Friday, October 22, 2010

Finished for now

Well, we are done for now. I have to start work again on October 25th.
We have moved to Canada and will return on holidays to continue work
on the strawbale house. The outside is done except for a thin lime
plaster coat and window trim which we hope to work on in the Spring.
The experience has been fantastic and unforgettable! I will blog
occasionaly with plans and ideas for the finish work on the inside.
The plan is for this to be a holiday/retirement home. It will probably
be an ongoing lifetime project.
We want to add decks, landscaping, waterfall, a container house
extension. The list is endless. I can't describe the feeling of
satisfaction of building your own home.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

House art

We had a little fun with the earth plaster today!


After building everything ourselves, we finally had to hire our first
paid proffesional help. It was for something as simple as guttering.
We wanted seamless guttering, so you have to have a special machine
that makes it on site. We went with six inch for more protection. We
are also installing gutter gaurds to keep them maintenance free.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Today's progress

I ran the conduit for my home made geo thermal air conditioner, which
you can see in the first two pictures. I also started wrapping the
facia with metal. The last two are more pictures of the finished walls.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


We are done with the outside plaster except for small details. That
was hard work, but the walls turned out beautiful.
Carrie made the design on the bottom picture. We have a couple more
plaster creations to add:)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

South wall

Here are a couple of pictures of the South wall ( lake side ). It is
the final wall for outside plastering. The bottom picture is the East
wall finished. I think all the outside plastering could possibly be
completed in two days. We have two weeks left of our holiday to button
up the outside of the house and pack for our move to Vancouver Canada.
I am returning to work after an awesome one and a half years off. I
will work on the inside of the house on holidays and whenever I get a
chance. As long as it's done by retirement! Actually, I'll have plenty
of time to finish it up during retirement too:)
I finally found a source for the lime plaster I need to cover the
earth plaster on the outside. I don't think I will have time to apply
it before we leave. I will return in the spring for that task. I Also
put in all the locksets for the three doors this week. It's not just a
pile of straw anymore, we can actually lock the house.
Here is the super cool thing about building an alternative, or
experimental house in Indiana. There are no building codes or
inspections if you do all the work yourself. If there is one small
part that requires profesional help, that part will have to meet
inspection to protect the profesional doing the work. Anything done by
the owner does not need a permit. We have done everything ourselves. I
put it to the test this week. I called about insuring my house. They
came out, took a few pictures and got back with me with a quote. There
was no problem, fantastic!

Friday, September 3, 2010

East wall covered

The first coat of plaster is over the east wall now. It went a lot
faster than expected. It only took two people, two days to cover. I'm
preparing the last ( south) wall while letting the east wall dry
another day before it gets it's final coat of plaster. The North wall
looks great. There was no cracking. It is always in the shade and I
sprayed it with water offer to dry it out slowly. The west wall has
some cracks. With that wall we experimented with leaving out the weate
paste. We also forgot to cover it with tarps and didn't spray it as
often as we should. There are lots of variables, but I'm trying to get
the east wall looking as good as the north. I am using wheat paste,
shading, and spraying often to prevent cracking. I can easily fix the
cracks on the west wall, it just takes more of my time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ongoing plastering

Right about now I'm very happy I built a small house. Earth plastering
is not for the lazy. It's fun to do but it's an amazing amount of
work. You really have to have friends help you with this part. It's
coming along great though, and I think it's going to look fantastic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Plaster party day two

We did manage to cover the north wall completely in plaster in two
days. Here's another thing I would do different next time that I would
highly recomend. I would drive bamboo poles down through the bales to
tie them together when stacking the walls. I was told people shouldn't
drive rebar through anymore because metal condensates and could rot
the bales. Also, metal expands and contracts with hot and cold so
chicken wire or 2" welded wire mesh over the straw could move a bit
and crack your plaster. That all makes sense to me. Im all for leaving
the metal out of my house, but the rebar should have been replaced
with wood stakes or bamboo. You have to push hard to mash the plaster
into the bales on the first coat. In some cases we are pushing the
bales in a little while applying plaster. They are showing sone
movement which could have been stopped. Easy to fix, just go around
the other side and push back into place, then smooth the plaster out
again, but I'm definitely wishing I had secured them better for the
plastering. Once the plaster is on both sides and dry, the walls will
not be moving anywhere!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Plaster party

The work party went great. It was extremely hot weather though. The
scary part is that with a group of people working a full day we still
didn't quite finish one wall. There is an amazing amount of work to
do, but I still think plastering is fun, and satisfying. We tried a
cement mixer for making the plaster and that does not work. We rented
a mortar mixer and it does a great job of thoroughly mixing the adobe.
We see that we need to buy a used one and then sell when we are done,
because it's going to take a long time to finish. I will also be
making adobe for the earth floor, and don't forget the inside walls.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Plaster prep

We are back at it after a two week break. We have wraped all exposed
wood that plaster might touch with roofing paper. This is to stop the
moisture in the plaster from soaking into the wood. Here is what I
would do different next time. Wrap your wood before you put the straw
bales in. That would make the job way easier. Then we put burlap over
the tar paper so the plaster will stick to it better.
We made some test patches of adobe with different ratios of materials
to see what worked best with our sorce of clay. We mixed up a batch
and put our first mud on the wall!
We are having a plaster party tomorrow. We've invited several friends
over to help plaster the walls. We rented a mortar mixer for the job.
We tried a cement mixer, but it didn't seem to mix well enough. We'll
see how the mortar mixer does tomorrow.
We have food and drinks lined up and we are ready to get muddy. We
will see how far we get though as the heat index tomorrow is supposed
to feel like 118 degrees. The heat just won't let up this summer.