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Need pro tips on wattle and daub upcoming construction. Any weathered builders?  RSS feed

 
Alex Therrien
Posts: 2
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Hurrowh:

I'm new here, just signed up actually.
I've been racking my brains around green buildings for several months trying to find the best solution that applies for an inherited woody copse just north of the Vermont border. Thinking of building a forever home. Trivia: Canada is cold in the winter.

The project is a 25' x 25' - 1 1/2 storey post beam with wattle and daub with shed (lean-to) roof. Insulated slab on grade. Mezzanine for bedroom. Balloon frame without interior divisions (minus bathroom). I'm combining wattle and daub for exterior wall followed by straw bale interior insulation. If that was conceptualized in your brains you can picture I intend to add wings as family expands (if).

I've been mingling with a very skeptical contractor. He's deflated my balloon a little with technical points. I'm throwing my fishing line into the interwebs:

1) It was mentioned that conventional practice for concrete/wood contact requires a membrane. Similarly, daub connects to post for its entire length. Wouldn't the daub separate from post with thermal contraction, causing air leaks? Then there's the lime putty that may seal but I'm having mental image pictures of hairline cracks at each posts haunting my nights. Who has experience with wattle and daub on that subject?

2) In my recent studies I've postulated the principle that clay-on-straw regulated its internal moisture as clay was more hydrophilic than straw and would suck moisture through capillary action, but since I'm thinking about encasing bales between a daub wall and a modern dry wall finish for squarity's sake, I'm pondering whether I'm making a mistake. I would consider a clay and lime finish but I have a lot of difficulty with organic curves or ye ol' tyme lumpy wall. I see many lumpy haywall products out there. Don't like it. Has anyone overcome this or found a solution for a smooth interior finish?

2) What kind of modern solutions exist for wattling? I drew up the idea of drilling beams and inserting 1/4 inch dowels laterally at every 4 inches. Like a ladder. I do not want to weave 2000 square feet of lattice. I thought of buying or finding scrap garden lattice to slap on top of that. Also thought of furrings/strapping. What says you?

Thank you for taking the time to read and share your passionate ideas about green buildings.

Alex
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
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Hello Alex,

Welcome to Permies!!!

I am going to be brief, just to get you going, (and the late hour of this entry) as I take it, you will have more questions...

The project is a 25' x 25' - 1 1/2 storey post beam with wattle and daub with shed (lean-to) roof. Insulated slab on grade. Mezzanine for bedroom. Balloon frame without interior divisions (minus bathroom). I'm combining wattle and daub for exterior wall followed by straw bale interior insulation.


Your general concept sounds viable.

Why not a traditional gable and/or hip roof design?

If you go with a "shed roof" design, I would suggest splitting up the span, as 25' is a tad far to span multiple times with rafters.

When you refer to a "mezzanine" are talking about a loft?

If you do employ SB, I would recommend the bales being placed to the outside of the timber frame or post and beam infrastructure, as this also works for you by providing thermal inertia (heat storage) in your heavy timbers and plastering In the other format you are creating a "cold sink" of thermal mass. Let that mass work for you, not against you.

I've been mingling with a very skeptical contractor. He's deflated my balloon a little with technical points.


What points?

If they are not familiar with Traditional-Natural building methods, perhaps they are not the best suited to guide you with advice. Often GC like this really need to stay with building methods that come from "box stores," as they tend to detract from the style you are trying to achieve, as they are thinking speed, convenience and profit.

It was mentioned that conventional practice for concrete/wood contact requires a membrane.


Hmmm, I guess you could call it a membrane, or gusset, flashing, etc. and it will depend on the design. There are some building methods where you can do away with the concrete completely, and go with a traditional floor of wood, earth, lime and earth, stone, etc.

Similarly, daub connects to post for its entire length. Wouldn't the daub separate from post with thermal contraction, causing air leaks?


Yes it does often separate a little, yet there are methods to mitigate that with real "nogged or wattled" timber frames. In traditional applications the interiors are often rendered with a solid plastering over everything, there by eliminating drafts. This method is common in almost all cultures with variants in each one.

Then there's the lime putty that may seal but I'm having mental image pictures of hairline cracks at each posts haunting my nights.


In good work these cracks are few to none existent, but a traditional-natural home is not for the compulsive personality types that fret about such things for the most part. I am OCD about my work being very clean and artistic but I own that compulsion and don't ignore a modality because it may be a bit more challenging to master.

Who has experience with wattle and daub on that subject?


Several of us on Permies do...

In my recent studies I've postulated the principle that clay-on-straw regulated its internal moisture as clay was more hydrophilic than straw and would suck moisture through capillary action, but since I'm thinking about encasing bales between a daub wall and a modern dry wall finish for squarity's sake, I'm pondering whether I'm making a mistake.


I don't recommend dry wall, learn to plaster cleanly, or use wooded sheathing board walls covered in plaster, or milk painted boards to start then plaster later...etc. etc. etc. Many different techniques from paper plastering, to traditional wood panel, slab wood, cloth, etc.

I would consider a clay and lime finish but I have a lot of difficulty with organic curves or ye ol' tyme lumpy wall. I see many lumpy haywall products out there. Don't like it. Has anyone overcome this or found a solution for a smooth interior finish?


Yes...learn to plaster well. It can be achieved as a dead flat surface if you are obsessive (or artistic) and you can do things like rounded, faceted, etc...inside and outside corners, and all manner of finishes and techniques.

What kind of modern solutions exist for wattling?


I wouldn't get into most of them as they either add expense, don't work, or are simply someone trying to "reinvent the wheel". I am always reading ideas about a "different way of doing something, and 95% of the time (not always) it is not really that different and/or more work. Remember: "If its not broken...don't fix it."

I drew up the idea of drilling beams and inserting 1/4 inch dowels laterally at every 4 inches. Like a ladder. I do not want to weave 2000 square feet of lattice. I thought of buying or finding scrap garden lattice to slap on top of that. Also thought of furrings/strapping. What says you?


More work than if you go traditional and learn to do it that way. 1/4 is a tad too small for the most part and that is a lot of little holes to drill. It's going to be work either way, and the later method you suggested is more work, (and cost.) Dowels are not cheap to make or buy.

Thank you for taking the time to read and share your passionate ideas about green buildings.


You are very welcome...

Have you looked into the traditional vernacular folk architectural styles for your region? There are several applicable modalities for your area like actual timber frames, pièce sur pièce, post and plank, plank and timber, Kubbhus (stack wood or as its called today "cordwood") among others. These and variants on these, are all viable options.

Regards,

jay
 
Alex Therrien
Posts: 2
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Dear Jay,
Thank you for your comprehensive and complete answer. I didn't expect as much attention to my post and attempted to shorten it much, though not very well.

It's actually going to be a saltbox roof. An off-kilter gable roof. I mentionned lean-to for simplicity's sake. This allows head space for the loft (mezzanine, yes). The property is oriented due south with passive solar shenanigans and some 15K$ allocation for solar power if I don't go nuts on another project. Similar to here picture link.


I agree and am strongly influenced by your mention of having the timber framing inside for thermal mass. I had considered it quite much. I was a bit rigid at having modern inside walls but I'll look at it by making sketches and see if I like. Timberframing is extraordinarily beautiful, wouldn't want to hide it. Now I had the exquisite idea to use parrallam for all my visible posts and beams. I recently discovered this material and its conception from previously discarded plywood industry refuse gives it its charm.


My difficulty is that I squirm at the very organic (round) shapes that straw creates and am reluctant to create both an outside and inside framing. You say this is resolvable in application, I guess we'll have to make trials in the garage about it (no doubt post it on youtube, evidently).

I read your advises thoughtfully and do feel enlightened, thank you. I saw your other construction suggestions such as pièce sur pièce but tend toward material that is both local and whom one man can lift without machinery. We shall trade sweat for petroleum.

There's a secret behind this construction. I'm a mechanical engineering student and we've gone hog wild this summer with designing systems for masonry heating with both slab heating, water heating and other applications for maximum utility of thermal energy. Now I have the land, now we're thinking of the house. It's getting exciting.

Thanks for your contribution!

Alex
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
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Hi Alex,

Glad to help and I will follow along the best I can as you proceed. I will always try to assist wherever I can and make suggestions if they seem applicable. As a Mechanical Engineer you are ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding systems.

I saw your other construction suggestions such as pièce sur pièce but tend toward material that is both local and whom one man can lift without machinery.


This one confused me a bit? Pièce sur pièce is a vernacular form of architecture from Quebec and other parts of Canada, with ancient roots throughout the wood culture of the world that built with logs. It was also from a time period that did not have machinery (other than wooden machines.) As for one man building and lifting that is a real challenge without mastering some of the advance "lifting and rigging" methods, which I am sure you can work through.

Parallam lumber is unique, but it is a manufactured product that adds substantial cost to a project and cannot be jointed traditionally. Few if any are actually made from "all" recycle material as they would not meet particle size, and grading for oriented strand beam technology. If you do like the concept of timber framing, go with as close to a traditional system as possible. Paralams must be engineered and they you have to buy the expensive metal bracketing and connecting elements. The more you can make yourself in the way of building components, in most cases, the more money you will save.

I look forward to watching your progress.

Regards,

jay
 
Cassie Langstraat
steward
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Location: Zone 9b
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Found this video about building a wattle and daub hut from scratch and figured I'd put it here.

 
Julia Winter
steward
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Wow.

So, where do you think that was filmed? The leaves he made the (first) roof with looked pretty tropical.
 
nancy sutton
gardener
Posts: 669
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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He mentions the plants he used, on the YouTube posting, including 'lawyer cane', which Wiki says grows in Australia, New South Wales. So ;) No wonder geoff lawton can do all that great stuff.... all is possible in Australia! ;)
 
Sue Rine
pollinator
Posts: 297
Location: New Zealand
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That's beautiful. Could be good as animals shelters or for storing firewood etc. You would need to have a soil with suitable clay content.
 
Jason Machin
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i think we're all missing the crucial point here

....HE JUST MADE A FREAKING KILN!!!
 
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