Building a house

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clv101
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Building a house

Post by clv101 »

As some of you know, we're building a house this year. A 'zero-carbon in construction and use' house from predominantly local, natural materials. The frame, made of local larch and douglas, is mostly up now. Next the roof, the straw bale walls...

Over the summer we're hosting courses for the straw walls and lime and clay plastering, run by Straw Works and Heartwood Natural Building. Do get in touch if you want to get involved, or let anyone else who might be interested know.

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There's a blog about the frame here:
http://typren.co.uk/from-forest-to-fram ... -rhiw-las/
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Post by Pepperman »

Looks amazing! Trying to supress pangs of jealousy....

Would love to do a straw bale course but my summer is now absurdly busy. Please post regular updates on the build here though.

What are your plans for the land once it's built?
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clv101
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Post by clv101 »

One month in, the frame, rafters, roof and joists are up!

Blog: http://typren.co.uk/the-finished-frame/

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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

Looks impressive.
Before construction is too far advanced, a few things to consider.
Some form of hidden or secure store might be needed for small valuables, might be worth considering.
Do not of course put details on a public forum.

Although the electrical arrangements are being discussed elsewhere on these forums, consider running some cables in areas that will be hard to access in future, such as below the ground floor.
Alternatively lay some nylon ropes under the floor that may be used to pull cables in future.

Fire concerns me somewhat with timber construction. I would consider going beyond the minimum requirements of the building regulations in such matters as spacing between flues and timber, and the dimensions of the fireproof hearth around any solid fuel stove or cooker.

Lightning strikes are a fairly rare cause of fire but seem to be increasing, might a lightning conductor be prudent ? especially if your house is the tallest structure in the immediate area.

Storing highly flammable materials indoors is clearly unwise, and in some cases is also illegal, so do not forget a small and secure outbuilding specifically for the storage of petrol, methylated spirits, LPG containers, bulk supplies of matches, and the like. Paraffin, diesel fuel, cooking oil, and bulk packs of candles or firelighters are much lower risk but are still better stored outside in a secure outbuilding.
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
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clv101
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Post by clv101 »

Very good points regarding fire. Being a new build in Wales, we are required to fit a sprinkler system (!) so every room has at least one temperature sensitive sprinkler head. Lightning shouldn't be a major risk - not a lot of it is south-west wales and the house site is 'embedded' into the landscape, half way down a hillside. Just some 100m up the slope, the land is higher than the ridge.

I like the idea of a dedicated outbuilding for flammables.
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Post by vtsnowedin »

I'm surprised the ground floor flooring joists system extends past the wall timbers to the eve drip line. I would expect a break in materials at the wall limits and flashing etc. to prevent water seeping in.
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Post by adam2 »

I hope that due consideration has been given to the need for a sprinkler system.
The relatively new requirement for domestic sprinklers (Wales only at present) seems to presume the availability of mains electricity to power the pump.
Will your large inverter have the capacity to start and run a sprinkler pump ? And presumably the inverter will be set to start automatically when pump calls for it.
In theory, mains water can be used instead of a pump, but in practice no water company will warrant that their supply has a sufficient pressure and flow rate.
And what about the water tank ? several thousand litres are required IIRC.

You may need an engine driven pump at appreciable trouble, expense and ongoing electricity use for battery charging, engine block heater, and controls etc.
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
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Post by kenneal - lagger »

vtsnowedin wrote:I'm surprised the ground floor flooring joists system extends past the wall timbers to the eve drip line. I would expect a break in materials at the wall limits and flashing etc. to prevent water seeping in.
I would think that the extended floor system is there to support the non load bearing straw bales. In this type of build they are usually positioned on the outside of the frame so that it is always protected from the elements.
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clv101
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Post by clv101 »

kenneal - lagger wrote:I would think that the extended floor system is there to support the non load bearing straw bales. In this type of build they are usually positioned on the outside of the frame so that it is always protected from the elements.
Yes, that's right. The straw walls sit on the edge of the floor system you can see. The roundwood frame is inside the house, verticals some 4-6 inch (just enough room to plaster behind) inside of the walls. Ken - do you know anyone who might be interested in our courses?
adam2 wrote:I hope that due consideration has been given to the need for a sprinkler system.
The sprinkler company are happy with the mains water pressure. We're in a very high pressure area, and our house is some 30m below the water main on road. We've got something like 300 litres above the house, in the 50mm pipe coming of the water main.
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Post by stumuz1 »

Looks very good.

All the best for your new home, mwynhau eich cartref newydd.

I built a wooden cabin for a new office (bought it I’m afraid, no love and affection gone into it like yours!)

What system are you using to keep the floor joists off the ground to stop damp?
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Post by vtsnowedin »

kenneal - lagger wrote:
vtsnowedin wrote:I'm surprised the ground floor flooring joists system extends past the wall timbers to the eve drip line. I would expect a break in materials at the wall limits and flashing etc. to prevent water seeping in.
I would think that the extended floor system is there to support the non load bearing straw bales. In this type of build they are usually positioned on the outside of the frame so that it is always protected from the elements.
OK but given that how much overhang is there going to be from the finished walls and the eve line? I realize you guys don't get standing snowpack on your roofs for any length of time so never get ice dams at the eves but isn't a foot to two feet of overhang advisable to keep rainwater from sheeting down the walls in a downpour?
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Post by clv101 »

stumuz1 wrote:What system are you using to keep the floor joists off the ground to stop damp?
Not clear from that photo, the joist work is suspended on the roundwood frame, some 1-2 foot of the ground (it slopes).
vtsnowedin wrote:
kenneal - lagger wrote:
vtsnowedin wrote:I'm surprised the ground floor flooring joists system extends past the wall timbers to the eve drip line. I would expect a break in materials at the wall limits and flashing etc. to prevent water seeping in.
I would think that the extended floor system is there to support the non load bearing straw bales. In this type of build they are usually positioned on the outside of the frame so that it is always protected from the elements.
OK but given that how much overhang is there going to be from the finished walls and the eve line? I realize you guys don't get standing snowpack on your roofs for any length of time so never get ice dams at the eves but isn't a foot to two feet of overhang advisable to keep rainwater from sheeting down the walls in a downpour?
The overhang is about a foot, from gutter to external wall. Much of the external wall is sheltered by covered decking around the west and south elevations, north and east elevations are quite sheltered by trees, the top half of the gable ends are clad in larch over the lime rendered straw.
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Post by Catweazle »

Well done Chris, it looks great, lovely place to live. Lammas is close by, lots of useful advice there, I live 3 miles your side of Cardigan.

Scolton Manor is not too far from you, HQ of Pembs beekeepers. The manager there is a very nice guy, they have their annual equipment auction soon.

I see you've been working the land for a while, so please forgive me if I'm teaching Grandma how to suck eggs, but there are a couple of things I learned that might save you some time.

1) Fences are the difference between a smallholding and "a house in some fields". If your fences are poor the neighbours sheep will find your tastiest young veg. My polytunnel was freshly re-skinned just before I moved in because a herd of cows trashed it.

2) Birds will eat every piece of fruit on your bushes the day before you intend to harvest it. Blue waterpipe makes excellent arches to put nets over.

3) Slugs are more numerous than ants in Wales. Nothing keeps the numbers down better than Khaki Campbell ducks. They also lay great eggs - if I had to choose between ducks and chickens it would be ducks every time.

4) Cats are great at killing mice, but they'll also kill voles, bats, shrews and just about anything else they find. Probably not a great idea.

5) Pigs are worth keeping. I keep KuneKunes, they eat grass and don't dig as much as other breeds. You need good fencing though.

6) The most useful purchase was a small Mitsubishi tractor. Only 21hp, it sips fuel and is worth it's weight in gold. 4WD, with standard 540rpm PTO.

I rigged up an old steel tool safe to go on the TPH, use it a lot.

Use powered tools when you can - you only get one set of knee joints, don't knacker them.

7) Plastic push-fit water pipes are no match for rodents teeth - use copper.

8) There's a good reason most of the houses have trees growing on the South side of them - that's where the wind comes from.

9) Fibreglass roofing is great, easy to install and lasts 50 years.

10) Local contractors of all flavours need three phone calls before they'll even give you a quote, and probably won't be able to do the work until next year.

11) The people here are friendly, as soon as they realise that you aren't buying a holiday home.

12) Everybody knows everybody else.
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Post by clv101 »

The straw bales have arrived! All 546 of them, stacked inside house ready for next month's build:

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Post by kenneal - lagger »

clv101 wrote:... Ken - do you know anyone who might be interested in our courses?...
Sorry, Chris, I've only just seen this.

I don't know anyone personally. If I was running a course I would advertise in Permaculture Magazine. I think it's easy enough to get volunteers though. I also tend to favour the opposition! Strawbuild as I've worked with Bee Rowan and Michael Howlett before.
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