Cob walls complete, windows and door installed, and more!

by ziggy on October 30, 2008 -- 0 comments -- Follow

The past week or so has been quite eventful. There’s been mostly positive progress, but some negative, too.

Cobbing complete!

With Karen’s and my dad’s help, I completed cobbing. The walls are finally done! In just a few days, the gap between the walls and the roof was closed. It was very satisfying to see the final line of the wall meet the decking of the roof. It was awkward work having to stuff the small spaces, but it wasn’t too bad…

Windows and door installation

Next came the windows and the door. My dad and I struggled with installing the first of three windows, continuing our typically discombobulated history of collaborating on work projects. After a couple of hours, we got it in, and the next two were much easier. The north and west windows are casement style, and the southeast is double hung. All are doubled paned.

The door was surprisingly easy to install. A few shims here and there and it was set. Unfortunately, however, it’s not quite what I expected. Meaning that I must have looked at the door wrong when I first found it, and it doesn’t actually open the way I expected it would. It opens outwards instead of inwards. For now, I’m not locking it in cob, just in case I decide to change the door later (or even make my own door). It keeps the cold out, which is good enough for now.

I used sheep’s wool to insulate around the window and door frames where there are air gaps. The wool was free from a local farm, and I simply carded it using my hands before stuffing it in the gaps. The house is now sealed!

Losing my EPDM membrane…. almost

Beyond all that… the biggest happening of the week was almost losing my EPDM membrane on a very windy day this most recent weekend. What a nightmare. All day Sunday, there were gusts of wind up to 45 mph. Since the pond liner was not tied down or weighted in any significant way, it was flapping pretty heavily throughout the day. At one point, my dad ran to find me and said “your roof is about to blow away”, and we made it out there just after the ropes around the tractor tire flew off, essentially freeing the membrane from the roof completely.

We held onto the corners for dear life, and then Jeff ran to find help. Soon a pack of ten or more people were running towards the house, and each grabbed a corner of the membrane, some getting smacked in the face by the EPDM in the wicked wind. Tony and I scaled the house carrying rope, and working like spiders, we all wove a giant web over the membrane. It was a pretty intense experience. People were being lifted off the ground as they held onto the membrane, and up on the roof it was no better. Every time there was a giant gust, the membrane lifted us up off the surface, and there was little to hold onto. Frightening.

Eventually we got the whole roof tied down. Unfortunately, I think the membrane suffered a bit in the process, and there is some damage and wear. Hopefully the parts that are damaged are close enough to the edge that will get trimmed. I also lost some cardboard cushioning that will have to be replaced, so it’s going to take a fair amount of work to get that material back under the EPDM and prepare for the next step in constructing the roof.

Scratch plastering

In the meantime, I’ve been doing some scratch plaster inside the house with the help of my new (and probably last) work exchanger, Kyle. We smoothed out the nooks and shelves, and some of the rougher parts of the wall that experienced some rain damage. It’s amazing how much more pleasing/smooth it looks now, even before the final coat of plaster is on.

Prepping for the earthen floor

Today, Kyle and I cleaned out the house and raked up loose cob and some grass to prepare for moving gravel inside. I decided to leave the topsoil in my building. I didn’t level it either, figuring that if any moisture did get in there, it would drain more easily with the natural slope. The soil has been well tamped by now, after walking on the ground all season, and mixing cob in there as well.

We moved gravel in by wheelbarrow. Because of the slope of the site, the gravel will be 4″ deep on the east, and up to 12″ deep on the west. Above this gravel will be 5″ total inches of earthen floor mix (divided between two layers).

I expect we’ll finish the gravel moving tomorrow, just in time for our traveling Halloween party. I plan on having a gravel-tamping dance party during at my stop. Many feet make work light!

Pictures coming soon!

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