Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Roof is Done!

The roofers left yesterday. Most of their last two days were taken up with the finicky details, going around the chimney, and the posts on the clearstory.

They also put up the gutters, which seem to match perfectly.

Glad it's finally done.
Buttress Footings

(how often do you read about those?) Due to the fact that our western wall will be the highest part, and has some tendency towards straightness, we decided that we should have a couple of buttresses connected to them to help stablize them in the event of an earthquake.

That means we need to have stem walls for them as well. That keeps the ground moisture and possible rain splash back from messing up the cob mixture. These will mostly still be under the roof line, but Melissa is on the job mortaring them together.

Above she's working on the southern one, and below is the northern one (both on the west, obviously). The little tunnels in each one are made from a small section of 4 inch plastic drainpipe that I had laying around that will allow the gray water drain system to easily pass through that area. You can see the bathroom sink drainpipe coming around the corner in the photo below.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Made some new tools:

I've been reading some woodworking books, and they all say the framing saw, or bow saw, is the way to go. So I ordered some fancy (replacement) $9 blades, and built the frames myself.

The front crosscut saw has madrone handles and tightener and red oak sides and middle. The back rip saw has madrone handles and tightener, young madrone (that is, it's the whole young tree trunk) and oak sides. There's short cut nails as the pins holding the blades in the handles.
Black Morrels

Found a batch of shrooms the other day and dried them out. Then, at dinner time, we steamed some back up, and here I am about to slice them up for a pasta dish.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Interesting floor results

So, we've already altered our building process about three times on this subfloor; I think we now have a system down we like.

What's interesting is watching how the finished stuf dries. There are small cracks where our scree boards were - sort of like it's cracking on the seams - which is no big deal, as we'll be putting more clay flooring over the top of this. Also, the parts to the west seem to be drying faster. First thought would be that it gets more sun or something, but it's all under the roof. My thought is that the gravel is deeper under that part, and so there is more places for the moisture to go.

In this picture, you can sort of see that the closest stuff is dry...actually this whole room is dry enough to walk on.

First day of professional Roofers

I got out there to take a few shots of what they did on their first day of metal slinging.

Here you can see the wrapping of the (north) fascia on the bottom, and some sort of flashing on the upper ledge.

And they did a nice job wrapping the (east) side board around the sharpened rafter end.

Here's a close up of the SW corner with the wrap and the flashing.

They showed up day two with most of the panels on the truck:
At the end of day two, they had a batch of them on. Here you can see the shiny metal thing that the panels hook on at the edge.
Another Door Frame

We got the front door framed in the other day. In some ways it was easier, since it's just really the door stop and the hinge board, as the cob walls will actually surround the whole frame, and we'll be doing an arch of cob.

But because it's set at an angle to the roof, both sides are different lengths, and of course, it's hard to make sure they are both parallel, and in the same plane as each other.
Before I put them up, I cut the groove in them where the door will hit it.
I also notched out a spot for the bracket to hit, as we wanted to make sure the door opening was wide enough. This bracket goes over the J bolts that were buried in the concrete bond beam oh so long ago.
PS - this post was the center of a dead tree that was standing a couple years ago, and I took it down to see what the wood was like, early in my sawmilling experimenting. I used the mill to make it about a 4x4, and then hand planed it and it's ready to go (especially since only 2 sides will show)

Friday, April 17, 2009

More Mud Work - who wouldn't want to do this?

So we're still working on the subfloor, and I thought I'd show a few pictures of the process.

The mix, once all together, looks pretty mucky and loose. This isn't how cob looks, as that can be almost made into a loaf or meatball and tossed around. This is more like gravely muck.

After we get the 3 inches of it packed down tight, we use level boards to 'screed' (I didn't know the word had a D on the end of it, so we just say 'scree') the floor flat and level, and then we have to pull out the level board:

You can see how stiff the mix is, and how hard we pack it in where the sides don't collapse when we pull that board out. We then go back and stuff that channel with the stuff.

Yesterday we finished the first room. This is actually what we refer to as 'the second bedroom'. There's about a yard of road base gravel in that mix, and about 5 half days of work over 2 weeks or so.

That rock in the foreground is a foundation bit for a future wall that will turn in there, sort of like a butress.
Finished another door frame:

The (south facing) french door frame is up and locked in. Feels pretty solid.
This is a view looking up, sort of. You can see that I took a log and sliced it down the middle (after having peeled it and aged it [it was potentially going to be one of the posts]). Then I did a batch of planing by hand, which I'm very into these days, cut the ends to match the rafter angle, screwed a nice looking plank to the top of them, screwed that to the rafters, and mortised in another plank for the top of the door.

On the bottom, I had cut about a 2 inch slab when it was still on the chainsaw mill (so I figured both sides would be sort of parallel) so that it could be screwed in to the brackets that were buried into the concrete (and bolted to the stem wall - they aren't going anywhere!)
The 2x8 is on one side of the bracket, screwed in to the holes in the bracket, and then the log is screwed in (through the 2x8 side of course) to the 2x8. Everything is square and plum. Melissa, of course, did all the math and measuring.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Skylights go on with no problem

We cut the holes in a perfectly good roof the other day. Melissa of course, did the very exact task of marking out the lines to cut so that we wouldn't be going over (or through!) any rafters, and of course she was right on target.

The skilsaw works great for this, though the blade did get gunked up from the sticky tarpaper kind of stuff.

Melissa also devised a very simple and clever way to hold up the pieces as we cut them so they wouldn't come crashing down inside the house. No big deal except where we have the drying clay floor... but no point in abusing these pieces of plywood with fancy waterproofing on them either. I bet I find a use for them.
Below you can see that she simply screwed three small blocks of 2x4 type wood below the piece to support the plywood when it was cut free.

The skilsaw has a round blade, so you don't get a clean match at the corners, so I had to finish them off with another little saw. I could have used the sawsall, but this was just a quick few cuts, and this saw was easy to handle.

As we glued and screwed them down, we kept the little triangle support pieces on to help maintain the 'squareness' until it was fully locked down.

Once they were all secured, we put the fancy (expensive) skylights on the holes.

and now we have light!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ka Yun came to visit - and work!

Our friend Ka yun came up the mountain for a weekend of fun, which included chopping up a number of small redwood trees so they won't be a fire hazard this summer. (they had come down because they were now too close to the house)

We also managed to go on a fun hike to an area very close by (it was still hard to get to!) but that we hadn't really seen before.

And then the real fun began! We started cobbing (actually, it was mostly Melissa and Ka Yun, as I was running around talking to neighbors and such most of the afternoon) Ka Yun proclaims that it really isn't as difficult as it looks, and that everyone should come up and help build!

We always have fun when we're mixing mud.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Getting warmer

Jack knows how to find the good spots for a nap in the afternoon.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Started Cobbing!!

It was a bit chilly yesterday, but we couldn't wait anymore, and we finally *officially* started putting mud on the house. We're starting with the floor, which is great, as we can make a lot of mistakes and get used to the mix process without any worries of structural failure. And it will give us a flat space to work on later this summer.

I got started mixing an insulative layer of purlite (like pumice or vermiculite) and clay. We're using a tarp that I got from the lumber yard for free, and it seems to be doing well. Notice I'm wearing those little surf booties you can get for about $8 a pair. It's too cold to be barefoot, and the road base we're using in the regular layer has 3/4 inch rock in it that would hurt too much to step on.

Here I am working some straw into a road base layer. Notice behind me we put down some newspaper to keep the really wet mix from oozing into the gravel drain layer.

Here's a photo of the first of the purlite layer going in. We decided to do an inch of this layer, (4 purlite parts to one clay part) and then put regular roadbase cob (again, 4 roadbase/sand to 1 clay) on top of it. You can see we've got boards in to use as scree levels for the top of this section. As we go, we pull out the far board, fill in the gap, and leapfrog the board to the next section.

After doing this insulative layer all afternoon, we've alreay used up one $14 - 4 cubic feet - bag of purlite.... and we realize that doesn't make sense. While I appreciate the perlite is a natural product (I think it's some sort of lava from the CA desert), it's more expensive and harder to lay down than simply 1 inch of styrafoam board. And probably not as insulative. Thus, we've decided not to continue with the perlite.
Here's Melissa pretending to step on the finished section. We got this far in one afternoon. Not too bad for a (cold) beginning!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Side Projects

While I'm 'taking it easy' because I'm sick, I'm doing some smaller projects that don't include a lot of lifting and sweating.

I made a 'first try' window frame to see how hard it would be to make new frames for the old windows I scavenged from our place in San Francisco. It was a fun project, but I didn't do that great of a job.

The main problem being I didn't make all the joints at the corners exactly square to each other:
Another tricky bit was the center piece, which I did with a through mortis, and probably didn't need to:
the finished thing does look pretty good, until you try to lay it flat. It's got about a half inch curve:

I've also started the process of putting together and gluing the drain pipe for the bathroom sink. I want to put a good vent on the thing, so we won't have any gurgling when air is trying to get out of other drains (the kitchen sink). This vent will also be a way to do a quick wash out if necessary. I can just put a hose into the verticle pipe and flush out any gunk in the drain system.
You can see the two board with a piece of white-ish plywood on them. That will be the box that surrounds this set up so that if there's ever a problem, this joint section of the pipe won't be buried.

$1 tool rescue

Had a moment last week, so we strolled the flea market. A woman had a pile of rusty tools "anything $1!" and so I dug through it ...