Deadmen Tell No Tales.

David's picture

Deadmen tell no tales,
No deeds of greatness,
Nor stories regaled.

Deadmen lay in line,
Straight in a row,
And forgotten in time.

Deadmen stiff and cold,
Above their head,
A roof they hold.

Alas it should be understood,
That the men I speak of,
Are made of wood.

We are getting so close to the end of the cob walls, and I couldn't be happier. We have about 1' to go and it's time to start planning for the roof installation. But how to you attach a roof to cob walls, you ask? With deadmen of course. A deadman is a simple object that is buried an acts as an anchor. The book we have been referring to for our cob building has a couple of options to use for attaching the roof to the wall with deadmen. It shows a piece of wood buried in the wall with two different types of ties to use to attach to the roof.

The first option was to use a wire. Wrap the wire around the deadman and bury it so that the ends of the wire are sticking up through the wall so that they may be attached to the roof framing. Well, it will sure make the attachment, but will it be enough to withstand the uplift loads? Yes, not only will pressure be pushing down on the roof, but winds will also want to pull the roof up. And I'm not so sure wire will hold up in the long run. I would think the wire would eventually stretch and loose tension. Really thick wire or heavy cable could work, but it may be a bear trying to make the attachments to the deadman and roof framing.

The second option was to use 2x lumber to make the attachment from the deadman to the framing. This, to me, seemed like the better option. I also thought maybe heavy duty metal strapping would work, but this would be an extra expense. Especially when I have a lot of scrap lumber just lying around to use. So, with the about 1-1/2' of wall left to build, it was time to put the deadmen in.

For the deadmen I cut left over 4x6 timbers into 6" blocks and attached them to 28" lengths of 2x4's with 1/2" lag bolts. There wasn't much to the dimensions. I just had to make sure the blocks were sized to fit the width of the wall, and the 2x4's were long enough to be able to attach to the roof framing once the wall was complete. Not much to it. Setting them in the wall wasn't very complicated either, although it took a bit of time to set each one.

On a typical framed house, you just take a tape measure and a pencil and mark out the wall at 2' centers, then start setting the roof framing. Not so with a cob wall. You have to set each deadman individually. So, here's what I did. I started with the corner and set in my first deadman. I pulled two feet from it and set another, and so on until I got to the opposite corner. On the other wall I did the same thing but I had to also try and align the deadmen from one wall to the other. A cob wall is not exactly square so the aligning was done by eyeball. I think they turned out fine.

The hardest part was keeping the deadman on center as well as making sure they were plumb in both directions, all while cobbing around them. Every time I worked a lump of cob in, the deadman would want to shift. They were easy enough to straighten out again, but it just took so much time to end up with a deadman encased in cob that was on center and plumb.

Well, after long and tedious work of setting the deadmen, they are all in. Now all we need to do is put on two more lifts of cob and the cobbing is finished. It should go fast.

Here are a few pictures of the deadmen.


Rick's picture

Nice man! Looking good! You think this weekend you will get the last lift of cob up?

By Rick
David's picture

We are going to try. Normally we would need to do two 6" lifts, but tomorrow we are going to try and do a single 1' lift. That should take us right where we need to be. We are running out of straw and our sand is getting low, so hopefully they hold out.

By David
Rachel's picture

You guys are making good time and it sure is looking good! Can't wait to see how the final walls look. Tell Pat not to forget to update the picture of her window. I'm really looking forward to seeing it! :-)

By Rachel
David's picture

Thanks! I think we are doing ok on time, but it would be nice if we weren't running so close to the wire. Yeah, her window is coming along. The last four blocks are waiting to go in, but we are going to finish the north and south walls first. As soon as the window is complete, we'll post a picture of it for sure.

By David