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.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vertical stringers

Since we are going to have a wood shingle siding on the outside of our house rather than just plastered straw bales, there is a need to have some sort of framing to hang the siding on. We were able to get started on some of this framing yesterday. Jon wasn’t able to make it, but Danny was glad to help.

The vertical stringers to which horizontal stringers will be attached (upon which the siding will hang) are 2x4s set 18 inches outside of the timber frame. These 2x4s extend from the floor level to the rafters. stock of 2x8sPreviously, I bought some 20 foot long 2x8s from a local guy with the intention of ripping them into 2x4s for framing purposes. These 2x8 boards were a good deal and make it possible for the vertical stringers to be one piece the whole distance.

We began the day by affixing a 2x4 to the rafters on the back of the house across the whole length. We snapped a chalk line to facilitate putting the board 18” outside the timber frame. Then, I climbed a ladder holding one end of the board while Danny lifted it with a 16 foot 2x4 nailed to the opposite end. He held up his end while I nailed the other end in place and then worked my way down the board nailing it to the rafters. vertical strapping on back of houseBecause of the length of the 2x4s we had, we only needed two to extend across the back of the house.

Next, I laid out the location of the windows on the back of the house, marking their location on the 2x4 bale toe-up on the floor. Later, we will build window bucks using 2x4s that will hang on the vertical stringers where the windows go. Upstairs windows are designed to be above downstairs windows, simplifying their framing.

Most of our windows require a 56” by 54” rough opening. So, we set the vertical stringers on the sides of the windows 59” apart, leaving 3” for the extra width of the window bucks that will be attached later.

After completing the back of the house, we moved our materials and tools to the front of the house to install the vertical stringers there. At this point, my left leg slipped through the 2xs on the bale toe-up causing some bruising in my thigh muscles. I was able to keep working the rest of the day, but by evening, the pain was intense. It’s much better today, though.stringers on front of house

After lunch, Danny and I cut boards and put the stringers up on the front of the house. It went surprisingly quickly, probably because we didn’t have to climb any tall ladders (we were working with 9’ 2x4s rather than 17 foot ones). We had to set them for front door and two large windows for the living room.

Since it didn’t take long to complete the front stringers, we moved to the east side of the house. On this side there are two more large windows on the end of the living room, an 8’ sliding glass door off of Anne’s and my bedroom, and a large window upstairs (these will all become more clearly visible when we make and install the window/door bucks). The tallest stringer was in the middle and is nearly 20 feet long.

For each of the stringers on the end of the house, we attached short sections of 2x4 to the roof sheeting to which the top of the stringers side and back of housecould be attached. I have one that I set out a bit too far (supposed to be 18”) which I will correct later. We were able to get all of them put in place before it was time to quit yesterday. We got more done than expected.

The stringers are nailed into the toe-up at the floor level, the 2nd story bale plate, and the 2x4s at rafter level. They aren’t required to provide structural support since there will be straw bales between them and the timber frame which will be able to support themselves. The straw bales will also help support the windows. Although the stringers will hold the window/door bucks in place, the bales will provide most of the support for them, too. The stringers, straw bales, and timber frame will also all be securely tied together when we install the bales.

Jon is planning on being here Wednesday. We’ll continue installing the stringers on the west side of the house. We may build and put in some window/door bucks. We might also begin putting up some stringers around the kitchen and above the root cellar.

    from a distance


Dan M. said...

Looking very good! Do you think you'll enjoy doing the interior work as much as the structural?

Sorry to hear about your leg, but glad to hear it felt better the next day.

dp said...

First of all, it will be nice to actually have a floor to stand on! :) But, I think I'll enjoy the interior work, too. A vision of the completed house provides motivation.

My leg continues to improve. It's not going to keep me from working.

Dan M. said...

Ha, well said! When I told others about my goal to build our own house, some of my family made reference to my late grandfather's house that he built. Most of it was finished, but some of the interior never got done. I think he enjoyed the building part a lot more than the finish work. His age and health did play a role in that too I'm sure.

I'm a lot like he was, so I can see myself needing some extra motivation to finish all the interior!

dp said...

My wife and I agree that we want the house finished before we move in. There may be a few things to do yet, like screen part of the porch, but the goal is for us to move into a finished house. Since we are comfortable in our current home, that is our aim.

Mountain Justice said...


Im looking for someone to lead a workshop on straw bale at the Whippoorwill Festival - Skills for Earth Friendly Living near Berea. The dates are July 11-14,

You can contact me by email or by phone 941 323 0565

Workshop leaders are not compensated but you get free admission and its a fun familay friendly fest. Thanks

Annie Matzkin said...

Hi there,

Im a producer looking for locations to film at for a show in kentucky.

I saw that your home was built with straw bale.

if you can please contact me at

i'd like to know more about cedar ridge farm.