Day four, the last day of the straw bale workshop. I admit, I’m exhausted albeit it was an awesome experience. We did a lot of work on the house in a short amount of time. It’s amazing to see the progress from a timber frame to rendered walls.
Today’s biggest job was to begin rendering the interior straw walls. The mud walls we had been working on until today are drying out and will be ready for render in about three weeks time. The straw walls we put in place four days ago however were ready to be covered in mud.
So, it was a muddy day again. The walls needed a slip render first, a very watery render made of clay and water, and then a clay-sand render. I extended my rendering skills from yesterday and filled a future bedroom wall with earth render. It was a tiring task because the render is quite heavy and the straw didn’t always take the render straight away. I was also not used to the equipment and struggled a bit with holding it right. Building mud walls is more my kind of work: forming mud balls with my hands. The result of the earth render on the straw walls however is very beautiful (even my part).
Over the next few days and weeks all walls will dry out. We could already see today that the outside walls showed some cracking. According to the expert however that is normal and expected. The inside walls will crack even more because of the high clay content in the render. With the next two coats on all walls these cracks will disappear. The house will be left with a weather and pest resistant outside wall and a moisture, air quality, and temperature regulating inside.
We all got a taste of the properties of the house with its straw bale walls today as well. It was one of those last-day-of-summer days and relatively warm outside – actually to the point of uncomfortable when working with render on the sunny side of the house. The temperature inside the house however was notably cooler than outside. The drying walls did play a role in this temperature difference. However, considering neither windows nor doors are in place yet the effect of the straw bales was stunning.
Over the last few days I’ve gained a lot of practical experience with regards to building a house in general and building with natural materials in particular. I really enjoyed the versatile properties of mud and its applicabilities as wall building and wall covering material. I will gather my thoughts and give my body time to heal before I write a final recap. For today I can say that I feel very proud to have contributed to building a house and that I will remember the various walls I have build and rendered in the last days. It will be exciting to see the house finished.