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Farmhouse Cob/Strawbale Renovation

 
                
Posts: 7
Location: Rockland, Id
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Hi all,

We're Jon and Sue, and we were given this group's URL as a resource to help us learn about alternative builidng...particularly cob and strawbale.  The past several months we have been searching the internet learning all we can about Cob building.  (and to say the least...we're so VERY EXCITED!)

This is our plan:  we live in Southeastern Idaho...and scattered throughout the farmlands around the state are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of old farm homes that have been abandoned.  Most have a working well, some even have electricity and a septic system.  Almost all of them are surrounded by beautiful trees that their former pioneer farmer residence planted years ago.

Our idea is to find one of these abandoned homes and then approach the landowner and basically ask to lease or simply be given the property.  What else would they do with it anyway, right?    It would be too expensive to move and too much work for them to bother even tearing down...so it just sits there...an eye sore.  The ones we've looked at have been empty going on 20 years now.

We plan on "deconstructing" the home, salvaging whatever materials we can for future use in building a new home over the existing foundation.

A particular home we're looking at has a very solid and well constructed cement basement. (25'x25' in size)  Through a combination of strawbale and cob, we'd like to build on the basement a two story home. 

So the home would consist of a basement divided into rooms using cob. Then the first story would be strawbale exterior walls with regular stick construction interior walls, (we're thinking cob walls over a basement would be too heavy?) and it would have a flat roof (picture a typical adobe southwest  home)...and on top of that flat roof a small cob room and patio/pavilion.

So my questions for all the expert cobbers out there! 

Do you forsee any red flags in our idea?  Any suggestions or things we should pay particular attention too?  Has anyone built a cob home over a basement before? 

Before starting, we plan on taking Cob Cottage Company's cob building course in Oregon...but that won't be until next Spring.  (A good friend of ours has taken the rocket mass heater course from them.)   In the meantime as we are just in the planning stages we just wanted to get as prepared as we can.

Thanks before hand for any ideas and help anyone has.

"Here's Mud in your Eye!"

Jon and Sue
j and s
 
Jami McBride
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Location: PNW Oregon
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Welcome Sue and Jon!

I see you found your way over here after my invite  So glad to have you joining in.

A couple of possible suggestions for your plan:
1.  You could build your house using pole-beam construction to raise the roof right away and hold the weight (I believe you be getting snow - yes?).  Infilling these beams would be easy enough.

2. As for interior walls - interior cob walls do not have to be thick at all, however due to your several story construction, standard cob walls in the basement would/could offer much support to the floor and then main-floor walls.  Or you could run some beams through the interior as your support.

Be sure and check out the whole tree post for great inspiration, and google pole-beam construction to get a good feel for the possibilities and benefits.

If it were me..... I would use pole-beam  of course.  I would reinforce, with beams & cob, a room size area near the first floor kitchen to use as a root cellar.  The rest of the basement I would mostly fill in, except for air ducks for a passive cooling/heating system.  But these are just my preferences.  I would also add a room running the full length of the south side of the house.  To use as an in-house greenhouse, passive solar collection space.  I'm not much into basements, although they have their pluses - I just don't love'em.

Why are you thinking flat roof - is it for that 'look' of an adobe dwelling?  Just curious....

~Jami


 
                    
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as an expert cob builder...

one question...

will come build a house on my property?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/feralsophist/sets/72157603741899734/show/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/feralsophist/sets/72157603721524146/show/

i havent updated this in afew years, but will be building cob, timberframe, and salvage for much of the summer on my place in sw washington, and have worktrades available for a pdc  in august/september. if you want to get some hands dirty as cob worktrade education and gather a permaculture design course with it, rather than putting cash out, drop me a line.


Best

Deston
 
                
Posts: 7
Location: Rockland, Id
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Jami McBride wrote:
I see you found your way over here after my invite  So glad to have you joining in.


Hi Jami...thank you...this forum has some absolute wonderful information...so glad you sent us this way!


A couple of possible suggestions for your plan:
1.  You could build your house using pole-beam construction to raise the roof right away and hold the weight...


We just did a little search on pole-beam...though we've heard of it...we never really knew what it entailed.  It is definitely interesting!  ...and something that we think we can use.  AWESOME!


2. As for interior walls - interior cob walls do not have to be thick at all, however due to your several story construction, standard cob walls in the basement would/could offer much support to the floor and then main-floor walls.  Or you could run some beams through the interior as your support.


Ya...we were definitely planning on cob walls in the basement....then maybe we could use cob on the floor above it...but try to keep the cob walls above supported over a cob wall below.  Is that what you mean?  That would be great if we could. We can also definitely have beams...great idea.


Be sure and check out the whole tree post for great inspiration...


WOW...love the "whole tree" concept!  Definitely going to look into that more!


If it were me..... I would use pole-beam  of course.  I would reinforce, with beams & cob, a room size area near the first floor kitchen to use as a root cellar.  The rest of the basement I would mostly fill in, except for air ducks for a passive cooling/heating system.  But these are just my preferences.  I would also add a room running the full length of the south side of the house.  To use as an in-house greenhouse, passive solar collection space.  I'm not much into basements, although they have their pluses - I just don't love'em.


We kinda need the basement for our small brood of children!    We have 5 of them...and were wanting to have their rooms downstairs.  We'll just throw bones down to them every once in a while! 

...a room on the south side is an awesome idea, though...and a root cellar would be super cool!


Why are you thinking flat roof - is it for that 'look' of an adobe dwelling?  Just curious....


We wanted the flat roof to act as a separate living space and patio.  In our second phase of the home we want to eventually create a small cob room up there that would have a simple spiral staircase to the floor below it  And then have the rest of the roof basically be open to walk on and enjoy the outside. (like a deck)  It would be covered by a pavilion for shade and shelter from rain.

So that was why we were think of the flat roof.

None of our plans are written in stone yet (or in this case MUD)    - so we really appreciate all the suggestions and ideas.

Thanks again!
Sue & Jon
s  &  j





 
paul wheaton
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Taking the cob cottage class is very smart.  After you are done there, you will have the tools to build anything.  The only trick is that cob is slow.  As long as you have patience, you can build anything with cob.

Flat roof in idaho:  uh .... well ... it is possible - but you will want to thoroughly research snow load.

Do you have pics?

What else can you tell us about the land?

Have you lived in a place as cold as idaho before?

 
Jami McBride
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Ya...we were definitely planning on cob walls in the basement....then maybe we could use cob on the floor above it...but try to keep the cob walls above supported over a cob wall below.  Is that what you mean?  That would be great if we could. We can also definitely have beams...great idea.


Yes, that is what I was thinking.  Map out your walls for all levels on tracing paper and overlay them - then see how you can combine/stack 'main' walls for strong support, and edit your overlay(s) accordingly.  Any unique walls on a particular level can then be constructed 'thin', which won't be a traditional cob method, but more of a hybrid using a couple of methods.  One idea for thinner walls is to build-in large area's for shelves - if your interested in this I can supply more detail in another thread.

Also, you mentioned a Rumford fireplace/stove - for this you will want a sold-mass base in the floor/level below, you could even skip the 'floor' in this area and just build your stove on the base, constructing your floor around it - so include this in your floor plans overlay.

For 'speed' building:
I like a wattle-and-daub - ramming methodology: Thinner cob mix with wood forms for bracing while it is packed.

Regarding your flat-pavilion:
You could consider a wide Turret (more my romantic taste) have open sides and a pointed roof for the snow - win win  See examples here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turret  Make it open (no walls, just supports) on the top-floor of the house and have lots of windows on the first floor level, put your home office in there - or (for the obsessively practical) make a cistern in the turret, below your pavilion, to collect roof water run-off.

3turret.JPG
[Thumbnail for 3turret.JPG]
 
                
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Location: Rockland, Id
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Hi Paul...thanks so much for your interest in our project.  Just a couple of days ago I really looked through your website...GREAT information.  Will definitely be using that as a resource for our adventure! 

paul wheaton wrote:
...Flat roof in idaho:  uh .... well ... it is possible - but you will want to thoroughly research snow load.

This isn't going to be a roof that just sits there accumulating snow.  It will be more like an upper deck.  The snow will be shoveled after each snow fall...just like any sidewalk or deck would be that you want access too.


Do you have pics?
What else can you tell us about the land?

We haven't totally picked out the home that we'll renovate for certain.  There are at least 3 possibilities...we will have it narrowed down to which home by spring.


Have you lived in a place as cold as idaho before?

Yes we have...husband from Helena, MT...and we also lived for several years in Whitefish...so we're no strangers to cold and snow.  But this area the home will be in has definite extreme weather in the winter.  I'm sure there will be days that it'll feel like we're back in Montana.  Nice mild summers, though.

We're calling this our "cob adventure"! ...and looking forward to our home and new life. 

Sue & Jon


 
                
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Location: Rockland, Id
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Hi Jami...again...more awesome info...thanks so much!

Jami McBride wrote:
For 'speed' building:
I like a wattle-and-daub - ramming methodology: Thinner cob mix with wood forms for bracing while it is packed.

Haven't heard of "wattle-and-daub"...sounds neat, though.  Definitely will research this...awesome!


Regarding your flat-pavilion:
You could consider a wide Turret (more my romantic taste) have open sides and a pointed roof for the snow - win win  See examples here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turret  Make it open (no walls, just supports) on the top-floor of the house and have lots of windows on the first floor level, put your home office in there - or (for the obsessively practical) make a cistern in the turret, below your pavilion, to collect roof water run-off.

Wow...now those are interesting ideas.... 

We just love all you "idea" people...that's what we are finding is just so fun about this adventure!  Each day brings something new...and we haven't even started yet!

Peace Everyone,
Jon and Sue


 
paul wheaton
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Jon-Sue wrote:

This isn't going to be a roof that just sits there accumulating snow.  It will be more like an upper deck.  The snow will be shoveled after each snow fall...just like any sidewalk or deck would be that you want access too.



I would like to strongly recommend that you figure on handling unshoveled snow load.  It always seems to drop that five foot load of wet snow in the middle of the night or when you are spending christmas away from home. 

 
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