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Remolding using natural building materials - calling Uncle Rice  RSS feed

 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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I am looking at a purchase of 13ac with a very small apartment/house, which I'll need to remodel to fit my family.

My question for Uncle Rice.... and others is -

In my remodel I don't want to add any extra weight to the little stick building, it was built on the cheep, so can I add additions of post and beam, with roofing attached to main roof and infill with straw bale? Or better stated - how could I do this?
The house runs long - east to west. I plan on adding about 16' out on the north side and another 14' green house/solar addition along the long south side. And enclose the carport on the west side. I want to strip and redo the east wall, so this wall will have standard stud framing to deal with. The interior will be completely 'naturally' remodeled too, but that will be easier than the outer walls and roofing.

Any other tips or suggestions for making natural walls fit un-natural spaces and foundations?
 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
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Ok, let's see, the basics first.

What zip code is this in? Oregon, like Washington, both have a Mediterranean macro climate, but Washington has 9 zones with significant variations of this climate. Off the top of my head, without looking, I know has at least five zones. Coastal, Coast Mountains, Willamette Valley, Cascades, and Eastern. This will affect what has to be done, what is prudent to be done, and what may end up killing you.

What is the ground made of? What is the deepest hole you have dug, and what did you find? Sand? Gravel? Clay? How deep is the top soil? How far down does the freeze go? Are you on a hill side? These things will dictate what you have to do to make your house stable.

You mention a small stick frame house built on the cheap. I'm getting an image of a wafer board wonder built on pier blocks. If this is what you're looking at, your long range plans need to involve transferring your living space into the new construction and removing the wafer board wonder before it becomes unsafe. If you have a standard footing under the house, you may be ok.

There is nothing wrong with combining pole buildings with straw. This goes double if you have to go down more than a couple of feet for a solid foundation. Pole structures reduce the amount of dirt you need to remove for your foundation. You will still need to put something under your straw to keep it off the ground. Since it won't be load bearing, you may get away with a thin layer of masonry on some gravel that is about the width of your bales. Once you have a dry surface about 6 inches off the ground (or what ever the high water mark is there), stacking the straw is fairly straight forward. If your ground situation is particularly damp, you may want to do a variation of something that they did in Europe. See an example here. They would create rectangular boxes with square beams and fill the spaces with a variety of things, straw, cob, rock and mortar, brick, sometimes they even plaster over the works. The buildings frequently last centuries, though the packing may need replaced every few decades. You could run a horizontal pole just above the ground, set the straw on the pole, and fill the underside with gravel and Wonderboard... my mind is rambling with Ideas but I'm lacking information.

Your roof. Gable? Hip? Are their Dormers? Which sides of the house are the eves on?
 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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It is in Willamette Valley, mid Oregon about 12 miles from I-5. On the north side of a small valley running east wast, the land slopes gently south and is almost a square in shape.

I was just out there with the septic guy digging for the septic system and it looks like a clay slit mix, very orange from the clay, but powdery not extremely hard/chunky like solid clay. I didn't see any rock in it, so I'd guess it's light on the sand and gravel.

The house has settled a lot with the usual cracks in the plaster board, so I'm guessing they didn't use a curtain drain system preventing soil saturation around the foundation. I would bet they put a drain directly under the foundation. I'll be adding a french drain to surround the house on the uphill side (curtain). There is a steep rise in the land about 50' north of the house, so in the winter down comes the water just under the surface towards the building on the property.

The house has block foundation, thin walls, cheep doors, windows and flooring. All in all just a cheep house but not a shack, it was built in 1993. It was built on a place they leveled off and you can see the extra dirt they dumped in a semi circle, which drops off to join the natural lay of the land creating a shelf of soil. I imagine it to be clay silt, but haven't dug around the house.

This piece of land has a lot of water moving just below the surface, wet grasses appear in places more often than is normal for Willamette Valley of Oregon. So I plan on a good stem wall of at least 3', slip form with rock front and rigid foam back (my one exception to completely 'natural' materials). I'm changing the floor plan to utilize almost all of the current foundation, exception the east wall which is 24' right now before expanding and will need to be opened up. I plan on hiring out the extending of the roof and post/beam supports, and possible the trenching for the stem wall.

So your saying that with post/beam my stem wall doesn't have to go all the way down to bed rock?

The roof is gable style. There is a second story, but it is set just inside the walls of the lower story on the north and south sides. It has dormers on the south side, 3, and two small windows on the north for the bathroom and bedroom.
I will get pictures and post them in a couple of days.

Thanks




 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
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Ok, If you are near Lebanon or Sweet Home then it looks like the local record cold temps are a warm winter for me. That means your straw rooms are going to be easy to make cozy in the winter. Staying cool may be an issue though.

I consulted with my master builder and we agree that unless your bed rock is close, you don't need to dig for it. You do need a good foot for your post. You won't want to be burying the post. You will digging a hole so you can pour a cement block about two feet in diameter. My dad says two feet deep is good enough, but I'm thinking that three feet would be better. I needs gravel under it, gravel beside it can lead to your French drain. If you embed your post in the cement, it will dry rot. Instead, embed a metal bracket in the top of the cement to bolt your post to. It will take a bolt around a half inch in diameter. They are available at the hardware store, I can see if I can get a picture next time I am there.

I'm going to draw up other pictures, maybe today, that will show and explain more.
 
Peter DeJay
Posts: 104
Location: Southern Oregon
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Not sure if this would work for your post footings, but I've always wanted to use them. They can be used with sonotubes (the cardboard concrete pier form) or without, but they seem like they would be well worth it, especially in possibly unstable conditions. The company is called Bigfoot, I believe.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
27
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Those look interesting. I have saved the website so I can read about them later.
 
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