Earth House Construction update

A few of you have enquired about an impending blog post about the house in the farm and here is one after a long hiatus.

In the last 6 months, we have been focusing only on the construction of the earth house and agriculture has been on the back seat. The unexpected on time arrival of the North east monsoon has put the brakes on the construction.

We have had a major setback on the roof. Before we could waterproof the roof completely, heavy rains arrived and there was a lot of leakage onto the walls. The mud walls collapsed at a couple of places under the weight of the heavy roof.

So to avoid any further damage, we urgently put up a thatch roof on top of the Madras Terrace and on the sides of the walls. In retrospect, we should have done this a couple of weeks earlier. Anyhow, what’s done is done. And we have to lumber on.

For November and December, we are going to be focusing on building soil health in the farm by growing nitrogen fixing crops, mulching and planting trees. We have broadcasted seeds for a native variety of rice called Thuyamalli in quarter of acre only for self consumption.

A Timeline of the progress so far

April 2019

  • Site survey
  • Layout designing
  • Soil tests for suitability of making bricks and lime for strength.

May 2019

Making of Adobe (sun dried) bricks

June 2019

  • Building of 5 feet high Foundation. 2.5 feet under the ground and 2.5 above the ground.
  • Building of plinth beam with lime, surkhi and brick-bat and a bamboo framework.
  • Built with only lime mortar and stone. Zero cement.

July – August 2019

  • Building Walls of 10 feet height with Adobe bricks and Cob.
  • Placing of doors and windows
  • Procurement of timber, bricks and lime for roof

September 2019

  • Construction of Roof – Madras Terrace
  • Completed 2 coats of plaster on all walls.
  • Only Mud plasters in interior walls for both coats.
  • 1st coat is a mud and cow dung plaster on the external walls. 2nd coat is a lime sand one.

October 2019

  • North East monsoon Rains arrive and damage two walls before we could waterproof the roof.
  • Roofs sink at 2 places. We need to rebuild after rains stop.

November 2019

  • Thatch roof on the Madras Terrace roof all sides .
  • Compromised on using cement for the first time in the entire project to erect pipes for the thatch.

February 2020

  • Wait and allow everything to dry
  • Rework on the walls and roof to commence.

March 2020

  • Plaster – 3rd coat
  • Energy – Solar power for electricity and biogas for cooking
  • Plumbing – Soakpits for black water and gray water

April 2020

  • Flooring
  • Gruhapravesham

Learnings & Experiences

Technical

  • Important advice : Please plan to start construction of a mud house only if you can finish before rain
  • Roof type will be the most critical decision which will influence cost of your house. We spent Rs. 6 lakhs (1/3rd of the cost of the total Rs. 18 lakhs for the entire house) on the roof.
  • Please consult experts and people with experience before using native techniques

Introspection

  • Enormous amount of mental strength and patience needed. Also, tremendous support needed from family and friends to undertake a project of this scale and execute on our own.
  • You get to practically learn and implement a lot of knowledge learnt in school and college.
  • You learn a lot about yourself and your capabilities: both mental and physical

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