Little Cistern, Don’t You…

Post soundtrack: “Little Sister” by Elvis Presley

The east side of the old adobe house in town we affectionately call ‘Casablanca’ was sucking up water like a sponge and we needed a more permanent intervention to ensure our new adobe work inside would hold up for the next 80 years. We put in a triple defense system to help curb the surface water runoff from the highway on the north side. This included drainage channels and catchment ditches, a percolating driveway surface, and a berm running the greater width of the lot that closed the main driveway. With the east side driveway now closed to vehicular traffic, we could reconfigure the yard to be the place of rest for a 1,000 gal cistern to catch the roof runoff via french drain. Again, very little professional consultation here. No matter the methods, all the advice we were given aligned on the main idea to move the water away from the walls. Period. Read on to see what we did and find out if it worked…

The below grade construction and downward slope from the highway were keeping our adobe walls wet inside
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From Front to Back – Driveway Redesign

In order to mitigate the below grade drainage problem at Casablanca, we needed to close off the main entrance and driveway from the highway and make a new point of entry coming off the side road. Calling on the expertise and goodwill of mighty fine and resourceful friends here, we were able to install a new gate and grade a new drive to enter the property in town. See what we did!

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Below Grade Garage Gotcha (Part II)

You can see how we addressed the inside of the garage in Part I, but there was a lot more going on outside to resolve the below grade drainage causing problems inside our old adobe home that we’ll share here. Mainly, we still had to divert the water coming downhill toward the house from the north and west side. (You can revisit our work to first repair the interior living space that suffered from over-saturation of moisture on the west side here.) Without any professional consultation, we devised an action plan to install a triple-feature surface water defense system. Without any additional heavy equipment, a lot of on-site material was dug out, relocated, re-positioned, and thoughtfully placed for new useful purpose. We actually had a lot of compliments on the outcomes we achieved here facing the highway when all was said and done, but the real win was that the garage is now dry! Read on to see what we did…

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Below Grade Garage Gotcha

So, we’ve written a few times about ‘bonus projects‘ and this part of the Casablanca renovation was full of them. The main issue here was that water flowed freely into the garage under the door because the whole house was built below grade. With about 80 years of settling in place and modern road improvements out front on the highway, we were about three feet below the crown of the road that shed water directly over the unfinished driveway into the large opening. Add the fact that this is the north side of the house so any accumulation of rain and snow would not melt/dry up in any kind of hurry. The result was pooling water inside cracking up the concrete pad and soaking into the adobe walls behind the cement-based plaster, causing ‘adobe muerto,’ or adobe death, according to my invaluable guide, Adobe Conservation: A Preservation Handbook. Read on to see how we confronted the reaper…

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Confessions, part 3

Seven years ago, I confided some hidden and sometimes unsavory truths about the off-grid yurt life. I’m not real sure why it took so long to put more of my frustrations and failures down before now, but I’m feeling compelled to share what’s behind the smiles and reveal more of the darker side of our sunshine-filled days here on the Continental Divide. Honestly, reading my first two entries makes me both chuckle and sob. What I thought were serious problems now seem so inconsequential, like dirty feet (chuckle), and some of the very important plans we had in mind then for our mountain-side homestead are still left to be actualized, like water catchment (sob).

I confess…

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Mud Walls = Mighty Fine Living (Part II)

Continued from Part I.

The east side of the backroom saved us from the complexity of the laundry nook, but had it’s own deep set of challenges. Namely, the exterior wall is farther below grade and sustained a lot of damage from water saturation. Adobe walls need to breathe, allowing air to ‘move’ within and around the natural material so that moisture can escape. If built right, earthen structures can survive thousands of years. There’s some great information about capillary rise in adobe walls in the book, Adobe Conservation: A Preservation Handbook, a source we could not do without on this project.

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Mud Walls = Mighty Fine Living

This adobe rehab project in the back room at Casablanca took about nine months, from August to May, and spun off the bonus endeavor of installing a french/curtain drain along the exterior wall to help divert moisture away from the adobe (stay tuned for a future post). In the end, we are pretty happy with the results that addressed years of neglect and water intrusions and put us one step closer to having a more functional space. Read on to see the transformation!

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More Adventures in Adobe

Completing the bathroom renovation at Casablanca to include some basic self-taught adobe repair was truly gratifying, but I knew there was a lot more to learn about finishing earthen walls (without special treatments for wet areas) since we have several more rooms to renovate. I decided to enroll in a proper adobe plastering class (online) and live owner-builder workshop with Adobe in Action at the end of September. Read on to see the pics and find out more about what I’m learning now!

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Tearing Down Walls at Casablanca

A major component to the passive solar sun porch project was letting all that warm, bright sunshine fill the main living space so that we can save costs on direct natural gas or electric heat in the wintertime. There was a plastered wood plank wall between the living room and kitchen dividing the main living space into two rooms with a small passageway, making it real hard to circulate warm air without having a heater in each room. Simple solution – Tear down this wall!

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