Saturday, April 21, 2012

Roofing and rendering

By the end of today we had half a roof and a wall full of render.
Pretty exciting stuff! I think the speed at which we're moving is making the week move so slowly. It feels like we've been at it for weeks! Yesterday was supposed to be the last day of the workshop, so today was the day people were supposed to leave. And we did lose a few of our crew today, with more leaving us tomorrow, which is fine of course - people have their families and jobs and lives to go back to next week, and many people have a long long drive home. But this understanding doesn't mean it's not hard to say goodbye. It's been such a huge, emotional week, with so many bonds being created and strengthened, all to the soundtrack of drills and generators and cement mixers and circular saws and cries of "Oh no here comes the rain!".

Today our roofing crew were hard at work defying gravity and generally hopping around at a ridiculous height attaching rolls of Enviroseal roof wrap (for condensation reduction) and giant sheets of corrugated iron.
We ended up choosing just plain galvanised iron instead of one of the colourbond colours, which wasn't an easy decision after I'd read an article about the environmental benefits of white roofs. After reading the article we had a few days of considering white colourbond, but in the end we went back to our original plan of good ol' gal.
Our reasons? 1. Gal lasts longer - colourbond is a coating, gal is a treatment, so although they both have the same guarantee (20 years) all the dudes at Steeline Pambula told me that gal will definitely last longer. 2. Gal is cheaper - an important consideration given our teeny tiny budget. 3. Gal looks better - we like the old school shed-barn-farm-watertank kind of vibe. 4. Breaking news: Frank has just informed me that gal is also safer for collecting rainwater on account of the fact that UV breaks down the colourbond coating and releases chemicals into the drinking water.
While the roofers were roofing, us ground-dwelling folks got started on cobbing the gaps between the strawbales.
Cob is traditionally a mix of clay and straw, but we used lime and straw with a bit of cement to help it dry quickly. This was mixed up in Frank's cement mixer, the straw was added in the wheelbarrow
and mixed up by hand
(let me tell you, the ergo baby carrier has proven indespensible on the work site!) then shoved into the cracks to make a smooth surface for the render to stick to.
When all the gaps were filled, and we'd all learned a little bit about the importance of wearing protective goggles when using lime, we started on the first coat of render. Frank explained his method for using the hawk (the square platform you use to hold the mixed render) and trowel to put the render on the wall,
then my dad explained his 'alternative German' method, then us amateurs amalgamated the 2 and did our best just to get the stuff to stick to the wall.
I figure by the time we get to the 3rd and final coat, our method will be down pat.
If you've ever read Strawbale Homebuilding, you will, like us, have gotten the vibe that hand-rendering is by far the worst bit about strawbale building. We got this vibe, and had intended on making use of Frank's rendering machine. Our lack of town water supply, however, put a kybosh on this idea, as the render pump needs good water pressure to operate properly. Plan B: A 1000 litre pallet tank on the back of a ute, a cement mixer and some hands. We managed one wall this afternoon, so I'm actually feeling OK about the process ahead of us, though I am hoping we can get quite a lot done before everyone goes home and it's just me and Pearl and the kids slapping the stuff on.
After the first layer of render is applied, a 30cm strip of fibreglass mesh is applied around all the vulnerable bits (window and door frames, corners and footings) and mooshed into the render.
This is to strengthen the render (a nail in that render can hold 30kg!) and also reduce cracking. Then the whole kit and kaboodle is cross-hatched with a straw fork to make a 'key' for the 2nd layer to attach to.
I felt pretty relaxed leaving the site today, with half a roof (the other half is still covered in plastic), a wall of almost-completed render and remaining exposed areas covered in tarps, knowing that every day it's getting safer and safer, and more resilient to any pesky rain that might crop up.

We have Frank for another couple of days, and today Pearl's sister Hannah and her husband Bukhari arrived with their 2 (gorgeous) kids to help out, so I reckon we'll make OK progress, though we are, of course, feeling sad about the impending departure of our beloved friends, and we're all just a little bit tired.


  1. Looks amazing guys. I feel so happy looking at these photos and knowing that you guys almost have your very own house! A small house be it but a house none the less.

  2. I have no idea how I found your blog, but the construction posts leave me with bated breath waiting for the next installment! Love from a sad suburban internet stalker :)

  3. I find myself checking the weather in Bega from across the world and get excited when I see that it won't be raining! I also wish that Jeff and I could be there now to help but I'm sure there will be lots to do in September/October on your property. I love your house already and we can't wait to help!

  4. Go house! It's looking so gorgeous. Thank you for your daily updates (you're a bit amazing to make time for words when there's so much on). Crossing my digits for the next few days.

  5. It's looking great. Not long now and you'll be in that cosy, cute straw home:)

  6. Well, the house is looking great. But I would also like to suggest that instead of doing so much hard work you apply acrylic render which is easy to apply and it dries only within 2/3 hours.
    cement rendering sydney | textured rendering Sydney

  7. Very pleasing post you have shared and I got a charge out of it as a matter of fact much. I do application and washing as expert’s bug in one ear and Liquid Roof Coatings till death do us part stash me.