Our Straw House



We did *a lot* of planning & preparation long before breaking ground.  For example, we drew many, many floorplans (I believe there were at least 39 floorplans before we settled on one).  Here are just a few of the things we did in preparation:

First, we dug at the building site and took soil samples.  We let the soil dry out, then placed the soil in a jar, covered each sample with water and shook the jar until the soil broke down completely.  Then we left it to settle out for about 24 hours.  Here's what we got from one of the samples:

It showed us that what we had thought was soil with lots of clay, turned out to be silty soil with a very small amount of clay.  This means that making earthen plaster from the site soil was not going to work.

Another test we did was to stake out the whole floorplan at the building site.  This was a very valuable exercise - we realized that the second bathroom was much too big, as well as the entry way.  We made adjustments that allowed more space in the great room and the kitchen - both places we will spend a lot more time.

Once we settled on a floorplan, we hired a structural engineer, John MacIntyre, who worked with us to ensure it won't fall down - always a good feature in a house!  With John's guidance, Mark did all of our architectural drawings.
For a look at the cross-section drawing of our house, click here.

It was really important to mix test batches of earthen plaster:

As well as colour tests:

We have also tested several techniques for interior walls - we want them to have a similar texture as the exterior plastered walls.  We have played with a lath & cob technique as well as a product called Structo-lite on drywall: