hard at work in one of your pictures? It's good to see that he's keeping busy. We have been talking to a lot of different people about Belize lately. I'm not sure if this is just a coincidence or if maybe we're curious to go back and see how things are once again. Time will tell.
    You have a very nice home with amazing views. You both are truly 'living the dream'.

    1. Thanks, Nick and Silke. Yes, that is Pascal you see working hard. He is an incredible source of construction knowledge and experience; we depend on him quite a bit. Let us know if you head down this way. Of course it is pretty far away from Hawaii!

    2. I have wanted to ask this but I have been afraid to. What ever happened to the two dogs over at the resort (a.k.a. Wooster and Jeeves)?

    3. Wooster and Jeeves are fine. The boy (real name Cayo) had a close call a few weeks back and almost died. He was bitten in the neck by a large creature, a javelina or maybe a big raccoon, and was slowly bleeding out when Termite heard him under the cabana. Pascal and I managed to stop the bleeding using a clot pack. Pretty sure that a major vein, fortunately not artery, was punctured. We arranged to transport him by boat (the road was too flooded to drive) to PG to the nearest available vet. Jason Williams from the village took Termite and Cayo to PG as darkness set in. The vet got things under control, but Cayo had to stay there for 3 days before he was well enough to travel back. It was touch and go for a day or two. He is back now, and seems as good as ever. The girl is still good, and still picks on Cayo, although she was lost while he was gone.

    4. Thank you for the update. I'm sorry to hear about Max. I know how easy it is to grow attached to our furry friends.

    5. Thanks. She was a good friend. We miss her.


Blog Readers -- your comments are invited. I would love to hear from you.