Monthly Archives: June 2012

Straw Bale House Part 2: Plaster Base Coat


[click on arrows for more images]

A couple of weeks after the bale raising party last August, I went back to check on the progress on the house. When I arrive, Janna is applying the plaster on the exterior while Jon and Ali are working on framing the interior. I’m surprised to see that half of the house is already coated with its’ first layer of plaster (called the push coat). Since plaster can take a week to cure, Jon,Janna and Ali want to get the base coat finished well before winter sets in.

The push coat is a mixture of straw, sand, clay and water and when applied to the straw bales, the combination creates very strong walls. As Janna plasters by hand, she pushes her finger tips into the plaster to get it to stick to the bales.

It’s exciting to be able to see the progress of the house, and as I stand back I am beginning to see the house as a giant piece of sculpture.



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Straw Bale House Part One: Bale Raising Party


[click on arrows for more images]

The photos above are from a bale raising party last summer, where friends and family came out to stack bales in Janna Bufford and Jon Hiscocks’ timber framed house. Janna and Jon collaborated with natural building specialist Ali Lam to build their octogon shaped home.

I’ve had a long time fascination with straw houses but I’ll restrain myself from telling you all that I know and let you look at Ali’s site instead. There are a lot of misconceptions about the durability and function of straw bale construction which Ali expertly dispels.

In short, for Janna and Jon’s house, bales of straw were coated with a mixture of sand and clay called slip. They were then stacked between the frame to form the walls. Sounds simple but it is labour intensive; each bale needs to be measured and re-sized to fit the frame. Once covered in slip and stacked, additional loose straw is mixed with the slip and used to fill in the gaps left around the bales.

It’s dirty messy work that would satisfy any hardcore do-it-yourselfer.

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