Another Update from Rex

Interior view of Rex’s pallet house that is estimated to cost around $4/sq. foot.
Interior view of Rex’s pallet house that is estimated to cost around $4/sq. foot.

“I have a Granberg MKIII Alaskan saw mill on its way, as well as one of their smaller Mini mills. I have so much fallen trees from a friend’s recent project that I’m going to use some of the wood I mill for flooring in the center of the house and hopefully make a little change on the side selling to a carpenter friend of mine. I’ll let you know how it works out for me. I’ll be milling mesquite, live oak and juniper.

I’ve attached a picture of the kitchen. It shows the kitchen before and where I’ve left it to move on to other things. I’ll be doing some padobe work this spring to finish it up and clean up. The sink is in and just needs the faucet and hook it up to the water line in place. The stone wall on the right will be the back for the free standing wood burning stove. I haven’t gotten to smoothing the padobe to the stone wall yet but I’ll get to that in the spring. The kitchen is small but cozy and I think will serve my purposes.

The 4′ padobe bar that extends out, I’ll be cutting off the juniper limbs that are sticking out of it. I’ll also be covering where they are cut with padobe. The bar is supported by 2x4s that are connected to a juniper limb that extends to the floor. Then covered in padobe with some chicken wire. Padobe and chicken wire harden up like concrete.

I’m going to cut the big limb out from under the bar and instead, hang it from the clerestory beam with a steel cable and a eye hook going into the padobe covered juniper that remains. The bar will look suspended. It will match the suspended table we are going to put in the middle of the house. I’m going to double the dinner table as a chandelier. A couple of pulleys and a crank and it gets out of the way and with LED strips under it makes for cool lighting whether up in the air or down as a table. I have quite a bit of reclaimed steel cabling.

Part of the slowing the process is I’ve also been helping a friend build a fence so it’s eaten into some time but I have 3 weeks off in the spring that I’m going to finish the flooring, ceiling, etc. I’ve been doing parts of each section of the house so that I know what I have planned will work or not. I don’t want any surprises and it’s saved me on a few ideas.”

Previous blog posts:
Rex’s House Update
Feedback on Rex’s Pallet House
Update on Rex’s Pallet House in Texas
Earth Lodge Pallet Walls
Use the search engine on the right to find related posts on other topics.

7 thoughts on “Another Update from Rex”

  1. I’m interested in the idea of treating fill material for earthbags or hyper-wattle with borax to deter termites. Maybe one or two layers would be sufficient. Has anyone done this? I wonder how it would perform over time. I’ve just had a quick look over this and affiliated websites but nothing has caught my eye.

    • Two courses of borax treated bags would help deter termites and probably other pests such as ants. But I can’t say definitively if this will protect the whole house long-term. You’ll have to make a judgement call based on time, cost and labor versus risk.

  2. Just curious – the kitchen he made with padobe, right? But doesn’t that require protection from humidity to avoid mold problems? How can it be a good surface for a kitchen?
    I’m so grateful for examples like this one of people who are making it happen – gives me hope :)

    • Kitchens have a wide variety of surfaces. Each different surface often requires different degrees of moisture protection.

      Obviously, sinks need to be the most durable and the most waterproof. Countertops would be the next most important to have waterproof and durable, but countertops need not hold standing water for hours like a sink may be expected to do.

      For these reasons, I do not recommend using Padobe or Papercrete to make either surface, although Padobe and Papercrete can be used to support countertops and sinks without problems. I do not know what Rex is planning, but some possible examples of an inexpensive countertop might be to pour a concrete countertop on top of the Padobe cabinets, or possibly ceramic tile countertops on top of a cement board or a poured concrete countertop bed. Wooden Butcher block is another possibility, but only if it is very well sealed and maintained keeping it effectively waterproof.

      Ceilings, Cabinets, wall surfaces, niches, and similar surfaces need not have the level of waterproof protection of sinks and countertops. A good sealant in the wetter areas (backsplash behind the sink/countertop/stove areas) makes sense. A nice high gloss paint or a natural oil, such as linseed in the wetter areas may be sufficient, but tile or other materials can be used as well.

      In previous posts, Rex mentions the ingredients in his Padobe. He includes Laundry Borax, which is an extremely effective mold inhibitor. This is a wise decision on his part. This should be sufficient to inhibit any HUMIDITY RELATED mold growth in his Padobe. While Borax is very useful, it is not a substitute for keeping direct moisture off the Padobe or Papercrete. Padobe and Papercrete should be considered as a wood product and protected like any other wood cabinet, floor, paneling, or other wood surface. The paper in Padobe or Papercrete is essentially wood fibers, so it makes sense to protected like you would protect wood.

      It is all about the details. Getting the details incorrect leads to problems.

      Most wooden kitchen cabinets don’t have mold problems when they are properly cared for and maintained. (Wooden Under Sink Cabinets often have mold and rot problems because of plumbing leaks. Padobe or Papercrete under sink cabinets can be vulnerable to the same class of problems as wooden under sink cabinets, especially if they are neglected or poorly maintained. Plumbing leaks should ALWAYS be addressed quickly, no matter what material a cabinet is made from.)

      As long as someone works to get the details correct, Padobe and Papercrete can be used very successfully in a Kitchen having a similar life expectancy to standard wood materials in the same applications.

  3. Of all the factors and benefits that go into building your own home, I think Rex’s house is rapidly climing the ladder at best illustrating what is probably the single most important benefit.

    Imagine waking up every morning to be greeted by the walls and spaces that you created with your own hands. Knowing exactly how everything is built and possessing the confidence for the rest of your life you can appreciate your hard work, and feel comforted by the fact that if something ever needs repair, you can do it yourself because you already did it yourself once to build it.

    I cannot think of a better and happier way to spend the rest of one’s life than experience that feeling of security and warm embrace of waking up every morning in the home that you built yourself.

    Contrast that with the generic boring boxes that the vast majority of us must endure each morning.

    We can try to put numbers on the cost of construction, the man hours of labor, the square footage, but that peace of mind will never be quantified.

    Taking that into account, Rex is a very wealthy man. Perhaps not in dollars, but in every important way that matters Rex will live a very rich existence for the rest of his life.

    Go Rex Go!

    Build your dream, and don’t let doubters stand in your way.

    I’m standing up and offering a standing ovation to your efforts, in hopes that it will encourage you to continue to keep plugging away at building your dream. Just one thing… a house you build yourself … it’s never completely finished. You’ll always want to keep making improvements. (You’ll find that you wouldn’t want it any other way.)

    • I agree. That’s why I’ve run so many stories on Rex’s house. This is fifth or sixth story already. If it isn’t the top project of the last year, I don’t know what is.


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