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Friday, September 12, 2014

Flying Time

Boy how time flies - especially when you have a "deadline"!!! Winter is coming - yet again - as is family so we have been madly, and I do mean madly, working to get enough done so we can move in SOON! We are also scheduled to host our community Thanksgiving in our new home this year - so more pressure.

BUT - things are getting done! Here are some pictures of what has been accomplished the last month or so.

We finished the ceiling trim.

The fill coat of plaster is pretty much done on all the inside walls throughout the whole house!

Truth window.

For my birthday I decided I wanted to have flagstone installed in the kitchen. I first had to lay some adobes.

Then the flagstone was installed.
We are very happy with the way it turned out!

Office floor is done and drying.

And the dining room floor is done and drying as well.

Right before we started pouring the dining room floor (each floor requires two pours, 2" deep each) I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and purchase a cement (mud) mixer! Boy are we glad we did! We were able to pour the dining room floor in two one-half days of work. Something that probably would have taken at least 4 days mixing by hand! Needless to say, my body is VERY happy with this setup!
One of the reasons it took so long to decide to get one of these beauties is that I couldn't start the generator we had. We got a new generator that has an electronic start - yea! Now it will be easy for me to run the mixer by myself, if necessary!

Final electrical will start next week. Solar equipment will also be ordered soon so in the next couple of weeks, hopefully, we will have power. In the meantime, work will continue on the floor. We plan to start sealing the bedroom floor in the next couple of days.

Thanksgiving here we come!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July Update

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a month since I updated the blog! Summer is here and we have been super busy - that's why!

There is still so much left to do but it is starting to feel like we are actually going to be able to move in this fall!  Each day I get up and think about what I can do. We still have some big projects, like wall plastering and floor pouring - but there are a lot of little projects that need doing as well so when I can't work on a big project, I work on a small one.

Flagstone Toe-Up & Banco

In the sunspace where the flagstone floor is I decided I needed to do a toe-up to protect the walls when wet moping the flagstone. We were gifted a bunch of flagstone strips that turned out to be just the ticket!
All the pieces were pretty uniform. It was just a matter of finding the ones that went together. Here they are laid out, ready to mortar.


There were so many pieces of flagstone that I decided to see if they could be used to top the bancos in the sunspace. To break up the linear aspect of the pieces we added some irregular pieces of flagstone and some slate that I picked up in Death Valley many, many years ago. 

In order to keep track of how the pieces went, we used a piece of sheet rock on which all the pieces were transferred just like they were to be on the banco. Then they could be placed one or two at a time. Worked pretty well!

Shower Pan

Another "small" project that needed to be done before a lot of other things can be done was the shower pan. That was Rick's project.


In between big projects I've been getting the fill coat done on the inside walls.

In preparation for plastering the adobe wall, I needed to cover all the gringo blocks and wood window frames with burlap and mud slip.

Ceiling Insulation

By far the biggest project we accomplished this last month was blowing in the ceiling insulation!  We chose to use cellulose not only for the "greeness" of it but also because it's so much easier to work with. In all honesty I can not imagine blowing in the amount of fiberglass it would have taken to do this job! The cellulose was dusty beyond description but at least it wasn't something we had to wear haz-mat suits to do!

The really funny thing was that the product we used - GreenFiber - came from Charlotte, NC - my hometown. As I was stuffing it into the blower I imagined that all that recycled paper from my home state was going to help keep us comfortable year round out here in the wilds of New Mexico!
So, here's the set up. I stood at the blower - that green box on the left - and broke up the insulation - the bags in the center (that pile is just a fraction of what was used!) - into the blower. Rick was inside - inside the ceiling, actually - holding the hose. It wasn't hard work but it was tiring!  AND DUSTY!!!

I wanted to get a picture of us in our blowing garb but at the end of the day, was too tired to do it.

We had left a slot three t&g boards wide throughout the whole house so that Rick could access the "attic". We had to come up with something to keep the insulation from falling out and came up with the idea of using the roofing underlayment. Worked great!
This is Rick admiring his handy work at the end of a day of blowing.

We are using rough cut 1x6s for trim.

We still have some t&g to install in the studio and office but ALL of the insulation is DONE!! What we have found is that now that the house is totally insulated the temperature only fluctuates about 6 or 7 degrees in a 24 hour period - and we've had some 90°+ days!

Now that the ceiling is just about done, we will be focusing on plastering the walls and pouring the floors. More building sand has been ordered and adobes for the floor will be here in a couple of days. We have been having rain almost every afternoon and evening - over 2" in the last two nights - so the ground is very wet! Hopefully it will dry out soon so I can dig mud for the plaster!!!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Floor Test

We have a lot of floor to do - and I do mean a LOT! We decided a long time ago that we wanted to have an earthen floor but as time has progressed and the house gets more and more finished and the realization that the pouring of that floor was getting closer and closer, I started getting really stressed about just how big a job that was going to be! How in the world were we going to screed a mud floor that big flat? And what could we do to make that job one I could do by myself, if need be? One day I had an epiphany - why not take adobe bricks and lay them out in a grid at floor height and pour the mud in the cells created? We still have ceiling to finish in most of the house which will take scaffolding but not in the bedroom so I decided to start there.

Step One

Before I started I removed all the very loose straw and dirt and got the floor somewhat level.

Step Two

Then I laid out all the adobes dry. I did a rough leveling job as I put the adobes in place. Before I started mudding, I strung a lead line all around the perimeter of the room. That was harder than I expected but it's close to level. You can see the string in the next picture.

Step Three

Then I started mudding.

All the adobes are in place. 
I must say that this was a VERY hard job! Much harder than I thought it would be. Hopefully, as we do more, it will get easier.

Step Four

Once the mud between the adobes was dry, I made a sanding block with expanded lath over a 2x4 and sanded the joints as flat as I could get them. I then did some fill work where needed. We may have to go back once the floor is totally dry and before we start the sealing process and do some more fill work.

Step Five

Next I re-leveled the floor in each section and tamped it down with the tamper. The floor is pretty much on undisturbed soil so it's pretty solid. I  used a watering can to wet down the dirt then I was ready to pour!

Step Six

The mix I used on the walls has dried with virtually no cracking so I decided to use the same mix for the floor: One part dirt to two parts sand with a bucket of chopped straw per wheelbarrow of mix. The only change I made was to add twice as much chopped straw as I did for the wall plaster.
To make the screeding process easier I took an old 2x6 and cut 2" sections out of each end. That allowed me to screed the first pour at 2" below finished floor level. On the final pour, I just turned the board over.

Once I started pouring and screeding I realized that even though setting the adobes was hard work, it was well worth it. They give us a manageable size cell to work with and made the filling and screeding a breeze!

First pour!
All six sections filled to 2" below floor level.
We allowed the first pour to dry for a day or so - just until it was still moist but not leather hard.

Step Seven

Then the second pour was made. Note the screed board turned over now.
We made the chopped straw I used for this pour much smaller - 1" pieces or smaller.

All the cells filled and ready to dry.

I checked the floor every day. The first couple of days I kept finding holes "dug" into the wet mud. I figured it was mice trying to get the straw out - or something. The holes were easy to fix with a little water and a trowel. That stopped once the floor got harder.

Step Eight

At the leather-hard stage, we took a damp sponge and wiped the sections down, exposing some more of the chopped straw.

Then the waiting began.

At the end of a week, you can see that the floor is starting to dry. The exciting news is that we have found NO cracking!!!

Once the floor is completely dry, we will start the sealing process.

Ceiling Update

We finally got all the vent stacks in and were able to get the ceiling ready for the blown insulation.

Slowly, slowly . . .