Meant to write this blog before the previous one on clay plaster.
We have thought long & hard about the ultimate feel of the interiors, what makes the spaces: materials, textures, colours, smells. It is quite fun to go through the process of breaking down and interrogating the elements and their relationships with each other. How is a door formed in a clay plastered wall? Are architraves and skirtings essential or purposeful? What does a door handle feel like in hand and how does it fit with the rest of the interior? We have decided to complement the simple aesthetic of the house form with pared down, but beautifully crafted joinery: solid Douglas fir doors, door frames, skirtings and window boards and simple recessed stainless steel handles – all supplied by a local joiner. We discarded architraves and instead opted to use chunky timber door frames and recessed skirtings as giant stop beads to finish the clay plaster to. This decision impacted on sequencing of the works; internal joinery had to be installed before the plastering started. We can’t wait to see how all these elements will come together over the next few weeks.
We’ve recently re-focussed our efforts on clay plastering. Clay plaster works brilliantly when applied directly to straw, as it allows moisture to permeate back & forth, effectively acting as a moisture buffer. It’s a healthier option compared to cement or gypsum plaster and will add significant thermal mass to the building – we have 7 tonnes of it to put on walls!
Some straw buildings treat the clay plaster as airtightness layer, but this can be problematic, particularly if there are tricky junctions. We use the clay plaster purely as an internal finish, and airtightness is dealt with by a separate membrane, installed to outside face of straw panels. More details on that are in my previous post.
We have sourced our clay plasters from a Czech company Picas, as recommended by our Slovakian plasterer Roman. I met Roman at an Ecococon event in Lithuania in May last year (short video from the event) and it was great when he agreed to plaster our house. The first few days were spent fixing reed mats to exposed timber elements – this will provide a good key for clay plaster. We’ve started with plastering the straw external walls, where two base coats will be applied before the final finish coat. We found our little fans a bit inadequate, so borrowed the neighbour farmer’s big fan to help dry the plaster out – it’s been working a treat.
We’ve installed a couple of DIY moisture probes that will enable us to keep an eye on humidity levels in the straw panels on both north and south facades.
After the first week of plastering Roman has finally finished the first base coat on all straw walls – a bit of a milestone. On to the second coat tomorrow!
It’s been fun having my Dad come over to help with timber ceilings in the main kitchen/ dining/ living space. Unlike plasterboard ceilings in the rest of the house, we’ve decided to have something a bit more special here. Hit & miss European redwood battens of varying widths give the ceiling a nice warm feel, as well as help with the acoustics in this large open plan space.
After a bit of a hiccup with the original timber order, we cut the battens to the correct lengths, sanded them down & applied a clear surface treatment. As we didn’t have a luxury of scaffolding inside, we invested in a finishing nail gun, which allowed me to fix the battens with one hand, while holding/ locating them with the other. This really worked a treat.
It was an intense week, but we are very happy with the results. Looking forward to starting clay plastering next week!