The Straw House Blog



We rented a crane for this morning and moved the beams over to the slab. Jerry and his boys also placed a couple of the beams while they had the crane there. They’ll put up the rest of the beams with a ‘material lifter’, a small crane that can lift up to 600 pounds up to 24 feet. The biggest beams are too big for this so they might rent a second (one for each end) or get the big crane back. The materials lifter costs $60/day, the crane cost $90/hour. Thanks go to Jerry for suggesting we rent this thing, it’s nice when the contractors are working to save you money.


Dad sent pictures. The small yellow thing on the slab is the lifter.



Window and Door Bucks

We did some work on the door and window bucks today but got rained out. I also replaced the inside portion of the straw bale curbs - I had made a mistake and didn’t leave enough space for the weight of the outer layer of stucco. The curbs are now 16” wide, that should do the trick. Next week they continue with the post and beam, I’m hoping to get up the for at least one day. I hate just getting the daily report from my Dad, I want to get up there and participate a bit more, the weekend just isn’t enough.

As has happened several times over the course of this project a subcontractor has gone AWOL, this time it’s the roofer. This always leaves me in an uncomfortable position, they might be off on another job and just temporarily out of contact, but ready to do your job as soon as they get beck, which has happened before. Or they might be busy with some other large job and they have no intention of doing yours, nor are they going to call you to let you know, which has also happened before. So what do you do?


Some Reflections on Building

We’ve come a long way this summer: excavations, footings, bracing, foundation walls, bracing, the slab, more bracing, and now the posts. We’ve done a lot more of this ourselves than we expected, and in some ways we’ve done less than we hoped. We’ve had the normal problems with (sub) contractors that don’t return calls or that cancel with little or no notice, and with materials suppliers that sit on cheques but don’t fill orders. And the scheduling! Oh man, the nightmare that is scheduling. The whole experience so far has been frustrating and exhilarating and maddening and exciting. We’ve learned so much, and really, we’re only about half way done.

I’m reflecting on this because we came up this morning and we got to see (in person) the posts standing (this week, like everyone else, we only got to see them in my Dad’s pictures). Now with the posts going up it’s starting to look like a house, you can see were rooms might go, and you can start to get a real sense of scale about the whole thing. But it’s a little depressing at the same time, this is the part of the process that I had hoped to be able to participate in, but my work is very busy right now and I’m just not going to be able to spare much time.

I’ve said before that we got lucky with our choice of builder, even if we got unlucky with his schedule, well we also got lucky with the guy doing our post and beam and truss installation. Jerry and his crew seem to be excellent. They know their stuff, they’re taking the time to do everything right, and I hope we can get enough of their time to take it right up to the steel roof.

This weekend we’re fixing a problem with our straw bale curbs, and we’re building the door and window bucks. These bucks are inserted into the bale walls as they are built and provide the openings for the windows and doors.



More posts

Jerry and the guys got more of the posts up today. On Monday they have a crane coming and they’ll be putting some of the beams up. The posts for the front part of the house won’t be standing until Wednesday. Some of the posts were spec’d at 5 1/4” square and we changed them to 7 1/4” square for strength and to match all the other posts.

This weekend we’re going to be building up the door and window bucks in preparation for the straw bale.

It’s going to be quite a change up there this weekend, for most of the summer we worked through quite oppressive heat, 30+ degrees for most of August and part of September. This weekend it’s looking to be just above zero degrees. Ya gotta love Canada - real seasons.


First Posts!

After several weeks of trouble and problems we finally have our first posts standing. My father deserves all of the credit for getting us to this point. He has had to do an incredible juggling act with the lumber suppliers and the post and beam guys, but that all seems to be settled and we’re moving forward.

Dad took three of the nicest pictures I’ve seen in a long time.

We might even make our new revised straw bale raising date of November 2.



Curb it

We put the curbs in place for the straw bale. The curbs are made of 2x6’s, 5” of rigid foam and 2x4’s, for a total of 14”. They support the straw bale from beneath, and protect them from any water that might get under the walls (floods, spills etc.)

Jerry showed up to work on the post and beam but we discovered that we really need more information before we can tackle that. It looks like the lumber place may not have supplied all of the right wood. They also did not supply a schedule for the metal fittings so Dad and I sat down when we were done and tried to figure out where they go. There are a bunch of fittings all of various shapes and sizes. They are meant to fit on top of the posts so that they can support the beams and hold them in place. Anyway Dad and Jerry are going to go in to the lumber place in the morning to try and straighten things out.


Dirty Boots

After a week of various delays and problems Jerry and his guys managed to get most of the boots attached. The boots hold the main posts in place, each is 7 1/2 inches square and is made of 1/4 inch welded steel. They are held down to the slab with 4 inch long 3/4 inch lag bolts. Before they put the bolt in they fill the hole with epoxy. Those bolts are in there for life! They are seriously attached.

Unfortunately, due to the delays in getting Jerry started, and due to concerns about doing the straw bale without the roof in place, we have had to postpone the straw bale raising to the first weekend of November. The delays were not Jerry’s fault, and mostly had to due with a combination of weather and supply issues. We took some pictures of the boots on the slab.


This weekend: Nothing to report

There’s not much to report this weekend. We went up to our cottage to take in the boats and docks for the winter. We did stop by the land and the posts, beams, and fittings are all there. The slab has some cracks in it already. We were warned but you always hope that it won’t crack.

Monday they start putting up the post and beam. I’ll post pictures if my dad sends me any. Next week we’ll be putting wood around the perimeter of the house for the bales to sit on. The week after next is the straw bale raising. Time’s moving fast.