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balecob home on earthbag foundation--building progress  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Thought I would begin sharing our new build with everyone here on permies. I've listed the highlights of this build below:

-load bearing bale/cob walls
-earthbag stem wall
-rubble trench foundation
-living roof
-earthen floors
-cob/cordwood/bag interior walls
-attached sun room
-rocket mass heater

This year we worked primarily on the rubble trench foundation. Next year we will be doing the stem wall, exterior walls, roof, and if time permits the rocket mass heater and earthen floors. Hopefully the year after we will do all the finishing work and move in. This is our second build. We currently live in a cob house we built two years ago. If you want to check out our blog see my signature below. I'll continue to post on the blog and upload new photos on this page as we proceed. Below are some photos of our progress this year.

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water line
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Gravel for Rubble Trench Foundation.
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Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Aaaaah, now it is spring and the real building can begin!!!

An update on what is going on with this massive project. We have cut the trees for our three posts and peeled them, but are waiting for a group of five to help us stand them up in place on the building site. Originally I was planning on pouring three large concrete footers measuring 2x4x4 feet, but after seeing a really nice footer made from cut and squared stone I realized that I--and my wallet--would prefer using massive chunks of urbanite that were taken from the sidewalk just outside the public library. These things are huge! I had to use a sledgehammer to break them into 4x4 pieces and they still weigh 100+ lbs.

After these beams are stood up I'll start the earthbag foundation!
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Straw for exterior walls
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18 inch posts
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flat-nose shovel hard at work
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Well we have started the bag stem wall which is much more fun than I had anticipated. I got some awesome poly bags from a local brewery for 10 cents a piece. We are going to complete 5 layers of bags before starting the cob/bale walls. We also left a 3-4 inches between the bags for insulation.
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Posts: 14
Location: Cocolalla ID
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Very cool tho see what you guys are doing! I like the combination of tecniques. Excited to see more progress of the project.
 
Posts: 16
Location: 6b Atlantic City NJ
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Wonderful work so far. Really enjoyed your blog too. Makes me miss living in Montana more than anything!
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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Bags seem to never end, but we are putting the front window and doorbucks in finally.

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wife and recycled windows. Free 4x7 windows from the dump.
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front door buck
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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Bags are done; onto cob!
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Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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More photos. We are finally to to the balecob stage and ready to put some windows in!
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wall thickness at 32"
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working to bring the stemwall level
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first course of bales getting cobbed in
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Haven't posted photos for a while so I decided to throw some new ones up. This is some of the most recent work we have done. The snow coming down the mountains is intimidating, but we are just a few weeks away from starting the roof.
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working above lintels
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working on joists for loft
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front view through 7ft window frames
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pups finding their spots already
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bottle window for cob shower, this will be tadelakt
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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and more...
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unfinished loft
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finished loft from below in bedroom
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 231
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Going well, just ready to get the metal installed and be done with this project for the winter.
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fascia going on
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bale infill wall and insulation
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supports for metal and fascia boards
 
steward
Posts: 4400
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Daniel, what a cool looking house, nicely done !
Tell me more about this bale cob technique. 

Do you stack the bails and then cover them with cob or are you breaking up the bails and mixing cob into them then reforming the bails?

Do you have to pin the bails together?

What kind of dogs are those?
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
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Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Hi Miles, thanks for your questions and comments.

Balecob was coined i guess by Cob Cottage Company. I first read about the technique in the cobweb which was a regular write in newsletter thing from cob cottage. I contacted cob cottage and talked to them about the building process and got a more thorough understanding. It is basically stacked bales with an 8-10" layer of cob on the interior and a thick 2-3 inch earthen plaster on the outside. The bales are not pinned except for the corners and the infill wall up in the loft. The cob on the inside is pushed between the cracks of the bales 4-6 inches, but not all the way through to keep from having thermal breaks.. There are a few strategically placed pillars of cob in three different places in the exterior walls for strength--those are about 30" thick. Also, the interior walls are solid cob and there is a massive cob trombe between the house and the sunroom in the front.

My dogs are alaskan malamutes from a breeder in Big Fork Montana, but they don't help the building process much. I couldn't even get them to pull my beams to the house location when I cut them down. Had to use a winch.
 
pollinator
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Location: SoCal USA
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That's looking great!
Other info on balecob that I gathered from my visit to Cob Cottage, the bales obviously insulate and the cob layer on the inside provides some thermal mass that can absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night. The "Dino" dining hall at Cob Cottage is balecob.

Daniel, do the earthbags get covered with cob at the same time as the bales, and will that go to almost ground level? It looks like the bags are filled with gravel yes? It's great to see a structure going up as I consider both balecob and Oehler designs for a likely zone 5 area.
 
Daniel Ray
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Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
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The earthbags are double wide to support both the cob and the bales, they are about two feet higher than the final ground level. The first two rows are gravel filled, but the next 3 are soil filled and tamped. We put a clay slip on all the bags this year to prevent them breaking down, but next year we will do a lime plaster and a field stone facade all around the foundation. I collected all the field stone this year, but there was no time to mortar them in place. A project for the spring.

Mark, how much time did you spend at cob cottage. We haven't had the chance to make a visit yet, but maybe next year we can go and get some hands on experience with the pros.
 
Mark Tudor
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I went for about 10 days, they had a rocket mass heater workshop on a weekend followed by a work party the next week. The work party was early October, which is just before the rainy season starts, so tasks were focused on things that happen at that time like getting as much wood bucked/split/stacked under shelter as we could, maintenance of tools/gear, and some repairs.

We did play with cob making the manifold and covering the core for the RMH, Leslie Jackson was there too (she and Ianto wrote the rocket mass heaters book), and Ianto has an immense wealth of knowledge that he shares on all kinds of stuff. Was also fun taking hot showers that were heated with a RMH and making meals from all the fresh food in the gardens. And it's not often you get to see a 1200 year old Cedar tree that's the size of a redwood, about 11' DBH. Once you're there for a couple days and your body/brain adjust to nature, it's incredibly peaceful.
 
Daniel Ray
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Here is the beginning of our batch rocket mass heater--we used Peter's numbers for an 8" stove and I can tell this thing is already going to be a beast. Very excited to light it up this week and post some photos of the burn. Our riser is experimenting with the partial octagon shape that was experimented with in the Mallorca workshop with Peter--visit here http://donkey32.proboards.com/thread/2364/rocket-heater-build-peter-mallorca
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building the riser
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looking down the riser
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chimney installed
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
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Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Clay plasters, rock facades, bale walls, bottle windows and more!!! We are nearing the end and should be moving in soon!

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glass blocks in high eave
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rock facade over earthbag foundation
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bottle wall in bathroom
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clay plaster, brown coat on back wall
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brick floor in greenhouse
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bedroom window
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unalome relief work with plaster
 
Posts: 1793
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Awesome!!!
 
Mark Tudor
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The place is looking great!I really like the plaster work, I hope to include some in my future home that I've been pondering lately. Part of the pondering is the build scheduling, getting everything done by the first winter if starting in the spring as things dry out.

Have you noted any gotchas as far as what you planned versus what actually happened, if you had a schedule you were trying to stick to? Or is this place a "when it's done it's done, and we can move in after that"?
 
Daniel Ray
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Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
33
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Our schedule was really to get it the house by the end of this year, we stuck to our schedule last year and got the roof on before it snowed.

We definitely altered parts of the house while we built to fit our time and materials available. The lofted section ended up being built much different as we were rushed last year to get it covered. I ended up building a framed in straw bale wall to save time, but think it turned out really nice in the end.

Now we are just trying to get everything wet done so it has time to dry, but I think we are still on schedule. We will see. I'll post more photos as the floor gets put in.
 
Daniel Ray
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Batch Rocket Mass Heater 8" beast with cast iron door. All to Peter's specs. Thanks Peter, your the best! http://batchrocket.eu/en/

I will start a new thread once the stove is completely done and post photos of the first burn. Hopefully this weekend.

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bench wraparound
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sitting area
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inside burn chamber
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front installed door ($40 at ace hardware)
 
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