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barrel walls - whaddaya think?  RSS feed

 
Abe Coley
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Location: Missoula, MT
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I was staring at my pile of barrels thinking, "Gosh if i just had a few more I could stack them up and put a roof on them." In the meantime I made a drawing of what I envision.

Thoughts regarding insulation:  With the barrels sealed up, straw stuffed in the gaps, and a plaster finish over the whole works, it might make for a pretty insulative wall. The barrels are steel, which conducts heat pretty well, but thenagain the top of a RMH barrel can be 800 degrees while the lower portion of the barrel can be just warm to the touch so that you can keep your hand on it...

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Ralf Siepmann
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Hi Abe,

my first thought was: Leave the outside barrel faces exposed, looks like a happy home !

Kidding aside, the main problem would not be the heat conduction of the steel itself but the air enclosed that can move freely and start a convection loop inside each barrel.
It will charge heat from the inside face, rise, move along the top and give it off and cool and fall down at the outside face of the barrel.
To counteract this you´d have to fill every barrel with something foamy aka additional insulation.

Wether horizontal barrel walls could be load-bearing and support a roof I don´t know, but your drawing shows the edge reinforced by something else that holds it up so that´s fine.

I also think that cool metal attracts condensation of air moisture and might cause straw that´s suffed in between to rot, but I´m not sure.

That´s my 5 cents.

Ralf
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Thoughts regarding insulation:  With the barrels sealed up, straw stuffed in the gaps, and a plaster finish over the whole works, it might make for a pretty insulative wall. The barrels are steel, which conducts heat pretty well,,,
The barrels would not be really insulating.  For insulation you need dead air space. Think of fiberglass pink.  The spun glass has millions of tiny pockets of air that can not transfer heat through them.   There would be too much convection within the barrels, transferring cool air or warm air where and when you don't want it, so... not insulating.  On top of this, with this configuration you will probably have condensation issues with thin steal and cold air/warm air contacting it.  And I see that Ralf came up with similar thoughts as I type this. 

If the barrels were upright, and stacked like bricks, and filled with sand and stones then they would be thermal mass and some insulation (from the air space in between the sand), and that might be valuable for a build, providing cheap structure for such aggregate infill.  You could still put some straw to fill the gaps (which definitely adds insulation), and then cob over it, completely, so as to avoid condensation issues.  Make sure you have a good roof overhang and proper foundation.  This idea I'm proposing would weigh a lot, and you don't want your barrels to get wet and rust out.          
 
Abe Coley
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I see, because all that air space inside the barrel isn't "dead air" at all.

Probably better off as a shed than a house or heated structure.

If the barrels were sealed up, the thing would creak and pop all day with the temperature changes.

 
William Bronson
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Yes!
I have been toying with this and similar ideas for years.
I like them stacked on end.
I would think in a dry environment steel would last fun and filling them with paper,rocks and soil would be plenty insulating/thermal massive.

Currently I can get the plastic barrels for $2.00,and  IBC totes for $20.00.
Both are rated to hold up large loads. The IBC really shouldn't need any foundation ,the barrels might.
Maybe sink the bottom course of barrels parkways into the ground. Of course if they are lying down on their sides as you show them,a foundation is probably not needed.

Imagine a window that is a barrel with a hole cut in either end and multiple layers of glazing inside.
Perhaps layers of bottles, carefully aligned to let light through and set in concrete.
Or a jumble of bottles in a clear resinous matrix,boinked flooring glue maybe.

 
Angelika Maier
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As said before, the barrels are no insulation vaue at all you can fill them with water and create mass, in this case you put them inside the house, but there are easier constructions than barrels.
To make a wall yes it is very difficult to bind them together that they stay put and the gaps will always be a problem no matter how well you fill them as the barrels expand and shrink with the heat.
Keep some barrels for storing water (they are too small, but for small bits and pieces of roof it's OK) and depending on what was in there they might fetch a good price, people buy them as rain barrels (they are too small but they buy them anyway). You coul cut some in half for water plants like water chestnuts.
 
Miles Flansburg
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I don't know anything about this but it is a neat idea.

So what if the barrels were stacked, gaps filled with cob, cob walls covering the inside and out, with a roof overhang for protection.

Would they still expand and contract? Wouldn't the cob insulate them from that?

Would they still need to be filled with something? How about sawdust ?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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gaps filled with cob, cob walls covering the inside and out, with a roof overhang for protection.

Would they still expand and contract? Wouldn't the cob insulate them from that?

Would they still need to be filled with something? How about sawdust ?
  I would think it would be best to fill the barrels.  They would definitely not expand and contract as much with the cob buffering the temperatures but imagine on a cold night with cold cob on the outside contracting and cold steel on that side, and on the other side, warmed to room temperature warm cob and warm steel.  Sounds like condensation to me.  Now add sawdust (insulating but with some mass potential) or sand (more thermal mass but also insulating to a degree), and the barrel is turned into a more singular cohesive unit with the cob on the outside.  If you don't have that relatively solid nature to the wall, you are going to have condensation.  I would go with sand and stick with more of a thermal mass/inertia house than the sawdust insulating house, for this simple reason: Sawdust will settle more than sand, and the space in the barrel tops will have condensation.
 
Angela Aragon
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Your drawing looks nice and it seems like a good idea on paper. But that is as far as it goes. Remember, in Permaculture we strive for more outputs with less inputs. This strikes me as a high input project. Metal rusts. With the condensation problems mentioned previously, the rusting process will be accelerated. You can take steps to slow it down (more inputs), but rust eventually will prove to be the downfall of the project. It will systematically reduce the load bearing capacity of the barrels.
 
Tina Lee
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I have been playing with ideas along this same line.  Like using old appliances for walls of the chicken house or green house.  We live on a clay hill so I would fill them with clay, dirt rock whatever.  Would be kind of like playing with blocks. LOL  I did the rammed earth in the tires for my greenhouse. While it works well. I am getting too old for that.
 
William Bronson
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Tina,I love that idea. I have often thought of using derelict fridges stuffed with plastic bags and Styrofoam like building blocks.
 
Daniel Ray
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Cool idea for a workshop/shed! I think that one of the best insulators would be rice hulls, maybe even coated with clay slip to prevent settling. Kind of like the interior of a RMH. However, you'll never find rice hulls in Montana, way too expensive. I've heard in rice production areas of the country you can get truckloads for under $50.
 
Rebecca Norman
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We used to be able to get cast off metal drums for free, so we welded pairs of them to make sort of columns that function doubly as grain bins and as walls to hold up the roof of the dry food storeroom. We fill them with rice or flour from the top, and get it out from the openings at the bottom, inside the room. Additional small barrels are inside the room for either sifted flour, or other types of flour or grains that we use in smaller amounts.

These photos are a couple of years old; we've since plastered the outside so they look a bit better and don't heat up in the sun.
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Barrels are welded into columns to make tall bins and support the roof of the grain storeroom.
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We can remove grain from the bottom, inside the room.
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Filling sacks of flour or rice from the top
 
B Cha
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Location: Georgia
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Interesting concept. I would love to see someone expand on this idea. The biggest issue with barrels I see humidity build up inside then rusting from the inside out and thermal expansion of the filler. Once these issues are resolved it would be a great building medium.
 
Rebecca Norman
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If you're not going to use them as barrels, I feel that they make an unnecessarily thick wall and use up more space than just building of earth itself, which is fine for load bearing walls. I suspect that filling them with an insulating material would still not make a very insulative wall, due to the nice conductive metal that metal barrels are made of. Personally, I'm a big fan of earth walls, because the thermal mass properties make a more comfortable living space than the insulating two-by-four frame walls that I was used to in the US.
 
Sean Walker
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I have been staring at a pile of barrels on my property as well. My thought was to pack them with earth like a tire wall but hopefully a lot less labor intensive. My barrels are plastic so that solves the rust problem but I'm afraid they will bulge and burst under the pressure of packing them out. I believe using a "dead-man" to hold them into the berm is necessary was well. Re-bar dead-man is all I've come up with so far.

Any thoughts? If anyone has tried this I would appreciate any feed back!
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I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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