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Design: Solarium at Wheaton Labs: Design Conversation

 
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Jen Tuuli wrote:In our case we'd have rafters, 1x4 tongue and groove, vapor barrier on that, then purlins, then metal.  


Do you want the rafters visible from underneath?  Don't forget a space for the insulation.  And I think you'll want a water proof layer above the insulation.  Not sure what kind of vapor barrier you're thinking of using.

If you do want the rafters visible, I think one option is: Rafters, tongue and groove (or ship lap), vapor barrier (or kraft paper), 2x4 spacers with 3.5" of insulation between them, then a layer of decking boards, then waterproof layer, then metal

If not, one option would be: tongue and groove (or ship lap), vapor barrier (or kraft paper), rafters with 5.5" of insulation between them, then a layer of decking boards, then waterproof layer, then metal.

In both cases, I think the "decking boards" could be spaced out so it's half wood, half air.  Just need to hit the decking boards with the roofing screws.  And they need to be thick enough for the roofing screws to grip into.

I'm not 100% up on my building standards though so more input on these options would be a great idea.  Note that the second option eliminates the 2x4s...
 
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Mike Haasl wrote:

Jen Tuuli wrote:In our case we'd have rafters, 1x4 tongue and groove, vapor barrier on that, then purlins, then metal.  


Do you want the rafters visible from underneath?  Don't forget a space for the insulation.  And I think you'll want a water proof layer above the insulation.  Not sure what kind of vapor barrier you're thinking of using.



Nah, rafters don't have to be visible from underneath. We might be getting wires crossed. From top to bottom: metal, purlins, vapor barrier (plastic sheeting probably), tongue and groove, rafters w/insulation between them, maybe kraft paper, then 3/8" siding as the ceiling boards on the bottom side of the rafters.

Are you thinking the insulation needs to go on top of the rafters/T&G instead of between the rafters?
 
Mike Haasl
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Insulation between the rafters would be the way I'd go.  What is the tongue and groove for?  If it's just to support the plastic sheeting, there might be other (cheaper) ways.  But the t&g might make it quieter in the rain.
 
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The t&g is replacing the plywood in typical installations. I asked Paul if t&g or lapped boards were good enough replacements, and he was good with t&g because it's smallish and that wouldn't be too much of a cost. What are your alternative thoughts?
 
Mike Haasl
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I think I'm getting out of my league here and I'd love to hear from the other experts before I send you down the wrong path.  I'm pretty sure T&G would be awesome, I'm just not sure if there's a cheaper way yet to do it...
 
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My understanding of the solarium footprint was that it would be wider than the garage doorway, and thus that the main posts would be entirely inside (which would be distinctly better for longevity especially at the plinth interface.) A 10' x 20' space is significantly more roomy than 10' x 16', especially with doors at both ends constraining seating space, which might be something like 10' x 14' vs. 10' x 10'.

How much east/west roof overhang is desired? I wouldn't think to make it much more than required for a bit of door shelter.

The concrete apron outside the doorway looks to be separate, and would need to be removed to allow a continuous solarium floor without an awkward and irregular joint. Therefore, I don't think there is much difficulty with locating plinth rocks near the doorway corners.

The posts on the south wall of the solarium would be plenty strong enough at 6" diameter, so they can be made whatever size is desired for looks with no qualms. I think the beam atop those posts, with 8' or so spans, would only need to be something like 8" diameter.
 
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Glenn Herbert wrote:My understanding of the solarium footprint was that it would be wider than the garage doorway, and thus that the main posts would be entirely inside (which would be distinctly better for longevity especially at the plinth interface.) A 10' x 20' space is significantly more roomy than 10' x 16', especially with doors at both ends constraining seating space, which might be something like 10' x 14' vs. 10' x 10'.



If it's much wider than 10x16' it cuts into the parking/backing up area available. Paul would like to keep as much back-up space available as possible. People don't always know the extents of their vehicle nor pay as much attention as they should when backing up, and there have been incidents in that area in the past because of such things.

Glenn Herbert wrote:How much east/west roof overhang is desired? I wouldn't think to make it much more than required for a bit of door shelter.



I was thinking 24" overhang. That's what the Love Shack currently has on its east/west sides, and the wood is handling age well. The north/south sides are 18" and the bottom of the wood was starting to show more weathering than I'd like to see.

Glenn Herbert wrote:The concrete apron outside the doorway looks to be separate, and would need to be removed to allow a continuous solarium floor without an awkward and irregular joint. Therefore, I don't think there is much difficulty with locating plinth rocks near the doorway corners.



It is separate and could be removed for this, yep.

Glenn Herbert wrote:The posts on the south wall of the solarium would be plenty strong enough at 6" diameter, so they can be made whatever size is desired for looks with no qualms. I think the beam atop those posts, with 8' or so spans, would only need to be something like 8" diameter.



Good to know. I'll keep an eye on logs around here that might fit the building and see if I can stash or claim them for this project.

Thank you very much for all this input, Glenn! If you have more thoughts about it, keep it coming.
 
Glenn Herbert
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To go under metal roofing, t&g boards are a waste of time or money. Common sawn boards will work just as well. You need spacers immediately below the metal roofing so condensation can escape rather than be held into the sheathing. 1" thick is enough for spacers, and generally 24" on center between them. You should have a waterproof layer on top of the sheathing, like tar paper, so drips from condensation on the underside of the metal don't soak into the wood.

If the rafters are not exposed on the ceiling, 2x6 roughsawn would work fine for 8' span. I would use 2x8 for a 10' span given possible snow loading. An air and vapor retarder under the rafters would be most appropriate for the Montana climate, with the t&g boards exposed for good looks if you want a wood ceiling.

I would want the main posts to be just inside the exterior walls, both for appearance and to protect the plinth seating from weather. Given that positioning, I would make the main posts about 8" diameter at the small end so they didn't take up too much room. 24" overhangs all around seem like a fine idea. They would give significant shading in summer while letting in sunlight in winter.

Is the garage door centered on the end wall? How wide is the end wall, and how high to the eaves at 20' wide centered on the garage door? The higher the roof is at the existing wall, the better for drainage. Metal roofing is safe at much lower slopes than shingles, however.
 
Mike Haasl
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So we're imagining that the posts are not exposed to the weather, correct?  If so, then the walls will be outside the posts.  I wonder if it would look neat to cut flats on the sides of the posts so that they fit into the corners of the walls better (first picture)

If we didn't mind exposed posts, notching them out to fit the walls to them might look pretty slick, especially since you have a swing blade sawmill (second picture)

Both pics are views from above with the south wall at the top of the image.

For that matter, why do we need round wood on the south wall at all?  Just use a load bearing south wall to hold up the roof.  Unless it's for looks

For the north wall I'd also be tempted to cut flats on the back sides of the posts and beam so that it fits flat to the garage.  Maybe screwed on from inside the garage with some long timberlock screws.
Flattened-internal-post.png
Flattened internal post
Flattened internal post
recessed-external-posts.png
recessed external posts
recessed external posts
 
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Glenn Herbert wrote:
Is the garage door centered on the end wall? How wide is the end wall, and how high to the eaves at 20' wide centered on the garage door? The higher the roof is at the existing wall, the better for drainage. Metal roofing is safe at much lower slopes than shingles, however.



The garage door is centered within an 1/8th" on the end wall.

The wall is 293" or 24' 5".

If you wanted it to be 20' wide, it would push the solarium to the left, meaning it wouldn't be centered. The extra four feet would be on the west side to avoid intrusion into the parking/backing up situation.

If it were shifted to the west side, at 20' the eaves are ~26" above the opening.

Picture indicates current VS proposed dimensions.
PXL_20210402_155000056.jpg
Top is current, bottom is 20ft shift
Top is current, bottom is 20ft shift
 
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https://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/earth-mortars/earth-mortars.htm

Dez, here's a good article about earth mortar so you can decide if you want to go that route.
 
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Ash Jackson wrote:Hello there!

Paul's asked me to create a design for a Solarium at Wheaton Labs. This thread is intended to serve several functions:

- Design conversation between Paul and I
- Pooling Permie knowledge both to improve the design and help me make it more natural
- Probably other useful functions as yet unknown or unintended

The Solarium is intended to go here, on the South end of the Garage:






Hi Ash!!!
In taking point on the solarium project, Daniel and I have drawn up some preliminary sketches. The criteria I’m working with are
1) use Eric’s 1/4” tempered glass.. (we have 51 identical panes of 42.25”x59.00”, ready to use)
2) use all natural materials (how did people build things before glue and cement came along?)
3) A speedy yet robust build, by leveraging simplicity of design considerations (must be built in 2 weeks; and we have only 7 weeks to prepare and stage all materials).

Below are the drawings (old school pencil and paper).. if Mike or other engineers have input and or feedback or questions, please post here.

In my mind, The main structure frame is roundwood. The inner structure frame is dimensional lumber. The glass will be framed with dimensional lumber and inserted into the inner structure frame. Three Posts will be custom cut to sit on plinth rocks. The garage-mating wall will be mounted to existing structural members of the garage. Sliding glass doors will be custom made using Eric’s glass. Basically Eric’s glass is the building block unit of this solarium. Double paning is highly recommended by Paul.

Timeline for feedback and considerations for final design is 1 week. So by next Monday, I’ll post final design to begin preparations. This includes feedback from Josiah, Paul, and other engineers in permies, as well as other builders and solarium enthusiasts.

Feel free to critique the initial draft. Please keep in mind forward thinking by offering solutions, as well as simplicity of design (to keep criteria “3)” alive)

Sincerely Yours,
Dez :)
4E6ECF2A-568F-4749-91B5-4EDD8A19A2ED.jpeg
Front on view. General design of posts and purlin.
Front on view. General design of posts and purlin.
4B564C2D-0218-4532-B1AE-83282CB595C6.jpeg
With angle brace supports
With angle brace supports
EDAD4AAE-5882-4320-BE96-8E9286C5E729.jpeg
Top down view of five posts
Top down view of three posts and garage-mating wall
2DD6EF0D-1201-4470-B779-BD774F63E36F.jpeg
Roof slope
Roof slope
8B1EF317-7929-42BE-B696-82C7108A5E78.jpeg
Bedrock, plinth, footer stone wall, vertical post, horizontal brace, insulation. (3rd grade engineer skills)
Bedrock, plinth, footer stone wall, vertical post, horizontal brace, insulation. (3rd grade engineer skills)
147F09CB-ED0A-411E-9093-A58E88205890.jpeg
East and west walls (option-B, because Eric’s glass does not fit this set up)
East and west walls (option-B, because Eric’s glass does not fit this set up)
B5032ADA-FA36-4A0B-965D-974616A5D9C8.jpeg
East wall frame outline (option-A)
East wall frame outline (option-A). Left panel slides, right panel stationary.
0D5409F4-185E-4DEA-B032-11E82738493C.jpeg
South wall and roof outline. With 3 foot eaves considered
South wall and roof outline. With 3 foot eaves considered. Front-on and top-down view.
669BB5A2-B8FF-4686-A2C0-212587DA1A18.jpeg
South wall frame outline
South wall frame outline
85E46BDA-1E57-4E3D-992B-59F835B155FB.jpeg
Window frame design
Window frame design
 
Mike Haasl
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Hi Dez, do you have sketches for the roof structure?  Will the roof be glass panels or opaque?

How much pre-building can be done?  For instance, making the windows and door(s).
 
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The roof will be not-glass.
 
paul wheaton
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Based on many conversations with many people, I provide this proclamation:

    We will use the existing floor and bedrock

Doing the floor properly was making this project about ten times more challenging.   I am, therefore, making the executive decision that one of the requirements for solarium version 1.0 is made do with the floor/ground as-is.  Perhaps in two to five years we will make another pass on the solarium to something excellent with the floor.  
 
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Mike Haasl wrote:Hi Dez, do you have sketches for the roof structure?  Will the roof be glass panels or opaque?

How much pre-building can be done?  For instance, making the windows and door(s).



Exactly—prebuilding is a must!.. I’m thinking to build to 90% of the windows and doors, so volunteers can get a taste of the final 10%. As for the rest of the structure, I would like to have also about 90% built so volunteers can experience the finesse of the finishing moves. ;)

Regarding sketches of the roof—not yet. It will be a simple metal roof with weather seals and some kind of insulation. Thanks for the question mike!
 
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I sympathize with using the existing floor for the solarium for simplicity. I presume the post footings will be dug to bedrock to avoid possible settling. The post plinth rocks need to extend several inches (preferably 6-8" minimum) above exterior grade to keep splashes and groundwater wicking to a minimum.

I don't understand the rationale for notching the posts on the inside. I don't see a benefit on the corners, and I would want the garage door posts to be exposed on the interior for the appearance of the braced frame against the existing wall.

What sort of doors are available or can be constructed? Swinging doors are no big deal, but sliding doors require precise operating hardware to work well, not feasible to build without a good shop and experienced workers. They are trickier to seal effectively too.

The roof is a tradeoff: the steeper it is, the easier it will be to keep waterproof, but the shallower it is, the more clerestory window can be put above in the existing wall. I think the overhang should be not more than two feet on the south side, as that would shade too much of the glass in winter. I would advise drawing the profile with sun angles at noon for various seasons to see the best combination of shading and exposure.

Cob lower walls are cool, but need to be on a masonry base at least a footish above grade to avoid water wicking up and damaging them. A drylaid stone base will prevent wicking with less height, but will not help with splashing. If the existing surface slopes away from the proposed enclosure in all directions, fine, but if not you need to cut a groove to keep water from flowing from outside under the wall.
 
paul wheaton
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I'm thinking that the sliding glass doors will be purchased.  Just conventional sliding glass doors.
 
Mike Haasl
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I suspect, but might be wrong, that the insulation in the solarium may not add up to much.  With that much glass I think the a large percentage of the surface area will be a R1 or lower.  Making the roof and remaining walls a R20 will help but you're fighting a lot of heat loss through the glass.  

How well sealed is the rest of the garage?  If the soffits are open to the interior, the garage will act as a source (or exhaust point) for a lot of drafts.  If the solarium is really "tight" and doesn't leak, that will help a lot.  If the garage is also "tight" that would help a whole lot.  

I think the existing floor might turn out just fine.  Since bedrock is down about 2 inches it's not hard to excavate to it.  Getting a plinth rock for each post to sit securely on the bedrock might just take some precise jackhammer work to shape a recess for each rock to sit in.

I don't know enough about natural construction so this question might be silly.   What about building a stone wall that goes from bedrock up about 18" above grade on the S, E and W sides?  Mortar it together with something natural but rain resistant.  Then set the main posts on top of that rock wall.  And set horizontal logs on that rock wall to rest the windows on.  There wouldn't be any insulation in that lower part of the wall but much of it could be covered by the RMH bench.
 
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I agree that wall insulation where there is no glass would not help much, so an 18" stone lower wall would not be a huge issue. I understand double pane windows are desired, and not hard to do with a little bit of high-tech silicone sealant and spacer strips (and care to maintain very clean conditions during assembly). You can make double pane windows without fancy sealants (my father did it in 1960), but you will get spiders and possibly fog. Double pane gives R2, worth the effort (half the heat loss).

An important note: don't clamp in the glazing edges very tight, as unless the base is perfectly flat all around you will be introducing stresses that will eventually crack the glass. My carpenters did that with very expensive triple-pane Heat Mirror glazing twenty-five years ago, and half of them have now cracked.

If the RMH is against the south wall, it is important to separate and insulate it from the exterior wall and bedrock.
 
Mike Haasl
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My house had a homemade double paned window in it.  Let's say the glass was 4' by 3'.  They had a wooden 2x6 frame that was 4' by 2' on the inside.  The 2x6s were oriented so the glass was touching the 6" sides.  There was a small square spacer strip in the middle that kept the two panes of glass apart.  Then additional wood blocks held each pane against the center spacer.  The 2x6 on the lower sill was beveled on the outside for drainage.

Glenn (or anyone), if there's a stone lower wall and the posts start 18" off the ground, do you think there needs to be any diagonal bracing in that south wall?  Or would the roof give enough support to keep that wall from moving?
 
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The stone would need to be mortared, preferably with lime mortar, to be stable at this scale. Given the reported fragility of the local stone in concentrated loading, it would need a sturdy sill full length for posts to sit on and spread the load - not a hard job. In that case, I think the posts would get sufficient bracing from the roof attached to the main structure that additional diagonal bracing would not be needed. 8' spans of the south wall roof beam would be short enough that that would not require bracing either, as long as the beam is at least 6-7" diameter (maybe 8" for softwood). Still, I think diagonal braces from corner posts up to roof beam on the south wall would look good in keeping with the braces for the garage door beam, preferably set inside the glazing plane, and would not hurt the structure in any case.

I wonder about having softwood roundwood posts located on the exterior of the structure - I think their durability exposed to weather would be questionable. I would be more comfortable building with the posts protected from weather. Siding is easily replaceable, posts are not.
 
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I suspect softwood posts exposed to the elements in Montana will do much better than if they were in WI or NY.  Especially with a 2' overhang and maybe gutters on the south side...
 
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