Sunday, June 26, 2011

International Building Code.

This past week I have been finishing up some of the preliminaries to getting the addition started on the guest house. I did do a little digging to sample the soil structure where the addition goes and found that the top soil runs about 12 inches deep then changes to a clay base mix that is used to make bricks around here. I bring this up because the International Building Code for earthquake resistant housing calls for excavation of 3 feet and backfill to grade, for pouring a ground level cement slab. No one in the urban areas pays any attention to code and I am not bound to the code in the area I am building in but there is a reason for building codes and using them as a reference isn't a bad idea. I won't be following code for the slab I pour, I will be putting in a mud slab in place of the - dig 3 feet and backfill. In my opinion there is much less likelihood of a compaction problem and there will be no load to speak of anyway. I'll get into particulars when I  get there.

Had to do a little PM on the car this week, I've been putting some pretty hard miles on it lately. When I was changing the oil I noticed some ply separation on one of the tires - curb hopping in Quito I guess. $ 70 for a 14" radial tire, no mileage figures but it is the same as what came on the car and they have gone 59,000 kilometers - about 37,000 miles. I have to find someone to put the tire on the rim, I'll just carry it around in the car until I see a place that changes tires. You can put that on the list of things that are more expensive in Ecuador - I'd hate to have to buy tractor tires here.

I need to take Barb to the eye doctors tomorrow, she had a blood vessel break in her eye, so she can't see. She has had laser stuff done to her eyes before so if worse comes to worse she will head back to the U.S. to have it done again. Heck of a way to have an excuse to go back to the U.S. for a pair of shoes.

My agenda is on hold until we get Barbs eyes taken care of - I guess I can go get that dog I've been wanting or bore you to death about footer compaction and soil testing. I am thinking, dog.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hanging out in Cuenca

Since I was in town ( Cuenca ) for a few days, I figured I would go to the park and check out the Corpus Christi ( Body of Christ) celebrations. All kinds of sweets, everywhere. The celebration lasts about a week.

While in El Centro, we decided to go to our favorite Cuencian restaurant in the old neighborhood on Luis Cordero. We used to live on the corner of Pio Bravo and Luis Cordero but like most everyone, after you have been here a while, you find a bigger or better place.
The Nutibarra
The old neighborhood

These poor guys are in the street all the time; repairing the roads is a never ending job.

This old mare has seen better days.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Day Late and about $3000.00 short.

The power company engineer ( that term is applied very loosely ) finally showed up, a day later than the appointed days they specified. His whole concern about the electricity was where I wanted to mount the meter socket. Then there was the question of 120/240 volt single phase service. He wanted to add poles at $700 a wack, add a transformer about a half mile away at $3000 and, man oh man, was he ever worried about where I wanted to mount the meter socket. I don't know where he went to school but I am sure one of the courses he took was in how to milk the gringos. After all was said and done - I agreed to build a place to mount the meter socket and he agreed to use the existing transformer a half mile away and the existing high tension line to carry a 120 volt 50amp service. I will install the underground service to the guest house when the addition is done. The cost will be in the $100 range, after the cost of the ever important meter socket ($20) and pole for the service drop ($25). It's no different here than the U.S., a little common sense will take you a long way.

The gate is finally done. It takes about twice as long to weld with 1/8th rods at 70amps but that's all I can get out of my rigged up generator/welder outfit.
If I let the welded wire run wild over the top of the gate. In the U.S., I would have someone suing me tomorrow. As it is, I won't just have the wire running wild, I will string up barbed wire on top of that. The folks here use broken glass embedded in the top of walls and steel bars in the windows - an ounce of prevention I guess.

I'll be in town for a day or two, so I will probable post tomorrow about a thing or two.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Electricity ?

I have been having some difficulty getting the power company to show up at the property in La Paz to set a transformer for our electrical service.This isn't a matter of some gingo wanting power; I am using a former electric company executive to get this done. It has been three months since the request was made. The other day I was talking to the guy who owns the local video store and you guessed it, he has a cousin ........ How many times have I been down this road? The very next day I got a phone call from the power company to set up an appointment for the engineer to come out. I don't know who this guy knows but this is one of those rare times when somebody really does know somebody.

No pictures this week - forgot the camera. Didn't get much done anyway. I had to rewire the generator to take the full 30 amp load from the welder, which I had to modify so the shunt would have a farther travel - at this point I am maxing both out to get a minimal welding heat, but it works okay.

I'm getting a flow rate of about 120 gallons per hour across the driveway, coming right out of the side of the mountain. The water seems to be of better quality than the water that comes across the property from the reservoir at 100 gallons per minute. I may need to think about setting up a gravity feed system from the driveway to a storage tank - I need the contact time for chlorine anyway.

Next Wednesday or Thursday I should have a report on the arguments I will have with the power company engineer and the cost to get a user ready electric service.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

New toys.

I have been thinking lately (isn't that a title to a song?) about how our life would differ if we had stayed in the U.S. instead of moving to Ecuador. I think we would have just continued on the path we were on. Barbara would have kept teaching and putting up with the politics of a large University and I am not certain what I would be doing with real estate not coming back. I guess I would be losing my butt speculating. The thing that worries me the most is how bad the economy and politics have gotten in the last year in the U.S.. There really is no hope that the U.S. will recover to the way it was anytime in the near future and that bothers me. Sure, we are okay, living the life and doing whatever, whenever without weather constraints or rising gas prices but what are you folks in the U.S. going to do? How much waiting for a better day can you stand? On the coldest day of winter, when you think about how nice it would be to be in a warm climate, I am the guy who is there. On the hottest day of summer, when you wish for cooler weather, I'm there. When you have to cut into savings or the kids' educational trust funds because the cost of living keeps going up, wouldn't it be nice to have a steady lower cost of living? I am there. When you are on a fixed income and the CPI raises at an annual rate of 13%, how do you make ends meet?  The problem with all this is I feel guilty about it. I write about how great life is here and you guys are dealing with what will only become worse.

Well there it is, I've said my piece, now on with the show.

New toys for my projects. Since I haven't had any luck getting the transformer set at the place in La Paz, I'll have to provide my own power for a while - life goes on.

3000 watt generator with 6.5 h.p. motor - $225.
Angle grinder                                         - $30.
Circular saw (Black&Decker)                - $74 with 3 carbide tipped blades.

Tomorrow I will go to Coral and pick up a stick welder - about $80.

Next week I should get the front gate welded up and installed and do some work on the drainage for the driveway - at least check the flow rate. I'll post again in about 5 or 6 days.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Brick arch.

Did I ever mention I was old and hard-headed? I'll prove my point. I've been building stuff all my life and have put in a scad load of arches - wooden arches, brick, stone, and even some poured concrete arches. I got it in my head the other day to put in a brick arch in a window opening I was closing in. I had some extra bricks from taking down the chimney so I figured, why not? Now here is the hard-headed part - I decided I wasn't going to go to the trouble of building a form for one window that I was going to close in anyway - I'll freehand the arch.

Well as you can see it isn't exactly symmetrical. Sometimes I do stupid stuff but I can assure you I will build forms for the arches on the front porch.

I am having a hard time finding steel for the front gate. The idea is to use round tubular 2" conduit and bend it for the top edges, then fill in with welded wire. Like a stock gate only taller. I found some 2" conduit; the problem is they want a schedule 80 price for it. The gate doesn't have to hold buffalo in. I just want to know when someone shows up on my property that they came through the gate; then I know they are up to no good - I can deal with that.

La Paz is a great little town 3 kilometers from the property, 2 hardware stores, a cement block maker, a church, a school and a bunch of convenience stores. As far as I can tell we are the only gringos in the area but there are a lot of folks passing by on their way to Loja.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Playing with bricks.

In a previous post I mentioned how poorly a little brick building was built on the property in La Paz but that I was going to try to work with it so I could have a roof over my head when I was staying out there to get some work done. I"m still going to work with the structure but I'm going to show you what I mean.
The chimney on the right of the building wasn't tied to the building, so I removed 4 bricks at the transition from the fire box and here is what I got.

Easy take down but you can see the nice clean bricks with no mortar attached after it fell. This is the root of the problem. They used a weak mortar but most importantly they didn't wet the bricks so the bricks wicked the moisture from the mortar and it didn't stick. I see this type of brick work all over the place especially in rural areas. This is a earthquake zone, so I guess the bond beam they pour at the top of the walls keeps them from having to rebuild when the earth shakes.

I needed to make the door opening narrower so I used my salvaged bricks from the chimney, soaking three at a time in a 5 gallon bucket of water. The bricks are baked in a kiln but are porous so in the course of laying 20 bricks they soaked up 2 gallons of water. I am also using a larger aggregate sand so my mortar doesn't have to be so stiff to maintain a 1 inch mortar joint.
Tying in the new brickwork with 3/8" rebar every 16 inches.

A one to three mix with a little calcium carbonate - just my personal preference - there is no type N portland here, so I add some quick lime (calcium carbonate) to the type 1 portland that is available. Did I mention that I am old and hard headed?

Next week I should be able to get the gate posts blocked up and the front door installed  and maybe get to laying out the addition. I'll post again in 5 or 6 days.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The driveway moves up on the priority list.

I stayed on the property in La Paz for the first time - for 3 days. Got rained out on Friday; mixing and setting cement doesn't work very well in the rain.

First delivery of sand, gravel and blocks on Wednesday. I have water that runs across the driveway and when the first truck of sand and blocks came in I didn't even think that it may have blocked the drainage across the road - well it did. Flooded the lower half of the driveway, so when the second truck went to leave it got stuck in the muck. For about 5 hours we carried my newly delivered sand and gravel to the driveway by the bucket and the truck inched up the driveway until it reached the halfway mark, where the drainage ditch is. The drainage ditch will be the next project. I'll pipe it across the driveway and bury it - there is quite a bit of water coming out of the side of the hill next to the driveway. I can probably use it for livestock water and garden and crop irrigation which can all be gravity fed.

I'll be laying blocks for the front gate posts next week.
I've dug out the footer trench.

Poured the footers before the rain the next day - good way to slow down the cure time - keep it wet.
Because I will need to keep the block courses level over a 12 foot span I needed some line blocks for a string level and couldn't find any, anywhere. Naturally I decided to make some - same lack of tool problem, different project.
I glued some wood scraps ( great glue in Ecuador ) cut groves with a hacksaw blade and drilled a relief hole for the string. They work great and I can't break that glue joint.

I'll be playing with mortar next time around.