Clay Plastering. FUN.

This week I managed to find some time to get my first coat of clay plaster on the straw bale walls. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to not having to wear gloves and safety goggles like I had to with the lime render.

I soaked the clay I had for 24 hours and hand mixed it into the sand per bucket. For my ratio of sand to clay, I went for a high clay content and didn’t worry too much about accuracy or consistency between mixes, as this is the first coat and the primary aim is to get it keyed into the straw well, rather than smooth and crack free. In fact, cracks will help the second course stick well to the first.

My initial reaction is that clay is very fun to work with! It’s messy and sticky, but mixing by hand is nice and relaxing and easy. It’s also very fast, at least for the rough coat I threw on. I managed to get the inside of the studio done in two days, where as the lime render took five days, with help.

I’m letting the render dry over the weekend, and as it’s inside, this is going to be a slower process than the lime render, but once it’s done I’ll get some test patches completed and start thinking about my specific mix for the thicker coats.

By the way, I got my information on clay plastering from here –

Clay arrives

In the weekend just gone, I finished the lime rendering and had a nice relaxing Sunday, knowing all I have left to do is limewashing on the outside!

Meanwhile, I had organised a delivery of one tonne of clay from JJ Sharpe (in Devon) which was due to arrive on Monday, just in time for a new project!

Given the difficulty of access to my street for large vehicles, they brought the shipment in a large van with a tailgate lift rather than a lorry with a crane offload, so during unloading the clay was, rather unfortunately, dumped on the road!

The clay sits on the road as it  landed!

It wasn’t a major concern, as I needed to get it off the road anyway, so I had a spare tonne bag and we (me and my parents) set about loading it into buckets and shipping it up to my shed for shelter. 90 minutes later, we had a victory cup of tea and now I have clay plastering to look forward to!!

I’m busy reading up on mixes now, and I’ve ordered my first tonne of sand, though I think another one or two tonnes might be needed.. I’ll post mixes and results up here when I start, hopefully this will be in half term, which is next week!


Lime Plastering the Tyre Wall

I’m getting the final course on the straw bale wall. As it turns out, I’ve probably got about half a ton of lime render that I over-ordered, so I tried a test patch last week on the inside of my tyre wall to see how it would stick.

Here are some photos. As it transpires, the lime render sticks remarkably well to the tyre surface! I’ve also filled the voids between the tyres with a lime/straw mix though in hindsight, the mix in the photo is probably a little lime render heavy as it’s drying quite slowly but I’ll try other ratios in the next few weeks.

The particular ratio of materials in the mix of lime render is not known to me, as I ordered it pre-mixed from Ty Mawr (ask for their straw bale mix), but I know it’s a combination of lime putty, sand, finely chopped straw and hemp.

I was going to plaster with clay between the tyres, but if I’ve got the lime spare,  I’m happy to work with that. On searching the internet, there is precious little information about lime plaster and tyres (who would have thought!) that I feel I should try and share as much as I find out on here. If anyone else has tried, or tries this, let me know.

Window Shutters

With a yellow wind warning coming our way, and no glass in my window frames still, I thought it might be a good idea to get some window shutters up. I started making them last week, with some spare 6″x1″ board I had from the roof construction. I managed to put all of the windows together with materials I had lying around on site, so they cost me a couple of quid for the hinges and casement stays.

Measuring up the width

The cross piece holds it square


One of the window shutters in place.

The fixings for the shutters are from screwfix, and they are pretty attractive, especially when you see the price! (link here) Unfortunately, at the time of fitting, it kept slipping out when both the shutters open at the same time, so I had to screw some wood to hold it shut until I can get more time to look at the fittings. Still, the shutter looks pretty good from the back of the house!

View from the back of my house.

Filling out information

In order to give a more structured design to the site. I’m compiling a load of pages on the building. You can follow them in the menu above – under Straw Bale Building.

I’ll try and keep these up to date and with the most relevant information and photos from my posts. Hopefully they can be used as a good source of information for other amateur builders as people look for stuff, rather than going through my blog posts!

Perfect Day?

Another beautiful day yesterday here in the valleys. Blue skies, warm sun, and a new fence on the front of the decking.

Thoughtfully gazing across the valley

Second coat of plaster is going on too, you can see the curtain I’ve made to shade the wall from the sun. The weather gets cloudier and wetter this week so I can get the front rendered then without worrying about direct sunlight on the walls while I’m in work. Hopefully I’ll be looking at a much smoother exterior render finish this time Friday. Plus I’ll have sorted the clay render out! Fingers crossed..

The power of the phone call

As the lime plaster goes on in increasing layers, I’m turning my thoughts ahead to the inside and the clay render. Managing time is important to keep things moving and I need to see if I can get the clay render here for my half term so I can take the time to mix up what I need and try it on the walls.

As it is, I’ve come up with a lot of trouble of trying to source clay render for straw buildings. It’s not something that’s obviously available, and you have to bear in mind, lime is the primary material for rendering straw, so when you do a search, most clay that is sold is not advertised as “clay render for straw”.

My lime suppliers at Ty Mawr ( sell a daub, which can be used as a base coat for render, and I also found a number of links at Low Impact’s website (here)

I have found that to save a bit of cash, clay requires a little more work that lime to put onto straw. The easiest place supplying render for straw is Clay Works, however when quoted, their cost of materials was far higher than I was willing to pay – whilst for a home, it might be OK, I’m just building a shed in my garden effectively, so I’m hoping to do this for a small sum of money.

Fortunately, I started phoning people, and got a lot more information when I was able to speak to someone. As a tech geek, I’m so used to finding stuff on the internet, it’s easy to forget that a phone call is faster, and easier to get information. As a result, I’m waiting on quotes for clay powder which should prove much cheaper, and easier to transport, which I can then mix on site to my desired texture and get onto the walls! We’ll see how this goes..