I wrote up a post in December about slip straw construction, wherein an enterprising (and broke) builder might construct solid, durable walls out of nothing more than straw and clay. Which we did, or Paul did, in the north wall of our bedroom-in-progress. Recently the weather finally got nice for applying stucco and so Paul put the outer coats on over the straw. It looks nice!
Actually, I just talked to Paul (“have you got any tips you want to put into my post? any comments?” “No.” “Ah, come on…”) and he said he wants to put another layer on to make it look white instead of grey and hit the timbers with a sander to get the blotches off. Basically make it all pretty-like. I think it looks good as is, but he has higher standards than I do, I guess.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
You might recall that the walls themselves went in for super cheap, around $20 a panel (there being three panels on this wall). He did find some shrinkage around a couple of the edges, enough that he filled the gap with some spray foam insulation.
This shot is from before he quite finished, you can see the gaps at the top waiting to be filled with straw. Those aren’t the gaps he filled with spray-insulation! The insulation-filled gaps where the straw had shrunk as it dried were less than an inch wide. Just thought I would clear that up.
Okay, once the straw/clay was dry enough, Paul put on lathe, a wire mesh layer, to make sure the stucco bonded well to the straw. He also said it made the whole thing feel more tied in and solid. It took 6 panels of this, at $7 a panel.
Next came the first scratch coat.
Then the next layer. You can actually see some of the new layer going on the lower half of this triangle, and the older, rougher layer in the upper area. Paul says he used basically the same mortar mix for both of these layers, a combo of Portland cement, sand, and water. We already had the sand, so hard to factor that into the cost but he said it took about two bags of Portland at $13 bucks a bag.
On the first layer, he did get some cracking in one section, so he sprayed it down with water for a day or two to make it dry more slowly, which seemed to work.
This is where it is at the moment, sans white layer and timber sanding. It feels really solid. I’d say, if you hit it with you hand you’ll definitely hurt your hand, although, if you hit it with a sledgehammer, you’ll hurt the wall. But sturdy. Not a flimsy feeling wall by any means.
Oh, why is that final triangle empty? Because Paul decided he hated this method of building so much he couldn’t bear to do even one more section of it. As I reported in my previous post, he said, and I quote, “it sucks donkey dicks.” Care to be more specific, my husband? “It’s boring as fuck.”
There you have it.
He has some rocks picked out for those two smallish square sections, plans to do some stone masonry there. I’m not sure what the plan is for that empty triangle on the far right. Something more entertaining than slip straw.
To tally up: $60 for the straw + $0 for the clay + $40 for the cement + $40 for the lathe = $140 for this wall so far. I like this number so much, I think the boredom factor should be irrelevant. But…I’m not the builder. If I was willing to do the work myself, I’m sure Paul would be all for it. But I’ve got novels to write, you know. I’ve got things.
When he finishes it up, I’ll post a final beauty shot. I think it will look cool with the other panels in their own materials, kind of a crazy quilt of building methods. What will he do next, I wonder?