Glenn Herbert

Rocket Scientist
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since Mar 04, 2013
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Early education and work in architecture has given way to a diverse array of pottery, goldsmithing, and recently developing the family property as a venue for the New York Faerie Festival, while maintaining its natural beauty and function as private homestead.
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Upstate NY, zone 5
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Recent posts by Glenn Herbert

You could machine and fabricate the parts with power tools, but it would be more satisfying to hand forge the stretcher as the OP likely intends.
6 days ago
Since it is oak, you should have some strong branches around. Using one as a lever with a chunk of wood as a fulcrum, you should be able to pry the logs off the ground and onto other branches.

Or you could take a long prybar to the spot and raise the logs.

In any case, removing as much of the bark as you can will speed drying quite a bit.
1 week ago
I have successfully used proportions of 1:1.5:3, measured along the outside edges of an 8" system. 16" feed tube depth to floor, 24" burn tunnel length from end to end of floor, 45" riser from floor. This was a slightly shorter riser than planned due to special conditions. When the fire is roaring, flames seldom reach the top of the riser inside my bell; in an outdoor location without a container, the flames would likely move faster and come out the top, so a bit more height would be wise.

You mention using ceramic tiles for your J-tube. Unless they are special thermal shock resistant material, they will probably crack very quickly. Surrounding them with cob or even wetted packed dirt will most likely keep the pieces in place and functional.
1 week ago
The OP mentions wanting a light colored metal roof for heat reflection. My local building supply house can order standard steel roofing in white (or any other color made), cut to length (in my case 15'-6"). I expect many others can too; ask around to see what you can get.
2 weeks ago
A moisture barrier would not by itself thermally isolate the mass earth from deep earth temperature. Depending on the climate, deep earth might be too cool to be desirable to include in thermal mass. It will always be considerably cooler than room temperature in a climate with serious heating needs, so you would not want it well-connected there. If subsoil is always fairly dry, it will naturally conduct slowly and allow heat to build up in the mass. If it is moist clay, it will conduct heat fast enough that it would be counterproductive as thermal mass.

A berm built above original grade would in time alter the subsoil temperature profile to match the new grade level.
2 weeks ago
In a humid climate, depending on the character of the soil and water table, it might not be practical to keep a mass of dry earth even if shielded on top. If the soil in the berm wicks up water from below, it will be pretty much at ground temperature year round and not store heat in winter. If you can isolate the thermal mass earth from groundwater, you can get good tempering action.
2 weeks ago
Air sealing certainly could be a factor, though on a plywood subfloor there will be extremely little air leakage to start with. In other locations it would make a real difference.
Note that a considerable part of bubble foil's insulating ability comes from reflective surfaces. A shiny surface like this bounces heat back from either direction, entering or leaving. The same factor applies internally, as heat does not easily emit from one surface into the bubbles and bounces from the other surface back into the bubbles. Especially for floors, a layer of bubble foil suspended, not touching anything on either side more than it must for fastening, will give the best possible performance.  The video's installation directions actually negate part of the material's effectiveness,though for retrofitting it is probably as good as you can do. Putting down 3/4 inch or so of battens before laying the bubble wrap would let it have a reflective surface on the bottom as long as it doesn't touch the subfloor too much, and natural draping would give a slight reflective gap on most of the top surface. Adding even 1/4" battens above would improve that.
If you don't want to add on top of the floor surface, fastening the wrap to the bottoms of joists or between them will also work fine.

Here is a good overview of its properties and correct use.
Your build seems to be on the edge of drawing well enough... reliable starting draft but not able to run very hard sounds like too many constrictions in the flow path. A larger barrel may make a considerable difference. I have found that my 2" thick 8" i.d. perlite-clay riser rockets great; I know redoing yours to be 2" thick would be a considerable job, but it would drastically increase flow area with your existing barrel. A 5-minute riser would give even more space at the expense of new material cost.

The manifold transition to ductwork is important as mentioned, but if riser/barrel improvements don't help enough, I would suggest the major change of digging out the ductwork leaving the mass walls 6" or so thick, and turning your design into a bell which would eliminate a ton of friction. Going down almost to the floor with the cavity and making it 12" high and 2' wide would give a nice bell space.
3 weeks ago
I see the long side faces south, which is good even if that is not the lowest ground. With the septic outlet 7' above the basement floor, your options are a sewage lift pump or keeping water appliances on the upper floor. I would go for the upper floor for simplicity, especially as the internal square footage (probably less than 15' x 32') in that basement is not very large and you would want more area for more than a tiny house.

I might excavate and take down a section at the southwest corner to say 4' above basement floor to allow a big passive window and "view" to the southwest to make it pleasant, maybe a floor opening to allow winter sun down the length of the south face to the basement from upper floor windows. As there is surely no insulation outside or under the basement, I would put down insulation and a new slab for thermal storage, and dig a bit all around outside and install waterproof insulation to a foot or so below grade and out a few feet, to minimize heat loss from the walls. If the existing main floor framing is okay, you might be able to keep 3/4 of it and just cut out and frame up an opening the length of the south wall.

The span across that structure is not too long and I think you could build a roof with minimal slope strong enough to bear snow load which would help insulate in winter. Maybe a low gable roof made with triangular rafters or trusses thicker in the middle to resist bending loads, with a flat ceiling which would allow view and solar windows without unnecessary height at the south wall open to below. Rafters thick enough for structure would allow enough depth for plenty of insulation.

A space with this configuration would be easy to heat with a mass heater centered in the basement, supplemented by passive solar.
3 weeks ago