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cabin project first pic

 
Aaron Tusmith
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I started building this little cabin last spring (2018) and here is one image of the initial foundation construction. I thought now was the best time to get around and share this progress. The cabin is weathered in so the exterior is nearly complete. as questions and interests develop I'll post more pics in chronological order. That being said any advice or suggestions about what I have should done differently are a bit difficult to address at this point because the building is up at the time of writing this, metal roof, slipstraw infill and earthen plaster exterior. I hope you all enjoy.
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Aaron Tusmith
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late june with more mortar and yucky PT baseplate added
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Aaron Tusmith
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early august with lots more concrete beefing up the foundation, baseplate level and square (13x15 ft), lumber ordered and ready to start framing in 100 degree heat
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Mike Homest
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Aaron Tusmith wrote:early august with lots more concrete beefing up the foundation, baseplate level and square (13x15 ft), lumber ordered and ready to start framing in 100 degree heat

#

Looks nice! As rule of thumb you do not want concrete to dry in direct sunlight, it drys to quickly, the slower it dries the better/stable it will be.
 
Juniper Zen
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I know nothing about building but it's fun to see the step by step progress.
 
James Freyr
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Looks great Aaron! Looking forward to seeing more pics!
 
Aaron Tusmith
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I was able to have a local mill do up my order of Douglas fir in full dimensional so these are real 2x4's which I really enjoyed working with. I did 24" centers and the studs are 8ft.
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Francis Mallet
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Wow the difference in color for the first two pictures is striking! Does the grass stay brown for most of the year? Must smell good at your place :)
 
Aaron Tusmith
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Francis that's interesting that you point that out because it actually poses a bit of a problem in my permaculture-design process because yes the contrast is remarkable. So we go from a lush rainy wet spring to an incredibly dry, hot a rainless summer in what seems to be about a week.  I still consider myself quite inexperienced in the design aspect and I'm kind of stumped really. Theres just a lot of outliers in climatic traits if that makes any sense. As for the smell, this is the property I grew up on so it smells like home:) earthy, grassy and sage-ey and I love it.
 
Aaron Tusmith
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At this point it's August 30th and I've got the 2x6's installed with some handsawn birdsmouth joints. Also got some of the south facing openings framed in. One of the main difficulties in doing all this was having to plant the bottom of the ladders on such a slant, build on flat ground if you can, it's great!
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Aaron Tusmith
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By mid september with help from my dad we had installed the OSB panels on the roof along with felt. I am not particularly fond of either of those building materials but the panels were all I could afford, a reliable roof is important for any building, oh well. Then I was able to get started on the slipstraw -I like calling it slipstraw rather than light straw clay or straw light clay what have you, slipstraw just rolls off the tongue. Anyway the method I used was completely of on-site materials and actually not made with straw at all. As you can see in the pics the grasses that grow around here are dry yellow crackly weeds, primarily a species called Medusahead, skeleton weed and also cheatgrass among others. I know the advantages of straw, its tensile strength, lack of seed head, and that it is generally hollow shafts. Thing is I didn't have any and all these weeds were free. So as I quickly learned I was using WAY too much clay in the slip so the bottom layers are essentially cob, as I progressed I fine tuned my methods and actually achieved a stable and potentially insulating infill between the studs. I sprinkled a little borax into the slip as well. This process went on for weeks, raking up huge piles of weeds. I drove large nails into the sides of the studs to serve as anchors and worked my way up, clamping 1x10 sections of boards on each side and packing the slipstraw in. I think the next building I do I'll just buy some strawbales... way less pokey.
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Aaron Tusmith
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It was early October when I had reached this point, I really loved putting in the wine jug windows, this was my first time doing anything of the sort. I couldn't resist cleaning them up for a photo op, bit of a waste of time though. Here you can see the walls almost making it up to the top in the north side, they were a lot of work. I have to say that pretty much every phase of building this thing became a pain and monotonous but looking back I really did enjoy it as a whole, I am so glad that I followed through.
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Juniper Zen
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That window is super cool! I've never seen that before.
 
Aaron Tusmith
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Here's a bit more of the glass work, we had a stack of these glass panes stacked against the wall of a shed for as long as I can remember, some were broken, but I was able to make good use of them, they are slightly tinted but free is always good with me, I was also happy to put this old tv screen to use, single pane I know but still cool!
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Aaron Tusmith
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More bottles and glass being put in on the south facing wall, the little ones are those apple cider vinegar bottles you get at the grocery store, the label comes right off which is nice. Also a shot of the whole south wall, well most of it. Yes it looks a little messy and disorganized because it was! I think these were taken around mid October.
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John C Daley
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I appreciate the 'over the top', use of glass bottels in a unique way, well done.
 
Aaron Tusmith
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Hey thanks John lots more bottles to come! I'd say over the top as well I really wanted to see how many I could cram into a wall.
 
Aaron Tusmith
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I didn't really take a lot of step by step photos towards the end of the season I was in such a rush. Being in a hurry with building is never a good idea but it always seems to work out that way. I cobbed in a ton of bottles in this south wall and tried to cover the cob with lime but didn't even have time to get it all done. It looks messy I know but this spring I will be able to finish up the lime and clean it up and have lots of pretty pictures.
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thomas rubino
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Hi Arron;
Looking good!  Is that floor rammed earth ? Or is it concrete?

I'm thinking about your wanting a RMH for heating.   Here is a link to a small batch box build that could be just what you need to keep that cabin toasty !
 https://permies.com/t/71576/tiny-house-rocket-mass-heater
 
Aaron Tusmith
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Thomas, so I have perhaps a little over a foot of space to fill to make the floor level with the baseplate. The foundation rises up a bit so I have some room to work with. Right now it is just a dirt floor, pretty loose and kicks up a bunch of dust when you get moving around. The floor question was actually going to be one of my next posts on how to best approach this. Ideally I want it to be as insulated as possible but I also do not want future mold/rot/compression problems in the floor area. I was planning on asking the forum how I should go about this! As for the heat source... I will definitely check out your link, thanks!
 
thomas rubino
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Hey Arron;

For your floor I recommend a minimum of 2" EPS board.  4" would be nice but... Safe compression wise and mold wise it is intended  to be used under concrete slabs.

Under what ever heater you build you REALLY want insulation.   Your cabin is small, so doing the whole floor would not too cost prohibitive.  But if cost is too much, just do under your heater. Isolate that from the rest of your floor covering (concrete)? So the heat from your RMH stays in the room.
 
thomas rubino
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Hi again Arron;

If I remember correctly , your floor is backfilled?   If so have you wet it and tamped it ?  A gas powered whacker would do the job quickly and thoroughly … but a home made thumper can be built for free with scrap lumber.
If it hasn't been settled well even a concrete slab will crack.
 
Aaron Tusmith
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The foundation is more or less a rubble trench gabion hybrid with mortar packed in from the exteriors. The plane of the current floor is backfill from the original slope that the building sits on. I tamped this by human power at several stages throughout the building season but not really to the extent that it should be tamped. It received all of the foot traffic during the building process. I do hope to thoroughly wet and tamp the current dirt floor to a point that I am comfortable with before going on to the next step. I might indeed use EPS board for the floor insulation if the cost isn't too much however I do intend to focus on the insulation below the heater as the priority, at least initially. That being said I suppose my question would be can EPS board withstand the weight of a mass heater? I have researched other options and most achievable for my situation is a red cinder/perlite heavy cob mixture. I'm open to other ideas of course, but as usual I'd like it to cost as little as possible. It seems to be the usual battle of juggling the amount of mass atop the insulation layer because at least at this point I'm designing the heater to be a big heavy beast, but I don't want to be conducting a bunch of heat into the earth. As always, searching for the happy medium.
 
thomas rubino
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With a solid ground and at  least 2"- 4 "  of concrete on top it would hold the weight no problem. You could hand pour if you are just covering , oh lets say a single 4x8 sheet of eps.
A brick bell heater like Kirks has a much smaller footprint, so any insulated portion of the floor could be smaller as well.


I put a 4x6 sheet 4" under my shop rmh. I made sure to insulate with eps up the sides leaving 2" over them . A few pieces of 4" concrete board brought up to grade has effectively isolated that 4x6 from the rest of the shop floor.
There is a minimum of 10 degree difference in the concrete temps every morning within 1" of the insulated portion. It Works!
 
Aaron Tusmith
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Here's a little before and after. This is the point where I left off last November. Once the weather improves I'll be back at it again. I'm going to prioritize filling in all the cracks and working in preventing any further insect infiltration. I hope to get the floor insulated and a rough but level cob surface to continue working on. Finish framing in the doors and get another coat of plaster on the exterior. I'll have to buy some gutters to divert the rainfall to a more useful area as well. It was a productive season, three days a week every week for 8 months.
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Aaron Tusmith
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Hand-dug swale! This time of year the digging is too easy to pass up. The rain gutters I put in will feed into this and should be a decent permanent addition to my little plot on the hill. This was my first attempt at installing a swale and I learned a lot. More to come as it seems like spring is here, for now anyway.
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Aaron Tusmith
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Swales in action! it has been raining a ton here so these things have had plenty of water going into them. I had to split them up into two different sections because I got carried away and realized it would be way too much digging trying to get the whole thing level on the same plane. So, I dammed it up halfway with a board-level overflow. They are working great I am satisfied with myself, (at least for my first attempt at digging swales ever). Also, got started on my cabin floor -it's a little unconventional but it is working! I'll post pics of the floor later. Have a great day everyone!
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Aaron Tusmith
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So I'm getting somewhere on the cabin but I have an insulation question. These pics show my progress of hanging the ceiling. The 2"x2" rails you see forming a 90 degree angle will be exterior shell of the void I am going to fill with loose fill insulation of some type. You can see I am about halfway through installing the horizontal section, and then the boards will turn vertically and the whole space behind it will be filled with insulation   Does anyone have a product they recommend? any Permie-style insulation solutions anyone can offer?
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it's so hot up there
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Juniper Zen
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Wool? (I have no experience with this, just heard about it.)
https://permies.com/t/67189/Natural-Wool-Insulation
 
Aaron Tusmith
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wool insulation would be fantastic I'm looking at a product right now from Havelock Wool trying to get a figure on 150 cubic feet I need to fill, I don't know the cost yet, still waiting on that.
 
thomas rubino
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There's always recycled denim / cotton insulation.
 
Taylor Cleveland
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can I ask if you have and design plans for the indoors? We have a very cool stone cabin on our property that I want to convert into an airbnb but I'm looking for ideas on layout of kitchenette/bathroom/living area.

I love the jug windows! very cool looking
 
Aaron Tusmith
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No serious plans yet, I am in the process of digging a cellar, which is where i will continue deeper in hopes of digging a sand point well that will at least be seasonally available, we'll see. So all that means is there will be a pitcher pump right above it. I also hope to build a loft of some kind to save floor space because I am only working with 200 sq feet. There will be a heat source in the SW corner. It is rather nerve racking actually when you are trying to install something once, I am constantly second guessing so I hope to think the floor plans over many times before I commit to any permanent installations.
 
Jay Angler
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Aaron Tusmith wrote:

One of the main difficulties in doing all this was having to plant the bottom of the ladders on such a slant, build on flat ground if you can, it's great!

Not that I disagree, but for anyone reading this, I try to use my 3 legged orchard ladder when I need to do something up high on uneven ground. They aren't just for picking fruit, but they *are* specifically for soft ground. There are reasons they're considered unsafe on something like a driveway. Depending on what you're trying to do, it may not get you close enough, but the flare at the bottom seems to make them less tippy.

And a question! Aaron, I noticed you'd installed some of your windows at a slant. Was the slope calculated for a specific sun angle at a specific time of year, or water runoff, or just because you felt like it?
 
Aaron Tusmith
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Those panes were of a collection of glass we already had here on the property I can't remember what they were originally from. The angle is just for water runoff. Often you will see rotten wood on the bottoms of window sills so I set the glass with a bit of an overhang so no water would ever be trapped there. I figured I might improve some solar gain with the glass being pitched at an angle like that. I've still got to do more research to fully understand what angle to set the glass of the south facing solarium I am going to attempt to build hopefully this year.
 
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