Monday, May 20, 2013

Timbrel Vaulted Stairs

I am a convert to Timbrel vaulting, Catalan Vaulting, or Cohesive vaulting.
Stronger, looks better but slower and more expensive.  My first serious piece is the top half of the stairs in the vault house.
Top looking down.  Something about the light makes is look grey.
Looking up the top half, but the interesting part is the vault, not the stairs.
Think of it as laminates.  I did put some steel in between the first and second tiles, however I will try without.  Before putting the treads on I jumped and pounded on the stairs.  It feels like reinforced concrete. No movement.

The view from below.  more aesthetic than the bricks on edge.
From the other side.  I am storing up these tiles so i can do a bigger roof.
It took me a year to stop thinking about it and just do it.


We drew a catenary arch on plywood, mounted it upside down.  This gave us a side wall to "glue" the tiles on two sides.

After removing the plywood on the side we added some more rows.
Lots of gypsum plaster on top side helps temporarily hold it.
Next a course at 45degree, then one long side across.
  Laminated tiles!


  1. You have me inspired to try timbrel vaulting on my workshop outbuilding. From research, finding reasonably priced ~3cm thick bricks will be challenging here in Texas.

    1. Which is why i produce them myself, but I already make bricks.
      Some thoughts:
      -be patient and try some experiments first on the wall of the workshop
      -the trick is using gypsum that is "set up" slightly. I am told that if you add new gypsum to slightly setup gypsum the new gypsum is slight setup. you want to be able to tap and hold a second or two and let go. so mix and wait 5-10 minutes
      -Look into terra cotta unglazed tiles. At least for the first course. they might be thinner but will work. 1-3 cm should work.
      -I did one roof with 8inch square terra cotta tiles. 4x8 or similar is better.
      -the 2nd and third layers you might want to look into making Compressed Stabilizied Earth tiles. Lots of people do it that way. You could compress by simple ramming.
      let me know what you do.

      Be prepared that the room is no longer used as workshop. the ceiling will be stunning. my first vault was for a junk storeage. I was turned into a cute apartment. the second was a ceiling on garage. I had to change the garage into a living room.

    2. I'm well on my way to getting the workshop roof done. See to see it. I'm already at 5 courses laid. Probably 18 courses to finish.

    3. cool. thanks for sharing. looking forward to the progress. i see you are trying bamboo. i started using recently, amazing stuff.

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  3. Nice stairs and brick work. Look at the videos on youtube by Ramón Guarda i Parera. On staits, it is importante to apply 1 or 2 arch rows from bottom to top. And then laying second layer with Portland Cement Mortar. This must be done keeping the top face of the 1 st layer tiles clean. This is so to maximize adherence between ceramic tiles with morta, and not between plaster and Cement.
    This I sclearlt desplayed and explaines in all Mr. Ramón Guarda'd videos.
    Best of luck