Strawbale House

Building Progress of Our Strawbale House

Archive for the ‘Walls’

Published July 1st, 2010

The Render Workshop

Awesome community-minded people turned up to do the workshop. The picture below shows the Saturday group. Some of these also came for Sunday’s session and some new people turned up on Sunday as well. Nick gave a great  teaching session about clay and the formulas required for the different coats and then it was hands on. We even had a professional photographer, Kat Gawlik (, come and video Saturday’s session. Even Kat  got in on the rendering on the Sunday. A lot was achieved, 1st and 2nd coats to all of the rooms in just these two days. Well done and thank you so much.

Published April 14th, 2010

Mud anyone?

Our house will have a lime render outside and a clay render inside. We have been busy filling the gaps between bales and between the window frames and the bales with cob. The process is a slurry coat which is just clay and water like a thick shake applied to the straw bale. This can be done with a render pump which will arrive soon. So in the meantime we have been applying it by hand. Making those mud pies as a child has come in handy.

slurry coat

The cob coat is 3 clay, 3 sand and 2 large buckets of finely cut straw. Water can be 2 – 3 buckets depending on how much the straw and clay absorb.  Again this cob mix is being applied by hand around the windows and doors.cob fill done by Rosalba In the picture below I have started to fill around the windows. I managed a 50mm thickness before stopping since I ran out of cob. Nick says if it starts to fall away then leave it to dry before continuing. Nick has completed several window edges already by hand- beautifully curved. Above the top plate more straw biscuits have been placed and cobbed over to create a creature free barrier and to add extra weight to compress the bales further. This is left to settle for a few days and then  the gripples are tighted once more.

If you are interested in learning these skills for your project, then we are having a Render Working Bee on the Saturday May 1, 2010 and Sunday May 2, 2010. Nick and Roger will be there again imparting their wisdom. We’ll cater the food and if you wish to camp in the house overnight you are most welcome. No smoking inside the house please. If you wish to come for only one day that’s ok too. Please contact us for further details.



Published April 14th, 2010

Thank you to all Helpers

House at end of working bee.

The straw bale wall raising weekend was an unqualified success. All the bales, except for the last row, were in place at the end of the weekend. Our bedroom wall was one exception with the determined Andy smacking in the last row on Saturday afternoon (video to come).  Perry and Dave were also determined in getting the ‘return wall’ finished on Sunday and left their mark.

Jan (Perry’s partner) and Gary (a most determined and skilful handyman) and his wife, Joy worked with me on the kitchen and pantry walls. Thanks also to Tim and his lovely wife, Kate who are hopefully getting their straw bale house happening soon. Thanks to George, Andy, Yucca and  Marie and friend who came on Saturday. On Sunday I’d like to thank Pascal and Pascal for their help and their discussion on solar cookers which they have imported for sale. Anyone interested in buying one see

Talking about cooking, the workers could not have had the energy to continue if it were not for the cooking of my friends Lindel and Col. Also in this area thanks to Alex, Nicholas and Melinda for being go-fors. Great work guys!

some of our helpers

Thank you also to our building team, Nick , Roger and Andrew who gave up

their weekend to impart their valuable knowledge of strawbale building and supervise the weekend. Mark will embed some videos of the weekend in future posts. For those that are impatient check out:

If I have left anyone out my sincerest apologies and please let me know so I can include you in the next post. Rosalba

Published April 2nd, 2010

Guided Tour

Here is a guided tour of our house on the first of the wall raising working bee.

Published February 20th, 2010

The deck, the roof and then…

Nick and Roger are amazing. In the last 4 weeks they have managed to do the deck, have the roof completed so the roofer can start and all internal walls are up as well. If you are ever considering building a straw bale house these are the guys to get it done. No fuss, happy to use recycled timber (deck is all recycled hardwood we sourced from eBay and local salvage yards), reasonably priced and so easy to deal with. They make building fun. Their website is . The next bit for them is to make the window boxes and put in the sills (also recycled)

Our neighbour has recommended her roofer, Andrew. He had her octagonal house roof up in a week and he says ours should be the same. So once the roof is on the strawbales can be delivered and the fun really starts.

Published February 20th, 2010

The Yin and Yang of Building

Just before Christmas, a wild storm swept through Conondale. I arrived just after it had ended. I hadn’t seen the carpenters’ progress for over a week so I went around marvelling at the progress they had made. En-suite, walk-in-robe and the rafters though half the house. It was amazing what they had achieved in only two weeks. All this Yang energy had progressed us so well. Then as I went down the hallway I noticed some rubble on the ground. I looked up and realised the back Timbercrete wall where the back door and toilet window were, were now horizontal. A freak wind had pushed the wall over. All other walls were intact. Fortunately we have building insurance, so were able to recoup the majority of the cost to rebuild the wall. The bricklayer called the Timbercrete guy in Brisbane, who said he remembered us but strangely sent the wrong sized blocks. Our bricklayer is now puzzled as how to proceed but says he’ll come up with something. Fortunately for the trees we have had lots of rain here but it has meant that Mike cannot fix this wall until it is fine for a few days. Meanwhile Nick and Roger steam on ahead with the framing and the rafters.

Published January 13th, 2010

Enviro friendly products

Cooee wood oil and cleaner

I found an Australian certified organic paint that doesn’t cost the earth. The straw bale walls will be rendered up to the pitching beams (far left). So Roger suggested I oil/paint them now as it would be easier than later. So at the Green Paint shop in West End, I found Cooee wood stains. Since the new window (couldn’t find a second hand one that size)  in the lounge is made of cedar, I decided to go cedar all the way. Really easy to apply with a sponge and all washes up in soapy water. I’ll need to re-apply it ever 1 -2 years depending on how much sun it gets, but no sanding involved. Just clean off the dust and reapply – easy.

Sustainable Cleaning Products

I just joined for action on climate change. In the “stories” section was a women promoting Enjo. I’ve seen this product (attended 2 parties) and I’m not saying they don’t work (large cleaning surface area is the principle), it’s just that they are made from petrochemicals, do not biodegrade, made in Austria (Europe) (think of the fuel miles, folks) and they cost a fortune! Last time I attended they wanted $40 AU for a washing mitt, $40 for a jar of chalk and $28.50 for a bottle of diluted citric acid. Hey, I understand people want to make a profit but wow talk about being taken to the cleaners! And of course they had a mitt for every room in the house. It’s sold by party plan so the pressure is on to buy something cause you friend who invited you wants the $150 mop! Fortunately I have resisted and have come up with my own solution that costs very little, works splendidly and you can do it yourself:

I recycle old towels for dish/cleaning cloths. I cut out double hand size squares/rectangles and sew up two sides and bingo a cleaning mitten!  I get around 10 out of a towel – you know around the edge where the towel gets worn the least. Also because of the pile they have a greater surface area and are better cleaners than cloths with no pile. You can throw them in the wash to clean them and when they end their productive life they’ll biodegrade in the worm farm or as a small weed matt around seedlings. Brown vinegar in the toilet cleans all stains and if left overnight even gets rid of the nastiest stains. Citric acid derived from citrus (around $1.50 at the supermarket) sprinkled lightly around taps gets rid of soap build up and makes them shiny. Also good on mould. I have found a tissue (sticks better than  a rag) soaked in lemon juice on those difficult corners in the shower, left overnight will lift mould and bleach the grout white again. Ground chalk (calcium carbonate) mixed with a bit of soap does as good a job as those creme cleaners and safe to use on stainless steel. I made a dusting mitten from leftover fake fur I had used to make toys when the kids were little – works a treat. Mirrors – squirt bottle with vinegar and water, wipe with a shamie followed by crumpled up newspaper or handtowel – shiny!

So you can see the cleaning aisle in the supermarket is somewhere I just don’t go.

Published December 11th, 2009

Kurilpa bridge? Nah, these posts are straight.

091209 posts2kurilpa bridgeNick and Roger are making great progress with the framing (left). Lovely straight posts adorn our slab and define where our straw bale walls will be. The Kurilpa bridge (right) is a pedestrian bridge in Brisbane that looks like a steel spider web with twigs in it. Interesting engineering!

It’s incredibly hot and dry. Over 39 degrees celcius in the middle of the day and these guys just keep on working – absolutely amazing! Yours truly (Rosalba) had great difficulty keeping up with them in the middle of the day and had to sit in the shade for a bit and soak my hat in water. Even the normally delightful afternoon breeze was just hot wind. The guys had to construct a shaded area for the generator as it was overheating in the sun! Even with these super guys working for us, we won’t have a roof on before Christmas so you’ll have to wait until after New Year for the straw bale episode. Happy holidays!091209 posts3

Published November 25th, 2009

Walls not straw bale

Looking from dining to bedroom

Looking from dining to bedroom



In the wet areas and as thermal mass, it was decided to use timbercrete: waste sawdust, cement and sand which is formed into blocks/bricks and air dried. The beauty of this product is that it can be nailed into and cut  like wood, it is lighter weight than similar sized masonary. I went for the larger block as I have lived with brick feature walls in our last house for 13 years and was over it. The other option was mudbrick. I feel the benefit of mudbrick is if you make it yourself and thereby save money and fuel miles not having it delivered, but if I have to have them delivered from afar then I can’t see the point! We wanted the house finished in our lifetime so we chose the timbercrete. As you can see the hexagonal windows did prove to be a bit of a challenge to the bricklayer, Mike Pascoe but nothing he can’t handle – awesome bloke! The local carpenter, Johan, was finding the framing for the straw bales very challenging. He kept muttering the word – difficult. So as a sign of mercy and peace of mind for myself, I let him go. Instead we now have “it’s not a train crash” Nick and Roger of who specialise in straw bale building.  Nick and Roger believe that they can get the timber frame up before Christmas. We’re hoping to do a wall raising one weekend soon so stay tuned! I’ll try to remember the video camera for that one. Rosalba

media left, study right

media left, study right