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..

First Coat of Plaster is on!

This weekend was a good weekend for getting the plaster on. Still not as warm as I’d like, but at least the freezing temperatures have gone!

We managed to get a first coat over just half of the buiding. The back sides are not covered yet, but I can do them in the week, so it will be covered by next weekend. So far it looks like this:

The first coat is on. You can see it's a little patchy in places, but the second coat should close this up and make it more uniform.

You can see it’s a little patchy in places, but the second coat should close this up and make it more uniform.

The bulk of the plaster went on well, though in areas where I was using hessian to patch up gaps and bridge areas with wood, it’s a little loose and thin. I’ve draped some geotextile off the roof to shade the building this week and I’m spraying it to avoid it drying out, but there are areas where it has dried more than others.

I need to get some closer photos of areas, but some of the plaster has dried a little flaky and crumbly in some small areas which might need redoing. They tend to be in the areas where the straw is not packed so well, like the joins of the bales, or an area we stuffed with straw.

It's best to work the first coat in with your hands.

It’s best to work the first coat in with your hands.

It’s when I encounter slight weaknesses like this that I kick myself for not going on more training courses closer to the build date. I’m going to see how things go on a second coat, and make more effort to work the plaster into the bales on the first coat.

Green Roof Edge Detailing

Finding detail on the edge of a green roof and waterproofing it is something I struggled to do easily. I thought as I fitted the roof it would be good to take some photos and show everyone how mine is put together.

The roof consists of 18mm structural plywood, with carpets on top followed by the membrane. At the edge, the plywood overhangs by just over 2″ (5.5cm).

The membrane overhangs by about 6″ (15cm) over the edge, so it can wrap underneath the plywood. In the photo below, you can see I attached some 2″x1″ wood to the edge, which allows the membrane to wrap under and then up, forming a drip edge.

To create a drip edge, some 2x1 is screwed to the edge.

To create a drip edge, some 2×1 is screwed to the edge.

The photo below shows the roof before the drip edge is screwed on.

The plywood has carpet on it before the membrane to ensure no splinters get to it.

The plywood has carpet on it before the membrane to ensure no splinters get to it.

Once the membrane is folded over, it tucks up between the drip edge and the truss which the plywood overhangs. The feather edge board then pushes up into the gap and screws on to hold the membrane in place.

The membrane folds over the drip edge and up, and the feather edge board holds the membrane up.

The membrane folds over the drip edge and up, and the feather edge board holds the membrane up.

You can see the roof in the photo below with the finished drip edge. The next step will be to trim the membrane hanging from under the feather edge, add a weather board to protect the membrane from the sun, and then add a gutter to catch the water and direct it to somewhere more useful. All should be done this week.

The roof here with the drip edge installed. The membrane needs trimming, and a gutter.

The roof here with the drip edge installed. The membrane needs trimming, and a gutter.

I hope that helps anyone looking at creating a green roof. I would love to hear ideas of other designs and plans. As I develop mine more, I’ll post as much as I can to share more information.

Straw Bale vs the Elements

Three things have occurred to me this week;

  1. I am terrible at blogging about the shed
  2. I am awful at taking photos and putting them on my posts when I do blog about the shed
  3. Cats love my shedShed Cat in the rafters

I’ve not been very well over the last week, but I’ve recovered this week and I’m pressing on to get the shed roof finished and the inside sealed up from the wind. The timing is a little late, as the weather is warming up, and the winds are howling down the valleys this week. Gales of 40mph are expected on Thursday, and I’m sitting in my house listening to the wind whistling around my windowframes hoping my roof doesn’t come off!

Fortunately, my dad is very into his over-engineering and the trusses are tied down tightly to the building, I’m confident it will hold out, but it is something to consider once I’ve got the roof finished that the wind should be excluded from getting under the roof wherever possible to avoid lifting, which could be catastrophic!

I hereby promise to get some photos taken this weekend and I’ll try and post them on Sunday, when the roof *should* be on and sealed up.

The cat above has nestled into the shed very happily – there every morning and afternoon without fail. In fact I get a nasty look whenever I disturb it! Unfortunately, after this week, it will be difficult to gain entry into the shed so cat fans will be disappointed to hear the eviction notice has been served!

An update

I literally don’t know where to begin on an update in what has happened in the last two weeks. Safe to say that at the moment, the walls are raised and the roof is on, albeit in a temporary state. Here is a photo I’ve got of the walls and the trusses on the roof  before we put the boards on.

Front Elevation of Building

I’ve learnt so much over the last week, I’ll be trying to detail the mistakes I’ve made (too many to count) and the things I learnt were hugely important in other blog posts so people can learn from them!

All the volunteers I had over the straw wall raising weekend were heroes, and the walls were finished in two days. Once that was done, it was down to myself, my parents and my girlfriend to get the roof trusses put together and lifted onto the building.

The trusses after bring lifted into place.

One of the things which I was well aware of, but is now reality, is all the niggly little bits that need work to get the finishing touches on the building. The next two weeks waiting for the weather to warm up so I can plaster the outside will be taken up by cutting windowsills, stuffing loose straw into gaps and various other small jobs. If I get things finished by June, I’ll be a very fortunate (and happy) man.

Bales are Delivered!

After a fortunate turn of events with the weather forecast combined with the brainwave of getting the bales delivered on Friday instead of Saturday, I now have 100 bales stacked in the back garden, ready for the arrival of the bulk of the volunteers tomorrow!

Picking up the bales Friday turned out to be a good call, not least because of the problems that cropped up picking them up – When I spoke to my friend who had stored them for me she did say that some of them may “burst” when moved. Not being quite sure what she meant, I picked up some extra twine and we made our way to the bales. Sure enough, some of the string had broken over the winter and we had to retie as many as we could salvage. This slowed delivery down by about an hour, so I’m glad we got it done today, giving us a full day tomorrow to tighten the bales and then raise the walls.

I hadn’t considered, or read about bales breaking before, but then I don’t think I knew anyone who had stored them over the winter, so it is something that is quite interesting to note. According to the delivery guy, the breaking of the twine is down to rats, which explained the droppings we found amongst the bales.

Anyway, onto tomorrow! I’ll be trying to tweet progress on my twitter account, so if you are reading this and it’s 30th March 2013 or earlier, check out and you might see a few photos as the day wears on!

The week before the bales: preparation madness

I don’t know where to begin to start to describe the last two weeks or so building up to this coming weekend. It has been an absolute stress fest. About four months ago, I bought the straw planning to raise the walls in Easter and now it is here, it’s a sudden rush of activity as I try and get everything in order for the weekend of building.

Firstly, the weather has been really awful this Easter, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’ve been quite lucky here as no snow has fallen, but about 100 miles north, there are people unable to leave their houses because they are snowed in! Crazy times. The forecasts have been highly erratic and I’ve been worrying that I would have to cancel the straw bale raising and delay the build until the weather settles which brings with it many more concerns.

Being a teacher, I’ve got the two weeks off before Easter, and I am endlessly grateful for that, because I’m spending every day this week getting things ready. It’s not the pace of building I am built for if I’m honest and I’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief once I can sit back with a roof on the building and take my time with the rest of the construction. Perhaps this is the real benefit of building frames when building with straw – the more I think about it, the more I would find the less stressful option of having a roof over my building before the straw arrives!

Here you can see the start of the wall plate going down.

Here you can see the start of the wall plate going down. The building really takes shape with this outlining it!

So this week so far, I’ve got the wall plates measured and cut for both under and over the straw bales. Next up is installing the uprights and frames for the doors and windows, then building the trusses, and I’ll be ready for the straw! I’d have liked to have done this sooner, but cold and wet weather has forced my hand slightly and it’s a case of leaving it to the last minute! I’ll try and take as many photos as I can and post here, if only to document the build for people looking for more information.