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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
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:

Categories
Cob Construction Floors

Earthen Floors with Sukita Reay

Sukita wrote “the book” on earth floors and it was sweet to watch her at work in this short video demonstrating the making of an earth floor:

Categories
Cob Construction

Summer Kitchen Renovation Part1: Destruction

For the past few months Iulia has been clearing out the summer kitchen in preparation for renovation. We haven’t started because I’ve been reluctant to get into this project. During this period of my reluctance we did get more clear about the general plans for the renovation. We also got a set of 4 used windows that helped us make some design choices.

Then on the weekend of the July 20th Alin came to visit with us again. I was still reluctant to start, so on the first day we cut some firewood together. His presence and ability to help with physical work did bring us to a point of “critical energy”. I walked around the cellar and found clarity about where to start. The next day we started.

The small space in the summer kitchen had a baking stove built into the rear wall. We started by taking it apart. This image was taken after the exterior (sticking out the back of the structure) part of the dome was disassembled. This the inner half of the oven dome with the metal door opened and looking into the space.

This is after Alin went inside and collapsed the chimney and other inner parts:

The base of the oven was filled with dirt, stones, broken bricks … and plenty of broken glass:

We discovered three kinds of bricks: regular fired clay bricks, unfired (we are guessing home-made) cob-bricks and large flat slabs of fire-bricks (shamota) that created the baking base. We tried to organize materials for later to re-use. We had to set aside the materials that were mixed with glass (we tried sieving but small glass parts got through). We kept the whole & semi-whole clay bricks close to the opening with the intention of reusing them to rebuild it:

Behind the pile of cob-bricks in the above picture there is a similar pile of whole clay-fired-bricks and not far away accumulated a pile of broken bricks:

That was completed on our first day of work and on the next day we moved on to breaking down some cob-wall and converting the small window into a doorway between the small space and the main space of the summer kitchen.

Alin climbed up on the roof and started taking the wall apart from the top

… and (to my surprise) the rest came down fairly quickly (even though we did not have the right tools for the task!):

By the end of this day we had an opening all the way to the ground:

During the demolition we were getting nice chunks of cob. On the first day I put a few of them in a bucket of water to see if the cob could be re-activated … and it worked beautifully. So we created a cob-bath and loaded it up with what we considered to be re-usable cob materials. I was a bit naive about the size of the bath … it filled up very quickly. We soaked it all in water and let it sit and it has become beautiful, ready to use cob:

There is already a second larger pile that we are gradually dampening to bring it closer to work-readiness:

The next day was planned to be a work day with the excavator … but life happened … so we are on hold for a while … we hope to start moving again next week.

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Construction Construction Links Earthship Builders

Cuevas de Sol

http://www.earthship.es/

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Cob Construction Construction Links DIY Websites

Solunit

http://organicart.com/mud/solunit/

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Construction Construction Links Earthship Builders

Dan Nogal’s Earthship

http://www.dansnogalearthship.blogspot.com/

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Construction Construction Links Earthship Builders Self Builder Blogs

Oscar & Lisa’s Eartship Build

http://oscarlisabuild.blogspot.com/

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Construction Construction Links DIY Websites Earthship Builders

Earthpower1

A documented Earthship build from the USA – including some lessons learned in retrospect.

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Construction Construction Links DIY Websites Earthship Builders

Es Cargo Earthship

http://www.es-cargo.qc.ca/