Rethink Your Life!
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The Work of Art and The Art of Work
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Cob floorsVernon B. Johnston vajohnston at nas.com
Mon Dec 8 00:19:31 PST 1997
Eric D. Hart wrote on12/7/97 9:08PM my time in Washington (not DC) > Exactly how long did you wait for the floor to dry? How thin was >your floor 'batter'? I know somebody in Wisconsin who did an earthen floor >and it took at least two months to dry (to even be firm enough to walk on >it). So I'm curious to know how long it takes and a drying time of less >than a month would be the best. I'm thinking it wouldn't be very practical >to put in your floor and then build the walls while it dries. Floors >always get trashed during construction and I would imagine a curing floor >would be easily damaged. So, I guess you have to exterior finishing work >while the floor is drying. If you have a detailed work schedule that >involves an earthen/cob floor I would be interested in seeing it. Putting >in the sub floor and then putting up the walls sounds like a good idea. How >long does the finish coat take to dry? Its the thinnest so might only take >a week or two. Eric, When I put the cob floor in the Sweat/Sauna I did it for several reasons. One of the most important reasons was to run a smaller testing for a smaller area so that I would have some experience with the material before attempting the cob floor on my bigger home. This testing is something that I usually do not do. My natural inclination is to "go for it". But... the "Cobber's Companion" did suggest running at least a square yard test patch before wading into the larger project. Perhaps if the person in Wisconsin had run a test patch, then that 2 months may have been avoided. You probably don't know if the earthen floor in Wisconsin was a cob floor patterned from the "Cobbers Companion"? Perhaps they applied their mixture directly on the earth subfloor? Before I could comment on that Wisconsin floor I would have to have more detail. I can, however, comment on my own floor. The first layer "batter" I used is the same as my cob mixture except that it was runnier. In the book Michael Smith says, "We like to work with a mix about the consistency of cake batter". Due to the cold and rainy days we have here in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year I use a thicker mix, but not much thicker than a thick cake batter. To get an idea of what I am talking about mix up some cake batter or pancake batter, making it on the thick side, barely able to pour it out of the pan. Then... add some straw! You wont be able to ball it up. That's the idea. Or... just reverse it. Make up the cake batter with straw just so you can ball it up, then add just enough water to make it pourable. Anyway... play with it. I was able to work on top of my first layer of cob floor within four days. The days here at that time were about 55 degrees F with some occasional wind. I actually walked on it very carefully after two days. My big Black Labrador "Parker" left his paw prints in it, but who cares, this was only the first layer. This first layer makes a good working surface. Any damage caused by construction is going to be covered over by the second layer of special formula cob which is approximately 3/4 of an inch. (By the way, my first layer was 1 and 1/2 inches thick). And if you choose to put on the second layer, who cares what construction damage occurs; it is going to be covered over by the final 3/4 thick special formula cob. So you can see this material is very workable and forgiving. Another aspect which is important is the installation of at least a 3 inch layer of drain rock before you start your first layer of cob flooring. I used 1 1/2 inch drain rock and went a little thicker. This system is, as Michael Smith says in the "Companion", a "no vapor barrier" system. The drain rock is applied over a sub-floor (what you dig down to after getting the top soil out). If your sub-floor is a bit soft, then tamp it to harden it up. Then pour or shovel on your drain rock. The drain rock acts like a wick, wicking away any moisture before it can get to the cob floor. These rocks probably have a bit to do with the cob floor being able to dry out so fast. Anyway... that is what I did. All the info is really spelled out nicely in the "Cobbers Companion", and I do recommend that you buy it. It will save you a lot of grief, lot of money, lot of time, and enhance your dreams. It seems that everyone who has it on this list has recommended it. http://www.deatech.com/cobcottage/ . After the final coat, which I have not applied yet (and I wont until next year) then I will consider the oiling and waxing of the floors to make them hard and water proof. In the meantime, I just had my first sweat in my Cob Sweat/Sauna on this very evening. And... On the cob floor. I hope this helps explain a bit...I appreciate the feedback and questions. The building process was fun, and I enjoy this list as well!!! Vernon vajohnston at nas.com
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