How to Build a Cobblestone House

He huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down – certainly not if the house was built with cobblestones. Building cobblestone houses was a folk art that flourished in upstate New York from 1825 until the Civil War in 1860. Many of the 700+ cobblestone homes that were built survive today, a testament to their fine craftsmanship.

To build your cobblestone house you’ll need 5 main components: cobblestones, soft lime mortar, wood for windows and doors, cut stone blocks for quoins, lintels and sills, and lots of cheap labor. Lets take them one at a time – assuming the cheap labor is you, your family, friends, relatives and anyone else you can convince to do manual labor for $1.00 to $1.50 per day.

The first step is to gather the cobblestones. This may take several years. Cobblestones are small fist-sized stones deposited by the glaciers that swept from the north millennia ago. Rough-shaped ones can be gathered from the farm fields or rounded, lake-washed ones can be gathered along the shore of Lake Ontario. You’ll need over 14,000 cobblestones, so get cracking. As the manly work of stone gathering progresses, the women and children can be kept busy sorting the stones by size and color. You’ll want to use the finest, smoothest, similar-sized stones on the front of your house, and save the rougher, odd-sized ones for the back, sides and interior of the walls.

While this is progressing, you better start preparing the soft lime mortar. Don’t skimp and use Portland cement. It dries too fast and will pop the cobbles out as it dries. Soft lime mortar is made of lime, sand and water. Find limestone (calcium carbonate) or dolomite (magnesium carbonate) and break it into pieces. Burn it within heaps of logs for 2 to 3 days to create quicklime. Add water to the quicklime to create a hydrated lime sludge.

Mix in 5 to 9 bushels of sand to 1 bushel of lime sludge. Age the mortar in a ground pit covered by sand or cow manure for up to a year.

Fell a bunch of trees. They’ll need to be hand-hewn to build the doors and windows – each custom fitted to a specific opening. Also, find a quarry where you can get limestone or sandstone blocks for the corners of your building (quoins) and as structural support over the doors and windows (lintels) and under the windows (sils).

Now the fun begins. Start by laying the stones in walls 18 to 20-inches-thick. Build the wall with rubble stone, faced by cobbles. Use elongated or triangular shaped stones to tie the cobbles to the rubble wall. Use the soft lime mortar as your glue, getting fancy with straight ridges between the horizontal and vertical rows of cobbles. Build about 3 rows (or courses) per day so the mortar has time to slowly begin setting. It will take 35 years for the mortar to fully harden. Lay in the cut-stone blocks at the corners to create quoins. To finish the inside, apply horsehair plaster to the stone.

Once the walls are above reach, you’ll have to build scaffolding by burying poles in the ground 6 to 8 feet from the wall and tying cross members from the wall to the poles with hickory witches. Then lay planks on the cross members to provide a building platform. As the walls rise, you’ll have to repeatedly raise the height of the scaffolding. Attach a crane and tackles to the highest pole to winch up buckets of cobblestones and mortar.

Hand build your windows and doors to fit each opening and hand-hew trusses for your roof. Winter is a good time to do much of your carpentry work. Depending on how many workers you have and their skill level, you may finish in a year. More likely, the building process will take about 3 years.

When you’re done, you’ll have a fine home that will stand for centuries. Go see for yourself. A new guidebook called “Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings” (Footprint Press, http://www.footprintpress.com, 1-800-431-1579) offers 17 self-guided car or bicycle tours for viewing the diversity of cobblestone buildings clustered within a 65-mile radius of Rochester, NY, and no where else in the world.

“Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings”

By Rich & Sue Freeman

17 self-guided car or bicycle tours for learning the history and observing the diversity of unique cobblestone buildings in Western New York State.

http://www.footprintpress.com/Cobblestone/CobblestonePreview.htm

208 pages, 20 maps, 85 photos, indexed, paperback, 10 X 7 inches

Price: $19.95, ISBN# 1930480199

Footprint Press, Inc., http://www.footprintpress.com

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Photos available – email [email protected] or call 585-421-9383.

Tips for Making Use of Natural Lighting When Building a House

Natural light is bestowed by nature free of any charge. The more of it that enters your house, the more advantages you’ll get from it. Imagine the cost you’ll be able to save from your electricity bills. It also give a refreshing glance of your house because it imbibes positive energy. Here are some tips to let natural light help enlighten your house.

  1. Build house to where the sun is oriented. Most builders recommend to have most windows face the south direction. They will get the most sunlight than have it lost. According to experts, north light is more pleasing and free of glare.East and west-faced windows gets more sunlight but they can be difficult to manage and can trap more of the sun’s energy and give a hotter feel. If you can’t avoid having east and west-faced windows, be sure to have low E-coatings on those windows. Deciduous trees can also help give shade during the summer months, and let more sunlight enter during the winter months because they shed leaves.
  2. Have light control materials in your windows. Curtains and blinds are light control materials that will help natural light enter your house depending on the amount you want. During the first hours of the morning, it is good to get sunlight in because it gives a refreshing energy to move. As the day heightens, the curtains and blinds will help you control the amount of sunlight. They may seem low tech but they can help keep in or keep out the amount of sun’s light you just need.
  3. Have daylight harvesting system installed. This is an automated system which through the help of sensors and detectors can control the light inside your house. It combines natural light and artificial light to illuminate the parts of the house. This system detects the natural light intensity and signals the artificial light to give off the right percentage of luminescence to give an atmosphere that will be conducive for movement and productivity.

Natural light is important in a house. Aside from illumination, it gives health benefits particularly to the skin which needs the natural vitamin E that it gives. However, maintaining the amount of natural light that enters the house is still within the control of the owner. Through the tips given above, it is hoped that you somehow grasped the general idea of how to keep natural light inside your house just as you need it.

Constructing a House on Your Own: Here’s Why You Should Hire a General Contractor

“Building your own house is a primal urge, one of those universal genetic drives like the need to provide for your family.” – Kevin McCloud

If you want to build your house, it symbolizes your need to protect your family. Our ancestors build houses on their own and provided a roof for their family. But, is it possible in today’s world?

Do you think you can do it?

You may be in the construction industry, but do you think you are ready to build a house on your own? Are you prepared to manage sub-contractors, handyman and other workers who will undertake the actual construction work?

Many people opt for constructing a house on their own in order to save the cost of a general contractor. But, before making any decision, consider the following things:

It is not a Science

Although constructing a house requires you to know engineering, it is not a science. It involves supervising people and handling them effectively. There are several unexpected incidents such as rise in the cost of materials, unavailability of labor, etc. that can put your plan in jeopardy. A general contractor is well-versed with handling all the pitfalls of constructing a house. So, he/she will have no problem in getting all the work done.

The Financing Issue

Constructing a house is an expensive project and homeowners require home loans to undertake the project. It is important to note that lenders will require a qualified person to handle the construction project. It is because it gives lenders a sense of security. If you construct the house on your own, you will experience difficulty in obtaining home loans.

The Preparation

Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

Like every other thing in the world, constructing a house also requires proper preparation. If you decide to construction a house on your own, you will have to complete the following tasks:

1. Learn the construction process.

2. Know about the latest technology, materials, supplies, etc.

3. Go shopping for materials and supplies.

4. Order the right quantity of materials at the right time.

5. Hire an architect and sub-contractors after thorough screening process.

6. Obtain the relevant permits from the government.

Your Involvement

Constructing a house requires undivided attention. You will have to be present on the site in any of the following situations:

1. To discuss the plan of action with the sub-contractors

2. To check material delivery

3. To solve any problem

4. To review the work, etc.

You will have to sacrifice your job for constructing your house. Are you ready to do it?

These are only some of the things that will require your undivided attention if you try to construct a house on your own. Remember being your own general contractor is no picnic. It can be a painful experience for you. So, do what you know the best, and let the experts handle the rest.

Build Your Own Affordable, Eco-Friendly House

What is the best way to build a low-cost home that doesn’t harm the planet? Most materials such as concrete and steel are highly processed and transported long distances, making them unaffordable to millions who are in need of housing. These high-tech materials also cause a great deal of harm to the environment. The answer is to utilize locally available, low-impact natural building materials such as earth, stone, straw and small diameter wood. This article explores several methods of using earth and sustainably harvested wood to cut housing costs to rock-bottom prices. And because the techniques are user-friendly, they are ideal for do-it-yourselfers.

Earthbag building: Like other earth building methods, earthbag building is simple to learn and extremely low cost. It has evolved from the military’s use of building durable, blast and bullet resistant structures with sandbags for 100 years. Modern-day builders are using the same basic process of filling and stacking bags to build beautiful houses, offices, shops, schools and orphanages. Earthbag buildings are resistant to mold, fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, insects and rodents.

Since the main building material is earth, which is often free or very low cost if delivered, structures can be built literally dirt-cheap. No expensive equipment is needed. Most people already have the basic tools around their home – shovels, buckets, garden hose and ladder. The building process is so simple that unskilled workers can learn each step of construction just by watching for a minute. Earthbag building is extremely adaptable and can be used to build almost any shape imaginable, including domes, vaults, roundhouses, or more typical square or rectangular designs.

Small diameter wood: U.S. forests are currently overcrowded and prone to forest fires. Millions of acres are destroyed each year to fires and disease. Gleaning small trees from the forest in a sustainable manner actually improves the health of the forest and reduces forest fires. With an inexpensive firewood permit (about $20), anyone can obtain wood for building their home. Most of this wood usually goes up the chimney to heat homes, but it is much more valuable when turned into useful products with a long life. All the wood for a house can be obtained this way at much lower cost than buying dimension lumber from a building supply center.

One option is peeling the bark off and using them in the round for pole frames. Wood in the round is much stronger than sawn lumber and requires less processing. With a portable mill or chainsaw attachment, do-it-yourselfers can also mill their own wood for beams, joists, studs, trusses, purlins, window and door frames, trim, cabinets and furniture. Where I live, builders are culling standing dead trees (sound wood) from the forest so as to avoid the time and effort of seasoning the wood. In addition, using sustainably harvested wood as described here is more aesthetically pleasing than conventional stud walls covered with sheetrock. The beauty of the wood is left exposed, honoring the tree from which it came.

Tamped earth floors: Traditional poured earth floors can last for many centuries, thereby saving a small fortune on wood floor framing and replacement of carpet and linoleum every 15 years. Earth floors look like leather once finished and are extremely beautiful. (They’re being used in trendy, custom homes.) However, poured earth floors take a long time to dry, making them impractical in all but hot, dry climates.

Tamped earth floors use less water and dry much faster. These floors can typically be walked on one or two days after installing. The building process involves screening road base or other appropriate soil through 3/8″ mesh. This mix is spread out in 2″ layers and tamped level. The process is repeated until the desired height is reached. Material for the top coat is screened again through 1/8″ mesh. The top coat mixture is hand-troweled and burnished, using just enough water to bond well. After the floor has thoroughly dried, seal with several coats of linseed oil thinned with turpentine.

Earthen plaster: The most beautiful wall finish I’ve ever seen is earth plaster. If you’ve never seen earth plaster before, you may think of dreary brown walls. Do an Internet search for “earth plaster” and you’ll see the amazing results. Because there are many kinds of clay, there’s no limit to the range of colors, textures and special effects. One popular method uses mica in the plaster to create sparkling, brilliant walls.

Earthen plaster is the probably the most user-friendly wall finish. In many cultures women, children and the elderly have done the plaster work for centuries using just hands and basic tools. The key to durable earthen plaster is wide roof overhangs of about 36 inches. Keep rain and snow off the walls and it will last a long time, requiring only minor touchup.

These are just a few ideas to get you started thinking about using natural building materials. Thanks to the Internet, now it’s very easy to learn about these and other low-cost building methods. Additional articles on the above topics are available for free on the author’s websites.

Mortgage To Build Your Own House

A lot of people reach a point where they decide that building and decorating their own home is the next step in an adventure called life. After all, having a home in which you have engraved a part of yourself can bring a lot of joy personal sense of accomplishment. Putting together a plan to build that work out the room you’ve always wanted or maybe that special little home office can be fulfilling and motivational. It’s no secret that building your own home is expensive. Fortunately, there is a way to help you advance with your plans. Although it can be difficult to convince a lender to loan you money for something that hasn’t been built yet, it is possible to get a construction loan.

What is a construction loan? A construction loan is a short-term loan that’s supposed to cover the expenses of your project. Getting it requires thorough planning and high points which you must present to the loaner. You’ll need a detailed construction plan along with a realistic budget while assuring the loaner that the project is a small risk. Usually, the more experienced builders keep a sort of “blue book” in which all of the details mentioned above are included.

Now, let’s discuss the down payment. It’s no secret that down payment plays a major factor in any loan, but in the case of construction loans, it can put quite a big strain on your budget. You can expect a huge percentage (up to 25%) to be added as down payment. The main reason why it is so, it’s that unlike traditional loans, construction loans are viewed as high-risk investments in which the loaners want to make sure you see your project through.

First, you must choose a location. Owning the lot where you plan to build your home can be potentially helpful for you to get the loan, otherwise, the down payment percentage will increase exponentially. Getting a well-established building contractor with a good reputation for this sort of projects should be a priority. The reason for this is that going at it alone and planning to be in charge of everything can be viewed as a problem by the loaners because you have no experience in handling projects like this. If you can somehow present a detailed and convincing construction plan which demonstrates your skills and knowledge in the home-building business, then you might just get the loan.

Let’s sum up. While building your home can be an extremely gratifying experience, it’s no secret that you will have to jump through a lot of hoops to see your dream become a reality. So, before even thinking of going through with a project like this, be ready to put together a well-built project plan and get a well known, qualified home builder. In the end, it all comes down to your available resources. Your budget will decide the fate of your project, so start saving up so you can cover the down payment.