The Front Wall … Re-Evaluating our Choices

With the roof mostly done, we have started thinking about finishing the greenhouse wall.

The tire work, bond beam, and basic framing for this wall is already done.  So at the beginning of the week we started to size and order the 1″ insulated, double pane glass units.  We identified two companies in Kamloops that supply sealed glass units, and  we also started framing the support blocks for the glass.

We did not get very far though before concerns about the front face glazing as specified in the Earthship volumes stopped us in our tracks.  I have spent a fair amount of internet time researching earthship construction projects, and the glazing  (a fancy way to say glass) seems to be a fairly common problem spot.  As described by one owner/builder,

WARNING: Michael Reynolds’ mullion design for slanted glass panes (external window ‘clamp’ metal), as presented in “Earthship” Vol. 1, not only leads to leaks into the house but will continually require maintenance, do nothing to alleviate condensation drips, AND they’re ugly.


The possible concerns seems to be twofold; the potential for leaks on the exterior face, and the potential for moisture condensing on the inside face to run down into the wooden framing and the plaster covering the tires.  In all fairness, I have also read people’s posts stating that they do not have issues with water condensation, or that it occurs but it is not a very big deal.  The Earthship volumes do specify using a redwood for this framing (like cedar), which is very rot resistant and handles moisture well.  However, we did not use cedar (we used spruce/pine as this was available to us), and all things being equal we would like to avoid rot and moisture stains on the wood and the front face plaster if we can.

Our solution for this concern seems to be to install an extruded aluminum glazing system onto our 3×8 front face stud wall.  These glazing systems simplify the exterior flashing work, and provide interior gutters to catch condensation drips before they reach the wood framing.  This convenience comes at a price and it looks like the materials for our job will be in the neighborhood of $3500.00 dollars (I am still evaluating potential suppliers).  We plan to install this package ourselves.  This is not an expense we had planned on as the materials specified for this job in Earthship Volume I would probably cost around $500.00 dollars.  However, the cost is not huge, and in the long term we hope it wall pay off!

My bigger concern has been the delay this introduces into the building project.  I can be fairly linear when focused on a task, and I was all set to focus on front face framing OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS.  The earliest we can expect to get the glazing system is TWO WEEKS FROM ordering it and we still have not placed an order.  On top of that we will probably not place the glass order until we have installed this system and that means ANOTHER WEEK waiting for the glass.  This means that we will not have our front face exterior finished by end of September earliest, and more likely SOME TIME AT THE BEGINNING OF OCTOBER.  I am getting tense just writing about it … waiting was not part of the plan!

Fortunately, my common sense has come to the rescue.  We have lots of other things to do in the meantime and we can switch our focus to these things.  I just have to remember to take deep, calming breaths occasionally.  Strangely, my common sense looks and acts a lot like Sandra, and has been speaking to me in a loud, irritated voice lately when I talk about my original schedule.

So! Other than thinking about the front face glazing we have started mudding the interior tire walls, framed the west exterior popcan wall, and continued working on the east exterior popcan wall.  Christie (a childhood friend of Sandra’s) and her daughters (Sophie and Maya) helped us with the first packout of mud and cans between the tires in the living room … thanks guys!

We have had a fair bit of rain over the last couple of days and the good news is that there are no leaks in the roof (other than the unfinished skylights)!  The water drains really well off of the roof along the three canals that we placed at the back of the roof.  Unfortunately, the concentrated flow of water from the canals is causing some erosion at the back of the berm.  The canals simply stop at the edge of the berm as we have not installed cisterns, and we need to do something temporary to further direct this water.  We will probably do something before too long …

Keeping a flexible schedule…

We were ready to hop in my father’s truck this morning for Surrey to pick up all the materials we need to complete the roof.  We found a supplier who had everything we needed, in stock.  Turns out he didn’t have everything in stock.  The 4×8 sheets of insulation will be in later this week or early next week.  With my father’s schedule we are looking at a week or more until we can pick it up. 

We have been going hard at the roof in anticipation of GETTING IT DONE.  Now we have to regroup.

First we have to solve our well issue.  The water stopped running a few days ago and after several days of testing it looks like we will have a new controller installed today with running water this afternoon. 

We have decided that while we wait for the roofing materials we will start the staining job on the front wall.  This morning we put the first coat on about four studs on each end of the building.  It was challenging because it is so hot, the drips were drying before we could get to them.  We set up the scaffolding at each end and this evening we will put on the second coat before moving it to their new locations further along the front wall. 

Chris and Stephen have been busy framing in the first door opening at the East end.  After a bit of reading we will get the lath and other items set up to begin filling in with pop cans.  We still need to prep the door frame on the west end of the building.

One of our studs that frame the front door opening is really warped so Chris made a new one that will replace it.

We finished the top of the thermal wrap.  Picture below.  What an inexact job.  Think creating a jigsaw puzzle. 

The kids and I are going to hit the Kamloopa Pow Wow this weekend early mornings to collect cans.  Apparently they don’t recycle so they’ve said we can come and get what we can.  Hoping to get what we need to finish. 

That’s it for now. Maybe we will take a day off this weekend.

Front Wall Framing

We have had a busy couple of weeks!

Our internet connection has been up and down over the last week … so I have been unable to post and have been slow responding to messages. My apologies!  We have had storms and heavy winds, which always seem to affect our internet provider.

Over the may 24th long week-end we had a return visitor!  James helped us out last summer and was curious to see where we were at.  Not ones to pass up an opportunity we had James help us with the front wall framing.  After he left I carried on and started installing rafters.  As you can see from the gap in the wall there is still a bit of work to do.  Thanks for all of the help James!  If I am not mistaken you left your ear muffs behind.  I will send them back with Thomas the next time he drops by.

Our framing is not standard.  Normally you would use 2×6 to frame a wall like this, but we wanted a heavier look and opted for 3×8  instead.  The framing (studs and green house rafters) is on 4′ centres or less depending on window size.  Before we started we checked with a local window manufacturer and they said there was no standard glass size as far as they were concerned.  Just tell them what we want and they would produce it.  Consequently we did not worry about framing to standard window spacings as recommended in Earthship Volume I.

I should also mention that I have not done a lot of framing work.  This is probably the largest framing job that I have ever done and I am reasonably pleased with the results (although we did struggle with a ‘small’ curve in the wall.  It almost looks like the curve was planned to optimize the sun striking the front wall.  What am I saying … it was planned!).

There really was not much standard about this framing job.  Because of the posts coming down in our front wall we had to frame around them.  We did the framing in sections around the posts.  Otherwise, I imagine you could frame the entire front wall on the ground and simply stand it up and square and plumb it.

The rest of my week has been spent anchoring rafters (the large 12″ diameter logs that have already been placed) and filling in around these logs.  With all of the rain we have had to hold off on sand blasting and staining.  Hopefully we can get the rest of the rafters in place this week.