Taking Stock and A Timeout!

This is my ‘taking stock’ time.   I always choose the period which lies between late summer and the festivities of the Christmas season.  And, in as much as it is also in the heart of hurricane season, once I am complete, it will also be the time for a Timeout.

Back to my ‘taking stock’.  I search our house from top to bottom for flaws, cracks, rust, accumulated dirt, things that need scrubbing and of course, clean drains all the way back to source, the guttering.

I am a staunch advocate for keeping water where it should be, in the pipes or in the drain, therefore, anywhere it gathers and settles, becomes a ‘crisis’ zone.  I say ‘crisis’, because in true home maintenance terms ‘a problem waiting to happen’ is still a problem, not something you should address ‘mañana’.  Be proactive.  Your largest investment is never maintenance free or self healing!

englertKstyle-300x166So saying, a good choice of materials can and does extend a life expectancy.

PVC guttering is pretty reliable, but exposed to the sun over years, eventually can become brittle and prone to warping, cracking and unexpected damage.

Good aluminium guttering is truly a great investment and a God send, when it comes to weathering.

You can purchase a customized set of gutters, down pipes, connectors and fittings from ECMIL in the K-style.  The system is elegant and simple and will compliment almost any roof or home style.  If you have existing PVC or metal guttering, you probably have round down pipes and fittings.  If you only want new guttering, then K-Style can accommodate the connection with the majority of standard down pipe sizes.  Make sure you mention this to your ECMIL sales representative when discussing your requirements.


On with my quest.  If you are able, and I say this because there is a limit to what you as a homeowner should be doing after many years of hard work to get there, check your roof, look for loose screws, ridge caps, flashing, joins that need sealing tape or bat proofing.  You get the picture.  A little indulgent micro management of your favorite structure might just save you a bundle, going forward, so be fastidious.
If you can’t manage, don’t despair.  Get a more mobile local handyman to do this for you, using the camera of a mobile phone if necessary.  You will see the problems and be able to assess the work to be done.  Even give the job to the handyman!  How convenient.  Try not to use a contractor for this, unless you know the person very well.  I say no more!

Now we have checked the roof, guttering, down pipes and run offs, check your drains and where they carry the water.  If it is a culvert, make sure the way is completely clear and the flow is active.  If not, it is time to call Public Works.  If it affects you, it affect those around you, so get together and speak to the relevant authority.

The PWD then has a good reason to deploy a backhoe to clear potential mosquito breading grounds and havens for garbage and vermin.

Finally, just before you take that well earned Timeout, ‘take stock’ of your fencing, walls and security.  If you need to replace, add or amend, call ECMIL, consolidate an order and put your home in tip top condition.

Now, having addressed those pressing problems, you can take that Timeout with peace of mind.


Fence me in!

All of our efforts in this ever changing world, appear to focus on keeping and hopefully improving what we have accrued.

We save and spend, although often not in equal measure, to collect the items from which we not only derive pleasure, but somehow define us and our lives.  As that definition evolves, so does our ‘stuff’.  Where we put it is often a burden, but coupled to this, is the question of how we protect it.

I am a great believer in fences and gates.  They really do define our space.
They draw a definitive line around our world, which speaks volumes to those on the perimeter.  They marshal ‘strays’ into certain areas and protect others from prying eyes.

I like chain link fencing.  I enjoyed building ours, all 380 feet of it and still feel that our property is not as secluded or cut-off as a wall would have made it.

The process of chain-link fencing manufacture was developed in 1844, in Norwich, England, by Charles Barnard, using a machine based on cloth weaving.  To me, it somehow carries an industrial uniformity which is found in the best of cloth, without being soft; chain link looks like what it does.

I have heard many comments over the years, suggesting that chain link is “too temporary”, not having the ‘majesty’ of a stone or block wall, or even the ‘style’ of a wooden fence.  I would beg to differ.  All too often we build with little regard for the area that surrounds our property, throwing up stone or concrete block walls, as if screaming “This is mine…and it’s my castle!”  Your castle it most certainly is, but generally you don’t require security equal to or passing the FBI headquarters at Quantico, or the Tower of London.  It’s often grandiose, dwarfs or detracts from the house and the area and in the final analysis, can be way too expensive. Interestingly enough, it was brought to my attention that a wall, once scaled, easily hides an intruder from the road, whereas chain link allows for greater vision, with security.

It comes in many sizes, dependent upon the manufacturer.  ECMIL can provide galvanized chain link fencing wire in 4′, 5′ & 6′ wide rolls, 2.65mm gauge, 75′ in length.

For a perimeter fence, 6′ is ideal.  We set our 2″ upright poles at 8′ centres, bringing the fence line 1′ in from the boundary and adding top rails (1.5″) and angled corner supports.  We also cast a low footing between posts, which grips the chain link at the base.

All things considered, chain link offers a different perspective.  It defines and protects your space with a light, airy feel, while making your boundaries appear clean and tidy.  It’s also economical, quick to put up and to replace.  It is to be noted that the combination of concrete gate posts, a custom built decorative gate, fabrication courtesy ECMIL chain link fencing and barbed wire, will give you the best of all worlds, with a substantial upgrade to your security.

There are as many ways to setup a chain link fence as there are contractors to do it, so choose wisely if you don’t do it yourself.  And even if you do, before you do, call ECMIL for the right materials and experienced advice.

Hats off to Henry!

Just staring at my Spanish Tile roof, it’s enlightening to consider the cultural significance of the material and the history that it carries.

So with a little research I discovered that ‘Corrugated galvanized iron’ or ‘CGI’ (it was originally made from wrought iron), was invented in the 1820s by a British architect and engineer named Henry Palmer, for the London Dock Company.

It was light, strong and easily transported and therefore lent itself to prefabricated structures and considerable improvisation by unskilled or semi-skilled workers.

With these properties and its ease of use, it became the construction material of choice, especially in rural areas of the United States, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, India and the Caribbean.  In fact in New Zealand, Australia and the Caribbean it has become so much part of the cultural identity, that stylish architectural use has become common in urban and rural areas, creating consumer demand for infinite variation.

It is remarkable to consider that one seemingly simple invention could have done so much in the development of so many countries and cultures, become so fashionable as to have such a vast range of colours, styles, accessories and finishes and played such a central role in assisting the common man find shelter, business and dignity.

From grand public buildings to gingerbread and chattel houses, the humble ‘long drop’ and banana shed, dog kennel, fence or wall, “galvanize” has protected us from all the elements, in a particularly economical way.

Coverage has always been the problem, and the expense.  Galvanized roofing resolves that and with such innovations as insulation foil, the all pervasive question of temperature begins to be addressed too.  It warms my heart, as a designer, that material manufacturers to the construction industry, continue to develop the simplest of things, which will inevitably create the greatest social impact to all of us;  better screws, better shapes, more resistant surfaces and cutting tools.

As laymen we are all steeped in outcomes, not mechanics.  So, it’s the shape, the colour and the finish that makes us stare.

The clever people at ECMIL helped me choose, gave me advice, delivered a product for which Henry would be justly proud, at an economical price, kept our castle secure and continued a successful 200 year old tradition with a familiar friend.

Thanks for your vision Henry!

When the Ordinary becomes Extraordinary!

It is remarkable just how much work a wheelbarrow can do
and for that matter, how much of a distance it travels!

For a mason, it is the vehicle of choice, carrying cement, blocks, sand and ready mix, even concrete or plaster, often across a vast array of make shift bridges constructed from 12 by 1 casting boards to the latest destination during construction.

What makes this possible without disaster?  The rubber tyre, as it bounces over different heights and imperfections in its path.

For carpenters, plumbers and electricians the humble wheelbarrow plays an equally critical role as the single most important utility tool on any building site.

A solid construction enables a wheelbarrow to achieve its primary goal with dry and wet cargo.  This is where steel plays such an important part.  This often ignored vessel will be bashed, bumped, dropped from a great height and stressed beyond belief, all in the name of construction.  The rubber and wooden varieties are for light gardening – practical, if somewhat cosmetic.  A steel constructed wheelbarrow will make it through the building process, to endure the indignity of removing the last of the site garbage, only to become the home owner’s friend and favorite garden companion.

An important side bar to this is that you should never lend your wheelbarrow.  It will be like losing your right arm during the time it’s gone and will somehow never be the same again when it returns!

So if prudence be your principle, never disregard the importance of simple devices.  When we decided to order our Spanish Tile roof from ECMIL, along with custom built burglar bars, guttering and chain link fencing, we bought two wheelbarrows, with steel reinforced metal pans, steel frames and pneumatic wheels.  Years after construction and many jobs later, they are still going strong!  They are our trusty laborers to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.

Maybe one day I ‘ll re-spray them.

Staying on the Money

Wouldn’t it be nice to control the price of your building process?

An experienced eye for materials, good initial estimation and well conceived Bill of Quantities are essential.  Equally, a contractor who sees the value in reducing waste and being frugal, will assist in body swerving an impending overrun bill, which is the single biggest holdup to home completion.

So what can we do as clients?  Do we just bite the bullet, say “in God we trust” and be the silent partner in a potential financial trauma, just waiting to happen?

There are many ways in which the client can manage the construction process, to thwart willful disregard of ‘your’ materials.

If humanly possible, be present at the major events of the process and stand firm; cutting of the land – “where is my top soil going to be stored?”  Delivery of local materials such as blocks – “is that a 1,000 blocks and why are those ones broken?”  Delivery of lumber and plywood – “why do those 2 x 6s look warped?” You get my point!

Bulk purchase prior to construction will always save.  Rebar for foundations and columns, welded mesh for floors and stairs, nails for general construction and casting forms, hot and cold water CPVC and PVC piping and electrical conduit, even sturdy wheelbarrows for the movement of everything from earth, bags of cement, concrete and even garbage.  If it fits in a container and can be left on site for the duration, it will facilitate a rapid start to building, become your lockup and your first defense against inevitable larceny and above all, as a consolidated shipment, save you valuable dollars during one of the largest financial commitments in your life.

ECMIL can do this for you, from steel to PVC piping, rolls of roofing insulation, guttering and accessories, your Colorcoat roof and even custom fabrication such as burglar bars.  They can pack it to suit your needs and deliver in a container or on a palette to your requirements.  As a side bar, the on-island agents for your container will give you a short grace period prior to return, with the possibility of rental for the duration of your requirement.  So find out who the agent is from your supplier and make the call.  It will save you time and headaches down the road.

Discuss all of these issues with your builder, architect and with an ECMIL representative, ask questions, make a plan and an order of events and save yourself and your valued project from unnecessary waste, from the earliest stage of production.

Great construction stories come from good plans, partners, supply and better execution.  In as much as others supply and build for you, getting involved pays dividends and stretches your budget, so you maximize your opportunity for a timely entry to your brand new home.

The Colour of Home

The make or break of a new house is often down to the colour of its roof and walls. Over the years of living in the Caribbean, we have all witnessed the highs and lows!

To bring out the best in your newly designed future home and to avoid disappointment later, take into consideration the environment, where your house is located.  Is it a predominantly rural or urban setting?  What roof colours already exist?  What are the colours that least appeal to you?  Do you want to blend in, or make a bold statement?  Answering these simple questions will begin the process of formulating your colour palette.

Take a long hard look at ECMIL’s colour choices.  Download the .pdf file from ecmil.net, print them and hold them next to your house plans and elevations.  It’s balanced, contrasting or complimentary colour that we are looking for here.  Fashion is bright and new, but transient.  A colour which brings out the best, reveals the greatest character of your home’s features – a colour which is for all seasons across many years!  Remember to consider the colour of the walls.

Always look for the subtleties in a single story ranch style home.  It settles into the landscape, so Pale Terracotta, Pale Euclytt, Auqamarine or Torres Blue will brighten up darker walls, whereas Teal or Copper Penny will balance and contrast a stronger, richer wall colour.

A two story home with lighter walls makes a strong statement, so imperial Orange, Monica Red, Manor Red or Blue Brook will reinforce this character.

If your home is unpainted or stained timber, or stone, consider Teal or Pale Terracotta.  This combination has a very natural appearance and compliments the environment.

Don’t stop your creativity now!  Accessorize!  Your facia boards, clean white K-Style guttering and down pipes were made to stylishly highlight the transition between roof and walls.  If you are really brave and want to add a ‘signature’ flair to your roof, consider a contrasting flashing and ridge cap colour.  There’s nothing wrong with creating visual interest and colourful highlights on a single colour roof.  Remember, in an island environment where houses often do not have street numbers, “the house with the dark green roof and the orange flashing” will stand out and give instant directions!

Whatever you choose, remember that your castle will be covered by your roof colour choice for a great many years, so embrace your desire for colour and stand out from the rest of the street, with subtlety or with a punch, make your statement and colour your home to make it yours.


For your Reference

This is a standard Colour Wheel illustrating the relationship between primary and complementary colours.  Use this as a general guide to assist your understanding of roofing and wall colours.