The south and east walls were weather-boarded. This is cheaper and quicker to fit as a wall covering than shingles. Sawn boarding works well as a vertical wall with eves but is not a durable option for roofing. However a case could be argued for it as being at least as good as sawn cedar shingle roofs. See the post on shingles. We have used western red cedar boards, which have an amount of natural durability but less than oak. It is overlapped heartwood-to-heartwood and attached with stainless steel nails. I used to attach them with the nails hidden but now attach with the nails just showing below the next board. There is much discussion about which is the best technique. With nails showing the boards are held in two places reducing cupping (bending of boards as they season). Additionally if the boards ever have to be removed it’s a lot easier.
Building on wheels is one way to show the temporary/mobile nature of a building in planning terms. Kevin’s chassis has been extended and beefed up with welded angle iron courtesy of Will. It sits on four legs like mini acro props, which we used to get the building level. These legs rest on a pad of type 1 hardcore, tamped down. The whole thing sits in a hole which we dung to lower the the shed profile and to get onto a subsoil foundation.
Planning is a thorny issue. On the positive side it is good that it exists. We are a densely populated country and enjoy our countryside. On the negative side it does not prevent some of the worst development atrocities because at the bottom line is GDP and jobs. I.e. if development is good for the economy it must be good for the land and for us. Also it is a blunt instrument wielded by people un-able to distinguish between genuine sustainable development and speculative cashing in for uplift value. Little provision is made to recognise low-impact development or to support residences for small-scale rural livelihoods. This is now starting to change in Wales thanks to the campaigning work of chapter 7.
Where does this leave shed building? Well in our gardens or allotments generally unless you are a seasonal agricultural worker. Within one’s garden you can build what ever you like provided; you are not living in it, it is 1m from your boundary, less than 3 or 4 mtrs high and not taking up more than a certain % of your total site. Check details with local council.
In many other countries where the culture of ‘hutting’ is still alive large number of people have a retreat hut in open countryside or wilderness. Not so long ago people were still doing this in Scotland. See Reforesting Scotland’s brilliant 1000 huts campaign, link below. Everyone, not just the wealthy need a connection to the natural world, an escape, a place to ‘be’. Increasing since the enclosures and the town and country planning act, most of us rural, post industrial workers only have the possibility of wild camping.
If you own a piece of land or have access to someone else’s there are a few bits of planning guidance that allow certain limited exceptions. These can be further researched through some of the links below.
• Low Impact Development – Book on Planning by Simon Fairlie
• Diy-planning-handbook – http://www.tlio.org.uk/chapter7/diy-planning-handbook/
• 1000 huts campaign – http://www.thousandhuts.org/
• Successful low-impact self build community in Wales – http://www.lammas.org.uk/
• Oganisation helping to establish new build rural livelihoods – http://ecologicalland.coop/
• The most up to date and informative magazine about land rights – http://www.tlio.org.uk/chapter7/publications
• Ways to live rurally without building your own hut – http://www.wwoof.org.uk/
• Winstanley, a film about land rights and the life and times of Gerard Winstanley. – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073911/
An earthen floor is not the obvious choice for a building on wheels. Heavy building materials need proper foundations. This being a fun experimental project for TV is an exception. The weight of clay was kept to a minimum as its only 75mm thick. It sits on battened plywood between the floor joists.
The main components used here were sand and chalk, with clay and milk as binders. Clay shrinks as it dries and cracks; sand, grit and chalk reduce the shrinkage. You can of course just keep filling the cracks up with more clay until it looks ok.
In the past I have made earth ovens, cob buildings, wattle and daub walls and earthen floors. Each has a different requirement for clay/sand mix and different properties in terms of thermal mass. If you are going to try something like this it’s worth doing your research. Do experiment and break the rules – sometimes it’ll work and if it doesn’t you’ll know quite quickly! In which case, re-hydrate the clay, change the mix ratios and re-use. Generally: too much sand = a crumbly mix; too little sand = a cracking mix.
Build Your Own Earth Oven – Kiko Denzer
The Hand Sculpted House – Into Evans
The first picture here shows shingle battens screwed to 18mm ply covered with Tyvek breathable membrane. The second picture is us shingling the roof. You can see the patterning of shingle laying which is stepped in from the corners at an angle.
This roof is laid at 25°, which is very shallow for a shingle roof and not usually recommended. It was important for Kevin in this instance to keep the building profile low. However shingles will not last as long at this angle and there is more chance of blow off and water ingress. A more suitable angle is around 45°.
Kevin’s shed used 3308 shingles, which were overlapped 3 deep. Once you become experienced you should expect to be able to make about 100-120 high quality hand split shingles a day, depending on the quality of the tree. This is very relaxing and satisfying work. Part of the skill in making shingles is choosing your tree and reading the tree shape to anticipate the quality of wood inside. If you are making un-dressed machine split shakes (not drawknifed to a taper) you might make double that quantity per day. The majority of the shed shingles we hand made back at our yard which took 20/person days.
If you are buying shingles in for a project there are a few options. Hand made oak shingles are the most expensive. They are thick, long, smooth, straight-sided and tapered from the bottom to the top. Machine split oak shingles are a bit cheaper, often smaller (so you need more per square metre) and fitting them will take longer. They are also rougher, thinner and will not last quite as long. Sawn cedar shingles are cheaper still but they only last max 30yrs, compared to max 100yrs for oak, so you’ll replace them more often.
We experimented with making hand split cedar shingles. Our experience is that you’ll produce a lot of waste and low quality shingles using UK grown cedar. The timber is cheaper than oak but the amount of work involved is similar and the final product not as durable. However, if you are on a limited budget and you have cheap or free access to cedar it may be worth considering.
We have attached our shingles with ring shanked stainless steel nails to douglas fir battens. Making and laying shingles is a skill and if you plan to do it yourself you’ll save time by studying it first. Laying shingles up to a contoured edge as I have done here against the swept oak is quite a joy. Each shingle is a bespoke job and here’s how we do it. First, hold the shingle in position and scribe the cut line with a pencil. I then do one of two things, depending on whether the shape follows the grain or crosses it. If following the grain I’ll cut the shape with a carving axe. If there is only a slither to remove I’ll use the drawknife. If the shape runs cross grain, I’ll cut the bulk off with a saw and then drawknife the final profile. It can also be done with a fet saw.
To make shingles you’ll need a froe, heavy wooden mallet, side axe, drawknife and a shave horse. Cutting the tree trunk into disks requires a powerful chainsaw. I use a Stihl 066 and a 3ft bar.
Where to buy tools:
Bristol design – 0117 929 1740
There are two wonderful dovetail joints on tie beams between the back wall and the swept beams. Along with two other horizontal ties they hold the back wall against the spreading/downward load of the roof. These joints will be self-locking on a green oak frame if the tie beam itself is cut from seasoned oak. You can see me here cutting a quarter way into the swept beam. It is a very satisfying joint to cut and this one was so snug that the two halves had to be wound together using a sash cramp. I cut these joints with a normal panel saw and a mortise chisel.