I'm glad you posted pictures, since I had a very different mental image. These are man-made caves! The limestone there appears to be degrading and turning into clay, so it may be necessary to excavate up to 6" of limestone/clay/silt and screen out the stones and lay them according to size; largest to smallest. This will ensure proper drainage if necessary, which this may not be.
Ardilla seems to have covered everything, but I didn't see anything on compression. This is done by tamping the floor mix while still moist, but not wet. It will feel damp but solid. This is critical to achieving a no-crack floor, since the mix will shrink as it dries and the aggregate can be settled into a tighter matrix than when wet while the lime can flow through the aggregate, gluing it all tight.
It is not necessary to seal these floors with wax or oil if you scour the final layer with a wood float and then as it dries even further, wash over and over with a grout sponge until the floor no longer changes color. This means that it is no longer taking in water and has made it's final skin of CaCO3. Note; this is only true if you add a pozzolan like pumice or bitterns(MgCl etc.) if you want to go the Tataki routehttp://japaneseplastering.blogspot.com/2014/09/tataki-japanese-traditional-earthen.html
The problem you have is very common, but very difficult to remediate. I recommend not using sand, just stones and gravel. You start with larger cobbles and reduce the stone size with each layer until you have gravel on top. This ensures that you don't wick water up out of the soil while providing a solid base. It sounds to me like the sand has infiltrated the gravel layer and is wicking moisture up through the floor.
To remediate I would; dig up the entire floor and save the clay. Remove the sand and gravel. Dig the undisturbed soil so that it is draining away from the structure. Find lots of cobble rocks and install the floor all over again. I would also add lime to the clay mix to help the floor withstand the occasional wetting from below without turning to mud.
Gilbert Fritz wrote:Bill, it has been a long time since I read Christopher Alexander's books, but I seem to recall that he used the Christian churches of medieval Europe as examples of his patterns, and a quick search on google books seems to confirm that.
Yes an architect and a builder have different viewpoints even if they share the same perspective. You are correct that I have inserted my own opinions into this book review, please feel free to ignore them.
I would like to return to the pattern of the spirals that were predominant in our Indo-European ancestors long before medieval Europe built their churches on patterns of the cross.
My house was built with bricks in 1814. Most of those bricks are still sound but a few are badly spalling (spaling, spalding, spallding?). I do have a large supply of period bricks (from an interior wall in the basement). The worst of the bricks I will chip out and replace, but there are large areas near the foundation where ALL the bricks are spalling. I'd like to just parge coat around the whole house up to about 3 feet. Is this a good idea?
Tom Kozak wrote:
1. what kind of mortar should I use around the replacement bricks?
You absolutely must use a lime based as in no OPC mortar.
Tom Kozak wrote:2. is parging spalled brick a bad idea? if not what is the pest method of doing this/best product to use?
You have a house that is 200 years old, is your new fix going to be better than what is already there? The real question is when did this start to be a problem? My guess is just a few years after the cement walkways were installed leaving the moisture under the sidewalk nowhere to go but through your porous lime mortared low fired clay brick and leaving a calcium salt efflorescence on the surface of the brick as evidence of it's origin.
Tom Kozak wrote:3. is there a clear finish/sealer I can put on the entire wall after the parge coat that will let moisture in but not out?
Yes, Siloxane, but this is not necessary if you jackhammer that concrete.
Tom Kozak wrote:4. should I hire a local bricklayer to have a look at the place and tell me what to do?
this is in Sudbury Ontario (we get short hot summers, long cold winters and A LOT of snow).
a friend had recomended spraying with Tompson Water Sealer but said that would only be a temporary measure and I'd have to re-do it at least once a year.
Yes, but make sure he has real credentials and at least 25 years experience in historic masonry. No to the water sealer, not ever!
Borax works great but is hard on plants, so I usually start with Oxi-Clean and a low pressure spray wash. Then recoat with Penofin if you can get it or BLO will be fine, but it doesn't have a UV blocker.
Insects are bad for houses; especially since they indicate that there is moisture in the log. Get rid of the moisture intrusion(most likely bad roof/wall interface flashings) and you are on your way to eliminating the bugs. Then bread yeast and DE can be used to kill them if they don't just leave on their own. After removing the nests and decay and ensuring all is dry,then use a wood filler. The best patch is made with nasty ole 2 part epoxy. I use Abatron.
I don't let my new apprentices(all male save 1) use any of the tools you mention until they have demonstrated competency using hand tools. We use mostly Japanese hand tools and find they are nearly as fast as power tools when you take into consideration set up, safety and cleanup for most of the general home improvement type work that we do. These tools require more technique and less power as they are razor sharp. http://www.hidatool.com/about-japanese-tools Hida has many garden tools as well as wood and plaster tools. The interesting thing about the Japanese tools is they are designed for the work not the worker, so the handles are comfortable for everyone. Save money by not even buying power tools and just get the bulk cutting done at the lumber store or don't save money and get some amazing tools that you can pass on to your daughter. I have spent countless days using these tools all day long and can say they are more comfortable to use which allows me to work with more ease and fluidity and that means I get more done with less "tired-old-ass" at the end of the day.For example; with a western-style saw, I stand off the side of the saw, oblique to the wood and grasping the D handle with my right hand, I push the saw through for the cut, Japanese-style saw, I stand directly in front of the saw, square to the wood and grasp the straight handle with 2 hands like a golf club, then pull the blade through utilizing the entire suite of muscles in my back, or the plaster trowel that has the handle post directly under your hand instead of out in front, so I can hold the post between my thumb and forefinger like a jazz drummer holding a drum stick, I could go on, and on, just ask my wife.
The cordless 12 volt drill and driver from Milwaukie are extremely powerful while small and lightweight. My apprentice took his to an Econest workshop where Robert dubbed it "the little drill that could".
It's great to hear of DIY strawbale homes; I'd love to see more people get informed, get some help and get to it.
I am a professional plasterer and this is how I was taught to plaster by old time masters.
1) We dig our clay dry, put it into cement mixer to roll the big stuff out by tipping it just the right amount and then screen and process wet from there. Line 2x6 forms on the ground with a bed sheet then put window screen over that and pour the 2 water to 1 clay mix (soupy) through the screen. When the water has drained off(after a day or two) pull the sheet up and you will have silky smooth clay stuck to the sheet. Turn into buckets, I use 70 gallon plastic watering troughs.
2) This is only clay not plaster. To make up a good plaster, you must first have a system. The system described by Michael will work, but has serious drawbacks in; attaching cabinets or electrical or whatever, floating over wooden framing members and dealing with structural settling or earthquakes. This why I cover the wood framing with 15# felt and attach metal lath(welded 2x2 mesh). This system allows you to embed dimensional lumber between bales and lath for a very strong attachment point.
3) I use sand in all 3 coats and straw in much smaller portions than is described, but usually like to shoot heavy render with a Tirolessa sprayer which does not like so much straw. The sand should be mostly sharp and just a little of soft sand. The finer the coat, the more soft sand and less sharp.
4) When making mixes, we test them right on the wall and carve proportions into the plaster so we don't get confused. I like lime in the outer coats. Lime and clay often react chemically to make a really great plaster, it depends on the chemical composition of your clay, but most will benefit at least a little bit from the addition of hydrated lime ( no reason for NHL for this).
Rent a mortar mixer for this job, mixing this much plaster by hand or with a drill is just too much work when the work load is already huge. Apply with a wooden float until the final polish, then steel.
Your system is a little more complex than is necessary, but to give an accurate example of a simpler system that would be cheap and easy to install, I will need more info about the floor of the cave, what it is composed of and how deep. A picture or two would help as well.
Three layers of; degraded limestone mixed with lime and pumice should work well straight on a clean limestone base, no sand, gravel or edpm needed. A hydraulic lime is not necessary if you use pumice as an aggregate since it is a highly reactive pozzolan. A good example of this mix is the Roman Pantheonwebpage.
Buildings seem to have the possibility for a very long life, but this may put them out of touch with the lifestyles of the current generation of people living in them. Is this a living building or a dead relic of another time?
Buildings are for people and must serve them in order to be alive, so designing our homes to outlast more than a few generations may not be the best option for a healthy relationship with the built environment. Since our modern lives are so different from our ancestors, many of our ancient buildings require a full reboot in order to properly serve the current generation living in them. Maybe they should be composted and made into new buildings?
Please in your reconsiderations, consider placing the insulation and air barrier at the ceiling plane. This will simplify everything and the cold attic will still be usable for sleeping and storage. Also this enables you to harvest heat from the attic in the shoulder seasons with a small fan and a couple of thermostats. This can be a significant amount of heat!
Morgan Caraway wrote:When I say "no foundation," I of course mean "no traditional foundation." Basically, what I'm building is an earthbag earthship. The house is being built on compacted sub-soil. In areas where soil has been disturbed, there will be a footer to the compacted sub-soil supporting posts above. The bermed part of the wall be insulated to minimize condensation. The layer of gravel is thin, enough to minimize capillary action. Will what I'm doing work? Do earthships work? That being said, I'm happy to post updates.
Yes, this will work, but probably settle a bit. Earthships have been built all over the world and obviously work if like any design, it is properly implemented. I have been to the community at the Rio Grande to study these designs and was impressed by many of the innovations, but overall I still like traditional homes like the 1000+ year old adobes at Taos pueblo, just over the gorge.
Please do post a project thread and please do not take offense at critiques that are meant to be helpful, not hurtful.
Terry Ruth wrote:
To mitigate these issues first off, foundations should be placed on “undisturbed” (not tamped that has low compression and needs to settle over decades) soil per code. This soil type at a minimum has to be able to react the building loads based on its compression strength, preferable shear too. Code has soil compression allowables. If the soil lacks the min. properties it has to be modified, some use a road base to minimize the compression differences, which also makes a good base for rubble trenches. Rubble trenches also provide a capillary break that is needed somewhere, on the foundation or any berm.
3000-10,000 PSI concrete foundation or bedrock provides the highest resistance to building loads and settling ~ 12,000 PSI, or pile drivers to bedrock, although if the mix or sub-soil is not right will still see settling issues.
We dig to frost depths in hopes of finding high PI soils with large water holding capacities that keeps dynamic forces away from foundations. The depth is a function of PI.
“No foundation” with the unknowns denoted above assumes major risk known to mankind all over the world for centuries; one does not have to look far on the internet alone to find. I wish you luck and hope you set it on a strong low PI soil at a minimum.
As Terry says here; IRC is very clear about the foundational footer for any type of foundation to be supported by undisturbed soil. Try this, dig a trench and backfill it, tamp well and watch as it subsides within a year or less.
Rubble trench foundations have no equal in my not so humble opinion. Time tested and inexpensive, while still viable in the modern age. If it was me, I'd be pouring a short stem wall of pumicecrete on the rubble trench in order to get your bags up. but then again, I know little about bag building and would be choosing adobe or cob in order to avoid plastic in my wall system.
I hope things are going well for your beautiful family. My friends at nutritional solutions webpage specialize in permaculture type solutions for healing from the ravages of cancer and modern cancer treatments. They are very kind and knowledgable about the many aspects of holistic, nutrition based recovery. I hope they can help you to implement a strategy that can help you, your son and the rest of your family to take full advantage of the many paths to healing that our blessed mother provides.
Lots of helpful comments on drains; this is priority one!
Once the water is diverted to go around the building instead of through it, then you must tear the thing apart. Remove everything and save what you can. This is the only way to remediate the moldy internal framing and fg insulation. Then wash down with oxiclean and rebuild in a more suitable fashion that can handle water, just don't seal things up.
Though I completely agree with you Jen, I believe that the emergence of empires was the start of our cultural disintegration that has resulted in the IR and the homogenized mess that we have become. This goes back to the Mayan, Incan and Egyptian pyramids, all those monstrous castles and obscene churches, everywhere that the people gave their energy and creativity to another class of people who ruled over them through the obfuscation of the divine by locking up God(s) in buildings and ceremonies. I know this is not a popular view, but I believe that is where the trouble came from. When we as a people decided that an idea of God(s) could supplant actual firsthand knowledge of the divine in nature, the connection to all living things began to deteriorate.
I'm not sure if this is true; many religious buildings, and especially many European monastery complexes, seem to be harmonious and "timeless" buildings, to have worked for the people who inhabited them and to have withstood the test of time.
I am deeply sorry if I have offended you or any other religious folk out there, it was not my intent. I see that you are Catholic so this entire quote is probably offensive, but look into these things deeply before writing them off. Before empires and religions, there was just culture to connect the people to one another. This allowed people to express their spirituality in their own way without the judgement of "authority" to tell them that their path is wrong. The only wrong is to go against your internal compass, the little questioning voice that internally guides us all.
Basically, there are 2 kinds of buildings; the type where a team of people cooperatively build according to internal guidance and those built in a top down authoritative method utilizing force or coercion to obtain a symbol of status and the image of superiority.
Sorry Jonathan, but I've never burnt cedar as it is way to pricey here. I typically use DF and sometimes pine. I prefer to char green wood since it really case hardens, but the ceiling in my previous post is 90 year old DF and that worked just fine. Like a lot of things, there are many correct paths.
First off, I have never built with bottles. I do however have experience that is similar.
I would recommend that you do not load the bottle walls structurally; I'd use a timber frame, but you could frame this conventionally since it sounds like your husband is proficient in this. Then you eliminate the need for a bond beam as the roof will rest on timbers or a top plate.
For mortar, the big box stores sell an OPC/sand/lime mortar mix. This should treat you well straight out of the bag.
Clay plaster will work great inside and out, but the clay will probably have a hard time bonding to the smooth surface of plastic bottles, so you'll probably want to make a thin slurry with your mortar mix and harl that to get the initial coating, then clay plaster and I suggest a lime wash on at least the exterior. It's best to protect the bottom few feet of the wall with stone or similar.
Rubble trench foundations are wonderful when built well, but you might want to pour a short stem wall of pumicecrete on top of the rubble to ensure maximum stability and give you a good place to hang stone from.
It sounds like you have a pretty good handle on the process and I will try to illuminate the rest.
Should I worry about charring the backs of the boards, or just the faces exposed to sunlight? (I suppose insect resistance would be the primary goal here? and maybe unnecessary as this is over a rainscreen?)
I would just do the faces and sides, but it won't hurt to do all six sides.
many of you mention rubbing in oil after charring--what's the idea behind this? Can I safely skip (I'm trying to limit work for myself, as this is already a big pile of lumber?
The oil is applied(I use a 4" brush) immediately after charring and sets the char. If you don't oil, the char will come off on your hands while you install them, also they will not last as long in the elements.
Given my motives, how much char should I put on the boards, at minimum? Blacken the surface? Get a 'gator skin' depth? Does anybody have any anecdotal evidence on longevity vis. burn level (I saw a comment that there's no hard evidence, but figure it's worth another ask)?
When you burn wood, the volatile compounds in the wood combust first. This is what you wish to remove. So, put the burner close to the wood, but at a back angle and start slowly traveling down the board. At first the wood just deflects the flame from the burner, but when the temperature is right for this treatment, the wood will burst into flame. That means move a little down the board, maintaining that burst as you go along. The back angle will keep the burn going for a little longer and you should end up with a very black board that is lightly covered in char. Don't sand it, just oil. I love Penofin red label for the UV protection.
4) Cedar is the best.
I think what you propose should work, but realize that an unvented attic as you've drawn here is sure to have problems in it's lifetime. All roofs leak, so I don't use vaulted, insulated, unvented roofs. You can install an air channel between the roof deck and the insulation to ensure leaked water could evaporate and your roof will stay cooler, making your home more comfortable as well.
Drywall can be used as an air barrier, but again I would not advise using only drywall as the air barrier of a highly insulated attic. The greater the insulation levels, the greater the risk of condensation in the cavity. Also, in this type of roof assembly, I would limit vapor permeability as there is nowhere for vapor to go once inside the cavity except back where it came from, which can cause issues. To limit vapor permeability on drywall, I would recommend a different plaster than on the straw. Try a mix of lime, gypsum and clay on a sanded latex primer. This means roll on primer and then roll sharp mason's sand onto the wet primer. This will give you a good key and limit vapor permeability without eliminating it.
A lot of people don't like drywall because if it does get saturated, the gypsum will disaggregate and the paper will delaminate, requiring demo and disposal. I've seen lime plaster on lath get soaked over and over with only staining and a few cracks as a consequence.
I hope you are able to find the balance of easy/cheap to durable/laborious for your own lifestyle and move forward with confidence.
I restored a home that was about 150 years old and was built using 2 rammed earth walls with an air gap between them. A double air gap would be even better and should be quite durable as long as you maintain a minimum of 8" wall thicknesses and tie the walls together somehow; they used steel brick ties on this home.
The thing with Roxul, which is the only brand of MW that I have used, is that it has a smoother, tighter finish on one side that helps prevent air washing. So if you prevent air from entering through the open sides of the batt, then air washing is as Terry points out negligible.
T&G boards will be your best attic floor option, with no air barrier on that side. If you are using trusses, then energy heels are recommended, but I've got a feeling that you will use rafters and collars in which case you just want to ensure there is sufficient insulation at the rafter/wall interface and install a 4' piece of cardboard in the cavity to allow air to pass for attic ventilation. Here in our dry climate, I see a lot more water come in through the ridge vent during storms than condenses and drips.
I would not use an air barrier on the bales, but remember to detail every penetration. You can use straw, stuffed in the hole and then mastic on that. Mastic is typically made with lime putty and linseed oil and applied on the last plaster coat before color, but you can use it on the color coat if your very careful.
When you draw the air barrier/insulation around your home, you should not have to lift your pencil.
We generally try to have one solid thermal envelope/air barrier around the entire habitable area of the home. Since you are not going to live in the attic, you don't need any insulation in the roof and the air barrier should be at the ceiling plane. Since you are using a breathable wall assembly, you will only need an air barrier here, so builder's paper will work great. If you are going to install lath and plaster, then use asphalt impregnated paper, but if using drywall, then just red rosin paper or equivalent. It is easier to get a good seal on paper than to try and seal the drywall to the framing, but drywall can be used as an air barrier if installed perfectly. Either way silicone caulk is used as the primary sealing agent, installed at the top and bottom plate and around penetrations.
Don't worry about condensation from the roof since it should be close to the same temp as the air and the attic will be vented.
The thing is; clay can vary greatly in it's composition, some clays are great for adobe bricks or cob and some clay is better for plaster or pottery. Clay is formed by the degradation of the parent rock, so the constituents of the clay are highly variable according to the source.
In Idaho and most of the intermountain west, there is generally a buff colored clay that is wonderful for building with. It has a high lime content, so the bricks made from this clay are very strong and only need a little straw to help them not crack as they dry. This same clay makes a great mortar for the bricks and when a sharp sand is added, a good plaster.
Clay is processed by digging it dry and then adding 2 parts water to 1 clay. Put this in a cement mixer and tilt the mixer forward while running to get the big stuff out. Then screen the clay slurry(window screens on wooden frames) until you get the desired consistency, then put the whole mess into a pit lined with a bed sheet. The water will go through the sheet and you'll have perfectly hydrated clay on the bed sheet, scrape it off and mix in additives as necessary.
You can then press the mix into slop forms, pull the forms right up and let dry in the sun, turning every day until dry. You are ready to build a traditional horno!
I would remove the shelves from the home immediately.
Put the shelves out in the hot sun and away from rain or any other moisture and the beetles will die or leave since they have no water. There will still be eggs cases in there, but if you keep the shelves dry, they will not hatch.
There are a lot of misconceptions concerning fiber in plaster and cob. These fibers do provide some tensile strength, but mostly they help while the mud cures by providing silica for chemical reactions and moisture regulation to prevent cracking. Many adobes that I've seen from 100 to 200 year old homes have very little plant material.
It sounds like you should look into building a vaulted adobe or CEB roof. The Auroville Earth Institute is the world leader in these.
Unfortunately we come across this all the time in our restoration work. Luckily latex paint is digested by fungi. After removing the offending bridge or whatever, picki up as many as many chips as you can and cover the area with wood chips. Let the fungi go from there.
In order to remove peeling, flaking paint, use a vacuum scraper on a good shop vac.
As for the patio, I would pull it up and flip the pavers over after installing proper drainage and grade.
I don't have any cob experience, but of the many historic adobe homes that I have worked on, not a single one was strapped at the bond beam. The wooden bond beams are usually 2-3" thick and mortared to the top of the wall with the same mortar as was used on the bricks. The rafters are then toe-nailed to the beam.
But, I've never worked in tornado country so you may need something like what Terry describes in windy Texas, especially if you use lightweight prefab trusses and OSB for your framing.
From the way you talk it sounds like you're an HVAC pro?
Yes, HVAC pro in a previous life, now I'm into historic restorations and natural building.
Does the spring damper resolve any fire blocking issues?
Yes, but the backdraft issue is more important
How does the cloth bag work if it's on the inlet side? I've seen them on the output side of fans to act as dust collection bags. On the inlet is the bag just covering the 5" opening of the fan or do you have it stretched around a wire contraption to give it more surface area?
The cloth bag is just a filter.
The system should be wired in series so the fan comes on when the temp indoors is below the heat setpoint and the temp in the attic is above the cooling setpoint.
That's funny because I was just talking to my apprentice about this the other day.
I've installed 3 systems like this and have 3 very happy clients.
We used 5" and 6" fantech fans with cloth bags on the inlets and short duct runs into ceiling diffusers. Make sure to have a spring damper inline so air won't go out of the house into the attic.
The control is 2 thermostats(I save old ones for this) run in series; one in the house in heat mode and one in the attic in cooling mode. I use a 24v transformer and a relay to control the fan so we just run a stat wire inside.
150 cfm X 60 min = 9000 cubic feet of warm air per hour which is most of the air in an average house. Yep, that helps a lot.
Firstly; hemp added to lime plaster will not significantly affect the thermal resistance, but will add a source of silica which will help to strengthen the plaster. Your best bet for a plaster is lime mixed with clay that has a high amorphous silica content, then add shredded hemp or other fibers. Pumice and wood ash are also good sources. You will still need a nice sharp sand to act as the aggregate.
As for insulation, what can beat sheep's wool?
Attach felted sheets of wool to wooden boards vertically attached to the concrete with a capillary break between or frame a wall 1/2" away from the concrete. Then cover this with builder's paper if you like, or not if you don't and then lath booards nailed horizontally at 3/8" gaps.
Then plaster, 3 coats, starting with a 1 part lime/clay to 2 parts sand and finishing with 1:1 with a softer, finer sand.
With the sensitivities that you have, I think a trailer is a bad idea. In a natural/breathable wall assembly, the water vapor traveling through the wall assembly will condense on any cold surface like steel; once sufficient water in liquid form gathers on the steel frame, it will start to produce mold and rot. Your best bet is to mimic what has already been done for thousands of years. If on wheels, then go with a wooden frame and siding, etc. like caravensarai of the gypsies. Steel wheels and axles are fine, but don't build condensing planes into the actual structure.
I would however go with a tiny home built of natural materials, anchored firmly to the Earth with a stone foundation. Historic homes that have not been updated with modern materials can be an excellent choice for living mold and toxin free as well.
There are many natural building resources here on Permies that can help you and your family make well informed decisions on this.