The Straw House Blog


The House in Pictures

I’ve put together an overview in pictures of the house from the day we broke ground (August 2002) to when we moved in (May 2003).



Rainy day, dream away

We have a mailbox now. Amazingly the post office has been the least bureaucratic group we’ve had to deal with (so far). Their criteria for starting mail service is: install a mailbox, put your name on it, call them. Oh, and the mailbox may not be more than 42” off the ground. So tomorrow I will put my name on it, and call them.

One of the things I really like about the country is how neighbours really do go out of their way to help each other out. Randy and Kevin Morton who farm our land, and hunt on our land, and whose great-uncle we bought the land from, came down with their post-hole digger to help us install our mailbox. We used a cedar post leftover from our cut two years ago.

Nick spent the night with us at my parent’s place, and was back sanding at 10am. He sanded pretty much non-stop until 5:30pm. His whole body must have been vibrating at the end of the day. He got most of the cupola done and he’s staying over again tonight so that he can finish the rest tomorrow. It’s a crappy job and we’re very thankful that he’s up there doing it.

Dad and I worked on a whole variety of small tasks around the house including,  installing the locks on the bathroom door, some plumbing work, a bunch of electrical work and a whole heap of planning.

Tomorrow we’re going to have a seriously busy day as we are expecting visits from Simon to install the solar hot water system and fix our water pump, Dan Peel to change the radiant system over to air temperature thermostats, Andrew Green (the plumber) to fix a couple of problems and finish the dog bath and bathtub (human bath), and last but certainly not least my cousins Phil and Steve are coming up. This will be the first time that Steve has actually been up to the house.



Well it’s been a seriously crappy week so far, but we got some fantastic pictures today! The windows are in, the septic tank is in, and with any luck the roof will be going on at the end of this week. Repeat after me, “Enclosed by Christmas, enclosed by Christmas.”



Preparing for Straw - Part One

We have two days to get ready for the straw bale raising on Friday. We have to finish the purlins, plywood and corners so that we can get the Ice and Water shield down. We have to put plywood under the trusses around the outside edge. The straw bales sit on the curb, and they rest against the plywood at the top.

Hopefully Jerry and the boys will be back for a couple of days of work this week, with their help we could get it all done. Without them it’s going to be tricky.

Today we had Mom and Dad, Rene, Joanne and myself.



Purlin - An English Word of Unknown Origin

Today was quite the day. It started out with the entire countryside covered in about 2 centimetres of the most pristine white fluffy snow. The temperature was just below zero and the sky was clear and blue. Beautiful.

Jo and I arrived at 8:30 and we started clearing snow. Mike showed up shortly after that. He and Jo started on the corners while I went up top and finished up the west side trusses. Dad and Mom had to drive into Peterborough to pick up some lumber, when they got back Dad started helping Mike, and Joanne came up top to help me start on the purlins. When Ian and Tiff arrived they got started on the east side. They had those done by lunch, and we got them started helping us with the purlins. That’s when the wheels started to come off the wagon. 

The purlins are much more time consuming than we had anticipated, not to mention that the first nail has to go in at the very end of the truss which overhangs the beam by six feet. That’s quite the stretch, and if you don’t have a head for heights bracing both feet on wobbly trusses is not a great deal of fun.


Then we discovered (by accident) that the ends of the front trusses on the east side did not match up with the ends on the back part of the roof. It seems that the long front-to-back truss had a fair bend to it and that had caused the curve in the ends. We attached a come-along by rope to the truss at one end and a post at the other and gradually pulled it back into true. Most of the long trusses have a bend to them, as we put the purlins on we have been straightening them, but that’s pretty time consuming. All told we did not get quite as much done as we had hoped.


We did take pictures.


Winter Wonderland

What a wild day we had today. We arrived at 9am to fairly heavy flurries. Our game plan was to get the corners filled in and as many of the trusses up as possible. We hand bombed the final four trusses and I went up and nailed them in place. Meanwhile Dad and Mike worked on the corners. Because the roof tapers at the edges the corners have to made up special.

Joanne, Ian and Tiffany showed up at noon so after we had lunch we started on the side trusses. By 4pm we were nailing in the last west side truss, and we were right in the middle of another major snow flurry.

Tomorrow we’re going to get the other corner roughed in, the east side trusses down and hopefully we’ll get a bunch of purlins done.


Yes, there are pictures.


I have a hammer!

Headed up to the land today to work on the trusses, unfortunately they weren’t back yet. It was just as well though since I showed up right in the middle of a snow squall, and you really don’t want to be working on the roof in driving snow.

So Jerry and the boys went home, but promised that they’d be back for at least two days next week to help get things finished. That was great news for us. The trusses then showed up about 2 hours later. We off-loaded them, and then started to ‘hand-bomb’ them up to the roof. Apparently hand-bombing is the term for lifting trusses (and truss-like things) up to the roof without a crane. Everybody’s gotta have their own lingo. We got most of them up there and then started nailing them down. After all this time working on the house it was nice to actually be swinging a hammer. We stopped half-way at 4pm because we had to move the scaffolding over, after that we called it a day.


Tomorrow we’re going to finish the trusses, and hopefully get the corners filled in. Sunday we’ll work on the purlins and maybe even get some plywood nailed down.


Ian’s coming tomorrow, and hopefully so is Mike Cooper. Rene put in a good weeks work and he’s taking the weekend off. The inspector will also be paying us a visit tomorrow so it’s going to be a busy weekend.


I did take some pictures today, here they are….



Trusses & Nitwits

With the back part of the post and beam structure done the guys could start on the trusses. Dad sent some pictures of what they got done today.

The trusses for the front had to go back to the manufacturer to get adjusted. They were too short to sit on the beam at the back of the high part. This beam was dropped 16 inches by the fellow who designed the trusses (for reasons far too opaque to go into). Originally hangers were to be attached to this beam and the trusses would have butt up against it, however when the beam was dropped the trusses should have been lengthened 5 inches to allow them to sit on the beam for support. When my father went into the lumberyard with this piece of info today the fellow said, “I knew that would be a problem!” So why didn’t he fix it then? This is when you do your calming exercises.

Unfortunately this has been a pattern for this whole stage of the process. Beams have been supplied too short, measurements for posts have been incorrect, the trusses for the cupola are completely screwed up, and we’ve had to make several trips to an engineer - at our own expense - just to make sure that things are correct. All in all we are deeply unimpressed. And yet, they are going to send a truck pick up our trusses and fix them, presumably on their nickel (though I shouldn’t speak too soon) and return them. And they are doing this without our even asking, it’s odd, just odd.


Getting closer

We didn’t get a whole lot done on the structure this weekend but there was lots of work none-the-less. We had a meeting with Paul and Mike Saturday morning and discussed various aspects of the structure as it stands now and going forward. It should be noted that Paul and Mike have remained remarkably congenial over the course of this endeavour, any disagreements have been smoothed over quickly, and neither has lost sight that the end goal is to get our house built. For those who don’t know disagreements, and even outright warfare between builders and architects is, while not exactly legend, certainly very well documented in the annals of home building.

We met with Pete Mack in the afternoon, he’s going to be our contractor for the straw bale portion. We chatted with him for nearly three hours, he’s a great guy and we’re looking forward to the raising. The raising will now be on the weekend of November 9th. I have every confidence that we will be able to make this deadline.

The post and beam should be done this week, there’s only five short posts and one beam to go. We have to get some more custom boots made, so they can’t raise the rest until we have those. Until then Jerry and his guys will be working on the trusses.

There’s about a million little details that have to be in place before straw bale can go up, we have to take care of all of those over the next couple of weeks.

We took some pictures of the house with almost all of the posts and beams in place. The front sure looks tall.



More Beams

Dad sent pictures of most of the beams erected. Hopefully they’ll be done today, and then we can get started on the trusses. After the trusses we prepare the top for the steel roofing. We’ve calculated that to cover the roof we’re going to need around 130 sheets of plywood!