Caroline Barry

Strawbale House

How it was built

In 1999 I managed to get a temporary planning permission from the District Council, and lived in a caravan for a year, but it was a tin can with fiberglass insulation, chemicals plastic and I was ill. A temporary permission can apply to a caravan or wooden structure which can be dismantled and removed. - House Nunber One

Idea - In 2000 we (we applies to me and many friends - God Bless 'Em) built a temporary wooden structure frame with infill walls of strawbale, cordwood and bottles. Before we started building we took advice from the Building Regs dept who insisted it should be mounted on a concrete base, so we did. After applying for the next planning permission I was turned down because of the concrete it was deemed to be permanent not temporary. That's why in August 2003 we took the whole building down, removed the concrete and put it up again on car tyres! - House Number Two.

In January 2007 there was a house fire (deliberate - but don't mention arson) so in May 2007 we built House Number Three.This is how it went:-

Tyres

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First the ground is levelled using small gravel, no digging. The tyres are laid out at metre spacing, three rows back to front of the house and extras round the front and back sides. The tyres are filled with the same gravel to ensure drainage and plenty of air flow. The tyres are close to allow the cats room to get under the house (they use it for a pantry) but the dogs can't get through

Floorplates

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The floor plates (three) are made from 6x2 timbers and ply exterior with 6x2 baffles inside and laid on the rows of tyres.

Floor

The floor joists (again 6x2) are laid across the floorplates to make the matrix floor. Then the sterling board ply sheets are laid across the floor joists and fixed into place, with screws and metal strips. Now there are two floors with sheeps wool packed between (ummm cosy)

At no time are the car tyres fixed to the ground or the floorplates fixed to the tyres. If fixed at any point it can be called permanent.

Frame

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All parts of the frame are bolted together, therefore they can be unbolted. With many hands (preferably tall ones) the frame is placed and fixed to the floorplates, these form a rib cage for the whole structure. The perlins and roof ply hold it in place.There is no machinery on site, everything is hand built.

Then we can start to infill the walls. The cordwood has been cut from 8 ft logs and simply stacked one big one small and mounted in lime putty/sand mix. Each log is 2 ft long. They are seasoned ash and beech logs.

Strawbales

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The strawbales incur 'bale frenzy' and a careful eye has to be kept on the sections where you want windows and doors. Lime putty/sand mix is applied to the strawbales inside and outside. It should ideally have 3 thin layers, then a limewash/colour coat to seal. I have to keep a careful eye for any cracks or chips to maintain. And a lime wash before each winter.

Views Outside

This is the pondside and entrance, with strawbales, you can just see the bottle wall bathroom on the right end.

This is the view as you come down the drive.

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I have no mains electricity and prefer to be off the grid. The solar panels serve me well in the summer and I have installed a small wind turbine and new batteries. This is now November 2008 and we have now installed the waterwheel and it wired up. So what an achievement my power is provided by solar, wind and hydro. This must be the only house in the south west, or is it in the UK?

Bottle wall in the bathroom - it took 544 bottles of various shapes, sizes and colours, the bottles are double keeping the wall 2 ft thick.

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The lounge area has another bottle wall in the shape and colour of a tree. The woodburner is central to the house and keeps it all warm because it is all open plan there is plenty of air and warmth, sometimes it gets too hot.

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This is my space, nothing is new, recycled as much as possible, all the kitchen units came from several peoples houses and are botched together, even the shelves from my grandsons bedroom still with his felt tip drawings on the side. All furniture is second hand, and thats the way I like it. Why buy new with so many things being discarded as last years fashions?

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Watch the house build on google video:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

© Caroline Barry 2012