Dog House Bottles & Roof

Building A Bottle Wall

Holly’s in the dog house. We joked that we weren’t going to let her out until she was good. Fortunately she is very good. What she was doing is parging the interior walls while I mortared up the wall of colorful glass wine bottles. Ben, on the left, is smooth the edges of the cut glass with emory paper.

The idea behind the dog house is for it to be a test bed of different techniques so we’ll make our mistakes there before we tackle the similar projects in our tiny cottage. Between the toilet stall and the bathtub we are planning to have a glass bottle wall in the tiny cottage bathroom. This is my solution to the fact that the glass bricks I had wanted to use are so insanely expensive. In the end I’ve decided the bottle wall is actually much more pleasing. Sometimes lemonade really does taste better!

Mortaring Bottles in Bottle Wall

A local brewery and pub has been saving wine bottles for us for several months. I’ve now got crates and crates full of colorful bottles. Will and Ben have been scraping labels and we’ve been getting good at cutting the bottles. Lots of practice. In the photo above I’m setting some in place. For this wall I did some variations in technique to figure out what I liked. The best results were to do a mortar of about 2″ wide to lay the bottles into place. The bottles need to be about 1″ longer than that on each side to allow for a parge coat that ties it all together and looks pleasing on the outside. The mortar coat, shown here, should be very rough so the parge coat will get good adhesion. Be sure to clean the bottles gently a few hours after cementing them in. A tooth brush works well. Slow but worth the effort.

We cut the bottles rather than using the full length of the bottles as I’ve seen in some bottle walls. The reason for cutting is I wanted thinner walls and more light to go through the walls. It is important to sand the bottles with emory paper to take off the knife edge. I’ve thought of setting up a grinding wheel for this but so far we’ve just done it by hand.

Completed Dog House Bottle Wall

Gorgeous! I love the light coming through the bottle wall. In the bathroom I plan to do more bottles making it even brighter. Note the one bottle I turned around to see how the butt end would look from the inside of the dog house. Actually, it’s rather hard to see the difference in this photo. It is more obvious in person. I like the but ends on the light side of the wall. That answers one question.

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I had also considered putting two bottle ends together to make it so the butt ends would be on both sides of the wall. That cuts the light too much though. This way, with the bottles open, they’re handy places to put things and collect dust.

Ben Parging Pink Foam Wall

The walls of the dog house are a test for building tanks such as bathtubs. I want the bathtub to be insulated and have just a thin shell of smooth concrete. That way it won’t have too much thermal mass to cool the bath water overly. Pour hot water into the bathtub, the thin layer of concrete will warm and we’ll get longer baths before it gets tepid.

Having a bathtub is a big deal to us as. The funny thing is we have four, but they’re all outdoors being used by the pigs. We have no bath in our old farm house, just a small shower stall.

To bind the cement together we are putting plenty of PVA fibers in the concrete mix. This gives the concrete tensile strength to resist cracking. We’re also using Aquron 300 in the mix water to densify the concrete and then will spray with CP-2000 for more water proofing and finally with STP-1200 to cause surface beading. I may also wax the surface – we’ll see. The carefully floated and smoothed concrete gives a very nice texture for a bathtub – one that has natural traction.

I had considered using marble to build the bathtub but finally decided against it. I have some beautiful pieces of white marble that I had saved from the junk pile for that purpose but all those square sides and joints just seemed too ugly and likely to leak. By hand shaping the bathtub using ferrocement techniques I’ll have smooth edges and greater strength as well as less chance of leaking.

First Roof Layer

Once the front arch and back wall of bottles were up and firm we began the roof of the dog house. It is done very much like the roof of our tiny cottage. The 661010 Welded Wire Mesh (WWM) holds up the expanded metal lath. The lath catches and binds with the first layer of concrete. As we put on that layer the whole thing shifted, wibbled and wobbled quite a bit. We did just a thin coating and let it harden over night. The next morning Will and I smoothed on another inch to get a good hard layer. That would be strong enough to be buried in a hillside – instant earth sheltered dog house. But I wanted more!

Five Gallons of Light Weight Concrete

Next we made up a batch of light weight concrete using vermiculite instead of sand. This produced a concrete that weighed only about 40 lbs per cubic foot instead of the normal 120 lbs per cubic foot for most of the structural concrete we use. This is the origin of the floating concrete from a couple of days ago. In the photo above I’m holding, fairly easily, a bucket of the light weight concrete out at arms length. It’s that light. If I had set the bucket in the pond it would have floated away.

The purpose of the light weight concrete is to be an insulating foam-cement layer between the hard inner shell of the roof and the hard outer shell of the roof. It acts as a thermal a
nd an acoustic insulator.

Another purpose I’ve thought of for the lightweight concrete is sprung concrete floors… I’m going to do some tests. It has potential.

Top Coat of Hard Concrete over Insulating Concrete

Above the thick layer of light weight concrete we spread another inch thick layer of dense structural hard concrete. The sandwich of materials produces a thicker beam for the roof vault thus increasing its strength. The best method for spreading this top layer was to dump a bucket at the peak of the roof and then spread it down the sides using two floats. As you might notice, I’m using a fairly stiff mix there – no slump. Since the roof is now hard I can apply a lot more pressure and work with a less fluidly mix which means more ultimate strength by minimizing the water in the batch.

Smoothing & Setting Comb Over Edges

Over the back edge we created a projecting comb. Had I done this right I would have done the parge of the bottle wall before I did the roof. Ah, 20/20 hindsight! The comb projecting outward solved the problem but was a little harder to do than it would have been had I done things in the right order.

Notice the frame of 2×4’s around the dog house in the photo above. These were used to create the eves. This worked very well. When I do it again I would set two 2×4’s and tilt them slightly to make the water drip better and create a drip edge along the outer lip.

Edging Concrete Arch

To edge the roof, both on the comb in the back and over the brick arch in the front, I used a spatula to push the concrete along a long float. This worked beautifully giving a smooth, straight edge. Then I used my hands and the spatula to round it a little to a more organic shape.

Hope Misting Dog House

Once the concrete was all in place Hope helped keep it wet by misting it with the pump water sprayer. It is important that concrete not dry during the curing phase – water is necessary for the chemical process of hardening.

Final Parge Coat on Bottle Wall

This parge coat is a mortar mix of white cement, lime and buff coloring pigment. We packed it among the bottles and then cleaned the bottles off working to get the cement to just below the rims of the bottles on the outside. At the bottom it slopes outward in a buttress over the eve just like on the sides.

Finished Dog House – Back Side

Pretty good looking! A little hobbit house! The kids joked that this is the micro-version of our tiny cottage. Actually, we have pig hut that we did before the tiny cottage to test ideas and before that we did two even smaller table top models. Houses for people of every size!

Finished Dog House – Front

So, how does one move a 800 lb dog house from the production side to it’s new home? Well, I have a fork lift, on the tractor and those eves on the dog house are designed to fit the fork lift… When we lift it, after it is done curing for a few weeks, I’ll also get a chance to check out the bottom of this test ceiling tile that became the base of the dog house. In the background of the photo of the back is another ceiling tile. Soon we’ll be pouring the ceiling of the bathroom – a big day…

Friday-Saturday Outdoors: 83°F/55°F Mostly Sunny, 1/4″ Rain
Farm House: 77°F/59°F
Tiny Cottage: 72°F/67°F Cut Granite

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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15 Responses to Dog House Bottles & Roof

  1. pablo says:

    I’m constantly impressed when I come here. That’s a beautiful bit of work you’ve done. I suppose it is too labor intensive to ever be applied on a larger scale for low-income housing.

    And, ironically, I count no dogs in the pictures you posted today.

  2. Pablo, interesting thought. Yes, there is labor but it’s not really much more than building with sticks and the results are far more durable and will require much less energy to heat. Perfect for low income housing where one, like us, can do the labor. None of the skills are particularly complex and the tools are inexpensive too. Maybe you’re onto a new low income housing mode…

  3. Bill Wilson says:

    Very, impressive, Walter. I think you did a great job. A lot of people talk about doing, and you just up get busy, don’t you?

    I wonder if rammed earth automobile tires like they use in Earthship construction or fabric dirtbags like Earthbag construction might be handy and economical up there…

  4. Dave in Maine says:

    So how much to have you make a house for my dog? Looks great!

  5. Kelly Myers says:

    This design reminds me of a the beautiful St. Januarius Church in Naples, NY. It’s walls are filled w/ glass “windows” – that’s just sunlight streaming in!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/twcollins/300232785/

    I am amazed that you have time for all your farm duties, family HSchooling time, and then still have energy to take on these major building projects!

    A wall of all blue or green bottles in a bathroom would be breathtaking!

    -Kelly.

  6. HomemakerAng says:

    looks like a Hobbit house of sorts!

  7. The cost of materials for the dog house is not too bad, a few bags of cement, some pink foam, fiber and a little reinforcing. But the shipping would be a killer… :)

  8. Ali says:

    Wow, that’s a neat project. Are there any other unique building materials that you’re fond of?

    If only all dogs were so lucky.

  9. Granite and wood for physical media. Not sure how unique they are but they’re fun.

  10. Well done and it was a very nice work! Keep it up!

  11. Well done and it was a very nice work! Keep it up!

  12. SandLady says:

    I have been looking at buildign a wall/fence along my property and have not been able to find any real info on how to do it. Given your detailed site, I have a much better idea now. Very cool!

  13. Pingback: Dan

  14. Inani says:

    THERE’S HOPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Elascap says:

    It’s true, here’ s the first place on the web ( till now I hope) where I coud find so much informations about how to do it. Tanks for sharing this adventure and cheers for this nice work! Let’s try it…

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