The preparation of the straw bale walls is the key to a good plastering job. A poorly detailed wall can defeat even the best plasterer and is more likely to crack. Well-trimmed straw, nicely manicured meshing, and well-stuffed holes are a must. Be clear about where you expect the plaster to stop when it meets doors, windows, foundation, and roof plate.
Sweep old bits of loose straw from the intersection of floors, walls, and window ledges, then cover the floors with plastic or drop cloths. Plastering is a messy business, and these coverings are not likely to be reusable. Tape the edges of the drop cloths at the base of the walls to create the desired seam between the floor and the plaster.
Apply masking to windows, doors, and any other elements you don't wish to have plastered. Be sure to cover up window sills, since plaster dropping from above can stain them permanently.
It can be helpful to precut a number of metal pins — for pegging down any wire mesh you find sitting too far from the straw you are plastering — and keep them handy. Sometimes, errant mesh can be persuaded to sit flat with a stab from a trowel. But it's better to have the walls properly prepared rather than count on such fixes while plastering. (See sidebar: Prep-ping a Bale House for Plastering, Chapter 18).
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