Archive for the ‘flooring’ Category

Last Friday Greg came over to pour the final layer of the earthen floor.  Almost 2 years ago, Greg had removed a layer of the earthen floor from a nearby cob cottage he was building, and I brought it over here in buckets, to use in my future cob home (which at that time existed only on graph paper).  After waiting patiently through 2 summers, those buckets of clay, sand, and horse manure were finally re-hydrated, and at last were able to fulfill their destiny as my earthen floor.

We added some more sand to the mix, as well as some freshly chopped and sifted straw, and then Greg got to work with the trowel.

The color of the finish floor is an amazing red!  Beautiful against the yellow clay plaster on the walls…

I did some lime plastering last week as well, giving the interior cob bench one more coat of lime.  And since I was in a plastering mood, I put some lime on the exterior bench, too, and added some more lime around the exterior steps, where there had been some trouble areas that needed a little more rain protection.

Here’s the freshly limed bench, and the new curtains:

And the bench by the front door.  Perfect for sitting on while removing your shoes, or just for resting a moment on a hot day, letting your back lean against the cool cob wall.

The lime around the stairs:

Once the floor is dry, it’ll be oiled and waxed, and the room will be complete…

except for a ladder…

and a door…



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What’s new with the cob house this month?  Lots of things!


As my belly grows larger each week, physical labor becomes more difficult and complicated for me.  I’ve been very lucky lately to have a lot of help from my friends, who’ve done most of the work on the house, in exchange for a meal, and my company….


Greg and Jeremy worked on dry stacking some urbanite steps, so I no longer had to use a five gallon bucket as the first step up to the second floor.  I’ve had some really big pieces of urbanite left in the pile that were way too large to use in the foundation, as well as just much too heavy for me to ever move.  Here’s Greg and Jeremy transforming those chunks of urbanite into my new set of stairs…

Mike and Greg came out on another weekend to help pour the subfloor in the first story.  The mix was 3 buckets of sand, 3 buckets of screenings, and 1/2 bucket of soaked clay.  Its amazing that such a small amount of clay can bind all that aggregate!


The work on the subfloor went pretty fast, so Greg and Mike decided to make an urbanite patio outside the entrance.  Greg started digging while Mike collected rubble for drainage.

Greg found access to my rubble trench, and some perforated drainpipe was laid in the drainage layer of the patio so that it empties directly into the trench.

found the rubble trench!

filling with rubble


and then a layer of screenings...

laying "stones"

the finished patio!


You may have noticed the freshly plastered interior walls in some of the above  pictures.  One weekend we had a work party to plaster the first story interior walls.  Greg and I, as well as our friends Ash, Giovanna, and Kristy, worked together plastering all the oddly shaped surfaces.  Between the bookshelves, niches, window reveals, floor joists, etc, there were a lot of awkward spaces to plaster.  But it was a lot of fun, and so satisfying to see the room transformed by the smooth, smooth plaster.  We used a beautiful yellow-brown clay that we found here on our land, and I really love the color.  I must have been too excited about plastering, because I forgot to take any pictures that day!  But here’s some before pictures:


some niches I carved...



And the room post-plaster:

Yesterday Greg and Dan came out, and they worked on decking the roof for the outdoor bed.  The poor tulip poplar rafters have been naked and exposed to the elements since last summer.  But not anymore!  Greg and Dan used the rest of the pile of decking I had left over from the main roof, and there ended up being just enough to finish the job.

I’m thinking of trying an experimental “earthen roof”, involving  my pond liner scraps and a final layer of lime and tiles, but I’ll write more about that later.  And, as soon as the subfloor dries, we’ll be pouring the finish floor layer, sealing that with linseed oil and beeswax, and then I’ll finally be able to  inhabit the entire cob house!



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We’ve been doing some more carpentry this last week, and the house now has an 8′ by 4′ balcony above the entrance, and those exterior stairs finally lead to something.

We decided to use some roundwood for the floor joists.  Noel went off into the woods with a 4 foot level, checking all the tulip poplars until he found the straightest ones, destined to become part of our balcony.

Steve and I notched them on one side, where they rest on the girder, and the other sides got cobbed in.

I have three cats that I love so dearly it borders on worship.  Each day, every time I see them, I fall in love with them all over again.  And the truth is that I really built these outdoor stairs and balcony for them.  So the other day I decided, why stop there?  Once they take the stairs up to the balcony, wouldn’t they love somewhere to go from there?  Steve and I decided to build them a catwalk on the south wall of the house, and they’ll be able to walk right onto it from the balcony.

steve & noel securing the supports for the catwalk

Steve took some pictures of us on the house, and in this one you can get a nice view of the completed balcony and cat walk:

We’ve begun to work on the roof for the outdoor bed, and hope to have all the rafters attached in the next few days, and then we can finally get back to some foot mixing.  I’ve actually started to miss it…

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Last week our wood finally came.  I ordered rough cut pine, 2×8’s for the floor joists, and 1×6’s for the flooring.  The wood is beautiful, and working with it has been really, really fun, and a nice break from mixing cob during one of the hottest summers on record here.  I have almost zero carpentry experience, but my friend Steve, a builder with Habitat for Humanity, does, and I’ve been lucky to have his help a lot lately.  Sunday morning we started with the girder…

Our design for the floor might be a bit overkill for a room with an interior that’s somewhere near a rounded off 9’x9′, but I’m a perfectionist, and I like the idea of an excessively solid floor.  So we put in this girder, a large beam running east-west which has the dual purpose of breaking up the distance the joists will have to span, and also cantilevering out through the west wall to support a balcony over the entrance.  Kristin, Steve and I worked on placing the girder into the walls, making sure it was perfectly level.

Next we started laying the floor joists, spaced 16″ apart.

When Steve came back over on Monday he brought his electric planer, and I planed wood for what seemed like years while he framed out the opening for the ladder.  This was the first time I had used a power tool while working on the house.  It was loud, and boring, but the smooth, glowing pine was worth it.  Soon we started laying some flooring, beginning with my favorite 1×6.

the first board!

Building with cob is a slow process.  It’s fun and satisfying work, but there is no instant gratification when working with cob.  Laying flooring is a completely different experience.  The floor formed underneath my feet, transforming the look of the entire house along with it.  It was so much fun we kept working until it was too dark to see where to place the nails.

When I got off work Tuesday afternoon I worked for a while by myself laying more flooring.  Soon my friend Joe showed up to help, and in no time all the flooring was laid.

the ladder opening

from below

Joe testing the strength of the girder

We”ll be continuing to work with wood instead of clay this week, working on the balcony above the entrance, and then building a roof that extends from the eastern side of the house to cover the area designated for an outdoor bed.

Building this floor seems like such a milestone in the life of the house.  A while ago I was talking with my friend Melissa  (who is also building her own cob house), about what it’s like to be taking on a such a huge project, and she said sometimes it feels like being pregnant, except no one can tell.  In a way it’s true.  Building this house consumes almost all of my spare time, and my thoughts throughout the day always come back to the house, and what needs to happen next.  If the site work, excavation, and foundation stonework were the gestation period, and then the first batch of cob on the walls was the birth of the house, then yesterday felt like her first birthday.  It was a cause for celebration, and once all the flooring was laid I stayed up there for a while with some wine, admiring the view as the sunlight faded away.

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