Thursday, August 25, 2011

a scary number

I just got off the phone to an architect after discussing my plans for the house with her.  It was a good conversation that enabled me to get a good idea of what I would be looking at with regards to the cost of building my house...  and scary.  Realistically I'm looking at $65,000.  Yep, there are three zeros there...  time to tighten the belt a bit!

Friday, August 5, 2011

floor options

I have been wanting to go with an earthen floor in my house.  It fits with the natural 'ness' of the house and is economical too.  However having just read this post
I am thinking I may need to do something other than just the traditional earthen floor. 
The soil is very clay which is great for building but not for drainage.  I may have mentioned the plan to put french drains in to guide the water away, but going from the experiences of Ziggy I may need to put a vapour layer underneath the floor....  I was planning on doing that in the foundation as well so hopefully will be able to work out a way to do both at the same time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interior Decorating

Not my strong point!  But I can see bits and pieces.

Cushions for the cob couch - a long one along the entire length to sit on, I'd like to stuff it with wool, probably sewn out of a thick cotton material.  I plan to form the couch so that it is not just straight backed but has a comfortable back.  I might make a headboard that is padded but maybe not.  Pillows and cushions along its length in a hodge podge of colours that I have knitted and felted.  A blanket that I am already working on made from all the left over bits of wool that I have knitted into squares and sewn together - it has all the wool I have spun in it from my very first very uneven skein. 

The interior walls will be light colours to draw the light in, and with many niches in the walls for candles to reflect that light too.  The plan is to have probably only three, possibly four, electric lights.  One in the kitchen, one in the bathroom and one in the cool store.  The possible fourth light might be in the main living area, depending on how much of the kitchen light spills in there.  I am hoping to use candles and lanterns more for light sources - the muted light they brings is calmer and helps preserve the natural circadian rhythm.

The curtain to shut off the bed alcove will be a heavy fabric, possibly felt, maybe quilted.  I also want to use quilts or felt for the other windows to act as temperature control, keeping the sun out in summer and trapping the heat from the stove inside in winter. 

The kitchen curtains I hope to be able to match to the design on the dinner set my grandmother gave me a couple of years ago, greens and olives and golds. 

All the doors will be wooden and probably handmade.  I'll preserve the natural look of the woodgrain and the warmth that wood brings with natural waxes and oils.  Natural waxes and oils will also be used on the earthen floor to provide water proofing and shine. 

A wander through an unbuilt house part 2

The bathroom is on the southern wall, so has a hybrid cob/strawbale wall - did I mention that before?  can't remember but I have now lol.  On this southern wall next to the bathroom is a door that leads to the coolstore.  Thick walls, a double door entry (one door, short hallway, second door) and on the other side of the second door, pantry heaven.  This room will hopefully mean that I don't need to have a fridge, it should stay cool enough to store fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs that need to be kept cool.  I will also have a freezer in here to store meat and frozen vegies.  Lots of shelves to store food and bins under the shelves for bulk goods like beans, flour and rice. 
Next to this door the first kitchen bench starts.  The house curves around at this point so the kitchen window takes in views down the valley to the south and over the hills to the west (or more likely over the trees and gully).  There is my wood stove on the western wall and the bench goes all the way from the storeroom door to the stove.  There are shelves under the bench with a curtain covering them.  The sink is under a window looking down the valley - the dream would be an old fashioned farm house style sink but we'll see what pops up at the time.  There will also be shelves in the wall, probably between the sink and the stove, to store the plates, cups and saucers etc.

Next to the stove, a table and chairs for eating, under a window that looks to the west.  The northern wall has the greenhouse on it, soaking up the sun and warming the house.  Where the wall from the kitchen meets this area it drops to be half height.  This forms the back of the cob couch that runs along this wall to the doorway.  The greenhouse is behind this half wall which provides thermal mass to soak up the warmth from the sun.  The top half of the wall is a window to allow the sunlight to come in and light the house and warm the floor.  There is a vine growing over the greenhouse which shades it in summer so the house doesn't get too hot and when it loses its leaves in winter lets in the sun to warm the house. Plants in there will provide us with food and greenery hopefully all year around and I'd love to have a second bath in there to enjoy an almost outside bathing experience.  The cob bench on the inside of the house is basically a shell that has a wooden top that opens to provide extra storage space.  In front of it sits a coffee table made of black heart sassafrass. 

Furniture is minimal in my house, this is on purpose - I don't need much. 

So that is a wander through my house - the dimensions probably don't make sense and it will probably change as time goes on and I get closer to actually building, but so far I think it works.  Works as a thought experiment anyway ;)

Saturday, July 9, 2011


A couple of things have had me pondering drainage lately.  When I dug the grave for Rob Anybody I was happy to  notice that the soil around here is full of clay - great for building with cob!  The other thing is that it has rained a lot here lately.  First it snowed, now it is raining.  Road closing amounts of rain.  The Huon River is swollen and running fast.  The combination of clay soil and huge amounts of water is basically sodden, puddly, water-not-going away ness.  For a cob house this is not good!

There are a couple of things I can (and will obviously) do to prevent the water damaging my house.  Good drainage in my foundations is one of them.  I plan to dig a deep foundation trench, lay gravel, ag pipe, more gravel then larger rocks and then the foundation.  I'll slope the trench so that it follows the natural downhill of the slope and runs into the creek that borders the  property.
I will also probably dig some french drains further up hill of the house to guide the water away from the house and to a more useful place.  I'll try and build the house as high on the block as I can , but also don't want it too close to the road so there will be a balancing act there. 

Another vital part of it will be making sure the stem wall - the part of the foundation that is above ground level and forms the "boots" of the building - is high enough that any water splashing off the ground doesn't get the cob.  I will also include a damp layer in the foundations to stop rising damp.  I will have eaves that extend a good way out from the walls too - generally a standard feature of Australian houses any way - and will be collecting rain water for drinking so any splashing from water off the roof will be minimal. 

The clay soil, while being great for building a house, will also be crap for the garden.  It will need lots of compost and aerating for it to easy to grow anything.  The Lancre Witch has suggested that we slash the grass (which is currently about waist high) and leave on the ground as mulch and do that over the next few years as the building process gets going so that the as the grass breaks down it is nourishing the ground underneath.