Jj Grey

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since Jul 30, 2013
Grew up Urban and Rural in equal parts. Both have there place in ones life. Now my life has me needing to be Rural and raise my family.
Debt shackles me, every corner to cut and penny to pinch that my lazy self can do will be done.
NORTH Great plains (spit wrong and hit Canada)
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Recent posts by Jj Grey

Nathanael Szobody wrote:Given the available material...adobe?

Mix any kind of manure and grain hull or straw in with the clay, cure and turn it for a week,  make some test bricks and dry them slooooowly. Presto: thermal mass.

That's what all the local houses are built with here.



I suppose I can buy some straw (or harvest my own local grasses come fall) and try for some test bricks. Bricks might also fit inbetween the walls better than bags.
8 months ago

John C Daley wrote:Nighly expansive clay will be useless for your project.
I have beeb invl\olved with about 500 earth b;ock houses.
You will be advised to make test bricks witha range of different naturally occuring soils, and watching them drt out and crack.
You will eventually find a good soil or a good mix.
Mixes are harder for obvious reasons. Importing suitable soil may be you only way to get a result.
But remember, you often only have to move a 100 metres to find better soils for earth blocks.



I've dug test holes all over the 40 acre parcel (that is about 1/4 mile on a side) and it is very consistently clay or gravel and clay below what is clearly either silt or organic hummus.  The whole county is about the same. The only variation are minor seams of black pre - lignite coal like substance (also fairly organic and fairly thin).
8 months ago

Kelly Hart wrote:

Jj Grey wrote:

Kelly Hart wrote:

Jj Grey wrote:Without importing a ton of sand, rock or fiber, is it possible to easily modify a soil that has too much clay (soil here is practically 100% clay and very expansive - it is just short of bentonite). I am constructing a post and beam house and would love to use earth-bags as thermal mass in-fill. But between the labor of tamping bags, and the fact we have limited sand/fiber to modify the clay, I am reluctant to use the soil in any structural way, or even as wall infill (as the walls will have to support the windows and doors to some extent.
Any ideas for a low labor, low cost way to earthbag this soil (picture pottery clay with LESS sand granules than usual in it)


Unmodified clay as fill for earthbags is not a good idea, as you know. Typically no more than about 30% clay is possible, with the rest being sand.

My suggestion would be to infill between your posts with earthbags filled with an insulating material, such as rice hulls, perlite, or crushed volcanic stone. Then incorporate some thermal mass into the structure with an earthen plaster or in your floor or stove surround.



At that point, (infilling with insulating material in earth-bags) it is not much different financially than just buying fiberglass insulation to fill the voids in the walls. I guess it is buying tons of sand or buying fiberglass insulation then.


Tons of sand won't give you any insulation. Fiberglass insulation will need walls built on both sides to cover it. Earthbags filled with insulating materials can be plastered directly and they may be able to support framed windows.


Oh, I have about 100+ sheets of lightly use Styrofoam insulation panels (2 and 4 inches thick - a free for pickup deal). mostly not suitable for _inside_ a house (too dirty) but excellent for outside walls just under whatever plaster or siding is being used, I want the thermal mass so I can let the fire go out when it is 40 below and come back from a couple day long trip without having my pipes frozen solid. Insulation works great - but it doesn't keep enough heat when it is negative 40 below for weeks at a time, you need thermal mass AND insulation. So the bags themselves don't need to insulate, just hold thermal mass instead.
8 months ago

Kelly Hart wrote:

Jj Grey wrote:Without importing a ton of sand, rock or fiber, is it possible to easily modify a soil that has too much clay (soil here is practically 100% clay and very expansive - it is just short of bentonite). I am constructing a post and beam house and would love to use earth-bags as thermal mass in-fill. But between the labor of tamping bags, and the fact we have limited sand/fiber to modify the clay, I am reluctant to use the soil in any structural way, or even as wall infill (as the walls will have to support the windows and doors to some extent.
Any ideas for a low labor, low cost way to earthbag this soil (picture pottery clay with LESS sand granules than usual in it)


Unmodified clay as fill for earthbags is not a good idea, as you know. Typically no more than about 30% clay is possible, with the rest being sand.

My suggestion would be to infill between your posts with earthbags filled with an insulating material, such as rice hulls, perlite, or crushed volcanic stone. Then incorporate some thermal mass into the structure with an earthen plaster or in your floor or stove surround.



At that point, (infilling with insulating material in earth-bags) it is not much different financially than just buying fiberglass insulation to fill the voids in the walls. I guess it is buying tons of sand or buying fiberglass insulation then.
8 months ago
Without importing a ton of sand, rock or fiber, is it possible to easily modify a soil that has too much clay (soil here is practically 100% clay and very expansive - it is just short of bentonite). I am constructing a post and beam house and would love to use earth-bags as thermal mass in-fill. But between the labor of tamping bags, and the fact we have limited sand/fiber to modify the clay, I am reluctant to use the soil in any structural way, or even as wall infill (as the walls will have to support the windows and doors to some extent.
Any ideas for a low labor, low cost way to earthbag this soil (picture pottery clay with LESS sand granules than usual in it)
8 months ago
I very much like your design, I would personally flip and rotate your kitchen so that the stoves were against an exterior wall - to allow easier ventilation, and the sinks against the walls of the bathrooms - to allow shorter plumbing runs. I wouldn't even bother with a second story, it looks like you have everything you need on the first story, and as you both get older, getting up stairs becomes less and less pleasant and safe. I would also make the shape of the house a little less rectangular and more square, for ease of heating. But at that point you would almost have the same house plan as the one I am building. X-P
11 months ago

Glenn Herbert wrote:It seems the building site itself is flat, and the slope for drainage is 100' or so away. I just think it is a bad idea to intentionally depend on an electrical appliance to ensure the house will never flood.

You want your house underground... do you mean completely surrounded by dirt with a green roof? Or fully bermed with a metal roof that can serve for water collection? A point to remember is that you don't need to dig down 6' to have fully earth-covered walls. If you dig 8'  x 16' x 3' deep, you will have enough dirt dug up to berm three sides another 4' up, or 7' total walls, which is plenty for a one-person dwelling. Roof slope will make most of the space considerably taller. In your situation, I would make the bermed walls maybe 6' tall, with decent roof slopes making the high point(s) something like 9' or 10'. Digging for a sunken porch or a greenhouse on the south side will increase the available berm material with even less digging down.



I totally agree that minimal hand digging is the way to go. If you have machinery what Candy is talking about is one or two days work at most even including the ditch to the creek Candy should also put in a back exit (ALWAYS have two ways out!!!).
Without Machinery going down even just 3 foot for a 12 by 18 (you need a little clearance to initially setup the poles and shoring after all, for a 8 by 16 building) that means moving 648 cubic feet of earth. My back hurts just thinking about it. To go a full 6 foot down means 1296 cubic feet of dirt. AND you are that much lower than the surrounding land, and have to dig the drainage ditch that much deeper, etc, etc. A cubic foot of soil supposedly weighs between 74 and 110 pounds......

Me? I rented the machinery to dig out a 6ft by 48 by 48 foot hole into the side of a hill for the house, plus another 8ft 50 by 50 hole on another side (for the garage shop) PLUS an 1/8th of a mile of road and a cistern of about 12 by 16x16x  Took slightly over a week of 12-14 hour days running the rented bobcat. But came out almost exactly as we wanted. Still haven't finished BUILDING anything in any of the spots yet.  We tried to clean up  just a couple dozen cubic feet of one of the excavations - it took at least 6 weekends to do that with my self and a child working at it - until we said good enough, and decided any further clean up would take the machinery...
Candy, if you can find anyone who would cut you a deal on the excavation machinery usage/rental/hiring, you might want to ask for that help and pay $100 or so for their time. If you go the more bermed than buried route, even including the drainage ditch (for future putting in a pipe for example) to the creek It doesn't sound like it will take them too long at all.  My rental place is about $200/day but has much better weekly rates ($1000/week) and partial day rates, or I can find one of the locals to dig for me at varying costs (from a couple of six packs plus fuel in one case, to $200 per hour for hire from the so called 'pro' ...)

Vinyl siding isn't terribly strong against bending in my experience so you might want more poles or other reinforcement. But other than the strength issue it should actually be  a good choice for in ground usage (water resistant, wont deteriorate or rot unless exposed to light, etc.)

Prepare to deal with pests by getting what is called hardware cloth 1/4 inch opening max, and screening near all opening or ground level things like wood, plastics or vinyl that can be chewed on.
As others have said, use the results from the shake test to educate you on how try improvements on your soil (adding sand, straw, additional clay, or what ever). Make test batches and see how well the results match your needs with each type of additive (start, of course, with the raw material and no additives).
My raw material sub-soil approaches 100% clay so my first test showed a nice hard (but excessive) compaction- that fractured too easily. with sand it compacts less easily. I am trying with fibers now (borax/lime treated paper, and cement additive fibers next).
2 years ago
cob
Do what I have done- ask the local gravel company if you can have a sandbag or two full for testing first. If you come to them to pick it up they will probably be willing to let you apply shovel yourself and do so for free or nominal charge.
Take the bag(s), pound it, and test it as described in the books.
In my case I need sand and possibly fiber as my soil is almost 100% clay. It sets up hard easily, but fractures just as easily and a stuffed full bag can compact by 15% too.
2 years ago
Well, since I am in the initial building process on my land, I would be spending it on tools, and building supplies.
I need to finish the garage/storage building, then the cistern, then the humanure composting pits, then the building to live in. It will cost @$1300 for the bob-cat rental to do the excavating for all that.
2 years ago