We have had a mild winter this year. When living in a camper that is the best kind of winter to have. Plus is does make it a little easier to get out and work on the Upcycled home.
Side Entry Doors Installed
Allen did a great job painting the entry doors. They are painted with a hammered copper spay paint that we got at Walmart. The doors themselves came from Ozark Salvage in Koshkonong, MO. We paid $139.00 for each door. Ozark Salvage is a great place to get new building materials at great prices. As long as you don't mind looking through everything and don't have your heart set on a certain kind of product. They are a place that sells second hand products or products that were damaged. We bought all of our doors through them.
Roof Vents Installed
For January and February we are focused on doing projects in the Upcycled home that has nothing to do with moisture. Now that we are fully enclosed with the doors on. Our moisture levels went through the roof.
Why did our moisture levels get so high? When building a Earthship style house you are constantly putting in moisture into almost everything. All of the walls are built with earthen cement and mud plaster, we have applied papercrete to the outside walls on the inside, there is moisture in the dirt that we sift and store in the earthship. This all takes a while for things to dry out. Even when you physically feel the wall that you built and it feels dry to the touch and is hard does not mean it is totally dried out. We have been told from other earthship homeowners that it can take 1 to 2 years to fully dry everything out in the earthship. We didn't realize how true that is.
There are a few things that can get ride of moisture. A dehumidifier can. Being on solar power and with the size of the home we didn't feel this was an option. A Dehumidifier can use up a lot of juice to run.
Installing some kind of wood stove will remove the humidity in the home. We have plans on installing a Rocket Mass Heater this year. We are currently getting the floor ready for the RMS and have already bought the firebrick for it.
We have a different kind of roof system than what Earthship uses and because of this we needed to put vents in. This has helped bring down the moisture since we do not have a ceiling in yet. We didn't want to put vents through the roof. The less going through the roof the better. The photo above will help with moving air within the greenhouse roofing system.
We have installed large vents on both the east and west sides of the earthship. This will give the Upcycled home cross ventilation between the rafters. Since we used flooring trusses for our roof there are gaps within the rafters that will allow air movement above the insulation.
These are vents install in the back of the Upcycled home. These vents are placed in-between the rafters and will give air flow up to the green house roof.
When we installed our roof we did put in a ridge vent so the attic area would have ventilation. This is the second home that we have built our first home we had that mesh at the peak for air flow. Down the road we had to install two other vents because just that mesh was not enough. This is why we made sure this time that we were going to have enough of a air flow within our attic.
Greenhouse Exhaust Fan Installed
Earthship Biotecture developed by Michael Reynolds to our knowledge does not install greenhouse exhaust fans. When we had a facebook page the main concern about building an earthship is the humidity issue. All earthship owners were constantly discussing the need for ventilation and getting out the humidity within the greenhouse. When I had mentioned putting in a exhaust fan. There wasn't a lot of excitement for it. I don't know why. It would help vent out moisture, help with air flow, and remove excess heat during the summer time.
We bought this exhaust fan from Sam's Club Online. We paid $158.00 for it. This was worth getting the Sam's Club Membership because we saved $100.00 on this fan compared to other places.
Allen connected this fan to a switch. To use this fan all we need to do is open the skylight and flip the switch. The switch on the left if for the exhaust fan the other is a 3 way for our green house lights. This exhaust fan did not come with a switch. Allen used some innovation skills to make it work on a switch.
This fan is powered by it's own solar panel. It is another item that does not draw power from the solar system. The little square panel at the peak of the roof is the solar panel for the exhaust fan.
So far we are very please with this fan. It is very quite. Even in full sun when it is running at higher speeds it is relatively quite. This should vent out a 1500 square foot area. Our greenhouse is not 1500 square feet so some of the earthship will get vented out also. Even on cloudy days it will operate at slower speeds.
With the vents and the exhaust fan in place the humidity levels are coming down. After the rocket mass heater is built we can fire it up when the temps are cooler to help dry things out in the earthship. This we feel is important to have. You have to have some way of venting or drying out the moisture that you put into your home when you are building a earthship kind of home. Mold and mildew is not a good thing to have in a home.
More of the Flooring is Getting Completed
We are alway's working on the floors. Arron is our Sifter Expert at the moment. Every time we sift dirt from onsite we get loads of rock. So we put them into the floors right away. At times it can be a bit awkward walking on different sizes of rock but it is only temporary. It made no sense dumping huge piles of rock outside when we knew we would be bringing them in again for the floor. This is Upcycled Home is labor intensive as it is.
We start with bigger size rock that are between 3 to 5 inches thick depending how low the floor is. Then we add medium size rock that is between 1/2 to 2 inches or so. This size rock fills in a lot of the gaps between the larger size rock. The photo above is our bathroom with the medium size rock in place. It is much easier to walk on this size of rock.
This is the shower floor that already has the large, medium and small rock laid down with a layer of sifted dirt on top of it. The sifted dirt has been leveled. Next Allen will add more sifted dirt to certain areas so the water will move towards the drain. We will install a cement board over this and then put down a layer of tile that we got from Habitat for Humanity Restores.
Allen is currently working on the hot and cold water system. He is also working on running the gas lines and connecting them to the on demand hot water heater. Arron continues to sift dirt and Mary places the buckets of rock in place for the floors. We will be focusing on the west and east sunroom and living room for the floors.
We have been doing a lot of researching on windows. The doubled pane reclaimed glass that we used are now leaking. They will need to be replaced. We have learned that windows with Low E coatings on them will reflect the heat back outside. When you are building a passive solar home that needs that heat it isn't a good thing to have Low E coatings on your windows. We believe that the reclaimed glass has a Low E coating on them.
How do we know? We have had some 70 degree temps this winter. Which is awesome to have. The only problem the earthship did not heat up. It was cold in the earthship. Even though we have had some single digit temps this winter and the earthship did stay at 40 degrees, we now believe this was from the dirt around the earthship preventing the cold from coming into the earthship. Not from thermal mass.
Thank's For Visiting Us
Sometimes it takes more prep work in order to get anything done. Even though we keep telling ourselves each thing we do gets us closer to getting something finished.
We poured 6 foot tall footing pads to place the solar hot water heater on. With about 4 feet buried in the ground. Instead of buying expensive forms Allen made his own using scrape lumber that we had laying around. We used exterior paint with borox mixed in to help with moisture and bugs from eating the wood. Mary will be papercreteing the exterior to help protect the exterior from the elements.
Allen has the cold water copper pipe going to the solar heater and the pipe for the hot water to come out. We will be covering the copper pipe with pipe insulation and then sealing it with papercrete all so. This will keep the water from freezing so it can be used year round. Since this is not hooked up to water yet we will not be installing the glass vacuum tubes until it is. The tubes collect the heat from the sun and travels up the tube into the 40 gallon, insulated, stainless steel storage tank above.
We will have an on demand hot water heater that will run on propane inside the house as well. This is mainly for those cloudy winter days when we have no sun and for when we want to take a late night shower. Since the storage tank is insulated it would take several hours for it to cool down. The on demand heater will read the temperature of the water coming into it and adjust how long it would need to run for based on those temperatures.
The cups on the bottom will hold the vacuum tubes in place. We have the port for the tubes to fasten in to in the tank sealed with cork screws. So bugs like mud wasps don't build homes in it.
The copper pipe the comes from the top of the tank to the back is for the pressure release valve. Since this solar hot water heater is a pressurized system in the event there is too much pressure there is a way to release it.
We would like to thank our many followers that we have for your interest in our project. This blog was orginally set up so our friends and family from Wisconsin could follow our adventure. We did not realize how many people we don't know would be following our progress as well. Through our journey we have made many new friends in this new land that we are now in. You all have made us feel very welcomed here. And the support from those out of our area has been great. Not everyone understands why we are doing what we are doing. The support helps us in moving forward no matter how long it is taking to complete. Thank You.
We are now sending out emails to let our faithful followers know when a new update is posted to the websight. If you have not done so you can click on the link on the top of our page that says to be notified of updates and we will add you to our email list. Down the road when you don't want us sending you emails any longer just let us know by email and we will take your name off of our list.
Welcome to our kitchen or at least the space where a kitchen will come to be. Both these walls are constructed out of compacted water bottle bricks and a earthen cement. The wall doesn't touch the rafters. We left about a 1 inch gap. We will end up putting a trim board along the ceiling and wall to seal this and give it a finished look.
The first coat of mud packing material has been applied to both sides of the wall to the left. This is the same material that we used to mud pack the tires. We have noted though with this mixture if you don't add enough straw to it that it will crack. We do have some cracking that did appear but will be covered up with 2 more coats of a natural mud plaster.
The other wall shows white blocks. This is foam to protect us from the metal bolts that are sticking out of the wall. We have a row of these bolts on the bottom and 2 rows on the top. We will be fastening a board to those bolts. This is what we will be fastening our kitchen and bathroom cabinets to. We did this because we don't know how well screwing the cabinets directly into the wall would work. Especially since cabinets are not light and will be holding a lot of weight. Would they hold with using the kind of material that we used? So to be sure that they will be safely secured the board will be in place for this.
Again I am going to stress that thinking in advance for this kind of construcion is extremely necessary. Those bolts had to be mud plastered in as we built the wall. The same goes for the electrical. Which means we had to know exactly how high the cabinets are going to be the distance between the bottom and top cabinets in order to know where to put the bolts and the electrical outlet boxes.
This is the corner of our kitchen wall and hallway that leads to the bathrooom and the master bedroom. The blue is conduit hooked up to the electric box. We will have bottom kitchen cabinets that will come out from the wall where you see the white pipes. In those cabinets will be a plugin on the end of it. so that is what the blue conduit is for the runs down the wall in a snake like fashion. The other one that goes up and is hanging will go to the ceiling for our ceiling lights that will hang over the kitchen sink and our dinning room table.
The Start of our Bathroom
The nice thing about building with dirt compacted plastic bottle walls is that you can use it to build a curved wall. Allen is starting the first row of our shower. The mud that Allen is using here is a bit stronger. We put extra cement and made it thicker by adding extra clay to it. Otherwise it is the same mixture as we use for the kitchen wall contrustion. This mud is similar to making a very thick mud pie. The reason for this is because it is the foundation for our shower wall. Because of the curve being difficult to make a wooden form for we decided to use dirt compacted gatorade bottles that were saved by Joanne Bailey of Willow Springs.
With the size of these bottles it will take less rows and less bottles to construct this portion of the shower.
As you see in the photo Allen is using a string tied to a metal stake to help in making a perfect curve for our shower. There is a mark on the string that Allen is using to put the edge of the bottles up to.
The next photo below is going from the kitchen with a little hallway to the bathroom. The wooden frame is the door way opening to the bathroom. You see we have another curved wall that connects to the poured footing of our bedroom doorway. Where the insulation is is where the frame work for the bedroom wall that will have our door with windows and another bottle wall section. It is safe to say that any place where we are not going to put a window will be filled with glass bottle windows. Truly making this home a work of art in every room.
The drain pipes for the shower and the bathroom sink have all been laid. They were actually the first part of creating our bathroom space. We had to have this in place so we knew where our walls had to be built
When we built that hallway wall to the bathroom door we didn't know how we were going to put in the door way. Or at least we weren't concerned about it at the time. Well we had to put a plan together to make it work. It helps to have a innovated husband that can make just about anything work. This is one skill that is necessary when building a Earthship with no actual building plans to go off of.
Allen used self taping cement screws to screw the left side doorway into the bottle wall that was already constructed. Allen did drill a small hole prior into the earthen cement. Allen said that the earthen cement is hard and solid but not as hard as concrete is. The screws went in nicely and the frame work is fastened solidly.
The wall on the right side of the doorway was put up after we put the door frame in. We used treated wood for this door frame.
You can see the drain pipes for the shower and bathroom sink. The pipe with the cap on it is for the toilet. All of the pipes will be buried in the floor. As you see the beginning of the floor being laid with the rock. In every room we build we purposely wanted to raise up the floor to prevent water and moister from the ground so it would not come up through the finished floor. We start this by laying large rocks down first then they get smaller for each layer placed on top. All rocks are from on site. The smaller ones come from when we sift dirt to use in our earthen cement mixtures.
The other frame work that is up is to install the pipes for our shower head and water controler. We wanted to use a wood frame so we could get to these pipes in the event we ever had to. This frame work was built with treated lumber as well.
We have a doorway frame up from our bedroom into the bathroom. The shower wall is to the right of that. We have one more row of compacted bottle bricks to put up before we will finish this wall with glass bottle bricks. We didn't have enough gatorade bottles to finish this part of the wall with. So we then used the small gatorade bottles then the water bottles. You can use different size bottles as long as they are the same legnth. And you want to put the bigger ones on the bottom and move up with smaller ones on top. The floor of the bedroom will come up to the bottom of the door frame.
The floor in the shower has been started. The big rock is all covered with medium size rock and the small rock has been started. We have decided to tile the shower floor. The round white pipe is the shower drain. Part of the shower wall has been mud packed.
Please feel free to comment on this blog. If you have any questions that others may want to know the answer to please do ask. We have changed the settings for this blog now so we are getting notices of anyone commenting on the blog and will be happy to return any comments.
It is a rare thing to have a photo of myself when I am the one usually taking all of the photos. I have to ask to have my picture taken. Many of you know Allen from following our blog. With Arron taking the photo this time. Mary is able to be a part of this blog in a new form. I insisted on my picture being taken because we are on scaffolding. I am not usually one that likes heights. Especially when walking on a narrow 2 x 10 board.
We are focusing on the kitchen walls now that the exterior glass bottles are roughed in. The mixture is an earthen cement. It is the same mixture that we use for the glass bottle bricks. A combination of cement, sand, clay, and water.
We lay out roughly a 3 inch layer of mud and then Allen putts in the bottles. Putting in the bottles is not as easy as it looks. I have tried it and it takes me forever to do it.
Once the bottle is put in the mud it has to be leveled with it's self and to the bottle next to it. This is to prevent the bottle from slanting and in helping to keep your row level.
The bottles also need to be leveled up and down as well. Otherwise by the time you get to the top you could have a slanted wall. Building with bottle bricks has been a really different experience. Allen learned a lot from when he put in the bottles for the bond beam. He took what he learned there and has been applying through trial and error on our kitchen walls. As long as you keep an eye on how the wall is progressing you can catch minor errors and adjust the next row of bottles to help fix that error.
I have to give Allen a lot of credit here. He has done a marvelous job on these kitchen bottle walls. He has built a straight wall. Has remembered when to put in all the electric lines, pipes and steel bars for hanging the cabinets with. And Allen has gotten really fast in leveling the bottles. By the time I get a mixture of mud made he has the previous bottles all laid out. Leveling bottles may seem easy. It doesn't look all that complicated in the photos. IT ISTN'T. You are working with a round 2 1/2 pound plastic bottle and each one can be a different shape. You have to level each end of the bottle because most of the plastic bottles have a curved shaped in the middle. By the time you get one end leveled to the other bottle it can throw off the leveling of the whole bottle and the other end. Each bottle needs to be leveled 4 times. Patience is a must when learning this.
One may ask, Well, How did you learn this? Good question. There are no books on doing this. We learned from looking at photos of the buildings built in the 3rd world countries. And from just doing it. We took this idea of building with compacted water bottles and used this idea in our project. Sometimes it just takes the guts of doing it to make it work.
The advantage of building with compacted bottle bricks is a really strong wall that will add thermal mass to your building. This means better regulated temperatures in your home. Our earthship is all about thermal mass.
I took this photo to show that Allen is now up in the rafters in putting this bottle wall up. He has to duck in-between the rafters now. The lights that you see are LED lights that Allen made himself. They are temporarily placed there so we could see when we have rainy weather outside. They will eventually be placed recessed within the ceiling.
We have so far put up 27 rows of bottles. When we first estimated how many rows that were going to be needed we figured on 30 rows for the shortest part of the wall. The ceiling gets higher going from the back of the front of the Earthship. Allen figures that we have two more rows for the back part of the wall and then we will be at the ceiling.
The east side entrance bottle work has now all been roughed in. We had two areas on the left hand side of the doorway to complete.
Our son Arron had been given the task to decide on how to construct the openings. He came up with the zig zag idea.
Now looking from the inside on the right hand side. Can you see the zig zag design with the blue and green bottles? We like the idea and how it turned out. Arron also wanted to use brown bottles. And since he chose not to put any in the zig zag design that was the main focus for the space to the far right. There is only enough room to put a row of bottles. Arron decided to use brown and clear bottles.
The ramps are new. They are to help in getting wheel barrows and our hand truck in and out of the earthship a little easier.
The west side entrance bottle work has been roughed in as well. This was designed by Allen. It has a different look from the east side. Arron decided for his space to put the zig zag design in again but changed the colors around.
This photo also shows the amount of papercrete that has been applied. The covering under the windows is all papercrete ( Home made insulation ). We have yet to fill in all of the gaps. The tires will end up being a completely smooth surface with a stucco finish going over top of the papercrete.
This is the inside view of the bottle work for the west side entrance. This now completes the exterior roughing in of the bottle work. Stucco will need to be applied for a finish coat to all of the bottle windows. All that is left for the exterior openings are for the doors to be put in place. Allen has to also design the windows that will open for the greenhouse and the sunroom areas.
We have been working in-between the rain drops to get the glass bottle work done around the east entry door. We have a west entry door as well that will have bottle windows around them also. We are in the process of designing them. At the moment this is what we have done so far. We will need to apply a final layer of stucco to finish them off. The boards that you see in- between the designs will not be visible when we put on the final coat of stucco.
Can you see the border around the doorway?
The pattern in the middle along the side of the door, What do you see? Arron see's a robot, Mary sees a tree, and Allen sees a cool design.
However, Allen saw a smiley face in the space above the doorway. Now we shall tell the rest of the story. Months ago Allen had told me that he wanted a smiley face for in the design of the bottle work. When he told me this I said ummm, NO I don't think so. When I went about designing this I had changed it from my original design to this one. Everyone in the family agreed. When it was done and set in stone Allen said right away a smiley face. I said what? Unbeknownst to me I had designed a smiley face without even realizing it.
We all like the bottle work that has turned out so far. Even the smiley face. It is actually really cool.
FYI: This photo of the inside was taken at sunset. We are really amazed as to how well the bottles glow even with just daylight on a cloudy day.
This is a close up of our bottle work showing the roughed in look. This will be covered with a final layer of stucco to bring it out the the edge of the bottles.
We have another workshop scheduled for October 8th at the Severin Earthship in Pomona, MO. We are just 10 miles north of West Plains Missouri. Please click on Upcoming Workshop tab above to get all the details.
A Big THANK YOU to our Volunteers
We would like to Thank Robert and Lucy Jones for helping us at our last workshop. Robert did great in mud packing tires and Lucy did a wonderful job in making glass bottle bricks. With their help we were able to finish the first coat of mud packing our bedroom and we now have a whole slew of bottle bricks ready to use for our bathroom. Thank you for helping.
We have been invited to be a guest speaker at this years Ozark's Sustainability Festival.
We have chosen to speak on the 6 Core Concepts of an Earthship. We will be giving details on 1) Building with Natural and recycled Materials, 2) Thermal/ Solar heating and cooling, 3) Water Harvesting, 4) Food Production, 5) Solar and Wind Electricity, & 6) Contained Sewage Treatment. We will share our building experience of our Earthship and how our home is using the 6 Core Concepts.
If you are in our area we invite you to come and join the fun of this year's FREE Sustainability Festival.
For more information visit the website by clicking on the button below.
There are many times during this building process that we have had to think things through and learn how to do something. This includes in how to create and make our own sky lights. Even though Allen used the example in the Earthship books to go off of, we still had to design them and get them to work effectively.
Allen used treated lumber and painted it with exterior paint. We had chosen to use plexiglass that is designed for skylights. The plexiglass is 20 times stronger than glass. Because we did not use glass the skylights are a lot lighter.
Allen drilled holes through the plexiglass and sealed it with Butyl Tape.
Allen covered where he screwed in the plexiglass with metal and sealed the edge of the metal and the plexiglass with silicone. We needed to add weight for the sky lights to open. We had bought some bricks at a really good price and decided to see if they would give us enough weight to make the sky lights open up. The bricks with added sand did the trick. Allen then covered the bricks with a metal cover.
Making the Screen
Allen and I decided to make our own frame for the screens when we found out how much they cost. At Walmart they cost just under $11.00 per frame and that did not include the screen. Using scrap wood that we had left over from another project Allen cut a grove in the wood to secure the screen into and he painted the frame. He used screws to secure it in place then proceeded to put in the screen with a screening tool to push and roll the screen cord into. Then Allen trimmed off the excess. And there you have it folks. A home made screen that cost about $1.00 for the frame and about $3.00 for the screen and cord.
The skylight opens from inside using cords. In the Earthship books Michael Reynolds says to make a hole within the screen. Allen decided to make metal grommets that he put within the screen frame itself. He sanded the edges to make sure that the metal was smooth so it would not tear the cord going through them. At the top of the photo you will see a hole within the screen frame this is where the grommet is located. Above the grommet will be metal to cover that edge of the skylight box.
In this photo you see where we tied the cord to round fasteners on the inside of the skylight. We put the cord through the grommets and then through the cleats that will lock the cord in place when the skylight is closed. The cleats are used on sail boats to clip in cords for the sail.
We learned about the use of cleats when we had rented a Earthship out in Taos, New Mexico 4 years ago. They had the cleats installed in the Earthship we had rented that was one of the new Global Models that was built. It is a new way to secure the skylights. These cleats that we bought will hold 200 pounds.
The skylight is fastened to hinges. To maximize the effect of gravity. When we pop the cords out of the cleats the weight on the skylight ( Bricks and Sand) goes down lifting the skylight up. To close and lock the skylight in place all you do is pull down on the ropes and clip them into the cleats.
These 3 skylights each measure 24 x 48 for in the greenhouse. The box that the sky light is attached to is 9 inches tall. The height of the box and the length including the weight section of skylight will determine how big of an opening you will have with the skylight. The opening for these skylights are 11 & 1/2 inches.
This is the smaller skylight that we had made for each sunroom. This skylight measures 15 x 24 The box secured to the roof is 8" tall. This skylight opens 7 inches.
Skylight when closed.
The sunroom skylight is much smaller so we estimated that only 1 cord would be needed to open and close the skylight with.
Overall the skylights work extremely well. Because we made these skylights we could match the color to the roof, making them blend with the roof. The way that they open does help to keep some rain out in the event it rains with the skylights open. They are easy to open and close. The cords that hang down in the greenhouse and sunrooms will be wrapped up to a side wall so they will not hang in walk space.
Cost wise: The plexiglass and the treated lumber was the most expensive part of the skylights. We believe it cost us just over $525.00 to make all 5 skylights with the screens.
Mary Severin writes about her families embarkment on a learning adventure to build an Upcycled Home using Earthship Principals. To find out what these Principals are click on the Earthship Principals link above.