Friday, March 25, 2016

Pool Project: Week Two

This week has been exhausting for the crew, us, and the dogs. The guys were bound and determined to pour the floor for the pool seating area, finish digging out the pool area, installing the drain and release valve, plus building the pool's vertical steel basket. Let's see how they did.

I am going to start with the pool seating area. At the end of last week, this is what that area looked like:

Not much room there for seating with all that dirt. 

The crew obviously removed the piles of dirt, as well as the earth beneath it to create a level base. 

With that task done, they put down plastic and tied the steel grid for the floor.

Then it was time to pour the cement.

While all of that was going on, work was underway for the pool. More dirt was excavated and block was going up to form the outer wall.

Some of the block needed to be trimmed, so the dulcet sound of a power saw echoed throughout the land.

And just when we thought the din of the saw was teeth rattling enough, the cacophony intensified. At any given time on Tuesday and Wednesday, we heard the saw, a hammer drill, the cement mixer, plus the lawn mower Fernando was using to chop the yard. We had to practically yell to one another to be heard. The dogs were less than happy with all the commotion, but, believe it or not, the cat slept through it all.

In the midst of the seating area floor being poured and the pool area being dug out, the contractor, foreman, and plumber put together a mock-up of the pool shape using random blocks.

With David's input they calculated the curve of the seat and where the steps needed to go.

In the meantime, some of the crew were bending more steel for the vertical pool basket.

Work was almost done in clearing out the dirt from the pool area, but the guys needed to make a slight adjustment to the block they had already put down to give them more room to work. Any guesses how they did that? If you guessed with a jack hammer, you're the winner. Poor Olivia, our small dog, was beside herself and needed some cuddles to finally calm down. The cat never woke up.

With pool floor cleared and leveled, gravel was put down. 

The next step was to install the drain, release valve, and the drain piping.

With that work done, some of the crew spent yesterday putting plastic on the pool floor and started the placement of the steel grid.

Once the block starts to be put in place for the pool itself, steel will be run horizontally every tier of block or two to complete the basket.

David and I escaped this beehive of activity to pick out tile for the floor of the seating area and for a decorative flourish inside the pool.

We picked out this gray, marble-like tile for the floor:

The tile measures 22" x 22" and has a nice, textured surface to help prevent people slipping.

For inside the pool -- at the water line, the base of the seating area, and step risers -- I picked out this:

David was shocked, because I almost always select stuff in neutral colors. But something about these lovely jewel tones spoke to me. We will probably use 3 or 4 rows to decorate the inside of the pool.

By the end of yesterday, the crew accomplished what they set out to do at the beginning of the week, and then some. 

Our pool seating area has a floor, the walls have been started and the conduit for our outlets and switches installed. 

The pool has its vertical steel basket, columns have been partially filled, and we're set to have the base poured next week.

The crew is off for the Easter holiday and won't return until Monday. We have been relishing the peace and quiet, with the only sounds being the whir of the ceiling fans and the rustling of palm fronds. I find it amazing just how much having all this work going on makes us mentally exhausted. There hasn't been a night this week that we haven't face planted ourselves in bed by around 8:00. But then both of us wake up in the wee hours of the morning with stuff shooting through our brains. 

After a three day rest, I am sure we will be raring to go come next week when the fun starts again.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pool Project - The End of Week One

The end of the first week of our project drew to a close with much forward progress.

On Friday, the crew mixed a boatload of cement and poured the footer.

All of the cement was vibrated to ensure it was even and there were no air gaps.

On Saturday, block started to be put in place, on the footer, for the exterior walls.

Each tier of block was cemented together and the corner blocks were filled with cement.

While all that was going on, a couple of the guys started digging out what will eventually be the pool itself.

I think it's important to point out that all of this manual labor is being done with the sun beating down on the guys and with 90-degree temperatures. We have never heard any of them grousing. Instead, to the muted strains of Spanish music, we hear some of the crew singing or whistling to the music and a fair amount of laughter. 

The other thing that happened yesterday was Mr. Mario taking us to another construction project he has going on to take a look at the wood framed screens.

We will be using shade cloth for our project. It's incredibly sturdy and with having a cat, it holds up well should the vixen decide to climb the screens.

After looking at and discussing framing options, we've decided to go with pressure treated 2" x 4" pine. The wood will be planed (if needed) and sanded. Then a light oak stain and two coats of varnish will be applied. 

In discussing the go-forward game plan for our project with Mr. Mario, he said that if all goes well, the basic structure of our pool house -- including the roof -- should be done in the next three weeks. The ensuing weeks will be spent doing the finishing work, such as painting, laying tile, installing the screens, etc.

We thought we would have a quiet Sunday, but with the Easter holiday coming up, the crew asked if they could work today, as they will be off on Friday and Saturday of this week. We said it would be fine. So as I type this to the strains of Spanish music, more block is being put in place and the hole for the pool keeps getting bigger. 

I think I need to find out what CD they're playing; it's grown on me.

Friday, March 18, 2016

What a Difference a Few Days Make

Boy, stuff has been happening around here during the last few days. First off, there has been a ton of digging done to create the trenches for the footers of the pool and pool house.

This shot was taken on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, the dirt piles really grew. It's now at a point that getting to our forest of tomato plants is becoming a bit of a challenge.

By late Wednesday, the crew finally hit the marl level. This is far more stable than the black dirt.

While all that digging was going on, other crew members were bending and tying steel (rebar) for the base of the footers and the columns.

A close-up of their work:

We had an "oops" moment when one of the day laborers (a.k.a. ants) accidentally hit the junction of the sewer pipe that runs from our spare bathroom. The pipe was clearly marked and David had reminded the guys of its placement, but one enthusiastic smack with a pick axe was all it took. Fortunately, we have two bathrooms so it wasn't a big deal to wait until Thursday morning to have repairs done.

And that's exactly what happened. By 8:00, the plumber on the crew was here, took measurements, bought parts, and everything was fixed.

Short detour from the action. While the dogs don't have free rein to run the yard while the crew is here, they do enjoy checking out all the new stuff in the yard after they leave.

Cici has claimed the sand pile as her own. Hail the queen of the mountain!

Okay, back to the trenches.

With having dug down to the marl level, the crews laid plastic on the bottom of the trenches.

Then came the fun part of maneuvering the 40 foot steel supports into the trenches, over the dirt piles.

Earlier in the day, the guys used a mold and poured a slab of cement, which they then scored into squares. They will be using these squares today to help level out the steel.

A load of sticks was delivered, which will be used multiple ways. But for now, they are acting as the preliminary support for the columns.

And to wrap up all the activity during these few days, we received pool parts yesterday afternoon from Island Pool, located in San Pedro. They were delivered via The Thunderbolt water taxi. So now we our pool pump/filter, sand, drain, and other sundry pieces and parts.

Today all the columns are being straightened and leveled, plus the guys (with the help of a handful of ants) will be pouring the footer. You can be sure there will be more pictures of that action and the block laying in the footer scheduled for Saturday. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

And So It Begins

Yesterday marked the official start of our pool project and, boy, was it exciting and slightly crazy.

The crew arrived and started staking out the site. When that was done, work began on digging the trenches for the footers. This is being done by hand and is back breaking work. But in spite of this hard labor, all we heard were guys whistling and laughing.

Another thing that amazed us is that they were all wearing hard hats, work boots, and reflective vests. If you live in Belize any length of time, you will realize what a novelty this is for a construction crew. 

While all that was going on, we started getting more materials delivered. First came the block.

I think David said we have about 600 pieces. We suspect more will be needed, but this will at least keep the guys busy for the near term.

While the block was being off loaded, in came a dump truck with another load of sand.

The sand man no sooner left, then the truck arrived with bags and bags of cement.

And just when we thought the deliveries were over, in came a truck and trailer with 40 foot lengths of steel (rebar).

By 5:00, the crew packed up their tools and called it a day. We were exhausted and we didn't do any of the work!

We were surprised, but delighted, that many of the guys showed up a little early today to get started. They immediately went to work digging the trenches. This 7:30 to 5:00 work schedule will be the routine six days a week for the project duration. 

While it's very early on, I am so impressed with the work ethic and professionalism of these guys. Keeping fingers crossed we have nothing but smooth sailing going forward.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Slices of Life in Belize, March 13, 2016

Pool Project Update

Well, things are finally moving with our pool project. For starters, we were put in touch with two other contractors and, figuring we had nothing to lose, asked them for estimates. Turned out it was a good decision. We now are signed on with a Mr. Mario. He has done lots of construction, including pools, in the area. He has three teams of workers, owns his own equipment, such as cement mixers, and is as nice as can be.

We have already taken delivery of gravel and sand...

...and the crew will be here tomorrow morning to start digging the foundation. We're also going to get another load of sand on Monday. If all goes according to plan, the project should be done in about eight weeks. Clearly, I will be blogging throughout, so be sure to check back here for updates.

Water Pump

We don't have a well, and instead rely on city water. And while it's perfectly fine for doing the dishes, taking showers, and such, it's not so tasty to drink or cook with. So we have 5 gallon jugs of purified water delivered to our house. But here's the thing -- a common way of dispensing the water is to hoist a 5 gallon jug, turn it upside down and stick it onto a base that has a manual on/off valve. 

But boy, are those full jugs heavy and we aren't getting any younger, especially our backs. We figured there had to be some device out there that wouldn't require lifting the jug and turning it upside on a dispensing base. And here's the solution:

This is a battery operated pump that is screwed into the top of the water jug. We purchased it through Amazon and it only costs about $20 (USD). So far, it has worked like a champ and a worthy investment. 

DVD/Blue Ray Woes

The DVD/Blue Ray player we brought down with us from the States recently gave up the ghost and couldn't be repaired. So we went to Court's, here in town, to see what they might have. They had a new LG model that fit the bill, so we purchased it.

Not long after, we popped one of the movies we brought down with us and in that process the player requested its software to be updated. Thinking nothing of it, we let the update do its thing.

Not long after that we wanted to watch another movie we had from States. However the player spit the disc out with a message, "Check Regional Code." After doing some online investigation, we discovered that when the software update happened, the device recognized we were in Belize and not the region that it was originally programmed for. 

Now on older models there is a code you could tap in to change the region. But on the new models, there are no codes, and when we contacted the LG customer support they let us know they won't/can't change the code. They also told us that we should have no problem playing DVDs produced in our region. Not much chance of that happening.

Now here's the irony: this region code exists to prevent movies being pirated. The only movies that we can play are the bootleg ones sold in almost every grocery store here. 

So what do we do now? Order a player from the States and disable the software update feature. Sigh...

Avian Visitors

The other day, while sitting on the porch, we noticed this mama bird and her two babies:

They saw their reflections in the car windows and were pecking at their images. 

No sooner had they flown off, then this gorgeous guy showed up in our field across the lane:

You just never know what kind of wildlife you'll encounter here!

P.S. If you have a moment, check out the latest dishes appearing on The Wright Table, including: