The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Beginning the second exterior coat of plaster

The plaster that was applied on the day of the mud party is drying nicely. It looks like the upstairs walls will be dry by this weekend while the walls under the porch roof will take a few days longer. They don’t get the same air and sunlight, of course.

Danny and I started applying the second coat on Tuesday to some of the walls which we’d previously plastered with the first coat. The walls from the sewing room/study around the laundry room and mudroom all the way to the kitchen had a dry first coat of plaster. It was easiest to start on the porch area on the west side of the house.

Even though we didn’t get an early start and took some extra time in the middle of the day for a couple of errands, we were able to complete all of the wall area on this side of the lower walls with 2nd coat of plaster appliedporch and begin on the other side of the kitchen.

One of the reasons that I selected this wall to start with is because it is protected by the porch roof. I wasn’t sure about the mix ratios for the plaster, and we still needed to figure out how to best apply it.  If there are cracks in the plaster here or application problems, they are less likely to cause any problems than if they were elsewhere.

west wallYesterday, Dad and Jon joined Danny and I in plastering around the rest of the walls that had dry first coat plaster.    We were able to get the second coat on all of these areas except for three very small areas on the kitchen walls (there wasn’t enough in the last batch of plaster). I’ll complete these today or tomorrow.

I ended up mixing five gallons of clay with ten gallons of sand, a quart of wheat paste, a gallon of chopped straw, and about north wallfour gallons of water (we chopped the straw with a mulching lawn mower). The application procedure involved wetting the surface of the previous coat of plaster (we used a garden sprayer), smearing plaster on the wall by hand, getting plenty in the corners, edges, and deep spots, and then using a trowel to smooth it out and add more plaster as needed.

The ideal is to have a flat, even surface. However, we didn’t pursue that ideal. The operating goal we had was to get a good coat of plaster over the first coat, smoothing out the depressions and ridges as best we could. second coat of plaster surfaceWe didn’t worry about a smooth, flat surface as much as increasing the overall thickness of the plaster on the wall, filling voids/depressions, generally smoothing out undulations in the wall, and sealing up cracks on the first coat. The resulting surface still has undulations, less than what was there before, though. Since it will be covered with siding, it’s not necessary for it to be perfectly smooth and flat.

As the plaster dries, I will be able to observe the number and types of cracks that appear in the surface. They aren’t critical at this point, and I may or may not do something to seal them, depending on their location and size. The siding’s job is to provide a layer of protection for the plaster and bales, keeping rain and other moisture off. If it does it’s job as expected, some small cracks in the exterior wall surface will not be an issue.

kitchen wall

I’ll see how the plaster dries today and tomorrow. My thought for Friday is to put windows in on the walls that have the second coat of plaster. The windows which have been stored in the barn for some time will need to be cleaned first. With windows in and the second coat of plaster, the bales ought to be protected well enough from all by a driving rain. I may cover them with plastic anyway until I get a chance to put the siding on. I’ll definitely cover the upstairs walls with plastic before the weekend (maybe we’ll get rain).


Ruth said...

Hi, Darryl, I have a questions - since mice and who knows what else would love to live in your straw bales, what will need to be done about "critters" in the straw as you are closing it in? And how much do have to have finished on your house before you will be able to move in?

dp said...

I'm going to put up some "No vermin allowed" signs and hope that all such critters are able to read! :)

I'm trying to make the house tight enough that mice and other varmints can't get in. Of course, at this point they still can. However, there is little to attract them other than a cozy place to hole up. Once the bales are plastered, they shouldn't be a problem -- straw bales are dense enough to prohibit ease of travel through them, and there isn't supposed to be any grains or other food stuff to attract them.

I want the house basically done before we move in, rather than needing to live in a work zone. There may be a few things like some shelves or some exterior work (landscaping or painting) to be done after we move in, though. If we didn't have someplace comfortable to live in during construction, we would probably be motivated to move in in a less than done state.

Ruth said...

Thanks! :) Could I borrow the sign when you are finished with it? :)