The Straw House Blog


Tomorrow we bale!

Another long day today. In attendance today we had: Mom and Dad, Pete (the strawbale fella), Dana (a coworker), Leslie, Andrew, Andy, (three more straw baler’s), Rene, Joanne and myself.

We got one corner finished and covered over, we’ll have the other one done tomorrow (or die trying!) Pete, Lesley, Andrew and Andy showed up to help prep for the bales tomorrow, they helped hang the soffit boards that sit above the bales and they hung the mesh that sits in front of and behind the bales. The mesh is stitched to the bales and helps hold the stucco onto the bales.

Rene got most of the roof boards up and he’ll be done tomorrow no problem (or so he tells me).

We also had a visit from two officers from the conservation authority, they noticed all of the tracks into the land and came in to make sure that we hadn’t been having any trouble with trespassing hunters. Nice to know the right people are watching out for us.

Tomorrow we actually start laying bales. Pete said that he has a hemp bale that we’ll use as our first bale. Pretty cool. They’ll also be mixing hemp fibres into the stucco to give it strength and to help it cure.

We took a bunch of pictures. Don’t we always?



What a day.

We worked all day today, and still didn’t get done. So some of our volunteers are going to be doing some carpentry tomorrow. Early morning tomorrow, 8am. Gotta get more done.

We had lots of other stuff going on as well. Bob Coulter, the welder, showed up to attach the extra saddles to the front posts. These are necessary to hold the beam that ties the front part of the house to the back part.

Pete (the straw bale fella) showed up to drop off the mesh and check things out. I don’t think he was pleased with our lack of progress but he remained in good spirits.

The scaffolding, cement, and sand all got dropped off. Dad picked up the flashing, and we bought a generator.



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!




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.