Electrical cables in our straw bale home

 In Blog, Student Post

The end of this week marks the halfway point of our build, and what an 8 weeks it has been so far! It’s hard to believe we now have electrical cables in the wall! Many of us have gone from complete novices, green behind the ears but full of enthusiasm, to feeling and behaving like confident and competent builders. It’s wonderful to see everyone working away, assured in what they’re doing, solving challenges that arise and doing so using all the experience garnered in the last two months. Satisfying stuff indeed!

Roof gets completed

straw bale house roof

This week has seen us reach full water-tightness via fitting the ridge plate to the apex of the roof, reaching ceiling height on our straw bale walls, and arriving at the point in the build where all things mud-on-walls-based rest teasingly on the horizon!

Extra Curricular Activities

spoonfest

A few of us returned to camp at the start of the week following an incredible weekend of carving, axing and conversing at Spoonfest (a greenwood carving event held in the beautiful spot of Edale, Peak District, full of the most wonderful people – I could write a blog post about this alone, but let’s just say that Jeffrey’s enthusiasm  about it was thoroughly reciprocated by us two relative newbies to the world of spoon carving!).

Straw bale gables and compression

Back to the build, and this week saw us back to fitting the last of the straw bales. The final lower straw bale walls were compressed using car jacks to provide full racking strength to our structure, and we then moved on to the slightly more fiddly and complex task of fitting triangular shaped bales to our gables. This was made much less frustrating by Jodie’s clever jig, which held the bales in place, and provided the angle necessary to cut to make our bales fit into the edges of the gables. A bit of stuffing of any gaps, some tying in and a little persuasion (a few days hard work) et voilà – our gables are full of straw, and wonderfully insulated. The building looks beautifully cosy now it has its full furry jacket on!

A partition wall was fitted in the larger of the two workshops providing another new space, which will house a toilet and storage area, with a nifty raised area above the ceiling to provide a further storage area between the roof trusses. The wood and garden stores were boarded out with OSB sheathing, creating more defined spaces, and generally speaking lots of small, niggly jobs were completed in order to allow for the plastering to start next week. This notably involved a huge amount of wood fibre board and sheeps wool of varying thicknesses being fitted above walls, between rafters, and in any other space in order to close any gaps and create a super-insulated building, work which will carry through until next week, once again in preparation for clay plastering.

How to install electrical cables in a straw bale wall

electrical cables in a straw bale home

Meanwhile, subcontractors have been on site in the form of electricians, who spent 2 days placing all the electrical wiring ready for lighting and power sockets to be fitted.

I heard them comment that they weren’t used to working on such supportive, encouraging and pleasant sites, a feeling I understand from my working life P.H. (pre-Hartwyn).

Electricians on site with Hartwyn

Sheep shears were employed with great dexterity to cut declivities into the straw bale walls so the wiring sits flush inside the wall, ready to be plastered over and sunk away into the walls.

And how do you attach plug sockets etc. to straw bale walls I hear you ask?We spiked large hazel pins into the straw bale wall and fixed a piece of ply to the hazel. This provides a solid fixing point for the electricians to mount the back boxes for our plug sockets. The electricians haven’t worked on a straw bale home before, so were a little sceptical of this method (almost everybody is at first!) but were quickly won over when they tried to pull the hazel out! The depth of how much straw we remove from behind the sockets is carefully calculated using our plaster thickness.

– simple, effective and very satisfying! Everyone is of course on high alert to NOT DRILL THROUGH THE ELECTRICAL CABLES!

In summary

straw bale house is long

The building is really starting to reveal its form, with more and more rooms and spaces being defined and areas really taking shape. It seems a far cry from the first few weeks of foundations and bricklaying, where the building’s footprint provided just a sneak peak into what was to come. It’s an incredibly gratifying sensation to see the building’s character emerging before your eyes, especially so when it’s this tight-knit group of friends we find ourselves in whose hands and feet are doing the work.  

Our next destination is – MUD!! Watch this space…

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