Mar 22, 2012

Slow and steady...

The casita is coming along slowly with many little things under way, and will not be getting to completion this spring. As I mentioned in an earlier post, after the New Year when the casita shell and floors were done, we have been down to a crew of one. Or perhaps more like 1/2 worker. It seems my age and a chronically sensitive back have caught up with me this winter, and after morning-to-night activity of building, and a little time for my sports, tennis and volleyball, my back and sciatic nerves went on tilt. So I gave up up sports, and I have been taking it slowly on the work site, trying not to lift too much, or bend up, down or sideways too much, and coax my lower spine to get better.
Living in a workshop My finishing was going so slowly, all the little steps haven’t inspired me to be reporting its progress. Along with my sore back, I have caught a case of “maƱana”. Thanks to Susan for being patient.
Working down The List: --Install the windows and doors. --Paint and stain --Install the AC. --More lights, plugs and switches. --Shop for living room set couch and chair. --Build the wood furniture, bed, tables, shelves, wardrobes --Walls and doors for ensuite bath and closet. Some details follow... Windows and the sliding door came from stock sizes available at Home Depot. All went in pretty well though there still is some calking to do. Paint for the casita became another finding-just-the-right-colour-paint drill. For our two and a half rooms we tried out about a dozen this time, but the results, like goldilocks’ choice: not too bright, not too dull, but just right. The wood furniture was stained with a custom mix of acrylic red and brown and then urethane.
AC Mini-Split : Maxi-great For readers from the US and Canada who aren’t familiar with the mini-split air conditioner which is widely used down here and some other parts of the world, let me tell you it is a wonderful fixture. One of my main complaints of RV life in warm summers in Canada and warm winters in Mexico is living with the roof mounted AC. So noisy, inside and out. Little better are the options for a typical Canadian home when you want to add an AC to a room, you have to put up with the ugliness and whine from a window mounted AC unit. A mini-split is not those. It is mini -- good for a room or two or three, and it is split two parts. A condenser unit sits outside, on the ground, an outside wall or the roof. We have ours on our new cement roof. The second part is the unit which sits on an inside wall quietly distributing its cooling. It is almost silent except for a gentle cool fan. Mini Split ACs come in a few sizes. Ours is small, a 9k btu that runs on 110 volts. The larger units are 220 volt and have one, two or three cooling units. Homes and buildings down here don’t need central heating, and there are no pipes available to distribute AC either. So I think these ACs are quite efficient at distributing the the cooling where it is needed.
We checked out every furniture store we could find in Playa, and then took a couple of drives to Cancun. To make a long story short, we found what we needed at the Cancun Costco! Wood you, could you? A couple of years ago I designed and built our kitchen cabinets from scratch which was quite satisfying, so for the casita I set out to do all the interior woodwork -- the bed, side tables, bureaus, the closets, a desk, and living room cabinets and shelving -- about 15 items in all. The en-suite bathroom and one closet were framed with metal studs and moisture resistant gyprock. However for the woodwork, this time I thought I would up the challenge and try for a bit more of the “fine woodworking” effect. This meant using better wood, with stains and varnishes rather than paint. I am quite an amateur, but step by step, have been learning what materials are available and the method I can use to get a result I like. Once more I was prowling through the madera (wood) stores in our area. There seems to be a wide choice in laminated wood that is not the plain old G1S (good one side) pine plywood that I was familiar with from the lumber stores back home. They had names like Okume, Fresno, Encino, Sande, Haya, Coaba, some of which translated to Oak, Mahogany and Birch.
For the framing and edging of the cabinets, I found a nice hardwood called Haya which I am told is a birch from Germany. In the many times I have been to lumber yards and building centres in Canada, I never saw quality hardwoods. I remember my choices were very basic 2x4’s and the like. Upscale lumber was either just kiln-dried or perhaps cedar. Here in Playa, there seem to be all kinds of exotic woods. Mahogany of all shapes and sizes. Others had nice piles of clean, knot-free tight grained boards from Mexico as well as Europe and South America. These boards arrive in rough cut various dimensions, with noticeable chainsaw cut marks, from small mills in the jungle.
One huge ramshackle place is sort of a warehouse-workshop where you have to climb over under and around piles of exotic Caribbean woods.
I bought several of these -one a Zapote board approximately 2” x 12” that I used to make a headboard for the bed.
To build the bathroom counter, I found a couple of pieces of a beautifully grained wood called Machiche, one piece that is about 1.5 “ x 16” (x 8’), that I am using for the counter and for a coffee table. At these lumber stores there are saws and planers in order to cut down, straighten and smooth the boards you buy. I had them do one piece through their well worn planer, but it didn’t come out very even. I took the others “as is” and when I got them home, I attacked them with a belt sander.

1 comment:

CurlSnout said...

Nice post and work!!