Sunday, November 22, 2009

Straw Bale Coop (Part Five): Pinning, cont.

When last we spoke, I had talked about pinning in terms of pinning the bales together vertically as you stack them in courses.

Once you have your bales stacked, it's very tempting to think that it's time to plaster the bales. However, at this point it is very important to "tie" your bales into the top and bottom of whatever structure you have built. This is one more way to add strength to your wall.

(For those readers who do not know me well, I have to reiterate at this point that I am not an expert in straw bale building. I lean on the experience of those who have gone before me as well as personal building experience. My husband and I have built two homes and a garage out of bales. If there is something I emphasize, it is usually because we have made a mistake and learned the hard way.)

Let's talk for a minute about holes.

Holes are not your friend. They result when bales are not exactly rectangular; when you have two slightly curved corners come together. You need to fill them, and you need to fill them well.

This is what a hole looks like. (I know, sounds pretty obvious.)

This is that same wall, a minute later, after I stuffed loose straw into the hole. I can't overstate how important it is to fill holes. If you don't fill them with straw, you'll be filling them later with handful after handful of valuable earth plaster. (If you're not planning to plaster your wall, perhaps opting to cover your wall with T-111 or a similar product, holes in your wall will greatly reduce the energy efficiency and warmth of your wall.)

To tie the bottom of our wall into our foundation, we used two-foot tall chicken wire. Pretty straightforward, we cut the wire to the length of your wall. We've used two methods in past construction for attaching the wire to the bale wall. First, you could "sew" the wire on using baling twine and a bale needle. Second, you could create a number of long pins to hold the wire securely in place. For this project, we chose to use pins.

At this point, it was important to assemble a large number of pins. (The ones in this photo were made out of coat hangers, snipped with pliers. Myhrman and MacDonald refer to these as "Robert or Roberta pins, to emphasize their size and status relative to "bobby pins", pg.92.)

Though it's hard to see in the photo, this is the same length of wall, with the chicken wire securely attached. A wall that is ready to plaster will have the chicken wire attached tightly; wire with gaps will be difficult to plaster.

When I attached the chicken wire at the bottom and at the framing around the door, I used poultry staples. (A staple gun can also be used. I find that the poulty staples are easy to use and provide a stronger hold. This is a photo of the poultry staple before it is pounded in.)

For my purposes, I was ready at this point to start plastering the inside of the coop. I still needed to "tie in" the top bale to the top plate of the roof, but that wasn't on yet.

Next post: earth plaster!

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