Categories
Construction

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part13: Dear Ash Tree (aka 2nd half of roof)

The next step was an un-news-worthy disassembling, moving, and reassembling of the scaffolding. However this time the scaffolding was a tight fit because of some obstacles, including an ash tree. We’ve been aware of this ash tree from back when we took down the old roof and started walking and working on the walls. We knew some cutting would be required, but since we couldn’t reach it, we didn’t dwell on it.

Now, while assembling the scaffolding in and around the ash tree I could both reach and look the challenge in the eye. I did not like what I saw. This is the tree coming up from the ground:

This is a major branch growing towards the house:

… and passing directly between the rafters:

… and this was a large, tall and wide branch:

… and I looked at it … and I said to Iulia that I don’t want to take this task on. I asked her to try to find someone from the village who is experienced with a chainsaw in tight/high places to simply make this challenge disappear.

and … no such luck … so … it was … yet again … up to me. I got into the safety gear, added Iulia’s bike helmet to the outfit and took a deep breath.

Iulia was VERY emotional … in tears. I was up in the scaffolding holding a chainsaw … in my mind … talking to the tree explaining what I was about to do … asking for understanding and, if possible, cooperation.

I started moving very slowly … and in the spirit of graduality, I started with a smaller branch that also needed to come down. I got comfortable with the chainsaw and cutting to avoid getting the saw caught by the weight of the branch … and it went OK.

Then it was off to the main event. I started cutting through the large branch until I could feel it start to move. I stopped and let it take its course … it started to lay down on the roof. I assumed that it would go that way and hoped the roof would hold up. I repeated this, cutting and letting it settle a few times … until … the cut went all the way through and the brach pulled away from me as it settled onto the roof:

I then stopped and considered my options. I came up with a strategy of cutting off the parts close to me (near the edge of the rafters) … allowing it to move and settle again … and repeated that … until I could nudge it. And we ended up gradually moving/rolling towards the edge of the building while cutting off more and more pieces and branches as they became accessible to me … until:

… it lay on the ground … and the rafter tails were all exposed and accessible and tree-less:

… and that was the end of that day … the house, myself and the tree could continue to co-exist peacefully:

Anchoring the safety cord turned out to be tricky. We had to find an anchor point that would not apply pressure to the already installed rain gutter on the 1st side. We had to go way across the yard, utilizing the full length of the cord:

… and the next day began a (mostly) repeat of the roof decking process … this time with a tool belt which made a world of difference!

Iulia was able to arrange tools and process in a way that allowed her to provide me again with ground support (cutting and raising planks for me to install) with her arm in a cast:

… and I was working my way up the roof until I reached the ridge from the other side:

… and closed that too:

… and the rain gutter:

… and then the waterproofing layer came on … and flashing:

… and I really wanted to finish the roof by putting on the roofing shingles …. BUT … we arrived at a planned/unplanned detour … more on that next time!

Categories
Construction

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part12: Roof Decking

After the scaffolding was up I could approach the fascia boards. I had to get used to being up on the scaffolding and moving around with the safety gear, between parts of the scaffolding and the mulberry tree branches (I trimmed some that were too much in the way and felt unsafe to me … but tried to keep trimming to a minimum).

With Iulia injured I had to come up with a way to hold in place and screw in the fascia boards. It was time for a jig, and it was named Iulia2. It held up one end of the board while I tended to the other end:

The fascia board was made up of three parts (two shorter pieces in the end and a longer one in the middle). After the fascia board I went to the side with extended (high) scaffolding and started putting on decking … I could not get very far because of limited reach:

So I stacked up some boards at the high scaffolding end … where I had more reach:

I tested and found I was “comfortable” sitting on the roof where there were three boards … so I laid out more boards ahead of me … and gradually moved along, dragging my seated ass along the roof screwing down the decking.

Iulia was still trying and able to provide “ground service” by cutting boards to length and handing them over for me to install.

… and eventually a decked roof started to appear:

… at this moment I realized I was watching the sunset standing taller than the ridge beam that, not long ago, seemed high up:

Around this time Iulia went to a doctor and found out her elbow was fractured … so she was out of the game. I, slowly, continued on … measuring up on the roof, going down to cut, raising boards, going up, installing them, measuring again … and found a good rhythm

At this point, I was getting on and off the roof with increasing frequency and even at the highest point of scaffolding getting on required too big a step (a small climb).

I also anticipated that soon, when it came time to put in the rain gutter, I would not be able to “climb” and that I would need to be able to step on the roof. So it was jig time again:

… and Napolean was born … an improvised two step stool that gave me another 60-70cm of height. It turned out heavier than I expected … and I had to figure out a way to get it up to the highest scaffolding. I carried up to the 2nd level … from there I placed a board across to the scaffolding next to the high scaffolding … and pushed it across … this felt simultaneously ingenious and ridiculous:

The name Napoleon came intuitively … but when I stepped on it and from it onto the roof for the first time I understood why. I imagined that the little guy needed something like this to get on his horse. My horse was a roof 🙂

Then I crossed over to the scaffolding, pulled it across, lifted it up to its final destination, screwed it down … and … stepped onto the roof:

… and got back to work:

Doing this work I came to appreciate tool belts … but didn’t have one yet (though did end up getting one in the coming weeks). Instead, I created this small holder-jig that I moved around with me:

… and, sooner then I thought, the last board was sticking out waiting to be installed:

… and the first half of decking was done:

Then installing the rain gutter … finding a level reference line:

… and then tilting in the direction I wanted the water to flow … installing hanger along the tilted line:

… putting in the first gutter segment … and pouring in some water that flowed nicely out:

Despite my best efforts, when the gutter was installed completely there was still a small pooling area that held about a liter of water … but overall it turned out OK.

The last step was to install the water-proofing layer:

Then it was time to move to the other side … where another adventure was to be met before the other half of the roof could be installed.

Categories
Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part11: Scaffolding

We left off last time with a framed roof and our sights were now on the roof itself. Before going there we decided to lightly frame in the two sidewalls (to give the structure a bit more rigidity).

So we started with yet another evening charring preparing the next pieces we needed. I am amazed how any task, no matter how simple (such as charring wood) can be refined … a quality of mastery can be evoked from it. There are soooo many small details that we’ve encountered and figured out to do charring well (and I am confident that more refinement is still possible).

And the next day some cutting, assembling and a bit more torch-charring (surfaces are exposed after cutting … and the window frame was in storage awaiting installation):

and pretty soon we had one window framed in (still missing a header … to come at a later time):

We were unclear about the positioning of the other window … so we set up its base:

and then alternated between different positions and each of us holding it in place while the other went to look from different angles:

Then it was time for the next “main event” – construction of the scaffolding along one side of the structure. In anticipation of this I prepared a fairly clear image of the tasks that required scaffolding. Iulia stumbled, and in stopping her fall fractured her elbow … greatly limiting her mobility.

I could write an entire post on why we decided to make our own scaffolding … but don’t really have space for that. Suffice to say, that was our initial preference, but after some inquiry, we decided not to go down that path.

We started at the beginning, setting up the first scaffolding. This was installed at the low end of the structure (the ground slopes along the long sides). I needed to see if this would be enough to get me where I needed to go.

This was more involved than anticipated: the ground was too uneven for leveling and so some digging was required to create a flat enough surface. But ultimately it came up and looked promising. I could reach the rafter tails and over the edge of the roof … but not much more. We had another scaffolding in a similar size and another smaller “family edition” one … that was really designed for a “pro” installation stacking on top of one of the higher ones. But as I looked at this I realized that even those two (can be seen standing against the wall on the right side of the picture) would not be enough. I needed access to the entire length of rafters from side to side.

Again, we made some inquiries about improvised solutions … and went back to the workshop to make another large scaffolding … it took one work day and was ready to go (by now we had a tried-and-true production process for scaffolding):

We then went to the other end … where yet another first challenge awaited us … stacking of the small scaffolding on top of the large scaffolding … which would allow me to stand with my feet 4 meters off the ground. First the base scaffolding:

Then add a cat … that effortlessly climbed up the diagonals as if to mock my efforts to reach these heights:

Then, despite the cat, install the extension connectors (I am skipping a ton of small challenges … such as fastening bolts from the outside while working entangled with the branched of the tree which we pruned as little as possible … you know … so we could be good neighbors):

… then raising up the parts (not enough hands to both do and take pictures) of the “family edition” scaffolding and assembling them on top … and … well:

The next day we installed the middle scaffolding … and I had a “jungle jim” to work on:

The middle scaffolding was installed close enough to one side so it was possible to walk from one to the other:

… and from that we added a plank that allowed me to work and travel to the other end (where the tall scaffolding awaited me):

In the end, most of this work is so I can screw in some boards together (a very simple task) … but getting there … that is a challenging journey. This is a good example of yet another deep pattern we encounter over and over again … preparation is a large part of any task. It is so tempting to think of the actual work I want to get done as “the work” … but many times the peripheral work takes up much more then the “actual work”

In this case it was possible to start working on this:

… but more on that in the next post …

I am behind on posting because I’ve been really focused on getting a water-shedding roof onto the structure (not quite there yet … but almost there!). This brings us to about two weeks ago (end of August).

Categories
Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part10: Going Out on Two limbs (aka: Roof Framing)

This segment of the story starts with an innocent-looking picture – a first test assembly of the homemade scaffolding … it felt sturdy but did not feel good for testing given the uneven ground next to the workshop:

Assuming the scaffolding was going to work … the next challenge was to get a ridge-beam (“technical” terms are a bit inevitable here … I will keep it simple and the pictures will hopefully provide clarity) set at the correct height and precisely aligned in the middle of the space. We built two posts to support the ridge beam and the original plan was to let them stand on the ground floor, load them up with the ridge beam and lift them up … here is that plan in action just before the “lift them up” part:

… the “lift them up” plan was never going to work … so .. plan B … we erected the two poles in place:

… and it was time to disassemble the scaffolding, bring up the parts and assemble it where we needed it … here it is right up against one of the poles with Iulia making a first climb up:

… and for some perspective on where this is going:

… and the next day … it was time to actually go up:

… and we didn’t come here for sight-seeing (though the seeing was VERY good) … we came here to build a roof … and after MUCH fiddling (measuring, cutting, fitting, adjusting, head-scratching …):

… we got a pair of rafters in place:

… and the next day we woke up fresh and a bit wiser… and greeted by this view … which reminded us that we were able to actualy get rafters up and installed:

… and we got two more pairs on:

… and then a forth:

we were really getting the hang of it … and getting somewhat “comfortable” on the scaffolding … and then we reached the edge of the building … I was anticipating this and NOT looking forward to it … but there it was … inevitably. The next pair was right at the edge and the pair after that is an overhang that extends beyond the building. How do we reach out?

We considered different ways to approach this … and in the morning before heading out to actually meet this challenge I came up with the “diving board” … it took a few iterations … but there it is:

… and Iulia testing it by taking it for a ride:

… and looking from the ground up at the naked part of the ridge beam waiting patiently for some face-to-face time with us:

… and there is scaffolding … ready to jump ship into the shark-infested waters:

… and you may ask yourself (we sure did!): how DID the scaffolding get there?

… and we brought out all the latching straps … and latched it nice and tight:

… and there it was:

At this point I said to Iulia … being jokingly serious, that I think we will not be posting these images until we finish this phase of work AND live to tell about it (=without sustaining injuries or hospitalizations). I did not want my parents to see this (they are following closely!) and worrying. Iulia laughed AND seriously agreed! So … spoiler … you are seeing these images because the story ends well!

… and once again Iulia went up for a first look:

The next day Iulia borrowed some climbing gear (which she fortunately knew how to use) … and while we were over-hanging-out we were also securely strapped:

… and the thing started to really look like a roof:

Half of the roof was done … we pulled the scaffolding back away from the edge … took away the temporary supporting posts … and there it was:

… and we ran out of charred wood. The stack of charred wood that seemed abundant … was consumed until grass was again revealed. So we set out on a late evening charring session to renew the charred stack … so we could carry on with the other half of the roof:

… the charring, amongst other things, burns through some of the resin in the recently cut wood … here is a resin-rich section continuing to burn away from the fire:

We now faced yet another new challenge … attaching a second ridge beam to the first. The space was also getting more crowded … we needed to be able to both place and move the scaffolding with the posts re-installed in their new places … and to do that we had to place one of the posts in the scaffolding:

… and get the 2nd ridge beam up and connected:

… and we were getting good at “raftering” and another four pairs went up with more ease:

… and we arrived at the other end of the building … and we needed to bring the “diving board” over to this end … but we were not quite done with it on the 1st end.

The diving board gave us access to the top part of the overhanging rafters … not to the lower “tail” part … that was overhanging along the two sides. So we split the “diving board” into two … and … I didn’t have to spend much time there … but I did have to spend some time there … and it was actually easier than working up on the scaffolding. Every time we did this we had a set routine and Iulia was handing me things as I needed them, allowing me to stay focused and steady.

During some rainy days we built more scaffolding in the workshop … another large one (like the one in the pictures above), a smaller one (pictures coming up) … and the experimental stool (my first attempt at compound angles) that snuck into the last two pictures … so we had three scales of “high” to work with.

… and the roof started looking real!

… and we moved the “diving board” to the other side …. and got to work on the last two pairs:

… and we were now as good as we were going to get at “raftering” … so they went up easiest … and the diving board came down (and probably retired … taken apart and maybe some its pieces reused … most of it was made from reused materials):

… and we got one of the collar ties in place (the horizontal section that makes a pair of rafters look like an A):

… we had to take down the large scaffolding because it was getting in the way of installing the collar ties. So the next day we completed, brought up and assembled the smaller “home edition” scaffolding:

… and after some experimentation came up with a repeatable technique. Iulia was up on the scaffolding aligning and leveling each piece while I moved around from the side to side with the stool to lock it in place:

These elements will be visible in the space so they went through more treatment before being put up. Like the other pieces, they were charred. But then they were brushed clean (with a metal brush), sanded, cleaned with a wet rag, and oiled (linseed oil). Here you can see the difference between a raw untreated charred surface (some of the raw char has been washed off by rains) and a treated, cleaned, oiled surface:

… and then … after an intense two weeks … the last piece was put in place:

… and a simple and beautiful pattern and rhythm came into being:

… and onto the next challenge … converting this roof framing into an actual roof!

Categories
Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part9: Going Up

After charring, brushing and light sanding it was time to oil the beams:

Then … getting them up in the roof. Fortunately, they were now lighter then they were when we received them green … making them slightly more manageable! We were able to hoist one side of the beam up to one side of the wall … and then with a strap drag the other end up … and then together getting up on opposite walls … move them into place:

… and slowly but surely … the beams were up … and the structure started to feel contained again:

Meanwhile, in the background (and the shaded workshop), the first scaffolding structure was coming together:

Then … well … it was time to start framing the side walls. For this we had to spend some time considering the position of the two windows (one in each wall). This took some time, standing on the walls, looking at views, light, directions, relationship to the surrounding … some simple mockups on paper.

We started building one segment … it was fairly large and was a bit of a struggle getting up on the wall (for just the two of us):

Initially, this caused some anxiety. We were stretching our limits … of experience, physical strength and scale … this is the largest thing I’ve ever taken on … and high up! Walking along the walls became trickier when the beams went up … now with a wall segment up … it required planning and attention!

The next segment was (in some ways) easier because it was smaller.

… and in this one we tried incorporating some recycled wood … here Iulia is charring some pieces for that experiment.

We decided to do the second wall in three smaller segments instead of a large and a small segment. This is the last segment assembled on the ground:

… and then up on the wall:

… and … two walls up!

… then framing in the two window frames:

… and finally … getting into place 4 beams that will support the roof … these stick out ~85cm beyond both ends of the structure to create generous overhangs:

We already have in place (waiting to be loaded with a beam and lifted into position) two temporary poles to support the ridge-beam … until it will be held in place by the roof framing … so … we just need to complete the first scaffolding unit … and it is time to build a roof!

Categories
Construction Wood Framing

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part8: Bond Beam & Sill Plate

With formwork in place we put in rebar and then had to wait for the weather to clear up and for a delivery of stones (for the concrete mix) for a concrete pouring day.

While waiting for the weather I completed work in the workshop on the window frames. Here are two large frames awaiting assembly:

The joinery work has really paid off … the frames assemble reliably and with great precision (square!):

Two frames assembled … these were given priority because we will need them soon for framing … having them ready will allow us to simulate their placement in the wall to get the best view:

Then, concrete day arrived. We tried hiring two workers .. but only one, Mirela – the shepherd’s wife. Iulia and I got an early start to get started, mix a first batch and see what it’s like to get it in place. The first segment went smoothly … though we did adjust the mix (5 shovels stones, 7 shovels sand + ~7 liters of water):

Then Mirela joined us and we started to find a rhythm. I was on the mixer, Iulia on the walls and Mirela moving material up to Iulia.

… and we were moving at a good place starting to go around the structure:

The 1st wider segment made the progress feel slower … but when we got past that we could see the end. This is what it looked like when we took a short break just before the last session:

… and after 30 batches (~1.7 cubic meters) … we had a bond beam poured:

Tarps went back on … and a couple days later … the forms came off:

… and then it was time for a wooden frame (I believe this is called a sill plate in wood framing) anchored to the concrete, on top of which we will frame the 2nd level:

Iulia is waiting for me to finish drilling wholes in the concrete for another segment of wood:

… which brought us back to the charred beams … here is Iulia cleaning off the loose char … preparing them for cleaning and oiling … while I was doing some more charring

… we are about to start (rapidly) ingesting the pile of lumber into a 2nd floor and a roof.

Categories
Construction

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part7: Preparing for going UP!

The hole in the wall window (we left off with last time) healed fairly quickly:

Once we put in a properly dimensions and straight frame in we learned how un-straight the wall is. As a result the frame sticks out and will require some “integration work” … to be dealt with in the future.

With that done we have set our sights on going up to the second floor. After “shaving” the top of the structure flat(ish) we had some placed that required mending and filling in with cob:

The water level is a simple, beautitul but somewhat cumbersome tool to use … we got pretty close to level.

We continued to have a rainy season and we’ve gotten pretty good at covering the walls with tarps. The pigeons also seem to appreciate our efforts:

While the cob-on-top-of-the-walls was setting and in between rains I experimented with wood charring over an open fire. I usually use a gas torch for this, but we have LOTS of wood to char … and we have leftover scrap wood. After some fiddling around I came up with a system that works pretty well, makes for good paced work and creates a good char (deeper than what I would typically do with the torch):

It felt nice re-cycling the “waste wood” we’d just torn down into fuel for preparing the new wood … which will hopefully protect it and give it a longer life!

Then it was time to build the formwork into which we will be pouring a concrete bond beam. We used a combination of new (and charred) beams, boards, and re-used materials. We started with a peripheral frame:

… and then moved on to constructing two internal frames:

… and according to the water level one corner (the one in the foreground of the image above) is 1.4cm higher than the other 3 corners … and we decided that was close enough for us.

The formwork also provided us with a clear reference for the cob walls. Gaps in height were clear and easy to tend to … so it was another round of cob-on-top-of-the-walls to level and seal all around the formwork.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been spending a few full days in the workshop preparing the window frames for the second floor … so that the framing, when we come to it, will flow well. The thicknesser has been working overtime … and the dogs love it 🙂

We’ve put in some rebar … and if all goes well … tomorrow will be concrete day. We are hiring help for tomorrow … aiming for two people … unclear if both will show up. Concrete needs to be poured in one continuous effort … so tomorrow will be an early start … and hopefully pleasant work … with correct effort!

Categories
Cob Construction

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part7: Window, Roof, Window

After completing the “wall move” we moved to the hallway to convert the gaping hole in the wall into a window frame:

This was put off until we decided on what kind of window. We finally resolved that and I could build a frame to build in and around:

All this time the rain was unrelenting. It was raining almost every day (some days less some days more). This is a screenshot I took of the forecast during this period … basically “rain forever”:

One day this is what I found – Litsa making good use of the small pile of (now soaked and useless) straw for cob in what otherwise felt like a miserable scene:

We were having a difficult time protecting the walls (new and old) with tarps because the remains of the roof were in the way. We decided to try a different approach. Instead of trying to cover the structure with tarps (which acted as excellent water collectors that drained into the structure) we decided to remove the remaining roof elements (beams and board) so that we could drape tarps over the walls. Water would get in (and help to recycle the dried cob by soaking it) but the walls would be protected.

So on a “clear” day I went up and started pulling apart and tossing down the ~7cm layer of rough cob that was placed on top of the ceiling boards and then it was time to take off the roof. It was an unpleasant job, mud, rot, and increasingly (as the work progressed) unstable footing.

At one point it became so unsafe to be on top that we pushed off the remaining boards from the inside of the space … until only the beams were left:

The beams … oh the beams … some had scratching went into these … it took some figuring out how to approach them … but we found an approach (I am not inclined to get into … too much work just to explain the challenge). The chainsaw played a key role … and we started bringing them down:

… and we were left with a truly naked structure … felt like a ruin … with tarped walls:

Then it was back to the completing the hallway window:

… and it too became a place … with a framed view … it looks out to sunsets:

The finish level of the cob above this window became the reference level for the entire structure. This is in preparation for a concrete bond beam that will carry us up to the second level (my primary objective in navigating and prioritizing our work is to get a new roof on). So we started “shaving” and patching the rest of the structure to this level (using a simple water level). This was tedious work.

The last wall we did was the one that still had the old window in it. I was hoping to put off replacing this window until after the bond beam. But there were some questions marks that led us to give it priority. We were wondering if the ~25cm of cob above the window opening (~1.2m) would hold if we removed the window and if we could expand the opening to receive the new window frame. We carefully dug out the wall around the window … gradually released it … got it out … and were left with the rough header – some roundwood pieces that were layed across the opening. We pulled them down carefully … and got our answer:

NO! It came crashing down … at least saved us the work of slowly working it down! We were left with yet another gaping whole (and the bond beam moved a few days further into the future).

I anticipated we may need to take care of this window/wall and had already built the frame for it … here it is in fitting just before assembly:

… and just before a nut came loose in the relatively new thicknesser rendering it useless (it has since gone to service and returned yesterday):

I spend the better part of a day finishing all the other parts needed for the complete frame … including charring them … and today we were able to fit it into place. Here it is, after the last fitting test, just before it went finally went in, on the pile of rubble which was the cob that came crashing down (all of which will be re-used!):

… and here it is fit in place … plumbed and leveled:

We’ve already cobbed around the base and in the coming days will finish rebuilding the wall around it and complete the frame itself and the header which will bring us almost to the top of the wall (~2cm of cob will be required).

Categories
Construction Earthbags

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part6: Cob Wall Moved

It hasn’t stopped raining since we took down the roof so we focused solely on completing the “wall moving”. Now that the roof was out of the way and we were moving up the wall we could tamp the earthbags from above, standing on the remaining walls and beams.

I had just removed the rain gutters and found Kiwi confused. She has a growing repertoire of Parkour moves and one of them was jumping from the tree to rain gutter and on to the roof. Here is she is deliberating what to do with the rain gutters gone:

she didn’t make the jump!

In this picture the “moving wall” is becoming increasingly clear. The wall in the foreground is shrinking while the one in the background is growing:

… and working under the tarps while it is raining (soon it is my turn to go out into the rain to tamp down those earthbags.

As we reached the top of the window frame it was about time to complete the window header. I went with a design of a reinforcing grid sandwiched between two layers of solid boards. The grid was already built but needed charring:

… and then packing the gaps with insulation:

… and installing it in place … gave the window more presence and wholeness … and started to feel more like a picture frame to the outside:

During one of the sunny spells Kiwi climbed up and parked herself in a folded tarp close to where we were working:

Watching her there reminded me of George Carlin’s line “why are we here? PLASTIC!”

When we finally arrived at the old door frame the feeling of “we moved the wall” became real:

We reached the top of the window. We installed the boards that completed the window header. We used cob-bricks we set aside from the “destruction” phase to rapidly fill the space above the window. We used cob to fill in the remaining spaces (when there was no more space to work with earthbags) … and the new wall was suddenly done:

In designing the window I was working with the “Window Place” family of patterns from Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language” … and even amidst the mess of construction, the window does indeed feel like a welcoming place:

.. and the old neighboring mullberry tree feels like a friendly neighbor:

We then had some “easy” earthbag work (compared to the constrictions we’d encountered in the window wall) rebuilding the base of the opening we took down during the “destruction” (where there was a traditional oven):

The window frame that goes into this opening is almost ready and we can fill this wall out.

.. and today we took delivery of almost 7 cubic meters of wood for beams, a 2nd story floor, stairs and roof framing. Just moving and organizing this was an equivalent of a work-day for us:

Categories
Cob Construction Earthbags

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part5: Moving a Cob Wall

After last year’s preparations (a bit of deconstruction, preparing for water and electricity, installing an electric post and reconnecting electricity), this spring we started renovating. I’ve been less regular about pictures so this is an overview of what we’ve been doing.

We stripped the small “porch” of its flimsy wooden covering and window. Given our slow and sometimes unpredictable work progress, we decided to keep the roof on as long as possible (so as not to leave the structure exposed to the elements). We decided to build the new external wall around the existing wood frame. Here is Iulia creating a base of cob on top of which the new earthen wall will be built.

With the frame out of the way we could decide upon the new window location (not what we thought it would be). This required putting in two new posts and removing an existing one:

Meanwhile I was experimenting with the new workshop tools (thickness-planer and table saw – maybe deserves a separate post) to see if I could build a reliably straight and correctly sized window frame (for used windows we got last year) … and I was to get a decent result. After three layers of earthbags … the frame found its place and we continued to build up around it.

We are reprocessing cob by crushing it and remoistening it. We started using the soil from last year’s deconstruction using the cob-pools we also prepared last year. When we finished that soil we started taking down the internal wall … again resuing the materials … so “moving a cob wall”:

and discovered some rotten beams … this one in particular … it had the an electric pole sticking out above it that, I’m guessing, acted as a reliable water collecter that drained above the post.

It is a clear testimony to how tolerant cob is to water (absrobs it, gets stronger with some of it while releasing the rest into the atmosphere) and how intolerant wood is (especially the basic pine we have available to us here).

We reached a point where work on the sacks was becoming uncomfortable … we were crouching and banging our heads on the beams and ceiling. So we decided to take off the roof despite god laughing at us with a 10-day forecast with plenty of rain in it. Iulia’s sister and her partner came out to visit and helped us get the tiles off:

We responded to god’s challenge with plastic tarps which are doing a reasonable job (while also efficiently pooling water). We continued to take the framing apart .. from small to large members:

Then we took off the gutters and peripheral wood sufaces. We still have a ceiling to take down over the internal room (a layer of wood boards covered with a few centimeters of cob) … and then the large beams that go across the entire structure … but that will wait for the weather to clear a bit. Meanwhile we are back to “moving the wall” and loading the cob-pools in preparation for resuming construction: