Keith's Panamanian Travel Ramble

The wanderings of Andrea and Keith around Panama

Watertight! I hope…

As we approach the end of our stay in Panama for another year, I thought you might be interested in some of the work that we had done on our house during our visit.

Last year, during the rainy season, the people staying in our house identified some water problems. Here, in the rainy season (April through November), water can really come down. This is not a bad thing as long as you and your house are properly prepared for the volume. Also, the mud is like in Edmonton. You get taller as you walk through it!

There were some areas of concern that were prioritized for our visit this year. Our roof was not sealed well enough and there was a minor leak during heavy rains. This has been corrected and we find it much quieter when the wind blows as the roof caps are not exposed to catch the wind and whistle. Also, the dead leaves have stopped floating down from the roof during windy days. No need to rake the floor inside the house any more.

Another concern was in the office. There is a sliding glass door there that is actually mounted too low. There is no way for the rain that hits the door and runs down and into the track, to drain so the floor in the office can get wet. The correct solution is to remove the door and remount it again higher and open the drain holes in the track to the outside. We will install ceramic tile outside on that patio so the height will increase. Once again, we are impressed with the ingenious solutions that our Panamanian workers come up with. Sebastian, who will lay the tile for us next year, suggested installing a small sloped trough across in front of the door, draining through the wall. This will give the water in the track a place to drain. We tested it by turning the hose on the outside the glass door and found that the inside stayed dry. Impressive and lots less work than raising the door.

Last year, our lower level under the front deck, got quite a bit of water into it. The water was coming through the concrete wall and eventually pooled in the middle of the room. Our investigation showed that there was a hole outside the house, just at the place where the water came in. The outside drainage had run into the hole and into the house. This side of the house is a problem as the ground slopes toward the house. The side of the house is also badly stained from the heavy rain splashing the mud up on the house. It is also difficult to walk down the side of the house due to the steep slope of the ground. Our solution was a series of things. First we build a narrow sloped sidewalk out from the house. This will improve access as well as keep the rain from staining the house when it hits the mud. Next to the sidewalk, we built a small open concrete trench from the top of the house all the way to the bottom. Downspouts were extended and now drain into the trough as does the surface drainage from the sloped ground beside the house. We think this will solve our problem with water in the downstairs area as well as improve access and protect the house from mud staining.  We installed a Panamanian eves trough on a small roof.  Interesting… take a three inch plastic pipe and cut a slot the length of the roof then slide it over the edge of the roof and put a downspout on it.  They love plastic pipe here!

We have added a driveway this year as during the rainy season vehicles pick up mud between the end of the road and the carport. We learned that grass is planted as plugs of grass rather than seed.  Seed disappears as soon as the birds find it.  We also added some yard lighting with a couple of high intensity LED lights on motion sensors. It works pretty well to light the outside when people leave or approach the house.

We also got our interior doors this year.  We had them made at a shop about 45 minutes away where all they do is make doors.  We found it by accident while looking for another place that is no longer in business.  They make everything out of Sour Cedar, which the bugs will leave alone.  He even let us change the design and colors of a door he had, partly built, in the shop.  Watching the installation was painful.  They did use power tools but not the ones you would expect.  The door had to have a small piece removed from the length.  They used a power grinder with a wood disk.  They use the tools they are most used to working with, even though we would use something else.

It has been an interesting season!

6 Responses to “Watertight! I hope…”

  1. Altos Del Maria

    Yes, as you refer to, it’s crucial to be aware of the power of the rain here. When it rains, it rains!

    Many of my friends here in Altos have to get roof issues fixed each year. Keeping gutters clear of leaves and rubbish is important, as well as fixing cracked tiles.

    By the way, I just found your blog tonight. Love it. Great photos.

    • Keith

      Thanks for joining us. We have been to Altos Del Maria and love its similarity to Altos del Cerro Azul. Both developments by the same developer, I believe. I like ours because of its proximity to the airport (PTY).

      • Altos Del Maria

        Thanks for the reply.

        Very true. It is close to Tocumen. Yes, both are Melo mountain projects. I think from memory, Cerro Azul was built first.

        Agreed, both are lovely developments. I occasionally go down to the malls at ocean level, at Coronado, Westland, etc, but cannot wait to get back to the coolness and beauty of the mountain.

        However, to live this type of existence, on the medium to longer term, one has to be relatively mentally self-sufficient (be able to amuse and occupy one’s self). It’s not for everyone.

        For many of us though it is paradise. Over the years, I must have taken over 20,000 photos of the mountain here. The view never gets boring…..constantly changing cloud patterns. And I never need heating or cooling.

      • Keith

        Yes, both developments were done by Melo and Cerro Azul was built first, around 50 or so years ago I believe. Agreed that this kind of living is not for everyone but our reasonably large expat community keeps busy with charity, fitness, and social activities. You can have as much or as little as you want. Our biggest problem is humidity. We have had to learn how to manage it. It is challenging but achievable.

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