Keith's Panamanian Travel Ramble

The wanderings of Andrea and Keith around Panama

Activity Builds in the Rain

We awoke today to torrential rain and fog as thick as pea soup. Well, we had a backhoe scheduled to arrive on site for a two-day gig at 7:30 to begin digging out the area for our retaining wall and foundations. Sure enough, he was on time, which is unusual here. He waited around for an hour before announcing that he would be back tomorrow to begin the work and would not charge us for today. This is already a bargain at $50.00 per hour, but to not be charged due to weather was also a pleasant surprise.


Backhoe waiting for sunshine



Cement delivery


Cement storage


Control central


Today we are expecting Comasa, our building supply house, to deliver several truckloads of material to the site. The first truck had materials that were not required for any of today’s work. It was pouring rain and they delivered about 40 bags of cement, which had to be carefully stowed away in our temporary accommodation to protect them from the rain. You know what happens to cement when it gets wet! They also delivered bags of gravel and bags of sand that are required to make the concrete. At home, if you did not have your concrete delivered by a mixer, these materials would come in a dump truck but here, everything is bagged to allow for easier handling.

Perfect plywood

Perfect plywood

We also got sheets of ¾ inch plywood that would be used to build the forms for the concrete work. These were amazing sheets of plywood. At home, you would build furniture out of them or use them for finished woodworking. They were good both sides and had no knots or imperfections showing. I asked why we had bought such good quality materials, just to use for concrete forms. The reply was that these were the low-end plywood sheets. They are considered expensive but actually only cost around $5.00 per sheet. I did a quick check on low end ¾ inch plywood costs at Home Depot at home and found a sale price of about $35.00 per sheet and it was terrible looking wood, full of knots and imperfections.


#8 blocks with bags of sand and gravel


There were also #8 (eight-inch thick) concrete blocks delivered. Concrete blocks seem to come in several sizes. The #8 block will be used for our retaining wall, which is part of the foundation of the house. We are told that #8 block is unusual here and Comasa had to bring it up from the City. Most people just use #4 block, which is not strong enough for many of the uses people put it to. The #4 block (four inch thick) is intended for walls that contain no utilities like interior walls. There is also #6 block (you guessed it, six-inch thick blocks) that are used for walls that contain water and electrical conduits.

One other oddity here is that workers do not come with their own tools. You have to buy them most tools, like shovels, pry bars, boots, hard hats, etc. Apparently, we will end up with quite a collection of tools when we are done here. Can you say garage sale?

We also had a temporary electrical service installed today. This was wired by our electrician in a manner that I would describe as over kill for a temporary service. It was explained to me that they have “standards” that have to be met! There were three light sockets and four outlets installed in the temporary accommodation. This required two electrical boxes, each with two circuit breakers, one on the house and one on the electrical pole. An overhead wire was run to the pole via a tree. The total length of the run was about 20 meters. We are all ready now for I am not quite sure what. Someone packed a small microwave into the building this morning. Maybe a wide screen television will come tomorrow!


Drying the plans


6 Responses to “Activity Builds in the Rain”

  1. surveys

    Hey there! I’m at work browsing your blog from my
    new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the superb work!


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