The Straw House Blog


Ready for the Crane

I’d like to say that I came up today and got a huge amount of work done… but really my dad and Rene had just about everything done. I hammered a few nails, stuffed some insulation into the ceiling, but really I was just impressed with what Dad had got done.

So here’s the plan. Tomorrow the crane is going to show up at 11am. It is going to lift the roof ends into place at the end of the cupola. Then like busy little bees we’re going to quickly fasten the 2x4’s into their hurricane clips. There are about 175 clips - we will be busy. The ends are really quite ingenious, my father did an excellent job in both the planning and execution of a tricky job. Cudos also go to Paul and Charlie at Scott-Morris for suggesting the cantilever concept. Here’s hoping it works the way we all think it should.

In attendance tomorrow we should have Dad, Rene, Mike, Ian, Mom and myself. Gator will resume his supervisory role.

Gator’s got himself in all the pictures again.



The Cupola

They got the trusses up for the cupola today, as well as the two side beams. The side beam’s function is to hold in the front wall of the house - to keep it from tipping forward or backward since it is only held in place by its glass. Dad also ordered the insulation and got about 1/3 of it delivered today. The bags of insulation filled the entire back portion of the house. Mom and Rene are going to start putting that in tomorrow. Dad also finished the two ends for the cupola and we’ll be putting those up with a crane this weekend.

Now if we can just solve our roofer problems we’d be all set!



The Last Big Beam

The last big beam was dropped into place around noon today. We put up the short little posts in the morning and Jim Herlihey showed up with his crane and we got the sucker up. The beam has to be dropped into the shoes, and then the bolt holes are marked. When that’s done the beam is lifted back out and laid on the roof where we can drill it. It has to be drilled on the roof for two reasons, the first is that the bit is slightly larger than the holes in the saddles - in order to accommodate the bolts. And the second is that leaning out and around the posts you’d never be able to drill straight enough to make the hole go from one side to the other and match the holes. We did that for both beams. Then we had Jim lift up all of our trusses and remaining plywood to the roof for easy access when we do the cupola.

After lunch Dad and Mike worked on the end portions of the cupola roof, while Rena put up fascia boards and I tightened bolts and put out our tarps to cover the rest of the roof.

It was a beautiful day in the morning, the sun was out, the sky was blue, but the clouds rolled in right before lunch and it was cold and windy for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we’ll get the top side beams measured out and the trusses marked for the cupola. I think maybe, maybe, I can see a speck of light at the end of the tunnel. But I probably just jinxed myself.



Bales & Rain & Other Fun Stuff

Dave. Yes another Dave. Dave from Jerry’s crew showed up on Wednesday with another Dave, and they’re going to finish the back wall of the cupola. They got the first post up today, but got rained out. They’re coming back this weekend and we have a crane booked and they’re going to get that stuff done. Mike Cooper’s coming this weekend as well, he and Dad are going to get the ends of the cupola trusses built. I always feel better when Mike comes out, I just know when he’s around that he’s going to make sure things are done right.

And now we come to the good news/bad news portion of our entry. The straw bale people finished up today. Everything has two coats of stucco, inside and outside. Pete and Tina came by today and Pete did some touch-ups on the edges and around the posts and beams. The straw bale was the best part of this project so far. Pete said to me at the beginning that they often become friends with their clients, I can certainly understand the sentiment, I wish they were around for the rest of the project, they were great people to work with. Big thanks go out to Pete, Tina, Steven, Andrew and Dale.



Too cold

We started off our weekend Saturday morning at 7:30am, sunny, and minus 5 celcius. Camel’s Back were there to do the second coat on the inside but it was too cold. The stucco was freezing to the trowels. So around noon they gave up and went home for a much deserved rest. They’ll be back next week to finish up once it gets warmer.

Joanne, my parents, and I stayed and started work on the inside walls. We got them stacked and some of the mesh hung and called it a day. We didn’t know that Southern Ontario was about to get its first winter storm that night.

Sunday morning we slept in a bit and woke up to find the world covered in a blanket of fresh white beautiful snow. Now normally I love snow, I love winter and all it brings, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and tobagganning. But when you’re building a house snow sucks. I had to cover a couple of unfinished corners of the roof with tarps. To do so I had to walk on the big tarp that already covers most of the roof. Snowy tarps are more slippery than ice rinks. That wasn’t fun. Inevitably you tip some down your neck, your gloves and boots get wet and cold.  We could really use a couple more weeks of fall. Or just some fall at all, since we seemed to have slipped directly from summer into winter.

We finished up the walls and got the last of the mesh done then broke for lunch. So we had lunch. We sat on the bales, had lunch, and we all got cold. Very cold. Then Kevin Morton and his girlfriend came by and we chatted for a while and we all got colder. Meanwhile the snow is still coming down and I’m getting a bit concerned about the drive back to Toronto.

So we packed up and left. Unfortunately that means that the stitching still has to be done on the walls, plus a bit of stuffing. I don’t like leaving work for the poor people coming in after I’m gone back to the city. It’s not a nice feeling, there’s only so much you can get done in a weekend. I need to create more time. Anybody got a secret formula they want to share?




They got the first coat of plaster on the three outside walls today. Mom and Dad were pretty impressed with the whole process. They have this huge mixer and Tina runs the whole thing herself as the others take care of the plastering.



The Last Day (for me)

Today was my last day at the land, I’m posting this from the city. It’s been a wild 6 days, every joint in my body aches. That’s a lot of manual labour for a guy who’s used to sitting in front of a computer all day.

Today we finished up the west wall, Steve and my mom sewed the whole thing themselves. Rene finished up the insulation stops at the top of the trusses. Dad and I got some of the bale stops in for the inside walls and I restacked and covered over the bale pile. Pete and Tina worked on various odd jobs around the house getting it ready for stucco.

After lunch Tina went and got their big mixer, which was cool, but she also brought tarts! Good tarts. I’m seriously impressed with these straw bale people, they’re always cheerful and pleasant to be around, and they’re seriously concerned with doing a good job. If I could have them and Mike Cooper full time, I’d be a happy guy, and I’d sleep a heck of a lot better at night.

They start stuccoing tomorrow, hopefully dad will send some pictures. We’ll head back up this weekend to finish the inside walls.



Straw Baling, Day Three: Monday

Same stuff as yesterday basically. We finished off the west wall, and we got most of the stuff laid out for the inside walls. Tomorrow we should be able to get the ice and water shield finished.

We had a huge thunderstorm last night. We had three bales in the west wall saturated, they had to be pulled and replaced. The east wall had some damage as well, we’re hoping that we can dry it out ourselves.

Wednesday I have to go back to the city and back to work. I need the break, there are barely any parts of my body that don’t ache. Five days of construction is more than this city boy is used to.



Straw Bale Day - Part Two: Sunday

Well, we got to do a bunch more on the straw bale today. Mostly we worked inside stuffing holes with straw and stitching the inside mesh to the outside mesh. The rain broke briefly after lunch and we grabbed a bunch of bales and finished off the back wall.

I arrived at 8am with my father and with Mike, Mike’s son Ben, Dave, and Rene. We got a whole bunch more of the roof covered with ice and water shield until rain drove us off.

Unfortunately the rain got a bunch of our standing bales wet, we won’t know until tomorrow if they have to be pulled out of the wall or if they’re going to dry out.

Today Ian and Tiff came up again, Dana was there, my parents, two folks from Camel’s Back Steve and Andrew (both very cool), Rene, Joanne and myself.

Somebody took pictures.



Today We Baled - Part One: Saturday

What a great day. A chaotic whirlwind of a great day. From 8am to 9:30 we did prep work, by which time the majority of our volunteers had arrived. Also in attendence were the building inspector (Andy Van Hoof) and Paul Dowsett (the architect). Then we gathered round for a quick demo on how to tie half and part bales. We moved to the other side and had a small ceremony when we placed the first bale. We wanted my parents to be there helping do that because without them this house would not be where it is now, and there is as much of their sweat and effort in this house as ours.

Then they stacked.

I say they stacked because when we placed the first bale Tina (from Camel’s Back Construction) explained that the owners place the first bale because frequently they end up so busy during the day with little details that they never get to place another one. Boy was that true. Every time I tried to place a bale or do some ‘real’ work I’d hear, “Glen, could you come over here and answer a question?” My father said the whole day was like that for him as well. I figure over the course of the day I got to place about 6 bales, grind one, whack one, and stuff a bunch of gaps. But I tell you few things can top seeing your friends and family all with huge smiles on their faces building up the walls and all saying how totally cool they thought the whole experience was. I’m sad that my cousin Phil had to miss it (due to serious hockey accident) and that Ian and Tiffany couldn’t be there (they’re coming Sunday).

The east wall was the Jason, Kimmy, Chrissy wall, with a bunch of help from Aunt Joan, and my mom. Two Camel’s Back volunteers, Vince and Dave, also helped with the back portion and corner.

The north wall was the Karen, Jay (yes, a Jay and a Jason), Jenn and Neil wall, with lots of help from Steve, another Camel’s Backer. Neil took to the grinder like he was born with one in his hand - a mental image that would surprise no-one who knows him.

Paul and I started the west wall. Then both of us got diverted, I mostly saw Jay, Dana, my Mom, and Joanne. It was the real pot-luck wall, everybody threw in a bale.

We got tons of work done, and as an added bonus Dave McCracken came out and he and my father got the last corner finished. Rene and Dave quickly had the west side planked and later in the afternoon Mike showed up and they got started on the ice and water shield. They got 2/3 of the roof done before they ran out of shield. We’ve bought the rest and if the rain holds off we’ll get that done tomorrow.

All in all an incredible, fantastic, fun, exciting day. I am so thankful to all of our friends and family who came out to help. I’ve had fun building this house, I’ve learned alot, but this is the first day that I can say that I’ve really had fun. The first day building the house that I’ve felt really happy.

We took tons of pictures, here’s a bunch - two pages!