Stockton Earth Home Project

An earth home is no more a cave, than a penthouse is an attic.

Projess Report (2012 on)

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2012.11.01 - Catching Up From the Last Time I Wrote

Posted by StocktonUnderground on November 1, 2012 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (1)

I've put off writing about the progress (or lack thereof). And when I had something to write about, I was either too busy to write about it because I was getting things done, or I was too depressed to write about the fact that I wasn't getting things done. However, I'm forcing myself to write to fill in on what we've done since the last time I wrote.

The doors and windows are in, of course. I spent some time doing some framing (mostly steel but some wood) in the interior (in the guest suite). However, there was a limit to how much of that I would do without having the roof dealt with. Finally, we took the plunge and bit the bullet. We spent the money to get Conrad Smoot (of Conrad's Castles) to come and spray a real good waterproofing layer. It cost us a pretty penny, but it got done in a couple of days and it got us moving again. So even though it cost us dearly in cash, it was worth it to get the jump into real progress again. We were excited.

The bad part is that the clock was ticking after the stuff was sprayed on. Next, we covered the initial waterproofing layer with 8mil plastic, to further protect it from scratches from debris, rocks, etc, that might be in the soil.

Since the day we put the plastic down, we have fought the weather. The rain keeps us from working. The wind made it difficult to get the plastic down, and once down, the sun works on the tape and so every week or two, we have to retape in order to keep the plastic with a good seal. Plus, the wind grabs the plastic.

We went on vacation for a week and returned to find some of the plastic blown off the roof. It was tough to deal with.

I started covering the plastic with sand, but the rain erodes it, and so if we get a lot of rain, a lot of sand erodes. However, I managed to get a couple of weeks with no rain and little wind, and managed to get sand down to 2 to 4 inches thick, and then started covering that with a few inches of sandy loam.

It seems that the rain doesn't erode the loam nearly as much as the sand, so that has been good. But there's still a lot to do and I don't have loam on all of the sand yet.

And the domes don't have a lot of sand on them yet, because of the slope. We will gradually build up sand to cover them completely.

I was able to drive my tractor up on the roof, but mostly have driven in the overhangs, as well as between the great room dome and the guest suite dome (and up to the garage dome). I've started piling dirt in that area because between the domes, we want a lot of dirt. We want to create slope at the furthest points from the edge of the house, so that we can put down another layer of plastic (with insulation) and this will allow water to drain off the roof (hopefully never actually getting to the first waterproofing layer that we have down now).

The theory of the mass of dirt on the roof beneath the insulation is the PAHS theory that this thermal mass (if kept dry) will store up a constant temperature and slowly release and/or absorb this temperature from the interior of the house, year-round. This means less influence of the interior temperature from the exterior of the home, and therefore, less need for heat or cooling. Hopefully, if done right, our only airconditioning need will be air exchange and filtering.

So far, so good, but it is a lot of work and it gets grueling. It's lonely work. I've done most of it myself.

For the past couple of weeks, I've rented a backhoe (much bigger than our tractor) and moved the mountain that we had behind our house. The mountain was the dirt and fill that was originally excavated from the area where the house is built. We have all that dirt and fill now up against the north side of the garage, built up to the level of the roof. A lot more dirt is needed though.

I have found that our tractor (a Kubota BX2350) does an okay job, but because the loader is smaller than the tractor we rented for a week, moving dirt is slower. Plus, we have turf tires on the tractor, and that's okay for mowing the lawn, but not so good on a steep slope, and I sometimes feel the tractor sliding. When it slides straight backwards, that's not so bad, but sliding sideways could be dangerous if on the roof or in certain unfinished areas of the berm. So I ordered AG tires (mud tires) which we should get in a couple of days. The mud tires will also be good during times when we have snow during the winter. The times when we mow, I'll stick with the turf tires though and save the mud tires from their intended use.

The depressing news today was that I discovered a sudden leak in the differential. I got a guy to come out and look at it, and we found the fluid line. He tried tightening it, but to no avail. Once the line was removed, putting it back on never was the same. The leak was worse than before and so a whole new fitting, as well as line would have to be ordered, and that wont get here until next week. So I have no tractor until then, which means that the majority of that kind of work is stalled until after we get that leak fixed. As it is now, if I ran the tractor, the leak would exhaust all of the fluid in less than five minutes. So we're done until that's fixed.

Likely, the mud tires will arrive before the tractor is fixed. I was hoping to use those tires this weekend on those slopes and get some serious work done on the north side of the garage. That's no delayed.

Anyway, there you have it. That's where we are. It is my hopes that within a year, we will be living in the house. However, with all of my construction estimates, the actual time ends up being longer than the dream. I will say that it is possible that we will be living in the house within a year, and it is my goal that we be in before the end of 2013. We'll see how that actually turns out.