Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Putting in the Septic Tanks and Field

 One of the really big jobs to get done prior to building the house is the septic field. I would really have preferred not to have had to put one in. I believe that on an island that sets a priority of conserving water that it is time to seriously consider alternatives to demanding the use of septic fields as the only means of sewage treatment. It seems a shame to use so much water in order to flush the sewage into a septic tank and field.  There is now well documented evidence of communities that use advanced composting toilet systems and these communities manage to protect their water shed as a result.  It would be nice to hope that in the future such alternatives will be available to home builders on Mayne Island.

In order to put in a septic field on Mayne Island, you have to have a design engineered and approved by the Islands Trust/Health Authority. Andrew Money designed and got permission from the powers that be for my septic field and tanks to be installed.  He lives on Saturna Island and works with Matt Taylor of Mayne Island. Matt has all the heavy equipment you see in these pictures.  He was unable to put my septic in himself due to a broken wrist that needed time to heal properly.

Luckily Andrew was available to do the work and I so appreciate the job he did for me.  It is great when island folk pull together to help get the job done in this way. Andrew was excellent and I am so happy with the work done.
Andrew Money

Matt Taylor

Starting the excavation.

Ready for the pipes to be laid.

The actual septic field extends below the site where the house will sit. My lot is on a slope so we stepped down for the septic field.  It is set on a terrace that will be accessible by stairs from the patio.

Here you can see the drop off from the building site.

Lots of care taken to smooth off the field.

Lots of sand in the septic field with upright pipes.

The tanks were first placed up on the top of the site while the excavation was completed.

Tank waiting to be installed.

 There were two tanks with three chambers. These had to be buried in the ground below where the house is being constructed.

Front view of the tank.

The side view of the double tank.
In position and being filled in.
Nearly done.

Andrew was so skilled at filling in around the tanks with the back hoe.

So now I have my tanks and septic field installed I can heave a huge sigh as it was one of the major steps towards beginning the actual building of the cob house.  A very important part of the infra-structure.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Footings are In

It has been a fantastic summer weather wise and we got quite a lot done.
I was blessed to have Peter Wilkening recommended to me as a great person to do the footings.  When he came over for our first meeting he suggested filling in the trenches we had dug down into the site and to build up instead. This was perfect as the site is on a hill and this means there will be less of a drop off to the house.  With the plans to terrace back up the hill, this is a really amazing solution for me. I also really appreciated that he called in the building inspector to check the site was sound and that there would be no problems down the road regarding the footings. :-)

After we got the OK, he started building the frames.

  Peter came up with all kinds of creative solutions as to how to deal with the curved walls etc. By building big rectangular footings we have the base needed to build the dry stack foundation on, free forming the curves.  It will work out perfectly. The engineer concurred.
 The interior supporting walls needed a taller frame.

After building the wooden forms he put in all the rebar and called for the inspection. It was passed and the engineer inspected the photos of the work done and signed off on it.

Last Monday the concrete was poured.

This is a big step towards building. It is all I am doing this year, as I have my thesis to write by October/November and then I am off on my travels for six months.

Next summer we will build the rock foundation on top of the footings, and fill in the middle so we can lay the radiant floor heating hose and the natural floor when the time comes. Some of the rock is already on site and whatever else we need I will source next summer.

I am so grateful to be at this stage of the building. I could not have done it without the expertise of Peter and Gary and the help of Matt Taylor and Andrew Money with their JCB/backhoe.  I must find out what they call it in Canada lol.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Finished the Outdoor Shower (part 2 of the challenge)

Well yesterday I decided I had to tackle hooking up the shower. I layed out all the bits and re-read the instructions.  This is all new to me.
Here I have connected the water pipe (hose) and the propane pipe.
I am using an  Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless Water Heater and Outdoor Shower

When searching for something to heat my water I discovered it online. I ordered three from Camping World.  I plan to set one up with a kitchen type sink on my porch and also have one inside my shed for my guest bathroom. :-)  The description read:
"Enjoy instant hot water wherever you go with the Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless Water Heater. Generating more than 1 gallon of hot water per minute, this compact, energy-efficient heater creates a more comfortable and convenient outdoor experience for you and your family. The water heater comes with everything you need, including the adapters required to attach any standard garden hose nozzle and propane tank (tank not included)."
This was exactly what I wanted and was quite reasonably priced, I think I paid around $129.00.

So after several attempts where water gushed out from the connection, I realized I really did need lots of the special tape they sent to wrap around and seal the joints. :-) 
Finally after hooking up to the propane tank, I flicked the on switch and it fired up and voila, hot water.
I am very happy I managed to do this and look forward to many warm and relaxing showers.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hello Rocks and Going with The Flow

Well yesterday saw the creation of a new driveway.

And this morning Dan drove his truck down to the site and dumped the rock for the stone foundation. 

Elliot came this morning and told me that he's not able to continue on with the project as he is moving with his young family next week. We thought he could get the footings in by Tuesday for the inspectors, but that's not going to happen now. So I'm on the search for a new construction helper.
There are a few signs I've seen up around the island so I'm sure it won't take long. This gives me some time to think about my thesis. :-)
I am so grateful this project is not on a timeline. It's a joyful experience that will unfold as it should. I am sure the right person will turn up at the right time to get my footings soon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Outside shower

I got back on the island Sunday Elliot needed one more day before starting the footings so Rudi came over and built my outside shower for me. We cleared away part of the embankment by my shed and he brought over a recycled aluminum rail from a boat which was perfect. After much digging and clearing we had a level spot, perfect for our purposes. I put some gravel down before laying the paving slabs into place.
This is what it looked like before we started.
Voila. I am so happy with how it turned out. :-)
Today I plan to get my shower curtain and hook up the propane tank to the water heater and get it working.

Friday, July 12, 2013

My Truck: The Little Giver is Back on the Road.

I thought I had posted a picture of my truck when I got it, but looking back I see I never got around to it.

"The Little Giver"

This is my little 1985 Toyota truck that I got just over a year ago off Craigslist. I got it for $650.00 which was such a great deal. But in the process of getting it I also got to meet an amazing artist and wonderful person Bradley Messer. He told me that he called his truck "The Little Giver" and the name is perfect, it just keeps on going. So that is what I call her.
Bradley creates the most fantastical art out of wood he finds. Visit his site and see all the great music and art projects he is involved with in Vancouver.  Here is one of his pieces.  I got a great cat picture for my son Luke when I went to one of the shows he helps host at the China Cloud.

So, the big story today is that I got my truck back on the road after a year parked underground. It had three flat tires and a dead battery.
I am so happy as I got to pick up some beautiful french doors that I found on craigslist. They are just perfect for my cob house, and will lead us from the dining area out onto the back patio.

I plan to take my truck over to Mayne Island on my next trip over. Then it will be there when I need to pick up rocks, clay soil or sand for my building.
I still am looking for windows and doors to complete my list of building supplies needed for my house. I have two doors waiting for me in Mission, at my daughter's house, and some flooring for my storage room upstairs.
So things continue to come together.
I am so grateful to M and N Auto Repairs at 530 E Broadway, Vancouver BC for doing such a great job fixing my tires and getting my truck running in one afternoon. They are so kind and conscientious there, really amazing customer service.  
For more on the story of the Little Giver's special day of pampering, visit my home blog. :-) I plan to write up the story of our day in more detail.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Foundations and Footing Begin on July 22nd: Plus Video on Building Walls from Cob

We have a date for starting the foundations, Elliot has said that July 22nd is a go. So fingers crossed that the building permits come in by then. Everything is actually lining up perfectly. The septic field and tank should be in just as all the paperwork for my permits is processed. :-)

As we get closer to the foundations going in and then the posts and beams, I start thinking about mixing the cob and putting in the walls.

I have been going back over the video I shot up in Summerland and realize how much wisdom Patrick Heneberry has on every aspect of building with cob. I am so privileged to have had the chance to do a workshop with him.  Here he is explaining how to add the cob to the wall, how to tie it to the posts and how the spluge can be trimmed.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

To mill or not to mill? What to do with the wood

One of the hardest things to accept when you plan to build a new home on a forested lot is the trees must be cut down. It has to happen but for someone like me it was a very painful decision.
I arrived at my lot from the ferry just after the first trees had been cut down . The devastation seemed enormous. We had   been very selective with which trees to cut down but it still seemed like a lot of trees lay on the ground.
My neighbour, Evan, had the big machine needed to move the trees. He took off the branches and cut them up into lengths and placed them carefully, ready for milling. It was my original intention to use all the wood from my Douglas firs and cedars in my cob house.

Another friend, Lou, has a chain saw mill which he kindly brought down from Hot Springs Cove. I had arranged to meet him last Wednesday in order to plan cutting up the wood.
He needed the wood to be laid out across two supporting logs so they could be rolled off easily in order to mill them.. This had yet to be done. We sat down with the house plans to determine how much wood we needed and what dimensions the wood needed to be. For my house we need posts that will go upright in the walls.  There are also posts that would support the beams which go across to support the ceilings and upper floors.  There are two by sixes and two by fours for the floor joists and the rafters and the framing of the upstairs floor. Lots of different dimensions. It took us an hour and a half to do most of the figuring.
By this time we were thinking that this was a lot for a chainsaw mill. So I started seeking an alternative. I called my friend Carol who knows all the local tradesmen and she gave me a name. And I emailed Patrick Heneberry to ask his advice, first of all for someone who had a mill on the island, and secondly if it was even worth the cost of milling the wood. Patrick immediately said the Douglas fir would be cheaper to buy but the Cedar would be worth milling for the siding.
When Richard Brown came around to look at the logs to see if he was even interested in taking the job on, he said that the Douglas fir logs were too big for him to work with and also there were a lot of large knots in them, as well as sap. He told me that Mayne island Douglas fir turned very hard once felled. He felt we might be having to resort to screwing the wood rather than just hammering nails.
So, at the moment is Plan B. Lou and I will select and mark the smaller round Douglas fir that will be suitable for the posts and the beams and the round rafters which I would like to see exposed in the lofted ceiling. Richard will mill the cedar for the bat and board siding. And hopefully I have a contact for someone to come and take the fir for firewood. 
I will begin my search for some recycled wood for my floorboards upstairs and who knows I might even find wood I can use for my framing. Otherwise it's off to the builders merchants.

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to mix cob, filmed in Summerland.

I have had lots of people asking me how is cob made, well here is some video I shop when I was up in Summerland a few years ago working on a cob recording studio. As you can see, we had a lot of fun while working hard. It is the sense of community that makes this way of building so special.

Thanks to all the participants for letting me film them.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Mentors Featured in a Cob Homes Article in the Vancouver Sun

Cob construction makes a comeback  is a great article in the Vancouver Sun today written by Megan Cole.
I was working on my Building Permit application form, finding all my paperwork and emailing the appropriate office to get my title search documentation and the  Homeowner Protection Office to get my  Builder Declaration and Discloser Notics etc. This is not particularly fun.  I am excited to be getting it done as it means I am one step closer to building.
While on the computer doing the emails, I saw I had a message from Doug Stanger, a wonderful supporter and steward of the environment.
I am so grateful to Doug for letting me know about this great article in the Sun today. I was excited to read it as it features Patrick Hennebery of Cobworks, who taught me everything I know about building in cob and also OUR Eco Village on Vancouver Island, where I met Elke Cole who designed my house for me. I went to a Design Your Natural Home workshop there two years ago.
Elke Cole leading the Design Your Natural Home Workshop at OUR Eco Village

Patrick is leading a Cob and Community in the Village - Skillbuilder Internship this summer at OUR Eco Village.  He is also my consultant as I build my home and I am thrilled to be working with him.  His time and wisdom are invaluable to me. 

So this is the serendipity of life. I am just putting together my submission for my building permits and I go to facebook and I find this link to information on cob houses growing in popularity. 
I thought I would take this opportunity to share a video of Patrick speaking about his work, specifically the Summerland project that I was a part of. 


By the way Building Permit applications are not that much fun.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Beautiful Cob House Pictures on the Natural Homes Widget.

There is a wonderful website out there called Natural Homes. They have a widget that shares images of natural homes and I selected cob as it suits this blog. I hope you enjoy seeing all these fabulous buildings.  I encourage you to visit their site if you are interested in Natural Building.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Plans and Planning

This past week my official plans arrived from the engineer, after many months of anticipation. This is very exciting for me. I have several copies in various sizes and I can see all the side and rear and front elevations. The structural plans and foundation plans are there. So this weekend I managed to come to Mayne Island and meet with the very important people who are helping me put my plans into action.
Elliot is going to organize and coordinate putting in the foundations. I gave him a copy of all the plans in the big format and we went over them together to check how many post supports there will be and how the beams will go etc. There is lots to do.
Now I have the plans I am filling in my form applying for the building permits and hopefully this goes smoothly and we begin the work in mid July.
The septic field and tank should be in by then.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Septic Field Plans

As the summer approaches I am happy to announce that I took the step of hiring someone to put in the septic field/tank. It is something I dragged my heels on as I really do believe that on an island that needs to conserve water that top of the line composting toilet systems would be a much more sane way to go.
I did a research project on composting toilet systems and there is much evidence that they are safe and a workable sanitation system. There is a community in New York State that has been using one for over ten years to protect their water shed. I will post more on this research later. But here is what a modern day composting toilet looks like. :-)

I fully intend to put in a two toilet composting toilet system from Sancor. These toilets use only 1/2 cup of water per flush. 

However, I realize that such changes if they ever occur to the bylaws will be slow in coming and that I will have to conform and put in my septic system in order to build this summer.

I am happy that Matt Taylor has agreed to put it in for me.  I have yet to meet him, but he and Andrew Money, the engineer, are in the process of designing the system and I hope to hear it is going in soon.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Huge Rocks are a Surprise Discovery as Work Continues

As my neighbour  Evan was moving the stumps down to the bottom of the lot he made an exciting discovery. There a lots of big rocks hiding in the earth and under the salal.  He carried a few up near where the house will be and I will get my wheelbarrow and move some of the smaller ones myself.
This is exciting as I was needing some stones for my foundation as parts of it will be above ground to prevent any splashback from the rain hitting the cob walls.  Aren't they magnificent?

This is where the house will sit. The smaller logs will be cut for firewood.

I discovered this little chap as I was disconnecting my extension cord from the electricity pole.

Before heading home on the ferry I went to the Spring Water Pub for dinner with Carol.  Sweet scented lilacs greeted me as I walked onto the patio. They filled the air. Childhood memories just poured in.

This is the sad part.

The really sad part about building a house on a fresh lot is that even when you are planning to build a natural home you have to cut down some trees.  This was so hard to do as I hate seeing big developers go into forested areas and cut everything down. There are still lots of trees left and we are going to be using the wood from the trees that had to come down to make counters, rafters and floors. My friend has a portable mill and is coming to mill the wood.
Even so this picture makes me think of a graveyard for trees. :-(

It is good to see the site taking shape though and I am in the planning stages for getting the septic field put in.  My neighbour has suggested I get an engineer to design it and then he can put it in for me. This is a great option and I am going to be making the call this week.

The surveyors came and did the corner posts at the front of the lot and are coming back on Monday to do the back posts.  It is good to get the survey done properly so we know we are far enough from the property line when we put the foundations in.
My apartment in Maple Ridge is up for sale and it is hoped that I sell it soon.  I plan on being on Mayne from July for the summer.  If all goes according to plan we will be putting the foundation in during July.