The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Root cellar: starting to block the walls

Another post on the root cellar? Well, that’s the part I’m working on until I get it far enough to work on the next thing.

The floor turned out nice. I took the plastic and tarp off of it Monday. The plastic kept moisture on the surface while it was curing. This was good since I don’t have a hose near the site I could’ve used to mist it. I’m pleased with how the floor turned out. It’s smooth enough to be easily swept.

Last week I ordered and paid for enough concrete blocks, mortar mix, surface bonding cement, and concrete mix to complete the root cellar and crawlspace perimeter (if I figured correctly). 5 cubes of blocks stacked in the root cellarYesterday afternoon the first load was delivered which included six cubes of blocks (90 blocks per cube) and most of the bags of mixes. The rest of my order is scheduled to be delivered next Monday.

Dad helped me stack five cubes on the root cellar floor after they were unloaded from the truck. That was 450 blocks – approximately 16,200 pounds worth that we moved. We were able to set up a ramp down which we slid the blocks one at a time into the root cellar.

Today, I began the root cellar walls. I’m dry-stacking the blocks. This methods involves setting the first course of blocks in mortar onfirst course the foundation, no mortar between blocks. Then, the blocks are stacked without mortar in succeeding courses. Once they are stacked, some of the cores are filled with concrete and rebar for additional strength, after which both surfaces of the walls are coated with surface bonding cement. This makes a strong, durable wall. It’s also a little easier for the novice builder who isn’t a mason.

By the time I finished this evening, I had the first course set. first course mortared into placeIt is important for this course to be level – that’s the main reason for the mortar, actually. After I double-checked my measurements, I laid out the blocks for the first course. I checked for square and that everything lined up. Then, I began to move the blocks again, mix mortar, and set them, checking and double-checking for level in every direction. Tomorrow, if the weather is nice enough, I’ll begin dry stacking blocks on top of the first course. In all there will be ten courses. I may mortar after the fifth course just to ensure things are level, but I’ll hold off on that if it’s not necessary.



Anonymous said...

Just curious what you did for drainage around the base...

dp said...

I did not put a drain around the base. I put about 8 inches of coarse rock below the floor the full length. In this rock I also placed perforated PVC drain pipe to take water from under the floor to daylight. I think this under-the-floor drainage will accomplish what I wish without a perimeter drain.