For many years we knew we wanted to build our own home, just were not sure of what method would suit us best. After completing a course in with Huff and Puff Constructions we soon settled on strawbale.
In October 2015, just 6 weeks after the birth of our 2nd son we started building our home. We wanted a house that was warm in winter and cool in summer. So we did the obvious things- faced the building north, invested in double glazed windows, put further insulation in the ceiling and internal walls and designed the house to take natural advantage of air flow etc.
In keeping with our sustainability ideals we sourced our materials locally whenever possible,we recycled and re-purposed as much as we could. We chose to build using cypress and brought the red earth from outside inside by installing an earthen floor.
The form work and foundations took weeks to construct and lay, and then all that hard, fiddly work was covered over with concrete in a matter of hours!
The external load- bearing walls came next and took a mere 4 days to go up and was an eye opening experience for all involved. The bales were laid brick style and compressed down like a huge press with threaded rods, top and bottom plates. The standard timber and tin roof went on next. Then came the filling of gaps between the bales with a cob mix of mud, sand and straw, slapped and flung onto the straw walls. We then had a local tank repairer spray 3 coats of lime render onto the walls. Then came the very difficult process of deciding the final render colour which Greg then applied skillfully by hand, not unlike a icing a cake.
The windows were then installed and the doors lovingly and meticulously made, and fitted.Within a matter of weeks we had a fully sealed building.
Then came the internal walls and wet areas which are the same as any other house. It was this part of build where the most time was invested, not being carpenters, tilers or plasterers we were learning on the job. We fitted a 2nd hand flooded gum timber kitchen into the space which was initially meant to be the mudroom/ laundry. An old claw-footed bath, and vanity made from left over kitchen cupboards was installed in the bathroom.
Our final undertaking was the earthen floor which was a long drawn out process. It took many trials to come up with an appropriate formular of mud, sand and straw. Having to be laid in several layers it was largely a waiting game as each layer dried but we eventually got there, repaired any cracking with more cob before applying linseed oil and then a layer of bees wax. All done by hand we were literally on our hands and knees- back breaking!
Building the house, running a business and taking care of 2 little boys under the age of 3 was quite an undertaking. We were very fortunate to have the help of family and friends, primarily a favourite aunty and uncle who came for several " building holidays" where they stayed for weeks at a time and helped construct form work, window and door frames, handcrafted our beautiful bespoke barn style doors and much, much more. Our other main helper was a builder friend Brett, who provided us with invaluable advice along the way, he was very open minded to our sometimes crazy, not so conventional ideas. He was there each Sunday for the final 6 months doing the hard yards with us. And of course we had our fantastic parents providing many hours of baby-sitting for those times when it simply was impractical to have the boys on site.
Our owner builder journey was such a rewarding, invaluable experience that we are both extremely proud of. We have so many memories from the build, some challenging and difficult moments but by far many more laughs and good times along the way. Our eldest son gained so much from being involved with the build and when we eventually get to the next 2 pavllions the younger boys will no doubt also benefit for the experience.