A Strawbale Retrofit and Timberframe Addition

This is the house of Sam and Kappy and their respective kids. Sam and his kids were hosts of the '98 Colloquium East.

The house was built in 1926, a small country house which originally had no plumbing or electricity. Modifications made before installing the bales included replacing the single interior bearing wall with posts and beam, and strengthening the ceiling joists by doubling them with new stock so that the attic space could be converted into usable living space. The plaster was not removed from the existing exterior walls, which had insulation in some places and not in others.

Bales were brought into the house and placed against the exterior framed plastered walls, and tied with twine course-by-course to nails pounded into the studs through the plaster. The wall-side of the bales were not sealed. Given the climate and particulars of this project, there's no real reason I can think of why that should be a problem, though I would under most circumstances recommend sealing both sides of the bales.

Peeled poles were nailed to the joists (and toenailed to the wooden floor) after the bales were in place. The poles were principally intended as attachment points for shelving, etc. - but as it turns out they look pretty good too, and lend some assistance in keeping the bales pressed against the original stud wall.

The bales have an earthen plaster. In the kitchen and bath, two coats have been applied; in the rest of the house, one coat so far.

The above photos shows the posts (in the round) and beam that replaced the original interior bearing wall, and the earth-plastered bales bullnosed around the windows. The areas above the windows show the original plaster; those will eventually be covered with 1/4" curved boards (owner-cut from logs) angling up from the windows - sort of like siding in reverse. The lapped boards will continue over the entire ceiling, which will look terrific.

Those things poking in from the left side of the photo are whimsical snake heads made in a moment of inspiration from the wild ends of the boards. They're shown below from the other side.