Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Keeping water out of the cellar

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

The wettest Autumn in over 20 years has demanded some immediate attention to some unfinished projects. I have built a cover for the entranceway of the cellar which sheds the rain away from the stairwell. The cover has been built with materials recovered from the original house, and left over materials from the construction of the new house. No new materials were purchased for this job.
With the ground sodden, water has been weeping through small gaps in the mortar in the walls, and the cellar has needed the water to be pumped out regularly. A heavy duty electric pump, that was kindly donated to me by my plumber, was installed and pumps water out to the laneway. The hose can be moved around to direct water to plants if needed.
Along the edge of the stairwell I have built up soil with a slope that diverts water into the laneway. I planted a male and female kiwi along the boundry which will eventually grow up the (yet to be built) fence and shade the cellar from the morning sun, while drawing moisture from the soil and providing yummy fruit.
When the ground dries out I plan to fill all gaps in the mortar and paint the walls inside the cellar with polyurethane paint left over from the polishing the slab floor. Hopefully this will reduce the weepage.

Cellar / Tank Stand entrance cover. Cellar bilge pump outlet pipe runs along the right hand side and out to the laneway. Male and female kiwi vines planted along boundary of property.
Cellar / Tank Stand entrance cover. Door made from corrugated iron with a pole used to hold it open.
Side detail showing frame made from hardwood studs recovered from original house, with roof battens along the sides. 6mm mesh used to prevent materials being blown into the stairwell.
Waterlogged soil surrounding the cellar weeping through walls.
Bilge pump used to remove water from within the cellar. Air intake (400mm) for the cool cupboard to the right.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Making life more comfortable

Principle 2: Catch and store energy

Gourmet Cooker heats the house, heats our water and cooks our food
Since we have moved in we have been doing what we can to make life more comfortable. It's mid-winter at the moment, so keeping warm is a big priority.
I mentioned the Gourmet Cooker in my last post, we have been using it everyday since we moved in, as it has been cold and we only got our gas stove connected recently. Until then it was used for all of our cooking needs and has performed very well.
Our small 1950s (?) gas stove is a great companion for when we don't need to light the Gourmet, as well as for things that require short bursts of heat, like making popcorn or stirfrying. It has taken a little while to learn how to use the Gourmet properly, but I think that I have got the hang of it now. It does require one to slow down a bit, as it takes a while to get things done - which I think is a good thing. We have been baking veggies, bread and cookies with excellent results. We have never run out of hot water (except in the beginning when I mixed up the hot and cold taps for the washing machine), as the wetback on the Gourmet does that job well. We always have a large pot of water on the stove, which is handy for making a cuppa, cooking and topping up the bath.
Feeding the stove dry wood is a pretty big job that shouldn't be underestimated. There has been a lot of material left over from the building process that I have been using as well as smaller pieces from the Red Gum that was felled on site. Much of the Red Gum still needs time to dry. You really need to be thinking a few years into the future, and be organised with your storage... I'm getting there. Oh, and you need to learn to use a chainsaw too.

I made up some pelmet boxes out of leftover bits and pieces, buying some new 25mm dowel for the curtain rod. Kunie picked up some wooden curtain rings from the op-shop and we bought new rubber backed curtain material (remnants) from Rathdowne Fabrics in Brunswick for AU$7 per metre (very cheap). Having curtains in the bedrooms avoids those embarrassing nighttime performances for passersby, but also keeps the light out and warmth in. The pelmet boxes play an important role in keeping heat in by preventing convection currents.

Pelmet box made from left over material, with new 25mm dowel rod and wooden curtain rings
Door seals were fitted to the two main access doors early on, but the double sliding door required quite a bit of thought before it was tackled. Peter suggested that we hang the doors from a top rail and use heavy duty rollers. We got galvanised metal brackets custom folded to attach the rollers to the doors. I was pretty keen to reuse the hardware from the original doors to seal the gaps, although advice was given to me to the contrary (too ugly). After spending quite a bit of time trying to find new materials to do the job I ended up using much of the old hardware, which sealed either ends and where the door joins in the middle. Brushes seal the top and sides from the outside, and along the base on the inside. A wooden strip was fixed to the concrete floor (because we couldn't find a metal one) with metal strips fitted to the base of both doors (nylon packers fixed to the inside) which guide them and stop them flopping around. So far it has kept the weather out pretty well, and the door action is smooth to use.

Door seals fitted to front and side door
Large north (sun) facing sliding doors hang from a top rail with heavy duty rollers

Large north sliding doors using some hardware from the original doors to help seal the gaps with new brushes and a wooden guide at the base
We couldn't make standard curtain rails out of dowel for the north (sun) window, as it has a span of five metres. I wanted a rail that was seven metres long, giving a metre either side for the curtains to sit, maximising the amount of solar gain we could access for our thermal bank (concrete floor). After much tail chasing I found that Ikea sold 1.4m long sections that join together, perfect for the job.
The curtains we made in much the same way as for the bedrooms, but a much bigger scale. Now I've got to figure out how I'm going to make a pelmet for it...

Seven metre long aluminium curtain rail fitted, joined together in five sections
Rubber backed curtains hung, giving us privacy and keeping heat in during the cool months, pelmet to come...

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