Strawbale house

This is the log of my experience building my straw bale home. I am told the pictures do not do the actual finished product justice, however, I am pleased to share it with all who are interested on this site. The trials and tribulations in getting the permit could have brought the project to an abrupt halt, but I knew in my heart that this was something I was meant to do and giving in or quiting was never an option. Enjoy........ and feel free to share with your friends!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Final plaster day

Interior plaster was completed today! This is the window with the masking removed - nice deep window sills! This will dry much lighter than you see it now.
Another view of the completed interior
Plaster will cure over time, some cracking is to be expected. Next summer, the exterior will be painted with a silica based dispersion paint from Eco House. The interior will be lime washed in a couple of months, and then coloured at a later date as and when appropriate.
The last bit of bale work to be plastered....

Bye bye bales! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Second day of plaster

Wes applies the first coat of plaster.
Tim trowels the first coat.
Pete completes the finishing touches on the first coat.
Final product, after second coat. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Second coat of plaster..

Tim applies second coat.
Second coat, with the troweller crew following behind to smooth it out.
Lee smoothes out the final coat.
Pete adds the finishing touches........... looks awesome! Posted by Picasa

.... and so... to plaster!

Plaster started today. Here we see the first coat, which is applies very roughly.
The plaster is a mixture of lime, cement and sand. The method of application is quite ingenious, invented by the crew of Camels Back. As you will see with the extensive pictures, it is quite a process. Very labour intensive and tiring and they are only able to stop for one break, at lunch, as all the equipment has to be cleaned immediately, so that it does not begin to dry and cake all the equipment.
Close up of the first coat.
Tina, the plaster Queen!
The whold crew worked tirelessly , thru the Christmas Holidays. The whole process took one week, inside and out.
Base coat applied to bales. This will be followed by a second, smooth coat. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Heating system

Geothermal pipes (black on the right) circulate ethanol out into the field, drawing ground heat from the earth, bringing it back to the house, where it goes thru the heat pump (box on the floor), which in turn heats the hot water tank (white tank to left of heat pump) which then heats the water for the radiant floor heating (pipes t0 the left of the hot water tank).
House is heated from the floor up. Also, passive solar gain will be received due to the orientation of the house, (due south) for maximum utilization of the natural heat from the sun in the winter.
Roof pitch is designed to let in the sun's rays in, in the winter (sun sits lower in the sky in the winter) and to keep them out in the summer (sun sits higher in the sky in the summer). Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bale work almost complete

North faceing exterior wall, ready for plaster.
Deidre and Jen stuffing in between the bales and trimming the straw, making it ready for the mesh.
Tina filling her baskets with straw for stuffing.
South facing interior walls ready with mesh complete. Plaster comes next week. Posted by Picasa

Bale work almost complete..... more pictures

Living room and office windows ready for plaster.

How are the bales used in construction?
Depending on the site and design considerations, there are two main types of construction with bales: structural, or load-bearing, and a framed structure using the bales as infill.
My project used modified post and beam, which meant we erected the structure first, with the roof put on ahead of time, and then the bales are put into place as infill.
As my build was postponed until the fall (which happens more often than you'd think!), it was a good job I had gone with modified post and beam, as opposed to load bearing, as the roof was already on and gave the bales the protection they needed in a very wet fall.
Another wall ready for plaster.
Whole house is now tarped and will stay that way until at least mid January so that the plaster process is protected from the elements.
It is December 15th, and the snow we had last week has all melted - current temp today was 7 degrees C!!

May the weather God stay on our side for another week or two! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why I chose to build with Straw Bales

I had a comment from a reader, as to why I would build with Straw.
Why build with bales?
There are many different reasons people choose to build with bales. From an environmental perspective, bales are an anually renewable building material, which happens to be essentially a waste product in Canada. Bale building results in voluntary carbon sequestering; several tonne worth. Bale homes are the likely choice for those who understand and care about embodied energy of materials. There are huge energy savings in bale buildings, given that the R-value of the walls is rated at R-40; this allows for great savings in heating and cooling buildings. Some people choose to build with bales due to the ease with which this technology can be learned. It is an extremely accessible form of building, for men, women, childen, and people of all abilities. A common reason for building with bales is the aesthetic value. If you have not seen a bale building, I encourage you to look for Open Houses and house tours. The warmth and depth of a bale wall is inviting, and inspiring. The rounded windows, built in benches, niches, the thick walls that serve to create warmth and quiet, the fact that no two bale houses will ever be the same...all of these are reasons enough to build with bales.
I am attempting, in my own little way, to reduce my footprint on the earth. In an era where we have over populated and over poluted the planet, without concern for future generations or the consequences of these actions, I feel we each have a part to play in making a difference.
Straw is a completely renewable, waste resourse. Straw bale construction uses less wood than conventional construction. There are less VOC's (Volitile Organic Compounds) in Eco Building than conventional building i.e. less/no formaldyhide, arsenics, pesticides, glues, herbicides, etc. The average conventional home takes 25-30 years to 'off gas' which means we live in a chemical filled environment for this time. Don't forget, many people sell and move, often to newer homes; very few ever open their windows (we seem to go from heating season to cooling season) so the house takes a very long time to dissipates these fumes.
A bale typically has an R40 - 50 value
Virtually no cooling is required in summer.
I chose Geo Thermal heat source to take advantage of the earths endless heat source to heat my house. This is done thru the radiant floor heating system, which is viewed in the September archive.
The cost will be comparable to that of a stick frame house, however, the future heating/cooling costs is where the monetary savings will be realised and of course my peace of mind in as much as I will have built a very eco friendly home.

Here are a couple of links if you are interested in more information:

This is the Straw Bale Coalition of Ontario web site.

Here is the link to my builders web site:

Thanks for following along and sharing my journey with me! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Preping the walls for the bales

Attaching the tenax mesh to the frame, then the bales fit snugly up to this mesh, giving a much more even appearance to the walls when plastered.
Diamond lathe mesh attaches around the corners, or wherever the bales come in contact with the frame, then the tenax is applied over top and secured. Posted by Picasa

Bale work

Front exterior, verandah portion of bale wall
Sculpting the bales around the kitchen windows
Using a mallet to make the bales nice and snug

Well......... I had to put a few in too!! Posted by Picasa

Bales finally going in!

Exterior view, prior to bales.. siding B&B siding completed (roof not quite completed)
Hydro/phone line being buried.
Electrical being installed in bale walls.
Front interior - (kitchen, actually) Posted by Picasa