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.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A little finish coat and some photos

On Wednesday this week, we decided to put the finish coat of plaster on the walls above the open, center section of the house. I wanted to get the scaffolding out, and we needed it for doing these walls.

I purchased some wheat paste from Natural Craft Supply the previous week which arrived this week. I can make my own wheat paste for less money using high-gluten white flour, but the product I bought is easy to use and works well. The idea with the wheat paste is that it works as a binder in the plaster. Basically, it’s a glue made out of flour (traditionally, it’s been used to glue wall paper to the wall). It helps to hold the plaster together more strongly and keeps the surface from dusting off when it’s dry. It works, too.

Our recipe for the finish plaster was to screen 5 gallons of sand through a window screen (it is amazing how many rocks can be screened out of sand). Then, we mixed in 3.25 gallons of dry, powdered, white kaolin clay by hand. 013Once that was mixed, we mixed in 1.5 pounds of wheat paste (about 3 cups of dry powder). The next step was to add water and mix thoroughly. It’s amazing how much water it can absorb – about 4 gallons.

We found that it is easiest to smear the plaster on with your hands after dampening the wall (we use a garden sprayer) and then trowel it as smooth as possible, adding or removing material as necessary. After the plaster has begun to set up a little as it begins to dry, I came back over it with a pool trowel to take out trowel marks from the previous step. I tried buffing it with a yogurt container lid, but I liked the trowel better.


The plaster looks gray when it’s wet, but it dries to a white color. Later, I will mix up an alis to paint the walls with. An alis is a clay-based paint (clay, fine silica sand, wheat paste, and water). This will help even out the color (white because we’re using white clay – I’m not intending to put in any pigments) and seal up the finish coat a little more.

Yesterday, the boys and I straightened things up in the house and swept the floors. We also removed the scaffolding from the center of the house. I took a few photos to share.











The photo below is one from three that my camera stitched together – the beams are not really curved like that.



Matt Johnson. said...

I love your blog and check in on it regularly. I am building a shed out of pallets right now that will have light clay straw insulation and clay plaster. My question is how many square feet does that finished plaster recipe cover? How much white clay and wheat paste do you think you will need? Keep up the good work. You will eventually finish!

dp said...

I'm glad you like the blog, Matt, and thanks for the encouragement. I did a quick calculation and figured that each batch using the recipe I shared covered about 70 square feet of wall space. I haven't calculated how many batches it will take to finish the whole house to know the volume of wheat paste and kaolin clay needed. I bought 2,000 pounds of the clay, which I think will be enough. I will need more wheat paste, though.

Anonymous said...

Still following. Your home is beautiful. Jennifer in western NC

dp said...

Thanks, Jennifer! I'm glad you're still following.

Anonymous said...

Nice job can't wait to see the finishes you choose in the kitchen.