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Straw bale house - finishing the tops of walls

 
Jennifer Brownson
Posts: 15
Location: NE Arizona
forest garden greening the desert trees
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Hi Permies, I acquired an unfinished straw bale home with my land in Arizona, and I was hoping some folks here might have some suggestions as to how to go about finishing the interior walls. Here is a photo showing the tops of the walls and how there is currently a big gap where it seems that more straw (flakes?) need to be stuffed in. I wouldn't know how to pack that gap with straw so it is tight and firm like the bales in the rest of the wall. Any help is much appreciated.
20160324_175046.jpg
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Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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hey... i m no expert but it would suggest to research slip-straw, also called straw light clay. it can be pushed/packed into small spaces. it would be solid enought that you could an earthen plaster over it.


here is a video about it:




another option would be light clay with wood-chips or coarse wood shavings. or maybe with hemp-fibre.

can you post more pictures?
 
Terry Ruth
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Tie and bundle up some straw about the same density as the surrounding and tie it to the adjacent bales, pack it up to the ceiling. Plaster it all. Good thing is the existing bales have settled.
 
Jennifer Brownson
Posts: 15
Location: NE Arizona
forest garden greening the desert trees
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Wow I really like the Slip Straw/Straw Light Clay technique! Thank you Tobias. That sounds perfect. I already have heaps of extra somewhat funky bales to use and lots of clay in the ground outside. I will study up on it, but I think I am sold.

I even have an old shop that came with the place that has lots of rat infested bales that I think this technique would work perfectly on. Some of the old bales are destined for the garden compost, but I bet there are enough that I can break apart and use this way. I even have a good collection of plywood.

I bet the rats would not be as keen on chewing through hardened clay coated straw compared to the soft stuff they are used to.

Thank you also, Terry. That is what I had in mind originally.

I will post any updates when it comes to that.

Cheers,
Jennifer
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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hey jennifer,
thank you. could you post photos? there is an earthen plaster on the wall?
what i was thinking about: bale and slipstraw might behave differently and so cause some cracking where the both materials meet. it might happen, maybe, maybe not.

perhaps you would need to glue a strip of burlap over the joint and plaster over it. you could always we the existing plaster and scrap a few millimeter off to make room for burlap and new plaster.
to glue it, there are recipies of flour-paste and clay-slip.

but it might just work well without it.
what do the experts say?
 
Terry Ruth
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Slip has a r-value of ~.5-1/inch on average, bales 2-5 depending on density right at the energy heal where you need it most. There are ways to deal with rats in bales research it.
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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i m wondering how much insulation would be needed in that part of the walls in arizona.
 
Terry Ruth
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I was wondering the same. I travel down good old Route 66 through there parts of the state has snow I know most don't know that and think it is hot and dry.
 
Tobias Ber
Posts: 386
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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yay.... i looked at a table showing temps vor different regions. climate seems to vary a lot in that state.

it would help to know where jennifer lives
 
Jennifer Brownson
Posts: 15
Location: NE Arizona
forest garden greening the desert trees
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To answer a few questions... Tobias, yes, that is earthen plaster on the walls. At this point it is just a rough coat of the sand/clay soil from here on site... perfect for this sort of building. You mentioned about the junction of the regular straw bale and the slip straw technique... well I think I will apply some clay slip directly to the tops of the straw bale layer before I ad the slip straw so it might bond together when the slip straw is pressed into place.

The property is located about 10 miles East of Snowflake, AZ, (about 30 miles South of Route 66) at about 5900 foot elevation. It is a zone 6 area. Summers can get hot during the day but always cool at night. Not like the valley areas like Phoenix or Tucson.

As for insulation... I think it is a good idea to have as much insulation as possible or practical just about anywhere you live. Currently because of the straw bale, (even with no insulation on the tops of the walls!) I have been living there for a month with no additional heating... just a little warmth from opening doors during warm days. Its been very comfortable. During the hotter summer, I am sure I will appreciate the cool house.

You asked for more photos...Here is a picture of the 'hogan'. It obviously needs some love... the roof is in the works to get fixed up, and the walls needs a few more coats of earth. But its home! I don't have any other good interior pictures. Will have to wait on that.

the hogan.jpg
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I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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