Desperate for pop/beer cans!

We need hundreds of cans to move forward next week on the two exterior pop can walls.  Our non-pop drinking family can’t produce enough and even with the generous donations of friends and family we will be short!

I’m at the point (almost) where I’d pay for them at the going rate.  I tried our local depot and suggested a trade for beer bottles but there’s some rule about not doing that…and now I’m out of beer bottles having used them for filling in between the rafters.

If you have bags waiting to go to the depot please let me know (as long as you are relatively local) and I can bring my nickel jar and save you the trip to the depot…


Poking Away: the roof, footings, electrical …

Wow … it has been two weeks since I last posted about construction.  Spring is flying by … we are now eating radishes out of the garden!

We have been busy on the house, but are not seeing the major advances of last month.  We are continuing to get ready to deck the roof and there is a lot of fiddly little jobs to do to accomplish that.

I’ve spent a lot of my time fitting stacked logs around the rafters.  This work is not necessary to proceed on to the roof decking, but now is the best time to do it while there is still lots of space to work in.  The stacked logs are essentially the finished surface that will be visible from inside of the earthship above the tires.  It should look really nice when the logs are cleaned up and stained but right now it is just a lot of fiddly, tedious work!  Anyway, it is all done for now and I have moved on …

Over the last couple of days we have been infilling between the rafters along the exterior walls.  This work involved treating the wood (rafters and sill plate) with a borax based wood preservative, and filling in between the rafters with pop can walls.   The borax wood preservative is reasonably kind to the environment … I was uncomfortable using other preservatives in the house as the warnings scare me!  We are definitely low on pop cans …  In order to conserve our remaining cans we did this infill work using brown beer bottles.  This infill is not visible (it is ultimately covered by the roof membrane), and we did not want to use the brown bottles in visible locations.  I have not kept close track of the number of bottles and cans we have used to date but I would safely say that the tally now exceeds 3000.  We are now out of brown bottles!  Not sure what we are going to do to track down more cans, but we need a lot more for the side walls and packing out the tires.

We’ve had a number of visitors over the last two weeks!  Grant and his wife visited from Kelowna early last week; they offered to help out, but we had just finished the log work the day before and were not too motivated ourselves.  We had a good discussion, and lunch on the work site in the rain.  On Friday of this week we had four more visitors who helped us layout the forms for the door footings and we even managed to pour one of the footings.  Thanks Jamie, Callie, Jason and Brady!

If you are thinking of visiting give us some notice if you are thinking of dropping by, that way we can make sure we are available when you do visit.

Sandra and I poured the other door footing on Saturday.  Today we stripped the forms off, insulated the outside edge with R12 rigid insulation, and backfilled them.  It is now much easier to get in and out of the building!  The footings are 14″ wide and 18″ deep.  The base of these footings is not below frost level, but the rigid insulation will protect the footings from heaving due to frost.  The technical name for these footings is ‘frost protected shallow foundations’ and there is a good internet reference for the design of FPSF foundations here.

Before we start laying decking we are trying to get a clear picture of what our electrical layout looks like.  That way if we need to lay wire before the decking goes on we can.  The electrical layout is not as simple as I thought; we plan to generate some of our own electricity and this needs to be planned out.  Also, we are thinking of running DC wiring for at least the room lights and I am trying to get a basic understanding of how this differs from typical AC wiring.  I am preparing a sketch of the electrical plan and when I get it to a more readable state I will try to post it.

This week coming up we hope to re-saw and plane the roof decking.  Just like old times …

Where Did All the Pop Cans Go?

We’ve been robbed!

After months of collecting pop cans we had BAGS of cans squirreled away in our storage shed.  When I popped my head in the shed yesterday to admire our collection I realized most of the cans were gone and there were just a few lonely bags left …

The culprit was not very far away. We finished the pop can form for the concrete bond beam on the front wall today. We estimate there are around 1600 cans in this form. Compared to pounding tires this is fairly easy work; it only took us a few days to lay this form, and it was not particularly strenuous. We used nine 40kg bags of portland cement to make the 80 foot long form. I am not convinced of the value of making the form this way instead of using lumber. In this case I did not want to use lumber and leave it in place due to proximity to the planters.

The concrete (or mortar) used for these pop can walls cannot have coarse aggregates (read rocks) as any rocks larger than about 1/2″ in diameter starts to get thicker than the mortar laid between the cans and weakens the wall. Consequently, we re-screened our aggregate using a mesh with 1/4″ spacing. We will have this same problem when plastering the walls … I see a lot of screened gravel in our future! The good news is that we started saving the rocks as we screened and we are now collecting rocks for the planters.

Before we finished the can form we had to lay the last twelve tires of the front wall. We did not lay these tires earlier as we needed to be able to drive the backhoe into the building. For the last two days we have been digging a trench inside the building along the front wall. Talk about a bull in a china shop! With the front wall built there was not a lot of room to manouever the backhoe and digging was a challenge. Fortunately I only struck walls with the bucket a couple of times and thank god they are earth filled tires … nothing broke! I have no idea why there are cracks in the pop can form though … maybe the kids were playing too close to it? Regardless, no serious damage and with the last tires in place we will not be getting the backhoe back into the building.

The trench is for the gray water planters along the front wall. We dug the trench in the approximate shape of the planters to a depth of two feet. The planters do not take up the entire front wall, but we wanted to lay pipes between them so that ultimately the planters all have the same level of gray water. Once we laid the connecting pipes (2″ black ABS) we buried the pipes so now only the planters are dug down. The pipes will enter the planters right near the bottom and guarantee that the level of water in all the planters is identical. In other words the pipes should prevent overly dry or swampy planters. Hopefully it will not rain significantly until the roof is on as I hope to leave these trenches until we start the gray water planters after the building is closed in.

Tomorrow we are getting more gravel … we’ve run out. Hopefully on Friday we will pour the bond beam on the front wall. After that we move on to the roof and framing the front wall.

NO MORE TIRES!  It was hot the last couple of days we finished the front tire wall … the outside thermometer read over 30 degrees celcius yesterday.  I am happy not to be pounding tires this summer!

We have 861 tires in the building … but who is counting?

I’ve added photos to the front wall gallery and created a planters gallery.