Friday, April 18, 2008

Sculptural fun

One great reason for working with cob is it's ideal for creating niches and unusual shapes. Here's our bedroom wall - and the artist in her studio!

You can build in shelves out of spare pieces of wood, without needing any nails; or you can just knock holes out of the wall to create extra variety.
Here's our own little church/temple effect downstairs!

Sponsored Roof Window!

What we've really enjoyed about getting up on the roof and completing it has been the view. Now we have very kindly been donated a Velux roof window, by Andrew Renirie of Cape Loft Windows, part of Savati. It is a great example of passive solar light/heat as it captures the sun overhead most of the day; and it's openable so we can get through to the roof. We have also included an unusual central 'quiet space' in the house (known in Indian architectural theory as a 'Brahmasthan') which is open both to the ground (no foundation) and the sky. Waterproofing this area was quite a complex problem but Andrew and Savati have come to our aid again by creating and donating a kind of metal 'chimney' which should really help matters.

Laying the floor

The floor has had a concrete slab, as we're in Muizenberg by the sea and vlei and the water table level is an issue! However, we've put in a lovely warm earth floor on top of it. It's got horse dung in it in place of straw, as a binder. The dung has to be well soaked and separated or you get black patches of dung showing up in the floor (we had to fix a couple of areas); but otherwise it's similar to mixing cob (and really not smelly!)
If you lay the whole lot at once it'll crack as it dries, but if you do it in layers you need to ensure the top is roughened so that the next layer will bond nicely to it.
The next layer was much smoother but you need to stay off it for a few weeks. We humans managed to do so, but not everyone did...
This has then been fixed up and a thin top layer put in certain places, with the traditional 'feta lid' burnishing happening once things were fully dry. At time of writing downstairs has not been sealed yet - an Envirotouch rock sealant is going to be used for this. You can see something of the final burnishing through the pentagon hole here: this has just been closed up with a specially cut piece of plywood! The top floor has been sanded and then sealed with Envirotouch wood sealant for floors.