Cover up and Celebrate

Bale structures must be kept dry. The best possible protection is a completed roof. For post and

18.41: Stitching with baling twine and a long needle requires two-person teamwork to get the mesh lying down properly.

much more stable when being stacked, much easier to align and keep in alignment. And for load-bearing buildings, very little settling occurs because of the embedded slip coat.

A terrific bond is created between the plaster and the straw bales, because the earth plaster bonds firmly to the slip that is embedded deep in the face of the bale. As so much of the recent testing of bale walls has proven, this straw-plaster bond is one of the crucial factors in the strength of a wall, and by dipping the bales, this bond is guaranteed to be strong. And no mesh is required!

The final benefit to dipped bales is in the reduction in fire hazards. Not only is there no bare straw in the walls, but eliminating the trimming phase means no accumulation of knee-deep piles of loose, cut straw.

I was extremely impressed with the results of the dipped bale technique and see it as another important evolution of the technique of building with bales.

18.42: A dipped wall needs no further preparation prior to plastering.

beam designs, the roof can be finished before the bales are put in place. For load-bearing designs, it will be completed after the walls are up.


18.43a - b: Tarping: a crucial part of any bale building until it is plastered. Whether you are covering the whole building or just blanketing the walls, you'll celebrate the day you are able to take the tarps off permanently.

Any protective covers at the tops of your walls should be completely waterproof. Polyethylene sheeting — as used for vapor barriers — is a good choice, but any waterproof membrane will do. This does not include most hardware store tarpaulins. If you only have cheap tarps, double them up.

Use tarpaulins and house wraps to protect the sides of your walls. Cheap tarpaulins are quite adequate for the short term, stapled to the top plate or fascia boards, or to truss ends if the fascia is not in place. They should also be well anchored at the bottom, stapled to the foundation curb or weighted with tires, concrete blocks, or heavy lumber.

It can take several hours to put tarps up well, so leave yourself enough time to do a good job. If you will need to work on your walls again, make the tarps easy to roll up or remove. Otherwise, make the arrangement permanent enough to resist high winds and driving rains.

Typar and Tyvek house wrap also make excellent bale wall protection, especially if you will not be plastering for some time. These materials come in rolls wide enough to match the height of a typical exterior wall and can be fastened easily with staples or thin strips of wood. They resist UV rays better than tarpaulins and are more water resistant. Sealed with appropriate tape or caulking, they provide enough of an air barrier to lend the bale walls some insulation value before the plaster coat is applied.

Celebrate! Raising bale walls is a remarkably satisfying task. Even though you're bound to be physically exhausted, stand back and admire your work.You have cause for pride. Be sure to put down your tools, brush the loose straw from your clothes, and enjoy the moment!

Chapter 19

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