Straw Bale Building: Adobe Plaster Interior Part 1

| 8/5/2011 2:28:42 PM

Tags: adobe plaster, aliz, chopping straw, slip coat, spraying aliz, screening adobe clay, straw bale house, Dave Larson,

Dave L HeadshotAdobe clay is one of the most pleasant materials available for building. Adobe is forgiving. Make an error or have a problem and you can start over by wetting it down and peeling it off or retroweling. For newbies like us, this was really important.

Adobe clay is a natural material with only the embodied energy involved in transport, unless you count the energy expended by the builders. In many parts of the world, clay is abundant. For example, there are clay deposits in colors ranging from red to gray within just a few miles of the Bear Cave.  

Adobe clay is economical. Our 320-square-foot adobe cottage, the Bear Cave, has adobe block walls, adobe plaster, and adobe floors. Total cost for the clay was less than $500 in 2008.

        Straw Bale House Dining Room

When it was time to finish the walls on our straw bale house (above), we didn’t think twice. It had to be adobe. We used the same clay, with different screenings, for every application except the finish coat on the interior. For that, we bought some Kaolin clay mined and bagged in northern AZ and mixed it with 60 grit bagged sand. We love the outcome, a nice balance of finished wall with a flavor of rusticity.

        Chopping Straw

11/22/2013 3:03:15 AM

To Build a place you can call your own , free from dreaded power companys , Banks and a dreaded loan...

dave larson
8/6/2011 3:39:40 PM

Hi Mountain Woman, Learned about work from my grandfather, Ole, a Norwegian immigrant blacksmith that settled in northern MN. That guy could work. Since then, I've learned that work can be enjoyable and certainly rewarding, though tiring, and hope to keep it up for a good number of years. Thanks so much for the comments and compliments! We'd enjoy seeing you Red Pine Mountain people out here in the desert. Have a great day on the mountain!

mountain woman
8/6/2011 2:25:41 PM

Wow, am I ever impressed! So much work and so much planning and really interesting to read and to see. I knew about straw bales but never actually saw them being used. Never knew much about adobe either except it is really lovely. I learned so much today but another thing I learned is that you and Barbara are hard workers. I think if Nebraska Dave got together with you and Mountain Man, there's nothing the three of you couldn't accomplish. Any kudos to you on a beautiful home. Remember, we're going to visit some day :-) Just have to say again how impressed I am.

dave larson
8/6/2011 10:44:50 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave, It was indeed labor intensive from start to finish (which, with the installation of some more patio flagstone, will be here). We knew from the beginning that it would be a long and challenging project, but the motivation to own a home without a mortgage in a place of incredible natural beauty was strong. As victims of the housing bubble who watched thousands of dollars evaporate overnight, we had the choice of DIY or give up our dream. We chose the dream. I have read a number of stories about couples splitting up while engaged in similar projects. I am blessed. Barbara and I both had to do some real soul searching as we proceeded and the result is a relationship that is as strong as our buildings. I wouldn't trade the experience and our life out here in the Arizona desert for anything. Thanks again for your observations - Hope your day is filled with joy!

nebraska dave
8/6/2011 8:52:26 AM

Dave, you are not kidding about labor intensive. This whole project seems to be labor intensive. Were there any points in time that you were discouraged about how long and hard the project was? I know that the emotions had to have been running from time to time. It's an amazing accomplishment you and your wife have done. It seems that you put many hours into research and planning before you ever lifted a shovel. I'm just thinking about the building of my grandson's fort that only took one month. There were days that I just didn't want to get started but once I got moving things were OK. You and your wife have done some amazingly painstaking work to finish up a straw bale house. Did you really know just how much work it was going to be before you started? I think you both should be right proud of the building of your retirement home. Have a great high plains Arizonia day.

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