It’s been a year now since this project began, and it’s fun for me to think about this time last January – digging into frozen ground, with the cob house still just an idea, sketches on graph paper. My mind switches back and forth, and sometimes I feel like we’ve been working for a lifetime, and on such a small building. But most of the time I look at the cob house and see this huge earthen structure, looking massive as it rises out of a plot of land that was an empty field just a year ago. For a building that has the potential to exist for hundreds of years, sometimes it seems to have grown so fast.
I have to admit I haven’t really done any work on the house this month. The temperatures are freezing, we’ve had lots of snow and ice, and I’ve been a bit under the weather these last few weeks. But to make myself feel as if I’ve done some work lately, I wanted to post some pictures from the end of December.
Here you can kind of see the layer of carpet underlay we put over the pond liner. It was all salvaged from a carpet store dumpster, and then meticulously checked over for staples before it ended up on the roof, where it serves as a protective cushioning layer, keeping that pricey pond liner safe. There is a little bit of soil on the roof right now, mainly around the edges of the underlay, to hold it down. Working up so high always adds some extra steps, like creating a pulley system to raise rolls of underlay and buckets of soil…
We finally got the drainage layer ready in anticipation of pouring the earthen floor. To save money on gravel, we filled the first floor with chunks of urbanite, and then leveled it with purchased gravel. If we had used only gravel, I can’t imagine how much it would have cost! Although it looks like I just tossed a bunch of concrete in the house, each piece was placed on the chunks below it so that it didn’t rock, to keep any settling to a minimum. And once we had raked in all the gravel, there was A LOT of tamping.
Noel and I also finally installed all the stovepipe, more than eighteen feet of it! I originally had planned to have the stovepipe go up through the floor and then out the east wall of the second story, where I had thoughtfully left a hole in the wall for the stovepipe. But, because I ended up with a wood stove where the pipe exits from the rear, I decided it would be a better use of space if I put the stove in a different spot, and had the pipe go straight though the north wall of the first floor. Which meant we had to make a new hole in the wall. Greg and I took turns pounding the wall with a heavy steel dig bar until it finally broke through. Trying to deconstruct cob isn’t easy! It’s incredible how tough this mix of materials is.
Here’s a picture of the stove pipe exiting through the north wall of the house:
And here’s how it attaches to the roof. I didn’t want to go through the living roof, so we got one section of insulated pipe and kept it a short distance from the fascia:
As this month comes to a close, I’m getting excited about the days slowly getting longer, the weather slowly getting warmer, my energy returning, and the house getting closer to completion!