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Kevin Power

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since May 01, 2012
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Western Washington
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Recent posts by Kevin Power

Kat Cearns wrote:Mid-Vancouver Islander here (for sake of climate info)-

I'm wondering if I can pick your collective brain about cob/slipstraw building- retrofitting a stick-frame 20'x30' building with a trussed roof on a cement pad. There is plywood on the exterior and, apparently, it's structural, so I'm not allowed to remove it. We're trying to figure out if there is a safe way to insulate the walls and roof of this shack without using synthetic materials which will off-gas or get all up in my nose, eyes, skin, and throat with little prickly horrible bits.

We already have planned a little cob extension on the front of this structure (south side) and we will be loading that up with glass and windows to let in light. We'll be making a thermal-mass floor for the entire building. Because of the cob section (its look and feel) I would really like to extend the earthy, rounded, smooth feeling to the rest of the building's interior, so I thought that maybe a slipstraw infill between the studs, and then plastered, might work. But by many accounts, slipstraw doesn't have a very high R-value. I'm also a little worried about moisture moving in the plywood, and the need to put up tar paper on the exterior of the plywood in order to plaster it (cutting off the path vapour, possibly causing condensation?) I would really like to earthen plaster both the interior and exterior walls. Any suggestions (even outside-the-box ones) are greatly appreciated! I've been searching and searching for a solution to this, but I think a discussion might be what I need most. Cheers!


For starters, if you want an insulation that has nearly zero (everything emmits something) off-gasses, check out Mineral Wool/Rockwool insulation. Roxul makes one that I am familiar with and have used it in my own house. It has a high R-value plus does not absorb water or mold, and is resistant to fire naturally.

Depending upon how your how as built, you could work in 4-foot high by 8-foot long runs w/o reducing your structural capacitity much, however, like said above that is something I would leave to a pro. I've done it on a few buildings and it is a pain in the ass, but that is what I get paid for.

If you do not want moisture to get into the plywood, you will need to keep between a 1/2-inch to 1-inch air gap between the cob & plywood. However, with that said there are house-wraps (Tyvek) and the old fashion roofer's felt for keeping exterior water from moving to the interior.

Hope this helps.
*update* Well our warm weather sure dried out the creek before I could get some barrels to store some water in. I wanted to share with you all that I found out that the compost piles I had there -- my Aunt's property, was cooking hotter & faster than what I had at my place in town. Pretty much the same stuff with proper C:N ratio. Do you guys think the algae and microbes added to the speed? I was thinking that possibly the chlorinated crap that comes out of the facet in town doesn't exactly go along with microbes. I was letting the water sit in a bucket in direct sunlight to off-gas the chlorine gasses.

I am thinking of, if I get permission from my Aunt, to build a pond that the creek feeds into and possibly holds a bit more water longer. Any ideas or suggestions? Most likely, I would like to use it to place the ram-pump that I will eventually be making to help water that back piece of property.
10 years ago

Steve Furlong wrote:

LOL!!! That made me laugh really hard. Thanks for that!
10 years ago
I always thought of them as bad case of acne. :-p
10 years ago
A neighbor had planted a gala tree several years ago. It did not fruit until she planted another apple tree upwind of it. My grandparents though had only one apple tree and it fruited every season. No one else around them had an apple tree.
10 years ago
It seems like their might be some confusion. Are we talking about rebar or wire mesh? The general DIY'r knows two types of steel re-inforcemers: wire mesh & rebar. Wire Mesh can be used from fencing to sidewalk & concrete countertop reencforment, as well as many other things. It ranges is gauge & sheet sizes. Wire mesh comes in tiles that you can easily use a grinder with a carbide blade, and bolt-cutters on.

Rebar on the other hand, is the thicker, sturdier, bruiser brother of wire mesh. It ranges from as small as 3/8-inch to as big as 2 3/8-inches. Trying to cut rebar with a grinder is asking for a lot of swearing, missing skin, and high blood pressure. It just takes forever for very little effort. When I was first in construction, all of the rebar on one footing wall run was too tall. Could not fit anything but a 4-inch grinder in their and I got the lucky job of cutting them down to size. It was only a 90-foot run, the bar was what we call 5-bar, and it took me nearly two days to cut all of them to proper height. Cutting a lot of bars at once, we use a "hot saw" which is just a demo saw with a carbide cutting blade. A bit unwieldy, but then again, most power tools tend to be. Word of caution: if you do not like to on fire, beware of what you are wearing when using one of these. Leather boots are highly advisable. The wheel spins counter-clockwise, shooting sparks at the ground towards your feet. If you are wearing raggy jeans with frays, it will catch. If you wear cargo pants, khakis, or say you're a stickler for 70's polyester, I would seriously reconsider using this tool. Also, not for the weak.

So.... for just cutting one or two bars at a time, I highly recommend a Portaband. It is a power-hacksaw that rotates a blade around a drum similar to a bandsaw, only portable. Give a quick look-up in google. We use both of them quite extensively in the construction industry up here depending upon the task. They are fairly easy to find, new & used.

I hope this helps, even if it might be months late.
10 years ago
I like it! When can you start on mine?
10 years ago
Carpenter Ants love wet wood. They will take wet/moist wood over dry. Drier your structural members are, the more repellant they generally will be. I have done plenty of work repairing what carpenter ants have destroyed, however, I have never honestly seen termites where I live. Since it has been ages since I lived in the southern US, I do not fully remember how humidity plays with wood. With that said, in regards to invitations, wet wood is almost always an invite for unwanted guests.
10 years ago
If burned as hot/cleanly as I hear RMHs can, I do not see how an oil especially ones found in cedar would still be present in the ash. Oil loves to burn, in my experience. Even so, depending the size, you would add only a small amount of ash to the pile.
10 years ago

tel jetson wrote:
treating for varroa does nothing but breed stronger, more miticide resistant varroa. I'm not at all surprised that the BBKA would come to the conclusion that more treatment is necessary. they are known to be in cahoots with pharmaceutical and pesticide manufacturers, the two groups that stand to benefit most from an "effective, approved treatment." such a treatment will only remain effective temporarily, but will poison bees and humans who consume hive products indefinitely.

Sounds like pesti-money is to be made. And I hear money talks.
10 years ago