Strawbale House

Building Progress of Our Strawbale House

Archive for the ‘Sustainable Principles’

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 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 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 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

Published November 5th, 2009

The only way is up!

guess where the bales goWe now have a slab with rods sticking our where the bales will go.  Next week (from 9/11/09) we are going to start putting the frame up with the assistance of a  local carpenter, Johan.

Timbercrete blocks (for wet areas and feature walls) have arrived and need a little longer to dry out before being laid. Timbercrete is waste timber shavings mixed with cement to create building blocks. You can saw them and you can nail into them! To get the full details of these amazing blocks check out . Why didn’t we do the whole house with them?- price!From our bedroom

Timber should arrive this week from Cypress supplies in Caboolture. It seems we were lucky to get the cypress pine that we did get second hand – it is very rare and not that much cheaper than new. This cypress is farmed sustainably and grows in Queensland. Roofing iron arrived today from North Coast Demolitions. It is new roofing iron, just left overs and job lot returns. Mark and I spent last Saturday morning sorting out which bits we wanted. Local transport guy, Rick was able to deliver it all today.

Stay tuned, it’s only getting more exciting!

Published September 30th, 2009

More bits and pieces

We are trying to keep our impact on the environment as low as possible, so we are constantly on the lookout for second hand items. Ebay has been great for the doors, windows, pavers (heaps) and some timber.

Some items I thought we were stuck with buying new i.e. the spa. Fortunately for us, one of my acupuncture clients turned out to be the owner of the Reno Barn in Tarragindi. So Mark and I, plans in hand, investigated the place one Monday afternoon.

Wow, what a treasure house! Beautiful stained glass from old pubs and demolished government buildings, kitchens, lighting, fireplaces, furniture, windows and  doors (sizes on them), timber (already denailed) plus some really cute memorabilia is on display, all neatly stacked and catalogued. Nuccia was awesome in helping us find what we needed: recycled cypress pine (didn’t know you could get it), hardwood posts, spa with working motor, laundry tubs, toilet suites, and best of all windows with stained glass for the servery.

e’d been looking for months for the servery windows on Ebay and they were always the wrong size or they were sold before we could put a bid in. So we were delighted with the find. Plus they delivered – hooray! Nuccia is still keeping an eye out for any more recycled cypress for us.

So I can highly recommend the Reno Barn – at 526 Tarragindi Road, Salisbury QLD 4107 (Evans Road End)
Phone Number: (07) 3274 5663 (Yep, shameless plug but they deserve it, just check out the pics)

Published December 14th, 2008

Pathways to Resilience

Rosalba and I attended a one day event organised by the Sunshine Coast Energy Action Centre (S.E.A.C.) about Transition Town initiatives in South East Queensland. The Transition Town movement aims to provide solutions for dealing with peak-oil and climate change. Even if you don’t believe in peak-oil or climate change, the Transition Town movement still paints a path to sustainable and re-generative living.

The venue was the Eumundi Bamboo Forest, a most tranquil and inspiring setting as can be seen by the pictures.

The day especially highlighted what we as individuals can contribute towards building a supportive and resilient community without needing to wait for governments on any level.

We went into this day with a vague feeling what the Transition Town movement is about. By the end of the day we had a good understanding and felt empowered to take action to bring awareness to our local community of the need for change.

Bob Cameron of ROCKCOTE gave a very insightful talk about how his business reflects the permaculture principles. “There is no waste in Nature”, says Bob. So if we are to have true sustainability we must imitate nature. ROCKCOTE has taken this model and built a factory and showroom on the Gold Coast which is able to manufacture paints and renders while being energy positive and using only rain water harvested of the roofs of the company buildings.

What was also very inspiring was the ability to network and meet with like minded people who truely care about our only planet and have commitied their time and efforts towards creating resilient communities.

Published October 25th, 2008

Australia to get Electric Cars and Charging Network by 2012

FeoProject Better Place is planning on bringing electric cars and a charging network to Australia by  2012.

In a deal unveiled in Melbourne, international company Better Place plans to team up with AGL Energy and Macquarie Capital Group to set up a network of “charging spots” and “battery exchange stations” to power electric vehicles in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Shai Agassi, chief executive officer of Better Place, said he hoped Australia would prove that electric cars can work anywhere and that the technology to support electric cars is available now.

Blue Electric CarBetter Place plans to set-up a network of charging spots, to top up batteries, that would be located in places where cars park, including home garages, shopping centres and office car parks.

Additionally, on the outskirts of city centres and on freeways, “battery switching stations” would be built for trips longer than 161 kilometres.

Mr Agassi said Better Place wants to to build the infrastructure first, while the company was dealing with car manufacturers to produce the battery-run cars.

“You can’t sell cell phones before you have the towers,” he said.

Thanks to Jess at Sustainable Suburbia for blogging this and linking to the article in The Age news paper.