I blinked and it was gone… Yes, summer has flown by! Suddenly the leaves are starting to turn in colour and float to the ground announcing autumn’s arrival. Summertime was exceptionally hot, not to mention dry, here in France, although I have the impression that it was the same throughout Europe.
A constant trickle of guests ensured we had plenty of people to enjoy the splendid weather with, and enjoy it we did. Progress on the house was somewhat slowed by the heat of the day, which lasted literally the entire day, from 11am-8pm throughout July and August. However, steady progress was made on the interior of the straw bale house.
I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor
For me, installing the floor created an abundance of building happiness. No more jumping around from joist to joist, praying that I wouldn’t break my ankle, no siree! Now the floor is a bona fide, solid, level (ish!) wonder which has, since June, functioned beautifully as both a magic homey haven and on occasion, an impromptu dance floor 💃🏽
Technically, preparing the floor was reasonably demanding and required a Lion’s share of patience to attach 9mm OSB to the underside of the joists. It sounds fairly easy in theory, yet the reality was much more difficult. SAS-style shimmying and yoga poses which tested my resolve were required to fit the boards to the underside with barely any room to manoeuvre between the ground and the joist. Plenty of bruises and rather too many choice words later, we had finished, but it had consumed two weeks!
During this process we encountered what can only be described as ‘critical drill failure’…
Despite the drill reaching the end of its life span, we continued with more merriment onto the insulation of the floor. To begin with I used up some of the excess wool from the original box beam, placing this in the joists under the bathroom. It was a painstaking job! Around 8 hours to fill three joists. Once that was finished we moved on to the rest of the floor and for this, we used cellulose, in our case it was mashed-up recycled newspapers. These came in 10kilo blocks which Dan placed into a mashing and blowing machine, which then travelled down a big pipe to me where I could direct the flow into the joist spaces. It was the fastest of fast processes, needless to say this was delightful after such an arduous process capping the bottom of the joists. It total, it took 1hr 45 minutes, et voilá!
This is a brief video of the insulation blowing process:
Once we were insulated, capping the joists with OSB tongue and groove was next on the agenda. This went in rapidly with help from two of our lovely friends. This isn’t the final floor, but it will remain forever. Once we have finished the internal walls we will install the final floor in each room on top of the OSB. But for now in the immortal words of David Bowie, let’s dance.
Oh… What A Feeling…
From the floor to the ceiling. Next job was to enclose the ceiling and insulate it ready for cold winter nights. We installed the ceiling with the help of a seriously brilliant plasterboard lifter (thank you family Kuech! 🙂 ) . After much deliberation, we decided to use plasterboard on the ceilings. Originally I wanted to create a wattle and daub ceiling (and we are currently building the interior walls using this technique), but we decided there was a possibility of the ceiling becoming too heavy for our scissor trusses. We also looked at plasterboard alternatives but cost became too much of a factor. Finally, we thought about a bamboo ceiling but this again was not possible due to the type of loose cellulose insulation we were using on top of the ceiling, which we had already purchased. And so, we arrived back at plasterboard.
A couple of prep jobs needed completing before fitting the boarding. To ensure that the blown insulation was prevented from entering the soffit cavity, we fitted small pieces of roofing membrane to the inside of the trusses and also all of the electric conduit had to be placed for lights and plugs. Once these were completed we commenced with the boarding. It was really simple and the use of a sharp blade was often great for cutting end pieces to size (just being careful to always cut on the good side first!).
With all the plasterboard up the house shape has really transformed. It’s much easier to feel as though we are in a proper house now. And the light…it’s so light inside that it is almost like being outside.
The true difference was also felt once the insulation was blown in. Until that point the house was like a tin with the lid off (thanks for the analogy Dan), however, once the ceiling had the cellulose insulation blown in the ambient temperature in the house is now truly astounding. After over 800 nights in our trusty but draughty caravan, it feels like this ambience is a magnificent reward.
A huge step forward for us was the installation of Dan’s awesome homemade Powerwall, wiring up, and switching on of all the electrics. We are now able to work and generally function in the house.
It remains the same as the 12V caravan system only on a larger scale. It will, in time, look much neater, especially once it is nicely housed in the pantry. So far so good, it provides us with everything we need, and next month we plan to try out a new super-low-power washing machine on the system 🙏🏼 A washing machine will be a real game changer!
Night delights! Fire and warmth are making chilly autumnal nights truly cosy inside the house. Dan went back to the UK to buy the stove second hand, it was a long trip but totally worth the time to have such a high quality stove and….oven! 👏🏼 Cake, pizza, baked potatoes, the possibilities are endless now.
It was pretty nerve-wracking placing the chimney through the ceiling, cutting a hole in the membrane and taking the roof tiles apart, nevertheless we fitted it to regulation standard and then some, just to be sure. The installation was fairly standard except for the flashing around the flue on the roof. Most flashings are made of lead, however, we want to collect rain water for drinking off the roof and, despite the fact it would be a tiny amount, I wasn’t keen to have lead flashing if it was avoidable. Enter, Wakaflex. And Shakira, plenty of humming Shakira’s World Cup song. Wakaflex is a durable silicone-based product that is supremely malleable and brilliant for the task on the roof. It took three of us, myself, Dan and brilliant help from our buddy, Monty, and every single finger we had, to ensure it went into each nook and cranny with no chance of water ingress into the roof cavity. The cavity which we had boxed out beforehand was filled with Perlite, the same inert insulation material used in our initial box beam.
Once installed we held our breath and had our first fire regardless of the rather high temperature outside!
On To A Bigger Stage
Now we are moving onto the internal wattle and daub walls alongside the gravity-fed plumbing system and ferro-cement water tanks. We are so happy to be living in the house and have very much enjoyed the space since our migration from the caravan to the house began in June.