Saturday, June 22, 2013

Maintenance on the Fig Leaf Cottage

After 4 years, it seemed like an appropriate time to make some repairs to the first cottage that I designed and built. The weather had taken it's toll on the earthen exterior plaster, and the green roof had begun to rot the untreated/unpainted fascia boards (the horizontal boards that span the rafter ends and hold the green roof in place). I have learned a lot about building since I embarked upon this first journey, and so I do things differently these days (details, mainly), but I am still surprised at how well everything has held up!

This is what it looked like last weekend:

Below is at the corner of the front windowsill. The white lime plaster has held up well, but the clay plaster got totally eaten away at the seam between the two plasters. The sill should have been built out with cob to create an overhand and drip point. Or the lime should have at least extended further down then we had it.

The plaster got weathered in an interesting manner. The pattern of divots is beautiful in a way, but would lead to the degradation of the cob over time, if not repaired.

I scratched the plaster up, to allow for the new coat of lime to bond to it.

The lime immediately starting to dry and lighten in color, as you can see below. The earthen plaster was dry as a bone and very thirsty.

After re-plastering the exterior, we began to paint all of the rafter ends and the underside of the roof deck. The lumber wasn't in horrible shape, but it had started to show signs of future rot and was stained by water.

I removed all of the old fascia boards, numbered them, and used them to cut duplicates out of fresh, pressure-treated, painted lumber. Then I screwed the new pieces all back up, and they fit wonderfully!

We decided to paint the fascia and window trim blue, but it won't quite be the blue you see below. I found this blue to be too bright after seeing it on the building. So I took it back to the store to get it dulled down, and will go back to do a slightly grayer finish coat tomorrow.

Check out that living roof! It's doing wonderfully, even without much soil left up there. There are bees buzzing between the flowers on the roof, and the variety of ecology is great.

We are going to lime-wash the interior of the building, and then paint it with a homemade, natural lime/milk paint. Here are some lime-wash test patches that we did at the end of the day. The reason for painting the interior is because the plaster is a bit too dusty. We have learned a lot about mixing good plasters since this cottage was built, and no longer have these same dustiness problems.

In some ways it feels sad to be changing the look of the cottage so much, because it was so charming and blended in so well in its landscape. But it also feels really good to be putting some love back into a building that I have missed spending time with. And knowing that it will now be able to go another 10 years before needing another maintenance job is fulfilling.

1 comment:

  1. Where is this house?
    I read elsewhere you were from the Syracuse area...any chance you've dealt with permitting issues for New York State and cob houses, can't find any "alternative building materials" section in the Uniform Code? (Live near Syracuse)