Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Cottage Building

It has been one month since the last post. During the month only five days were spent working but they were five very good days.

There were two winter storms and some time away but nearly two feet of height was able to be added to the east and north walls. The kitchen window frame was installed.

Another storm is approaching but afterward it should be possible to see the west and south walls match the others in height. The higher walls are now 6.5 feet high.

This is what it looks like when sitting in the alcove. Note the curved wall on the left. It is a very pleasing place to sit.

And here is another view while sitting in the alcove.

The Great Wall. A glass pane has been installed for a small north facing oval window.

Following the ice storms some cracks developed in the walls. They do not appear to be structural. The walls had a thick coating of ice. Some ice must have melted, the moisture entered the wall, then froze again.

Here is a view of the future kitchen.

Mount Fujiyama.

This is what it looks like while work is in progress. Ladders are a must now since the walls are getting so high.

Here is a closer look at the new north window from the inside.

The cottage stands guarded by the four old oak trees.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

One More Foot

Another foot of height has been added all around the cottage.

Ah, something new. Notice the two new window frames. They are not yet installed but the wall is levelled and ready for installation during the next work period.

This is the view out of the front windows.

The sitting alcove is starting to get cozy.

This is the view out of the west alcove window. The camera distorts the image somewhat as the horizon appears significantly larger in person.

The kitchen area received some electrical boxes and a telephone cable.

This is the view out of the kitchen window.

I am very satisfied with the week's progress even though it was a short work week of only five days.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Half Way

A very good work week has seen one foot of height added all the way around the cottage, front window frames installed, and the south side brought up to height with the rest of the walls. The walls are now half way to the six foot milestone at which time focus will turn toward the roof.

The walls have reached "smile height". Working next to them makes me smile. It is hard to believe that the walls are shoulder high in some places.

In the coming week preparations need to be made for the remaining windows. There are four more windows to install. They will not be large windows but will be positioned for light and most importantly, ventilation. One opening window will be installed on the west wall, and one on the north wall. There will be a window over the sink and another on the east wall near the existing window frames. These will be just frameless panes of glass inserted into the cob wall.

Supports for the kitchen counter have been installed as has a pipe to supply water for the sink. This sink will be in the corner, although it is more of a rounded curve than a corner.

Solar gain appears good. This is mid day on November 9. The sunshine is able to reach half the floor in the cottage. I did make a mistake siting the building however as the building becomes shaded by 2:30 in the afternoon.

I was mixing a batch of cob and had to stop to take this picture, finding myself in disbelief that the building is growing as it is. Two short months ago when looking in this direction one had to imagine seeing a building. Now there is a building there. Amazing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It Looks Like a Cottage

The south window frames have been installed and they have completely transformed the appearance of the building. It looks and feels completely different both inside and out. Edit 11/04/2013: Some newer photos have been added at the end of this post.

It's possible to get a sense of the view that will be visible out of the windows.

Now instead of being asked "What are you building?" I'm expecting to be asked "What kind of building is it?"


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Project Update

This week there was a minor setback (see the last post) but once building resumed 8 inches of wall were added around two thirds of the cottage. The window frames have not been installed yet. You can see the places reserved for the frames in the left side of this photo.

The west, north, and east sides was where the work was focused. This is the north wall.

Some supports were added for a desk / shelf area.

A gas pipe was installed to provide gas for a kitchen burner.

This is looking toward the west. Being in this place is a joy regardless of the weather.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ants and Cob

This post is for those considering building with cob in areas where ants are plentiful. The building site has had a population explosion of ants this summer. An ecologically friendly building may encourage some ant habitation but it isn't desirable to have ants compromising walls by tunneling or being able to enter the interior of the finished structure.

This project has had a couple of setbacks due to my unwittingly creating an environment favorable for the presence of ants. Below are some strategies that will be followed from this point forward to minimize the creation of desirable ant habitat. If you know of any other strategies please let me know and I will post them here.

1. Cover walls as little as possible. A cover over a wall or floor will encourage habitation.

2. Use mortar in foundations. Unmortared foundations allow passage and voids for habitation.

3. Gravel with cob on top is ant habitat. Ants love the voids in gravel and the protective layer provided by cob.

Here is a very helpful post from Kindra at regarding mortaring.

And here is other helpful information from this same list regarding ants and cob.

We had a period of rain over several days for which we are very thankful for in this area of drought. I had the walls covered very well for several days to prevent any erosion by rain. Upon uncovering the walls an ant nest was discovered in the top of a wall three feet off the ground. Needless to say they could not stay there and the nest had to be removed.

Going forward I am not going to cover the walls at all with one exception. I will cover on the top of the section of wall currently being constructed with burlap during daylight hours to prevent the sun from drying out the top layer of cob.

Suspecting that more ants may have moved in I stopped all building and began evaluating the structure. There was evidence that ants were nesting in the newly constructed bench. After a lot of pondering the decision was made to remove the bench altogether. Here is the bench prior to removal.

The top eight inches of cob in the bench was removed which was no small task. No ants were found. However, upon arrival at the gravel layer of the bench the suspicions were confirmed. Several ant nests were present inside the bench. A day later the bench was out.

This is the bench now. Waiting to be recycled into a wall.

Having learned that gravel with cob on top makes a great ant habitat an evaluation of the walls was started. There was evidence that ants were present in the foundation immediately below where the nest was removed from the top of the wall. Ants sense vibration and they go into a defensive mode when vibrations occur. Banging on the top of the wall with a shovel confirmed the suspicion as ants began streaming out from one section of foundation. At this time I don't know how much wall, if any, has been compromised. If the bench is an indication their preference should be for the gravel in the foundation. The voids created by gravel seem preferable to having to mine tunnels in the clay and sand. I'm not certain what will be done to this wall section yet.

Somewhat satisfied I sat on the subfloor where the bench used to be, enjoying the shelter the cottage was providing from the wind. A minute later I looked down to see my leg covered with ants! Ants are also under the subfloor, likely sheltered by the urbanite chunks and gravel that were installed earlier in the year. Again, I'm not certain what will be done here, if anything. Removing the subfloor might encourage them to relocate. But installation of the stone floor and grout should create an impermeable barrier.

Although I'm somewhat concerned over my cascading mistakes I remain undaunted. I'm going to resume building now until it appears that this approach is no longer viable. Then I'll start over, but more knowledgeable.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Two Foot Milestone

The cob portion of the walls are now two feet high all the way around the cottage.

Here are the stats for those keeping track. 25 work days total, 18 of which have been half days. 148 batches of cob for an average of 6 batches per day.

At this rate 50 more working days to the six foot milestone.

The bench alcove area will be left alone for now with focus being on the walls.

Looking northeast.

There is still some trimming to do.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Up We Go

Wall height is being added at the rate of one foot every eight to nine work days.

I try to limit a work day to a maximum of five hours per day. I call these half days. A typical day involves mixing six batches of cob, applying it to the walls, wall trimming, and perhaps two or three other miscellaneous tasks.

The walls above the foundation are approaching two feet of height.

On the outside of the building in some places the walls are almost waist high.

This cottage is growing! The next three days will be focused on the south facing side. Within a week there may be some window frames in place.