Inspired by the church missions built in the 18th century in California, Dave Wills thought “If they can last that long, it must be a solid way to build,” explaining why he looked into rammed earth to build his dream home in Philomath, Oregon. The walls are made from earth from a nearby quarry, a small percentage of Portland cement, small amounts of color pigments, a special acrylic sealant, and lots of labor.
Builder John Richards and Wills worked with an engineer and tested the earth and cement mixture, similar to how one would test concrete for pounds per square inch. The cement is used in small amounts to stabilize the soil layers. They then used hydraulic tampers to ram the earth into the forms that made the walls. Wills said he had about seven people at once working on creating walls.
To the left of the front entrance, Wills points out a design in the wall he calls “Mary’s Peak.” The design in these two-feet thick walls can also be seen on the inside of the house.
Wills showed off a window area in the master bedroom that eventually will have a natural wood sill and pointed out where you can see the insulation inside the thick walls. Wills explained, “From my business, I have coated mylar bags that can’t be sent to a recycling plant, so I used those for reflective insulation, and stuffed inside are recycled styrofoam planters that capture pockets of air that help with retaining temperatures. This gives my house an R33 insulation factor which is 50% more than the typical home.”
Wills created a radiant floor heating system that runs low-cost, energy-efficient warm water through pipes under the floorboards. “We won’t have to worry about installing any radiators,” said Wills, “and our bare feet won’t be walking on cold floors.”
In the office space, the window ledges use sassafras live wood and the beer bottle caps are a tribute to his beer-related businesses.
The interior walls – which are also made with rammed earth – intentionally don’t reach the ceiling. Instead, Wills designed the roof system with additional south-facing windows, so that heat of the sun reaches the opposite walls, keeping that space warmer longer. The fireplace also offers heat exchanges to keep the room toasty on cold winter nights.
The interior walls received a sealant to help keep the dust down.
“All the doors except two are from other buildings. The ones for the extra bedroom and bathroom are from old doctor’s offices. I’m making the bathroom vanity from an old dresser and new sink,” said Wills. The master bathroom vanity’s counter and drawers were custom made with wood from a sassafras tree.
Although he and his wife have started to slowly move things over from the mobile home that they’ve lived in for the past 30 years, they won’t fully enjoy the rammed earth house until they are able to move the mobile home away. He knows he won’t need the second home again. “This house will last hundreds of years,” Wills said proudly.
You can read the original article at www.corvallisadvocate.com