|Cobbing Over Traditional Construction?
||[Mar. 6th, 2005|12:53 am]
After years of planning cob homes, treehouses, earth-covered hobbit holes... my mom inherited my grandmother's house and has 'given' me the house I grew up in -- a rancher in the suburbs.
The thing is, the house is in complete shambles. Several years ago, Mom hired a contractor to turn the house into something very unique and awesome, but he turned out to be a con man who left my Mom flat broke, horribly depressed, and living in a half-finished house.
It has two roofs -- a much higher partial new one and the original one -- both of which leak. Con Man graded the yard wrong, and water pours into the basement; the leaking roofs have rotted floors all over the house, and the addition is so rotted that you have to walk on the floor joists or you'll fall through. Worse, my thirty-seven-year-old manchild brother moved home with his two enormous omnivore hunting dogs, (Mom already had six cats) who have eaten huge holes in anything made of fabric, carpet, or wood and used the rest as a toilet. Everything that was taken out of the rooms that were being renovated and/or supposed to go into the new addition is piled in enormous, filthy heaps all over the house. It is a wreck... it was so horrible that Mom sort of went into denial about it. I'd say she hasn't cleaned the house in five years, and since large portions of the house are open to the elements -- plus the eight animals -- well, it's not pleasant.
Since I have major building/repairs to do and a nearly nonexistent budget, I was hoping to use a lot of the techniques I've learned from my obsession with natural building... but the house is in the middle of a freakin' subdivision. Worse, that subdivision just-barely falls under the jurisdiction of a nearby, extremely wealthy community with strict building codes. I'm lucky (I guess that depends on the definition of the word) that the Con Man made sure that the front of the house looked finished before he scarpered off to parts unknown (he had the balls to take pictures of it and use them as advertisements). So from the front, it just looks like a normal little boring house... it's only in the back that the work needs to be done.
I was thinking about possibly cobbing over (and around, and through...) the existing structure. The plywood has all rotted and would need to be removed, but the frame still seems strong; it's questionable whether Con Man actually built the thing to code, (I really don't want to call a building inspector to check, for fear he'll condemn the house) and I think I'd sleep better at night knowing that what Con Man built isn't what's really holding the house up.
Theoretically -- and I don't have the practical experience to back this up, which is why I'm asking you guys -- I don't see why I couldn't pull the plywood and cob around the existing wooden frame and concrete-block foundation, especially since I have to remove vast amounts of dirt from the backyard anyway to fix the leaking basement problem. I know that wood needs space to expand and contract, but I'm not sure what that would mean in terms of cobbing around it.
The finished exterior of the house is wood paneling, and I was thinking I could make it match the back and give the house more interest by using cob like you would use stucco around the rest of the house once I was done with the back... but again, I don't know if this is workable.
Does anyone have any experience in cobbing over a wood frame and/or getting away with non-standard construction in a residential area? Would I be better off just sucking up and finishing the house with standard construction tactics?