Just letting you know of a few things that we are working on and what progress is being made.
We put the first layer of papercrete in the west sunroom. For those that haven't been following our blog I will give a quick intro to papercrete. This is a homemade insulation that is made from lots of water, cement, clay, shredded paper, and borox. This batch of papercrete turned out the best. What we did different this time was to soak the paper in advance before using it. This made for a creamier mixture and the fibers of the paper were nice and smooth. Because this is a south side outside wall that will not be buried in dirt we are packing the tires with papercrete to protect against the elements. This should stop any cold from coming through and heat leaving to the outside. The whole outside of the tires will be coated in papercrete as well.
Michael Reynolds the inventor of Earthships doesn't use papercrete. They use ridged insulation and cover it with metal instead. Nothing against this. Papercrete forms to the surface thus no air gaps and no critters can get into it. We add Borox to stop any bugs from wanting to eat the paper and it also prevents mold from growing.
Using papercrete is something that we have discovered in our studies of alternative building. According to Living In Paper that has done extensive research into papercrete the R Value of papercrete is between 2.0 and 3.0 per inch. For packing in-between tires this is ideal. We have used 17.5 inch tires for the building of our Earthship. The depth of packing papercrete in-between ( in the crevice) our tires is 17 inches. Multiply that by 2.0 at a minimum is an R34 for each side. Not to bad. We are not exactly sure this is what we have and I am not sure if we will ever know for sure what the actual R - Value is for using papercrete. All I know it is less expensive to make it than to buy something that isn't going to seal as well around round objects.
We weren't exactly sure how papercrete would seal next to wood. So far it has done really well. I am not sure if this is because where we have put papercrete is where we have painted the wood framing to protect it from the elements? Perhaps this is the reason why it has worked so well. We are not sure. The photo above shows the papercrete that we used to fill in the gap between the wooden frame of the doorway and the windows for the sunroom. Papercrete will usually shrink because of the amount of water that is used. We use alot of clay with our papercrete to allow us to pack the tires better. It isn't a normal papercrete formula. It works really well for the applications that we have used it in.
The metal lath is set to put glass bottles in for around the door way. To make a long story short, we were able to get a lot of out dated beer from the Budweiser Distribution plant in our area. We had to dump the beer but this gave us the blue and green bottles we needed to finish the sunroom windows. Allen saved the bottle caps and used them to put the lath up with instead of buying more of the proper nails needed for this job.
The photos below just show where we have put papercrete and how well it sticks and seals.
Compacted Bottle Bricks
We have added 6 rows of compacted plastic bottle bricks to the kitchen wall. At the moment we are focusing on just this wall for our interior walls. This is the main wall that we want to finish so we can start to live in it by the winter time.
The wall to the left is the back of the kitchen. On the other side is part of the back hall way.
The floor for the kitchen area will come up to the to of the concrete footing that you see there.
The wall to the right side is the side of the kitchen wall. The blue boxes are outlets for the gas stove that will have automatic ignitor ( that is within the wall) and for an outlet that will be above the bottom cabinets ( above the wall but connected with conduit.)
The white pipes towards the bottom of the photo are for water lines to go the the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink that will be on the other side of the wall.
This is the corner of the kitchen that then goes back to the hallway on one side with the bathroom on the other side.
So far we have put up 13 rows of compacted bottles to equal approximately 1,183 bottles used for just this part of the house. Each bottle weighs approximately 2.25 pounds. That is approximately 2661 pounds of compacted dirt just within the bottles this does not include the weight of the earthen cement mortar that we use in-between the bottles. Since a ton is considered weighing 2,000 lbs, the compacted bottles are over a ton of weight just with these bottles. Because of the tires that are compacted with dirt and now the bottles I can safely say that our house literally weighs tons. We have estimated that it will take approximately 30 rows of bottles to reach the ceiling. This will be over 3 tons of weight just with the bottles in this area of the house. We will see how close our estimates are.
I can say that we do have enough bottles that are compacted with dirt and ready to go to finish this part of the wall.
At times it doesn't seem like we have done a lot of work. Being more prep work to accomplish a task. But because of all of this prep work the construction will smoother and not have to wait to build because of prep work. When it rains we do a lot of prep work to keep us moving forward.
This is the start of the West Sunroom floor.
Since the floor in our home starts with the ground we decided when we were preparing the footings ( for our walls ) that we would come up from the ground roughly 12 inches to where the height of the floors will be . We start this by layering 3 different size of rocks starting the the biggest to the smallest. What you see above is the third layer of rock starting out. All of the rocks are from all of the sifting done on our property. We use the sifted clay to pack into our plastic bottles, use in earthen cement, in making papercrete, packing mud between the tires and also to use the clay that ends up becoming the subfloor of each room. Just about everything that we do for the earthship involves all different sizes of rock and sifted dirt. We will basically live in a home of recycled materials and earth.
Once this small rock is completed we will compact it down and add another layer of fine rock before the sifted clay dirt goes on top for the subfloor. We have decided so far to put in a combination of brick (with a design in the floor) and earthen cement to fill in-between.
Back Hallway Floor
We have been working on the back hallway floor now for the past several months. The motivating factor to get this done instead of finishing the exterior was because we needed the partial floor done to get the battery box in place and solar power in the Earthship. Walking in and out of a room that has part of the floor done was starting to be a pain. We were starting to stumble on the floor drain and the ground steaks holding the forms in place.
We decided to put in a glass bottle border in place and that is what is in the making in the next few photos.
We feel that the back hallway is our experimenting station. By the time we get everything figured out with the back room we will have gained the skills to make the main living areas looking great. We are not as concerned about this back hallway. So making mistakes is not a big deal here. It is nice to have a room to learn with since the Severin Family has never done this kind of project before. We all need to learn how to create the desired effect that we want.
The floors that we poured in these photos are a stronger earthen cement. This is so the floor will hold up to the weight of the battery box for our solar and wind system. We used a mixture of water, cement, sand, clay and aggregate. One thing you need to remember when building an Earthship, before you start the next sigmate of the project always ask, Do we need pipes or electrical conduit put in first? If you do forget this you will have a very difficult time fixing anything without it costing you a lot in money and time. This back hallway is not only for our electric and water supply it is for our washing machine, sink, and freezer also.
For around the bottles we used a earthen mortar. It is basically a earthen cement floor with out the aggregate. The bottle border is cool looking but was a lot of work pouring in the mud and packing in between the bottles.
The middle part of the floor is a softer earthen cement. We used 1/2 of the amount of the cement than what we used for the other floors. This floor did dry hard but is much softer. When the floor was drying a couple of cracks did show up. Allen was able to smooth those away with a wet sponge. When thinking about why did the floor cracked there and not any where else, we came up with an idea. For the rest of the floor Allen sprayed water on the subfloor before pouring in the floor. Allen did not do this in the last part of the floor. Because the subfloor was made up of clay. The clay was sticking to his boots a lot. So he didn't add the water to the subfloor. We believe the floor dried too fast in that area thus making it crack. From now on we will spray water on the floor before pouring in the rest of the floors to help in preventing cracking. This is why we call it the experimental room. It is our place to learn from.
The whole room will need to be sealed with a water proofing sealant. We are not sure if we will use natural oils or a cement sealant yet.
At the moment we store lots of stuff in here and we walk back in this hallway a lot. We will see how the floor holds up to the amount of traffic and wear of the floor.
Now for the Pipes
Like I said earlier we sift a lot of dirt and sort out the different size of rock. I asked Allen just the other day where he would like me to dump the rock that I have sorted out so it can be used for the floor in the Earthship later. His response was," Why move the rock 3 times?" So we have decided that rock will be going into the Earthship as it is sifted out. Because of this decision. We have to put in our pipes that need to go into the ground before we start piling rock all over the place.
The pipe below is for the drain water from the washing machine and laundry sink to the greenhouse planter. Again I will stress that thinking ahead is the name of the game for when building an Earthship. We had to have planned where the pipes where going to go before we poured the footings for the walls last year. Some of the pipes needed to be place within the footing or underneath them.
The next image shows the pipe that goes through the footing to hook into the pipe on the other side of the bottle wall.
This is the other end of that pipe that goes underneath the footing into the greenhouse.
This will be on the west end of the planter that will go towards the east to the pit. Our home will reuse the water 3 times before it goes out to the septic tank. #1 is the collection of rain water stored in the cisterns, #2 is using the water for showering, laundry, etc, #3 is to use it for the toilet. By the time the water passes through the 5 planters that we will have in our Earthship the plants will have cleaned the water that will be great for using in the toilet.
This pipe has been tested and does drain like it should with no leaks. Not to bad for rookies that haven't had any professional training in this craft.
We are hooking up the bathroom sink to the shower. The pipe T that you see near the bottle wall is approximately where the sink will go. The big pipe that looks like it is underneath the drain pipe ( it is off to the side ) is the septic pipe for the toilet. The septic pipe was placed last year and goes underneath the footing and underneath the greenhouse tire wall as well.
After putting the pipe together we discovered the pipe in the footing (off to the left) that was placed for the sink and shower was not low enough. By right it should of gone underneath the footing. Because of the long span of the pipe and it all needs to go down hill, we will have to make a step up into the shower.
The flat top of the shower drain is the height of the floor just within the shower. All of the pipe will be within the floor it's self.
The bricks are just laying out the pattern for the shower. Where you see the double brick is how thick the wall will be for about 3 feet or so. This is 8 inches all around. The Gatorade bottles that are on the left side will be used to bring up the wall to approximately 2 to 3 feet of height using a cement mortar to secure them in place. Then we plan on cutting down the thickness of the wall to 4 inches giving us a ledge to put our feet up on and for setting soap and shampoo on. We will use glass bottles for the 4 inch wall up to the ceiling. The shower will be approximately 5 feet in diameter.
Stay tuned. More to come soon.
I must first apologize to our followers about the lack of updating our blog. I did not realize we have had as many followers than we now do. I will make an effort to update it at least once a month. If you would like to know when we update our blog with a new post, please send us an email and let us know that you would like to be notified when a new post is up. Thank you to everyone and your patience. You can click on the email link at the top right corner of the page.
Our main goal for this year is to enclose in our Earthship. We are hoping to have it all enclosed by the end of summer. A part of this is to fill in the glass bottle windows in our sunrooms. The photo below is the east sunroom. We also have a west sunroom as well. We have had to do a lot of prep work for filling in the top windows of our sunroom.
Allen made a frame matching the same size window that we had to work with. We cut the bottles, washed them, rinsed them, let them dry and then taped them together to create theses bricks. We then had something to work with to make our design. Allen wanted a diamond shaped window. Mary wanted something that would help to carry the design from window to window since we had 7 windows to fill per sunroom. We had to use the smaller beer bottles in order for the design to work. Even though we had never done a glass bottle window before we felt confident we could figure out how to create this pattern with the bottles. What we needed was a grid. We did not want to end up on the last row being short. And with a design like this it would not look right if we did not have them aligned right. So Allen figured out the grid. Based on our design made in our fake window frame he came up with the grid below.
Allen then mapped out the different colors that would be used for the windows. We decided that two windows would be brown, two green, two blue and the one in the middle would be clear with all the colors combined.
Allen then used his string art skills to create a guide for each window.
The next step is to mix a mud mixture of water, cement, clay, and sand to lay our bottles into. We found that we could only do one row at a time. Especially since we were following a design. If we laid two rows at a time the bottles could move because the first set of mud had not dried. We did have to chip out a section of bottles because of this happening. When creating a pattern we recommend to lay one row at a time filling in more than one window area. By the time that one row would be done depending on how much you are doing you could start on the next row.
You can see how Allen followed the grid that he had made out. Because of using bottles that are bright in color, all we need is daylight for the bottle to glow on the inside.
This is the east sunroom roughed in with the glass bottles. We have yet to do the finish coat on the bottle windows.
I would say that our first experience in putting in glass bottle windows was a success. It took 124 blue Budweiser platinum bottles matched up to 124 Coke -cola bottles, 124 brown beer bottles matched up to 124 clear beer bottles, 248 green bottles total, 480 clear bottles total; matching clear to clear and 64 Coke-Cola bottles, for a grand total of 1288 bottles used to create this design in both sunrooms.
When we put two brown and two blue bottles together this created dark colors we decided to match them up with lighter colors to get the bright colors to come through. The green bottles would not of been as dark if we didn't match two of them together.
The next project is the east side exterior door. All the spaces around the door will be filled in with glass bottle windows. With building an Earthship we have to think in advance. The electrical conduits and boxes all have to be in place before putting in the glass bottles. This is what the blue is in the photo. The boards going above and below the blue electrical conduit will not be visible when the glass bottle work is complete. They are set inside the wall. There will be boards on the left side of the door as well. We feel that if we divide this big of a project into thirds it will be easier especially when incorporating some sort of design. We can also do more of the window area at one time. Making the project go much faster. The wood boards will be covered in mud thus making it look like one complete unit.
It is really hard to tell from this angel. All of the stationary windows are in place in the front green house and in the east sunroom.
I want to remind everyone that we did not purchase glass for these windows. We are reusing reclaimed glass from scrapped out Coca-Cola coolers. This glass is 3/4 inch think with tempered window on the outside and insulated.
One challenge that we have found with using reclaimed glass. Even if the door size is exactly the same does not mean that the window pane that is within the door frame is the same size from window to window. We have found two different sizes of window in the same size door frame. We were not aware of this when we picked up the windows. With all of our framing now put up we are in a bit of a struggle to find enough that are the same size that will fit in our framing.
If you are able to use reclaimed glass from Coca-Cola coolers and the glass is free pick up double what you need. Just in case you run into the same problem with different sized glass. Because of the glass being dirty we found many after they were cleaned up that the seal had broken. So this is another reason to pick up more than you need.
FYI: We were not able to take the door frames off until we were ready to put them into the framing. Once out of the frame the windows are easily able to break. With the door intact they are incredibly strong. Because we did not have space in our pole barn we stored the windows out side with the tempered glass facing outward.
This photo shows the door within the frame and then when it is taken out. We have 4 windows that are in the greenhouse and 2 windows in the sunroom that will be opening windows. Allen hasn't had time yet to figure out how he is going to construct these windows. So at the moment they are sitting in the door frame in the spot where they will be going. This is why you see a window in a black door frame in with all the other windows that are in place. If you look in the above photo it is right in the middle.
Getting Bottle Bricks Ready
We set up the east sunroom as our bottle cutting station. We are using a wet tile saw to cut the bottles with. The water that is used with the saw keeps the glass cool as it is being cut. The glass does chip at the edges. But when two ends of the bottles are put together and taped it doesn't matter if the edges are chipped.
These are what glass bottle bricks look like. We put a lighter bottle with the brown and blue bottles because of how dark they are. This allows more light to come through the darker colors.
Allen made up a frame that is the same size as the framed in window. This allows us to create different designs with the bottles in the space that it will be going into. This step helps us to pre-determine what the window is going to look like and the pattern for each row of bottle bricks.
We have decided on this pattern with the diamond in the middle. This design will carry the pattern through each of the 7 windows that it will be going into. We are going to have two windows that will be blue, brown and green with one window that will have a clear diamond with a colored background. The windows with the same color will be exactly opposite of each other with the clear design in the middle.
The open spaces above the tall windows is where the diamond bottle windows will be placed. We will be starting this As Soon As Possible. We are in the process of collecting the bottles and putting them together.
We are in need of blue, green and clear beer or soda bottles. We will be using 544 clear bottles, 232 of each green, brown and blue color. This will be a total of 1240 bottles for just the two sunrooms. This will be for 14 windows.
We have yet to figure out the two entry way's where bottles will go around each exterior door.
If you live in the West Plains area and have bottles that you are willing to donate, please give Allen or Mary Severin a call to arrange for a meeting or a visit out to the Earthship. 417-274-9885
A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that has brought us bottles.
The bottom of the greenhouse windows are all in place. There are 4 windows that will open. We have yet to design these windows. So they are just sitting in place for the time being.
The greenhouse is 10 feet wide and 53 feet long. There will be 3 planters located on each side of the front room door and all along the exterior windows. This will allow us to have a 4 foot walk way in the middle.
This is a view of the greenhouse and the interior part of the house. The door going into the house will be a sliding door and the other door going into the greenhouse will be a glass door. the open space between the two doors will be a glass bottle window.
Allen and Arron finishing up the main part of the roof of the west side sunroom.
Each sunroom has a small skylight . That is what the silver thing sticking out of the roof is for.
This is the east sunroom that has the roof on it and 5 lower windows in. There are two windows yet to put in. We just have them temporarily setting in place. These windows will open from the inside. Allen has yet to design this and make it work.
The upper spaces will be for glass bottle windows. We are planning on having a diamond design in different colors for those windows.
This is the west side of the earthship with metal on it. We will cover the EPDM rubber with more dirt that will go up to the bottom of the metal.
Our neighbor, Robert Jones has been a blessing. Robert is on the ladder helping Allen finish that corner of the green house. The 3 silver boxes that are on top of the main green house are the 3 skylight boxes that will open and allow the green house to vent out the air and humidity. The sun room sky lights will operate the same way.
Solar system is now fully functioning. Each solar panel is 300 watts for a total of 1200 watts. The windmill can generate up to 1600 watts on a really windy day. This system will power a home using 2400 watts of power per day. This system is located behind our Earthship.
Before we left Wisconsin we estimated that we would use 2400 watts of power with the lifestyle we were living. We had cut back on our lifestyle tremendously before we moved. We didn't use a microwave, dishwasher or dryer. To get the amount we estimated we used a meter that read the amount of energy that the device used in the time it was used for.
Our Earthship will use only LED lighting. We will not use anything that has a heating element so no toaster, coffee pot, electric blankets, clothes dryer, etc. Heating elements draw energy out of the batteries extremely fast. It isn't worth the convince. I would rather hang my clothes out to dry on a clothes line and have the energy to watch a movie with my family.
When figuring out your power usage my question to you is. Are you willing to go without a few things and adjust your lifestyle? If the answer is no then switching to solar will cost a bit more than you may want to pay for. Solar is like buying your power in advance. The better you take care of your system the longer your system will last. If you are willing to adjust your lifestyle. Then you can probably get away with a system that won't cost you $20,000 to $30,000. Instead it could cost around $10,000 just like ours did.
This is our solar system components located in the back hallway of our Earthship. This also includes the components for the windmill as well. A word of wisdom. If you have not gone to school or have not studied how to put together a solar system together you may want to hire it done. We had no clue how to put this system together. Check on credentials if you do decide to hire someone to put your system together for you.
This is our battery box that stores 8 Trojan batteries. This is also located in our systems room. Most Earthships will put them on the roof in an insulated box. We had given this a lot of thought. We came to the understanding that batteries are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. We were told if we can have them inside our home then we are better off for doing that. The batteries will last longer. It will not add thousands of pounds to the roof. And it makes it more convenient for checking on the batteries every month for water. They are there which will remind us to check them every now and then.
The white pipe going up has a fan attached to it. This fan is to move any gasses inside the battery box up and out to an outside vent.
Having the batteries towards the back of the Earthship is the closest place we can put them to our solar panels and windmill. The shorter the run for cable the more power that you will have.
The octagon shaped sunroom took some advanced ingenious thinking on Allen's part to figure out. He never before made a round room with windows before. Next was putting up the rafters on the sunroom and connecting the main green house roof to the sunroom. This took the help of our neighbor Robert Jones to help us figure out how to do the angels. The bigger open space on the bottom are windows the smaller spaces on top will be bottle windows. There is a sunroom on each end of the EarthShip. There will be a roof vent for each sunroom.
There is an exterior door on each end of the EarthShip. Around the door will be bottle walls.
The spaces along the front of the EarthShip will be all windows. There will be 3 sky lights within the green house.
The first layer to mud packing in between the tires. We used a mixture of cement, clay, sand, straw, borax and water. The borax is to stop any mold or mildew from developing and to stop bugs from eating or digging into the mud. We have plenty of rocks on our property and they are thermal mass as well so we decided to put rocks in the mud instead of cans or bottles like Earthship does.
We decided to start with this back hallway so we can work towards getting our solar system hooked up. Plus this is a good practice room. It won't be used like a living room is. And by the time we get to mudding the living rooms or our bed rooms we should be better at mudding the rooms. Not much science to doing this at the beginning.
This is a close up photo. Always wet the tires and the area where you are putting mud. This will help the mud stick to it.
This is the 4th or 5th layer of mud. We lost track after mudding for a while. We have found to apply this mud mixture you have to slap it on the wall. The mixture is similar to cob. A little more wet than a cob mixture would normally be. We wet the area first then get a mud ball in your hand. Flatten it a little bit in your hand then slap it on. It creates a kind of sound that tells you that it will stick. You need that force to get it to stick really good. When this dries it is very solid.
This gives you the idea of how far we have come with mudding the Systems Room.
After about 6 layers the tires are finally gone.
Load bearing walls with scaffolding on interior greenhouse. The scaffolding was to help put up the header and will be there for putting up the roof trusses.
Interior compacted bottle walls with electrical starting to be constructed.
Time for the roof trusses to go up. We used flooring trusses that are 2 feet high and was place 2 feet apart. A HUGE THANK YOU to our volunteers Jim, Corey, Hal, and Robert for helping us on the most hot and humid day ever. The trusses span about 28' and 11" and were all lifted up by hand.
We used 3/4" plywood sheeting. We put tar paper up for a moister barrier then a radiant foil to reflect the heat back up.
Allen, Mary Kay and Arron Severin embark on learning to build an EarthShip north of West Plains, Missouri.