Installed first skylight

I have not posted about earthship construction since we installed the flashing along the south edge of the roof … we have been doing some work since then.

Our goal this spring (it has now officially been summer for a couple of weeks) was to finish some of the roofing details that we did not get around to last summer; this included flashing along the south edge of the roof (and along the sides of the kicked up portion of the roof), installing skylights and finishing the roof over the south door.

We flashed the south edge of the roof back in June, and we also flashed along one side of the kicked up portion of the roof a few weeks ago.  Flashing along the edge of the kicked up roof was virtually identical to flashing the south edge of the roof except that we also had to account for the change of pitch in the roof at the junction of the greenhouse roof and the main roof.  We solved this issue by cutting and bending the flashing.  Our solution along the side works but we expect it will change; we want to put a small roof over each side door to protect them from the weather so we will have to accommodate these roofs at a later date.

With the roof flashing well in hand we also turned our attention to the skylights last month.  We built our skylight boxes (or wells as they seem to be referred to commercially) as specified in Earthship Volume I.  We built 4’x4′ boxes out of 2″ dimensional lumber that we centred on the rafters where we wanted them in each room.  This worked well and we simply finished around these boxes as we were insulating and installing the roof membrane.

We initially planned to build our own skylights as is described in the Earthship volumes, but eventually decided in favour of commercial units.  We did not pay attention when picking our skylight locations in each room … the Earthship Volumes suggest placing the skylights as far back north in each room as is possible.  The north location ensures better ventilation and means that you are close to a wall.  The skylights described in the Earthship volumes use cantilevered weights and a cleated rope that dangles down from the skylight for opening and closing.  By placing the skylight as far north as possible you ensure that the dangling rope is close to a wall where a cleat can be installed and the rope can be tied off out of the way. Due to our skylight placements in some rooms the rope would be dangling down without a convenient wall to cleat to … not a good finishing detail.  Much more importantly I was not comfortable that I could build a unit that lasted a long time, was worried about leaks and at the end of the day was not convinced I would save much money by building my own operable skylight once I had purchased all of the components.

I found out fairly quickly while shopping for skylights that the industry standard for a 4’x4′ skylight well is to build it 4′ on centre (which makes a lot of sense as framing lumber is typically 16″ or 24″ on centre) … as opposed to the 4′ (outside edge to outside edge) that I had built.  This meant that we had to modify the tops of our skylight boxes by attaching a 2 – 1/2″ x 2 – 1/4″ wooden adapter plate to the tops of our wells so that the skylights we purchased would fit.  Building this adapter turned out to be more tedious than complicated; the flashing at the top of the skylight well had to be cut away, the adapter ring installed and then the top of the well and the adapter had to be re-flashed.

We purchased our skylights from Dayliter Skylights in Langley, BC.  We saved on freight as we (or relatives) frequently pass by Langley.  These units have a double layer of safety glass and an acrylic dome on top.  Once we fixed our wells installation was very simple, and I am pretty confident I could not have built a unit of comparable quality.  Each unit was approximately $600.00.

We installed our first skylight on Saturday (thanks James) and finished our second one today.  It is amazing how much more light there is in these rooms!  I noticed this evening when we went out to finish the second skylight that it was brighter in the back of the earthship than it was in our current dwelling at the same time in the evening … passive lighting really does work!

James took a lot of pictures of the first skylight we installed and I hope he posts them soon!  Hopefully we will install the remaining three skylights this coming week …


Front Flashing For the Earthship Roof

We FINALLY got around to installing flashing along the south edge of the roof.

I’ve been worrying about the roof membrane coming off in a heavy wind storm for almost a year … since we installed it last summer.  The trim anchors the membrane along its south edge and does not permit the wind to ‘get under’ and lift the membrane off of the roof deck; wind would eventually work the adhesive used to adhere the rubber to the insulation loose.  Every heavy wind storm over the last year has been causing me some anxiety!

We custom ordered the tin to a profile that I specified to fit the roofline.  We used 24 gauge sheet metal, the thickest we have ever used.  I was worried about the flashing flexing in a heavy wind storm as it can only be screwed into the 3×8 along the front of the building, it cannot be anchored for the last 8″ as it would not grab into the roof insulation.  Having installed it I am happy with the result.

The 24 gauge sheet metal was difficult to work with … very hard to drill.  I quickly settled on hammering the screw into the metal to punch a pilot hole, this made it fairly easy to drill.

As you can see from the pictures I still have the sides to flash, but I am going to sleep much better tonight.

Spring, The Earthship and the Fossil-Free Garden

It seems like only yesterday we were finishing the rocket stove in January … and now it is almost June!

As you might have guessed from the above picture we were in Vancouver for four days a week ago.  We visited the aquarium and managed to go cycling around Stanley Park.  Thank you Tom and Stephanie for putting us up for the weekend we had a great time!  Katie spent the week on a school canoeing trip on the ocean so I think she had lots of fun too.

Spring means we have been spending more time outside and I have been obsessing over cutting the grass in front of the house … it was starting to look pretty bad.  I never seemed to have time to get around to it until finally I came up with the perfect solution.  The sheep are incredibly happy and I have never had a more relaxing time cutting the grass  … best of all no fossil fuels! Unfortunately, one of the lawn mowers managed to eat a few pea plants … nothing is perfect.  The sheep actually do an amazing job … after two days the yard was close to looking like it had been mowed.

Sandra picked up the flashing for the front of the house when she took Katie down to Vancouver for her trip.  She also picked up a boot and storm collar for the air intake of the stove.  This afternoon the kids and I got around to installing it, and hopefully we will move onto the flashing over the next week.

I have been using the earthship as a greenhouse this spring and it has been working out really well.   Helen, Stephen and I started lots of transplants earlier in the spring; tomatoes, peppers, herbs, cucumbers … They have all done really well, and we started moving them out to the garden this week.  I hope to get a lemon tree this spring and keep it in the earthship.  I will probably keep the peppers in the earthship all summer as I have never had good luck with peppers in the garden.

We trimmed the apple and apricot trees earlier in the spring and they all blossomed nicely … hopefully they will do well this year as well.