Friday, 29 June 2012

Building up the stem wall

I have been building up the stone work around one side of the house as it wasn't high enough above ground level. I spent time selecting rocks, mixing the the mortar, which is not as fun as the cob mixing as lime is very harmful to the skin I have to wear gum boots (or wellies depending where you are from!) another week or so to finish this.

evidence that the elephants have been visiting 

the lime mortar ready for transport

mixing the mortar with wellie boots otherwise the lime damages the skin

laying mortar and rocks

wetting the rocks before laying
a test patch of cob on the stem wall

pouring water on the foundations to see if the cob stays dry
a beautiful pod mahogany on the plot the future site of the dream tree house!!

the pod and seeds of the pod mahogany 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Foundations finished yeahhy!

So the foundations are complete, they look beautiful and strong. The one thing which I found with using a local builder was to explain what I am actually doing. The idea of not using any bricks seems hard for everyone to get their head around. I have explained time after time that there are no bricks, cob will be added wet to the stem wall to make a continuous monolithic structure. Misheck has done an amazing job, but in his mind I am still laying bricks so the walls must be level at this point all the way around. This has left a small section of the wall without a stem wall coming above ground level as the site is slightly slanted. It's not a problem as I will do this last section myself. It's important that the bottom of the cob wall is protected from rain and moisture. The last thing to do is to then fill in the soil around the foundation and level off the floor area before I can start cobbing. Although there is a natural building tradition in zimbabwe, even building with mud, brick moulds are made either from wood or paint tins and then either fired or sun dried. The structures are not load bearing as cob is and so poles are used in the ground to support the roof structure. This is a problem with termites unless very good hardwood such as mopane or acacia are available, which in our case is not. The huts are beautiful and comfortable but largely need alot of maintenance. People are using more modern expensive materials if they can, I'm hoping that cob if it works well in this climate that it can offer a comfortable, durable, inexpensive and environmentally friendly alternative, we will see!!

I have been back and forth on the decision to use a moisture barrier or a temite barrier at this stage. I want the house to be made of materials that are accessable to local communites if they want to do a similar project. I also don't want to use toxic materials. Although there can be big storms in the rainy season drainage on the site is very good, so I don't think moisture coming up from the foundations will be a problem. I'm thinking against using tar or a damp proof course because of this. As for termites my understanding of the barrier system is that is won't stop them it will just slow them down and make the tunnels visible, As the foundations are so deep and strong I think the tunnels would be visible without one, plus the fact that there is no wood directly in the ground. If anyone thinks otherwise please let me know what you think!?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Foundations coming up and up!

The foundations have come up to ground level from one meter deep! A lot of hard work, Misheck and Abel have been doing a great job. The stone work is coming above ground level now to make the stem wall, which will be between 30cm and 50cm above ground level, this protects the cob walls from damp and any splash back from rain coming off the roof.

I've been delivering water each day to the site and soaking clay in bins 

The foundations 3 weeks ago

My son collecting his favorite wild fruit growing on the plot

Discussing progress

coming up...

...and up

Yabani has been working hard delivering rocks in his scotch cart

It feels pretty strong!!

Reached ground level on outside walls

Starting the interior wall foundations

How the foundations looked yesterday...not long before I can start with the mud dancing!!!