Friday, May 14, 2010

Rendering the Walls



The finished surface of the rammed earth was too rough and dusty for the interior of the house so we decided to render them in a light sand-cement mix that is commonly used here to finish and protect the mudbrick houses in the area.


First a key-layer of gravel with bit of earth for binding is applied to the walls. this layer acts as an intermediary between the rammed earth and the sand-cement render: the earth in the mix is able to stick to the walls, while the gravel and texture allow the render to hold on.


All the gaps between the walls and the roof were filled in with stones and earth-gravel mix. this keeps out any unwanted guests (bugs and bats mostly) and helps to further solidify the connection between our wooden bond beams and the walls.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Raising the Roof


With the walls in the living area at full height, it was time to raise the roof beams. All the timbers were eucalyptus trees sourced from a sustainably managed plantation on the ridge up behind the house, The trees were simply trimmed of branches and pealed of their bark before being put in place. The most challenging part of the process was raising the large tree that would become the ridge-beam over the living area.


After the ridge-beam was in place the rafters and battens went up fairly quickly.  Any timbers that pas over or run along the top of the walls are tied down with metal rods that were imbedded into the walls as they were rammed. The tie-downs act to stop the roof from lifting during strong winds and tie the walls together using the timbers as a kind of bond-beam.



Tin on and looking like a house! The plan is to line the tin roofing with mats woven from papyrus to insulate from radiant heat from the sun and noise from the rain.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Construction – Lintel Detail for Bathroom Windows

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Unlike most of the window openings, that extend up to the top of the walls, the bathroom windows puncture one of the big end-walls, with the triangle of wall extending up above them. We had considered a self supporting arch, but the soil was not forming cleanly and the amount of solid timber required to make the arch-form would have been significantly more than the timber we used for the lintels. In the end we used 40mm thick hardwood 3 times longer than the width of window opening, to spread the load of the wall above out away from the window. The masons set the lintels into the course below, ensuring they were level with a firm footing on both sides, and then we continued ramming the next course.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Construction – The Walls Reach Full Height


Here you can see the walls are getting rammed and trimmed into their final height.exact height was debated heavily by the masons, as the general consensus was that for a building as wide and long as ours the roof had to be much higher and much steeper in pitch.  There was a bit of confusion on my part as to what was driving this because it was already taller and steeper than the surrounding houses. But then i realized that the because of the openness and width, the house looks more like a church or a school that a village house, so it wasn’t a functional issue, but more of a ‘just doesn’t look right’. In an effort to stop the house looking too imposing, the roof stayed as designed.

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Filling the forms got more challenging as the walls got higher!


The ladies keep up a steady stream of well mixed soil and heckle!


Here one of the masons trims the top of the wall with a machete, following the string-lines laid out by the Master-Mason. The metal rods protruding from the top of the wall are for fastening down the logs the will be used to bond the walls together and form the basis of the roof frame. Each of the metal rods extends at least 2 formwork-layers into the wall (about 1.2m) and is anchored by crossed of hardwood buried in the wall.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Construction – Protecting the Walls


As the April rains began, we had to purchase some ag-plastic to cover the tops of the walls during storms. Once the plastic was in place the walls would be dry enough to continue ramming as soon as the rain stopped, allowing us to make progress despite the poor weather.

A brief apology

To those of you who have been disappointed by the recent drought of updates: I am in  a push to make amends. Please enjoy the deluge of photos, and keep an eye out for some text to follow. If anyone has questions regarding a particular photo or aspect of the project, leave a question in the comments and I’ll endeavor to get back to you as soon as possible.

Construction – Walls Layer Five