Colorado Earthship Build: Day 26 (Atrium framing)

We were lucky today. We had a lot more cloud cover for much of the day, which was a really nice break from constant sun.

There is a lot to cover for today, so let’s get started.

I talked yesterday about us cutting large 6×6″ (15x15cm) posts to put on top of the trex plating around the atrium entrance. Well, this is the saw that we are using to cut those posts.


It’s like a super-sized skill saw. This thing has a 16″ (40.5cm) diameter blade. It’s heavy and temperamental. Here is a shot of Zsolt cutting one of the beams while I’m standing on it to keep it from moving.


I didn’t use the saw myself; most of the time Phil did the cutting. I think that is because he knew how difficult the saw can be. Zsolt’s first cut was a little off, but after that he figured it out and the other cuts turned out well. Good thing too, because with framing, we’re extra picky.

There were using a lot of the 6×6 beams upstairs as well and they only have the one beam-cutter saw, so we were hauling 16′ (4.9m) posts upstairs.


For us working below, this meant taking the post up top, having it cut then taking the cut piece back downstairs. Not very efficient to say the least. However, once they got all of their posts cut for upstairs, we stole the saw and were cutting them right at the pile in the garage, as you saw above.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of measuring, cutting, screwing and bracing today. Here is Zsolt and I measuring for the cross beams up over top of our heads. As you can see, this was after we had already spent considerable effort putting in the upright columns and the spans across them.


Once we had our measurement, we had the next post cut and we had to hire extra help to put it up top. The span was just over 8′ (2.4m) and the footing was a bit complicated. Here is us starting the lift.


Colt and Lou are the ones helping us. You can see me at the end in the hat and glasses, trying not to hit my head on the bracing.


We did get it up and over the top without any incidents, so that was a bonus.


After putting it in place, we had to screw it down, of course. Here is me up top doing just that.


The screws are really just to keep it in position. The real work comes when we pull out the big powered drill with the 22″ (56cm) long 1/2″ (12.5mm) auger bit and drill down through the posts. We then take a sledge hammer and drive rebar into the holes we just made. This is not easy. First of all, the big drill and long bit are finicky and can take quite the force to push down through that much wood. Then there is the whole precariousness of being up on those beams in awkward positions.

Unfortunately, my photographer wasn’t around when I was drilling the first couple of holes and driving in the rebar, so we don’t have a picture of that. We’ll be working on that again tomorrow, so maybe we’ll get a picture of it then.

We had the second cross beam cut, and got Greg and Jeff to help us this time to put it up and over the first one we put in.


That’s where I was working all day, along with Zsolt and Kat. The above picture was pretty much where we were when cleanup was called, though we did get one more post cut, but not installed.

Here you can see it from above how far we got today. Yeah, there is a tonne of bracing in there to keep everything as straight and level (plumb is the word they like to use) as possible. This thing is going up 16′ (4.9m) so small errors below will lead to large errors above. We try to be as exact as possible.


As you well know by now, if you have been following along, many others were working on many other things while we were building the framing around the front entrance. Let’s go see what they were up to.

Here is a picture of Jean working on that massive interior can and bottle wall I’ve shown a few other times. Jean is the site coordinator and is responsible for organizing the build with all of the people coming from all over the planet. AND she does can/bottle work on top of that. She is one busy woman.


Here is another picture of Phil, whom we all know by now, who looks like he is in the middle of building an ark and checking on the rising level of the water. Actually he was working on framing the upstairs portion of the atrium.


Here is a fun picture as it seems everyone has stopped to contemplate the arch on the west side. A lot of work has gone into that thing so I’m not surprised people are stopping to consider it.


Yes, the crane arrived today and put the logs on the roof of the second level.


This is what the roof of the second level looks like now.


Emily was spotted seemingly trying to make some sense of the spaghetti pile of cords that comprised the battery recharging station. That was no simple task to untangle all of that and kudos go to her for clearing it up.


Upstairs, you can see they have been busy. The logs are in place and there is a lot of big ass framing now around the hole in the floor where the atrium will be.


Here it is again, looking from east to west.


Remember all of that awesome bottle work that went into making the steps? Well, some of them have seen some abuse. I took this picture of one that was broken. I’m not sure what they’re going to do to fix that.


Downstairs, in the interior, the plumbers and electricians have been really busy rigging up all of the rooms. We can’t enclose anything until the inspectors have seen everything. The pluming inspector was there today and I’m assuming it went well as we didn’t see anyone ripping anything out.

There was a funny plumbing moment this morning when they had a compressor hooked up to do a pressure test on the plumbing. You do that to find leaks before you run any water through your pipes. Anyway, they were testing away and Kat and I were out front at the atrium entrance where we have been working. The main black water pipe that exits the house comes out under that door. It’s not connected to the septic yet, so it just has a rubber cap clamped on it right now. Or at least it did.

When they pressurized the pipes, the cap blew off down the hill and bounced off a truck. It sounded like a gun going off too. No one was hurt, not even the truck, so it ended up just being a funny incident.

Getting back on track, here is a picture of one of the bedrooms, with the framing in for the closet at the back.


A closer look at that wall on the right reveals all of the plumbing and electrical work that has gone into this place. Each bedroom has its own bathroom (six bathrooms in total in the house) so you can imagine the plumbing nightmare this is.


Kris was busy today building the spot where the electrical panel is to be placed. In the case of this house, having the garage means you have a convenient spot to put your batteries and electrical boxes.


That’s it as far as stuff that we have pictures for around the site.

Today was, however, graduation day for some of us. Those of us who are leaving this weekend (Kat and I included) received our Earthship Build certificates and there was a pizza party for everyone. Here are several pictures of us all feeding our faces at the trough, as it were.






Ombeline (I hope I spelled that right) went all out and made a bunch of tasty treats for those who wanted to pitch in $2. There were six different items, and I’m not going to describe them, because I can’t do it accurately. I will say they were all quite tasty though.


And more pictures of everyone hanging around the desserts. It became the center of attention after the pizza was all gone, as you can probably imagine.



Well, Kat and I have one more day. Saturdays are more relaxed and we will probably hit up the farmer’s market one last time before heading in to the build site. I would like to finish putting in those cross beams over the atrium door before we leave. That’s my goal for tomorrow.


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