Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Random Weekly Photos

Hi everyone and thanks for checking up on our progress building The Cabin in the Woods.

These are some random photos this week.
Foamglas insulation blocks below the inner wythe of rammed earth.  The engineer determined we could place 14" long blocks between the vertical rebars leaving ten inches of rammed earth touching the footing.  While it doesn't complete thermal envelope 100% it will help stop thermal bridging.

This wall is 19 feet long so to avoid bowing we switched to LVL wailers.  They are a little heavier and fairly expensive but very stiff and stable. 
Rebar details seen inside the form before ramming begins.

The last of the tall walls can be seen in the distance.  Note the fresh air intake for the wood-stove in the corner of the wall in the foreground.

Thanks for checking in, the next update will be in about ten days once the last tall wall is complete.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Still Ramming

Hi Everyone and welcome to more progress pictures of the ramming stage.  We are forming the last of the tall walls on the middle level of the Cabin in the Woods and so anticipate an increase in turn around time once we complete this wall.  It's a case of the the last 5% takes about 75% of your energy when the walls are tall with a skid-steer that won't quite reach the top.

The top position for the form work before we slide it down the poles

Forming the bottom layer of the next section, notice the keyed end of the completed perpendicular wall.  The rebar lap length is 32" which is tricky to move the rammers through.

Second to last position of the form work with the forms shown in the open position.  The white tarp is to block the direct sunlight from the day old layer that becomes exposed when the forms are raised.

Stripping the forms by sliding them down the poles.  Kids don't try this at home...Still working on making this process feel more rigid and less wobbly.

A peak from behind the wall just completed towards the wall currently being formed.  The keyway can be seen in the closest rammed earth although no earth is to mate with this wall, rather a stick frame wall housing a door will mate with this surface.  Notice the flash on the chamfer areas from a miter strip that wasn't totally tight to the forms.  It'll need attention later to clean it up. 
The whole site as it was on July 29, 2017.

Thanks for checking in on our progress on the Cabin in the Woods.  We will be onto the final level by September sometime so check back in or sign up for email notifications of our blog activity.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Rammed Earth Progress Update

Thanks for checking in on the progress we are making building the Cabin in the Woods, a unique rammed earth residence in Sooke BC Canada.  Below are some pictures of the last few weeks showing what has been happening.

Waterproofing the back of the retaining wall that separates the living level and bedroom levels.

Waterproofing with drain rock and drain tile under filter fabric, ready to be back filled.

The living level of the Cabin back filled with four feet of pit run and compacted using a 700 lb plate compactor.

The back filling was necessary to allow the bobcat to deliver dirt to the walls on the back side of the house.

The climbing form work in place and ready to go.

The form work with 2x10 wailers and form-ply installed and polyiso insulation and reinforcing steel in place inside the forms. 

Rammed Earth up to the top of the forms with damp burlap aiding curing.  Next step is to lift the form work and ram again.

Same stage as the last shot just from a different angle.

The wall appears to extrude out of the bottom of the form work.  This is the second "step" rammed and curing under burlap.
Thanks for checking in and expect more progress on the Cabin in the Woods very soon!  Please feel free to share this on your social media, subscribe or leave comments.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Tall Rammed Earth Wall

Hi and welcome back after a long winter break.  After a long winter of setting tile and milling we are once again working on The Cabin In The Woods.

Wall end detail with rebar and conduit in the foreground.

Formwork as it was when we were approaching the top of the 16'8" high wall.
Mixing and delivering onto the scaffold.  
Shovelling earth into the forms from the mixer chute.

The tall wall as it stand right now.
Another task necessary for getting the next walls ready to ram is to bring the levels of the first stepped down floor up to allow access for the skid steer.  The first step is to complete the waterproofing behind the retaining wall.
Wrapping drain tile in filter fabric.  

Drain tile ready for drain rock.

The drain rock and filter fabric will now be below the compacted layers of material to bring the elevation up to footing height on the next level up.
Adding a slope to the footing edge prior to the installation of platon waterproofing on the walls to be buried.  This will prevent any water from settling and staying on the footing.  

Thanks again for joining us on our building journey.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

CSC/AIBC Rammed Earth Site Tour

Thanks for checking in on the status of The Cabin in the Woods, an insulated rammed earth house being built in Sooke BC Canada.

South side of The Cabin in the Woods.

On October 6th we hosted a tour for interested building professionals through the Vancouver Island CSC (Construction Specifications Canada).  AIBC (Architectural Institute of British Columbia) recognised the tour as a learning opportunity and registered professionals received learning units for attending the tour.  There were 20 architects, designers and materials professionals who attended the tour.  A 10 page information booklet was created to give attendees confidence and knowledge in the rammed earth process.  The SIREWALL technical engineering document shown was referenced.

Cabin in the Woods site tour document and the SIREWALL technical document.

We talked about everything from thermal mass and dynamic or effective R-values to the basics on mix design.  The goal was not to educate everyone how to build their own rammed earth paradise but rather to show them we have this down to a science and that we will build your rammed earth paradise!

Weighing up enough material to fill two forms and two compression cylinders.

As a test of the mix we created and rammed during the tour, we rammed two compression testing cylinders.  These are to be tested by Goal Engineering (attendees of the tour) who generously offered to do so while attending the tour.  Results will be posted when they become available.

Ramming the 6" x 12" compression testing cylinder.

A final hands on test was performed by ramming two large blocks.  Most of the tour participants got a chance to get their hands dirty ramming the blocks.  Later on during the tour we stripped one of the hour old rammed earth blocks and scratched, hit, rolled and generally observed how dense the freshly rammed earth matrix can be.

Delivering the earth into the form.
Ramming the earth into the forms.

Playing around with one hour old rammed earth.  Its surprisingly strong at an early age.
Thanks to those who attended the site tour, I had a lot of fun showing everyone around.

Thanks again for checking in and feel free to share this using your social media or to leave comments.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Rammed Earth Retaining Wall Complete

Hi Everyone and thanks again for checking in!  We reached a bit of a milestone this week as we finished the retaining wall mentioned in the last post.  The rammed earth is now complete on the lower level of the Cabin In The Woods.

There is going to be two tours coming through in two weeks time.  We will be hosting an AIBC learning unit for rammed earth and a local eco-house tour.  We will try to get everyone familiar with the process and materials involved in building using rammed earth.

Another bit of news,,, Earth House Holdings Ltd. is now the Vancouver Island licensee for SIREWALL.  SIREWALL (Structural Insulated Rammed Earth) has been leading the modern rammed earth industry for about two decades.  They have a very impressive portfolio of work.  Check it out at

That completes the lower level as far as rammed earth is concerned.
Please feel free to share this site or leave a comment.  I will post a few pictures of the tours coming through in two weeks time.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Rammed Earth Retaining Wall

 Welcome to the latest update on building The Cabin In the Woods.  Below are some pictures showing and describing our progress.

Our Climbing formwork being set up for the west side of the master bedroom.

The completed west wall of the master bedroom.  The foamglas insulation and 10mm slab hooks are shown at the bottom near the footing.  Note how the insulation turns inside the wall to complete the thermal envelope to the sliding glass door frame (not shown).

Another view of the west master bedroom wall and the retaining wall currently being built.  The Xypex damp proof layer can be seen where the retaining wall is going.  

This is a cross section of the typical reinforcing for the retaining wall.  It is a challenge to work around all that steel.  

There are too many corners and nooks in this wall to use the current version of the climbing formwork so we went back to the strong-back and board-form system we used earlier in the build.  We are also trying to completely build the guts of the wall before beginning to ram as opposed to building it as we go on ram day.
Panoramic shot of the retaining wall as its being formed.  Once completed we are officially complete on the bedroom lower level as far as rammed earth is concerned.  
Thanks for taking time to check in on our progress and as always feel free to share this on your social media or leave a comment.