This is Part 3 of a three part series of our story of the construction of our house using locally available sustainable material and skill. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2. I am not sharing too many technical details for I am not an expert. Those who are interested in the finer details of methods employed, please Comment below or write in to me at email@example.com
Most of the efforts that go in to building a house are towards the walls and the roof. But all that is seen when you start living in the house are the floors and the plasters. While I am now writing the blog, I am regretting how little pictures we took of the construction to share with you all. Most of what I can reminisce about the walls and roof construction are only stowed away in our memories.
While the flooring inside the house is pretty simple with terracota tiles, what is interesting is the mud floor in the patio. The mud floor has multiple coats of cow dung. We water proofed it with double boiled linseed oil for the final coat. The patio has a thatch roof and is the favourite resting spot for us and our dogs. The floor is not perfect but it looks beautiful.
Women from Agasthiyarpuram helped us to crush, sieve and prepare raw materials for all the plasters. The medieval technique for grinding lime apparently was to do it manually using a ammi kall or using a Bullock-driven mill. Instead of that, we chose to purchase a second-hand wet grinder locally.
My parents took over the ownership of the entire process of mixing and grinding all ingredients of the plasters. We tested out various combinations of materials available to us in the farm and nearby. We evaluated them for color, durability/cracks and dusting. It took appa amma more than two weeks to prepare all plasters through power outages and wait times for raw material prep.
Masons, Arul and Ganesh, plastered all the walls patiently with trowels even though they had no prior experience with natural plasters. Their feedback during testing and grinding was important to get the proportions right. A few small cracks developed here and there in a few walls which is most likely due to inconsistency of materials (esp. Mud i.e. Sub-soil) and the domestic process of plaster making.
We spend at least half of our lives within the walls of our homes. Manufacturing and transport of paints has a heavy carbon footprint. I am also not sure how healthy it is to be surrounded by walls coated with synthetics. So, no synthetic paints were used whatsoever in the house. Only white washing using lime was done for both the bedrooms and passage because the rooms weren’t bright enough during day time.
A house with features such as ours requires continuous observation and work to maintain because there is greater wear and tear. The wood in the roof is susceptible to damage by termites – I can only hope now that the palms selected are mature enough. Because we have committed to spend the rest of our lives at the farm, it is easier to observe and maintain. I wouldn’t recommend such an endeavour to someone spending their lives in their farm part time. At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend a conventional house (built with cement, baked bricks and steel) to anyone now that we are living in a house where the air is super clean to breathe, the look is so pleasant and rooms are so cool.
Btw, we haven’t yet named the house. Please share with us your suggestions in comments below 🙂
In separate blog posts, I will share details about the compost toilet, biogas plant and solar plant, which are an integral part of the house.
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P.S. We haven’t put up a video tour of the house because we want to keep the experience a suspense for when family and friends visit us. 🙂