Tag Archives: rigid foam

Finishing the kitchen countertop

Previously, here on Sailing the Earth, I was telling you about our adventures with epoxy. It is fascinating stuff, if a bit temperamental.

Well, things have progressed and I can now share with you how it all turned out.

After completing the third and final coat of epoxy, the counter was ready to be installed. It wasn’t super perfect, but it was quite a bit improved from the first coat. There are still two bugs embedded in it that I couldn’t dig out, so they will have to stay in there… forever. Maybe someone will clone bugs from their DNA in a 1000 years.

I let the third coat cure for several days and then while Kat was at work on Sunday (yesterday, July 23rd) I proceeded to install it. First I had to prep the surface. This meant clearing off all of the clutter that was on the base, cleaning it and then applying a generous amount of glue.

Looks a lot like a breakfast pastry, doesn’t it? With the base all prepped, all there was to do was put the newly finished counter into place. I clamped it and screwed it down from underneath. That counter is not going anywhere.

Sorry for that blurry picture, but you can probably see just how shiny the counter is. Here is a close up.

Unfortunately, I discovered the hard way that it scratches pretty easily, or at least the brand that we used for this project. You can see the scratches I put in it in the bottom-left corner of the above picture. I didn’t have a way to clamp the counter down at the back so I used a 20L (5 gallon) jug of water to weigh it down. In positioning it on the counter, I twisted it a bit and the bottom of the jug is knurled plastic, so it left those marks you see above.

Fortunately, this is the trailer and not the house, so learning these things ahead of time is a useful experience.

With the counter locked down, it was time to install the sink.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated just how many pieces I would need to finish the plumbing of the sink drain and I wasn’t able to get it completed in one day. Kat was in town this morning so she stopped at the hardware store and picked up the missing pieces.

Here is a picture of the plumbing for the drain, immediately connected to the bottom of the sink.

I bought a P-trap that included the clean-out, just to make our lives easier if anything needed some maintenance later on. Frankly, I don’t know why they call it a P-trap. A U-bend or an S-trap would be better. I like S-trap actually because you could make it stand for stink-trap, as the whole point of that is to keep some water in the pipe to prevent smells from the sewer or septic from entering your home.

Anyway, that pipe that you see traveling downwards at a 45 degree angle joins up with all of this stuff at the bottom.

I added a clean-out plug, for future maintenance, though it was a bit overkill. There is another one on just the other side of the wall on the right.

The part with the T and the pipe heading out the wall through the blue insulation is the new plumbing vent I put in. The old one had been in the wall inside the small room where the toilet had been, but we removed all of that, so I needed to put the vent back in somewhere. This was a pretty convenient spot, right next to the wall. I just put a 45 degree connector on the T-junction and ran the pipe out the wall, upwards at an angle. There is another 45 just outside the wall and the pipe then runs straight up the wall of the trailer.

After it was all glued together and all of the threaded bits had their sealing tape applied, it was time to try it out.

Yay! No leaks. Now we don’t need to go outside to dump our dish water. In fact, we might even be able to do the dishes in the sink. Woah! Not sure we’re ready for that kind of excitement. It’s been a good two years since we could do our own dishes in a sink.

On a side note, we discovered something interesting about ABS glue and rigid insulation: the former will melt and dissolve the latter. Here you can see the hole underneath the pipe where the glue squished out and dropped onto the insulation.

Something to be aware of if you’re ever gluing ABS pipe near rigid foam insulation.

Despite the small flaws (and scratches… grrr) in the counter-top, this project turned out pretty well. Now if only we can complete the next project in a more timely fashion.

Trailer Mods, Autumn 2016

In addition to the solar array setup we have running now, we have also been busy with more internal modifications to the trailer. Last year we ripped out the first part of the trailer, in the dining/kitchen and living room area and had it insulated with spray foam. This year, it was time to do the rest of it: the bedroom and bathroom area.

Kat has done a lot of work on this while I was working on the solar. She did all of the destruction and gluing of the strapping to the aluminum studs. The only thing I did for the destruction was handle the electrical and plumbing parts. Kat documented that part on her blog so feel free to go over there and read up on it.

Once all that prep work was finished, the day after we had the solar hooked up, the spray foam guy arrived. Here is what it looked like just before it was foamed.


We wrapped all of the electrical outlets in plastic bags and put packing tape over the strapping. This made it way easier to deal with once the foaming was done.

It didn’t take long either. Maybe 40 minutes, start to finish. I took this picture right after it was done and it was still warm.


I spent some time scraping the floor, sweeping and I put some plastic sheets down and then I let the K/Cats back in. We spent the rest of that first afternoon trimming the foam down in places where it was sticking out too far from the wall. In other words, we made a big mess.


As the weather man was predicting some rather cool overnight temperatures in a few days, we were highly motivated to get the wood stove back inside and setup. So we went right to work and put the rigid insulation down on the floor.


The next step was to use up the rest of the laminate flooring that we bought last year. As you can see from the pictures, there are multiple tiers to the floor, so there was a lot more cutting to do. We had enough to finish the two main sections plus the closet. The highest tier at the back was left with just the foam board as it will have the bed and storage shelving to cover it.


With the floor completed, we moved the bed over into the new area, just sitting on the floor for now. It’s a bit chaotic, but then again, this whole process is chaotic anyway so we’re used to it by now.


With the other end of the trailer now available, all we needed to do was reinstall the wood stove. It needed a bit of TLC having been out in the truck shelter all summer, but Kat took care of that. While she was doing that, I cleaned the internal stove pipe and went up on the roof and cleaned the chimney as well. Might as well start the year with a clean stack.

We had the spray foaming done on Tuesday and we had the wood stove back inside and in working order on Saturday (Sep 24th).


If you were to go back and read my blog entries from the previous years being in the trailer, you would see that we didn’t have the wood stove up and running until November those last two years. This is the earliest we have had it up and running and when the outside temperature drops, we can easily add some heat to our living space. One might say too easily. We were down to shorts and t-shirts that first night.

Having the wood stove back inside was really nice, but there is still much to do in terms of getting everything put back together. We had purchased a number of materials for this, the first of which is the cedar tongue-and-groove for the closet. This is the closet before we started.


Starting from the bottom, we worked our way up the back wall. I was outside doing the cutting and Kat was inside attaching the pieces to the wall using the brad nailer.


It went pretty quickly, though after the back wall and ceiling were done, Kat stopped to work on making lunch. I went ahead and cut all of the pieces for the side walls and put those in while she was working on that.


I started working on the hanger bar that afternoon, but we had to quit early due to a rain delay. These are the issues you face when your workshop is the outdoors. Fortunately, it was nice again today so I was able to finish the hanger bar.


We’ll be putting in some trim in the corners, but as far as functionality goes, we have a closet now. Which is really nice as we were then able to bring in some bags of clothes from storage and hang them up. This is a good thing considering we mostly had summer clothes in our bags on hand, which are rapidly becoming less useful as the days get shorter and the nights get cooler.

From here, we have some pine tongue-and-groove for the ceiling, which will probably go up next so we can put the light fixtures back in place. After that, the bed frame needs to be built and then I can work on storage compartments.

There’s always more to do, but we’re pretty comfortable right now, which means you have less stress to work on those things yet to be done.

Graf-Levac Earthship Visit number 2

Yes, only three weeks after the first visit, Bob and Marie had a second open house to show off their progress. Luckily for us, we were house sitting in Ottawa already so we didn’t have to make another major road trip for this one. Also, the weather was way nicer this time, as well.

I took some more pictures and I will try to better explain the changes to the framing that their contractor, Dave, has done for them.

First, here is a section drawing of what standard Earthship usually use.


So in that picture you can see the roof beams (logs in this case) sitting on the back wall and the vertical greenhouse wall. Moving towards the right, on the end of the logs there is a nailing plate and then the trusses are attached to that. The trusses are those triangular pieces that look shaped kinda like a bluejay’s head. From there, the window struts for the angled glass run down at 70 degrees to the front tire wall.

Now let’s take a look at what Bob and Marie have at their Earthship.


As you can see, the beams just run straight out. There is no nailing plate or trusses to deal with. The window struts run down from the beams at 70 degrees. They also have a significant overhang over the windows as well, which will reduce their summer sun gain, but not effect the winter solar gain.

This is a closer view of the roof over the east wing wall. You can see the framing around the outside that will contain the insulation that will be put up top. More details on that in a sec.


This is around the back of the east wing wall roof.


If we look up top at the actual roof as it was when we saw it, it has the decking put down along with the tar paper on top of that. Next there will be 8″ (20.3cm) of polyiso rigid insulation. That’s why that framing wall extends up so high above the edge of the beams.


From underneath, you can see the pine tongue-and-groove that they used for their decking. For the exterior sections, which will be covered over, they just used OSB (oriented strand board) as it’s not going to be seen anyway. The sections with the tongue-and-groove decking will not be covered; that will be what it will look like when everything is finished.


This next one shows a shot down the greenhouse hallway. Take notice of the vertical posts of the vertical greenhouse wall and are holding up the big support beam for the roof beams. They go straight down and sit directly on top of the footing.


Now compare that with the framing for this standard Earthship.


In Bob and Marie’s Earhship, there is no second pour of concrete, no elaborate stacks of lumber to create posts, no framing boxes. It’s really nice and simple. Of course, there will be more added in there once they start framing for the glass, but it is quite a bit more simplified.

Here are the stacks of rigid insulation that will be going up top.


This last picture shows the open section at the very back.


That open section will have a bunch of other details added, like eaves troughing that will channel all the roof water to the big cisterns. Before that happens though, they will be putting in all of the stuff to waterproof the section from the edge of the roof back to the cisterns as you don’t want water to get in behind your tire wall. That would be bad.

Great stuff, and we can’t wait to see it when it gets fully enclosed. Looking forward to that.

Trailer rebuilding: grouting

Today was another unseasonably warm day, even more so than yesterday. A great day to grout your tiles. Unfortunately, there are always a number of things you need to do before you can actually start that.

The first thing was a trip to the store for some supplies. From there we headed up to the trailer, but of course, we arrived much later than normally.

The next thing was to put the border down between the edge of the tiles and the laminate floor so I would have something to grout up against. After starting it and thinking about what I was doing, I had a change of heart and decided on a different approach.

You see, I had a rather wide piece of border – around 2″ (5cm) – that I was going to attach to the laminate floor and have it overlap the gap up to the tiles. Then I started thinking about that gap and why it is there. The instructions for installing laminate flooring have you put in a 1/4″ (6mm) gap between it and the walls, so I did the same thing when it got up to the cement board where the tiles were going. You do this to prevent buckling when the floor expands and contracts due to differences in temperature.

Our trailer experiences the full gamut of temperature deltas, much more so than your average house. That floor will probably expand and contract quite a bit. If I were to attach the border to the laminate and then grout up against it, it’s likely to either pull away from the grout, or crack it when the floor expands when it gets warmer. At least this was my reasoning.

So option two was to glue a small boarder to the cement border itself for the grout barrier and then put a separate border over the gap. Luckily, I had materials for doing that.

Here are the tiles after I removed all of the spacers and cleaned them up.


I don’t actually have a picture of me putting in the border, unfortunately. But after all that starting, and then changing our minds and such, it was getting on towards lunch. On top of that, the place where we got our panels from called us and said our new ones had arrived. So we headed out, had something to eat and picked up our stuff.

By the time we got back, it was late afternoon (15:30ish) which, at this time of year, means it is going to be getting dark in about an hour. I quickly jumped into the grouting and went full bore on that. Here you can see me working with on the sponging.


It took me about an hour to do it all, which is good because it was getting dark in the trailer. I managed to finish it with just enough light left. This end picture was taking with the flash on.


Hopefully that will have a chance to cure overnight and we can clean it up tomorrow. Then we can bring in the wood stove and reconnect it to the chimney. After that, we’ll have some heat, finally 🙂

Kat was not idle during all of this either. She put down the insulation on top of the kitchen slide-out in the morning. I have a picture to prove it too.


We’re planning to just put plywood on top of that section as there isn’t any point in using the laminate flooring because it won’t be seen when we put the cabinets and counters back in. My only dilemma is how to secure the plywood. We could screw it down through the insulation to the OSB below, but that OSB is the outside wall. If we go through it, the screws will be exposed to the outside. Of course, I supposed we could always insulated it from the outside on the bottom to compensate for that. Also, it being OSB, you really want to have a decent penetration depth for the screws otherwise they just won’t hold.

The other option I’m considering is to just glue the plywood to the insulation, but that doesn’t give much of a solid connection to the OSB. The insulation is just taped down with two-faced carpet tape.

We’re certainly open to suggestions if you have any.