MAPPING THE SECRETS OF OUR STRAW BALE WALLS

Underhill House is a blend of high-tech materials and natural building materials – like straw bale and lime clay plaster.

The exterior plaster has been hardening in place for a number of weeks,and now it is time for the interior straw bale walls to get plastered!

The exterior plaster has been hardening in place for a number of weeks,
and now it is time for the interior straw bale walls to get plastered!

But before they are, we need to map the mysteries that will be buried by plaster.  Wiring, plumbing and wooden framing all need to be noted.

Doug and I spent the last hours of daylight Thursday meticulously measuring where every wire and strip of wood stands in the walls.

Because the house is built with an un-milled and irregular timber-frame – that can be a challenge.  Just exactly where you measure along the rounded surface of a timber can be tricky to determine and record.

pine strips drawn tight from outside to inside with twisted wire

pine strips drawn tight from outside to inside with twisted wire

When the straw bale walls were built, the bales were stabilized with strips wood left over from the milling process that produced the pine decking boards for our roof.  It was a great use for this material.  As the straw bales were stacked, the wood strips were placed on both inside and outside, and as every row of bales was set in place, a wire looping between the inside and outside wood strips was tightened down to snug the walls into extra rigidity.

These same strips of wood will be great for hanging things like pictures and kitchen cabinets.

But they will not be found easily once they are covered with plaster. Boy!  I am really ready to see the last of these straw bales.  It will be a joy to watch them disappear behind three coats of plaster.

Though the bales are wonderful — natural, renewable material from a local source and will be great insulation — they have been shedding little bits of straw since day one.  It was tricky to paint the dry wall interior walls that adjoin them.  One of the plasterers worried if he was having an allergic reaction to something in them.

Doug took the measurements.  I took the notes.

Doug took the measurements. I took the notes.

Now that we have mapped and photographed every inch, their chaff and their secrets can be buried once and for all.

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