(For an alternative view of things, see Bale Build Blog http://balebuildblog.blogspot.com/
set up by Nicholas Collins)
For full set of drawings submitted for planning permission, see:
Meanwhile, we read the books, watched Grand Designs, and enrolled for a weekend course on strawbale building at the Dorset Centre for Rural Skills near Blandford, in mid-December. My youngest son Nicholas, and Maria's son Marian were to attend the course with me. But it was the coldest cold spell in Dorset for many years - down to -14 degrees - and the course was cancelled as the Centre was cut off. However, Rob Buckley, who runs the course, helped enormously with practical advice during the detailed design stage.
(Watch the road movie! http://balebuildblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/dads-new-trailer_08.html )
On Wednesday August 17, we drove down the main road to Edinburgh (Nick's favourite road, he said), to York to say hello to Simon, Angela and Della, and then to Leeds to stay in Nick's flat. Next day, to Blackburn, to pick up the trailer. It was in good condition, shorter than I expected, but it looked as if it might cope with having wooden beams strapped to it. With the trailer bouncing behind us, we headed back south, to the outskirts of Barnsley. Paul Tracey at Constructional Timber met us with the two beams carefully bound together and wrapped in clingfilm. He and his factory floor colleagues were surprised (to say the least) by the flimsiness of the trailer (as I was surprised by the size of the beams!) but between us we worked out a way of securely fixing them one on each side of the long axis of the trailer. So they were separated and rewrapped and Paul and another man spent a good half-hour making a really solid job of it. We had taken a gamble, buying the trailer unseen, and not having a proper idea how to carry the beams (I had taken 4 ratchet straps and some old red underpants to hang on the end - not much else), but it had paid off, thanks to their help - it could so easily have been a disaster. We shared the driving back north, had a break for a surprisingly good meal at a sort of glorified transport cafe somewhere on the A1 north of Newcastle, fortunately didn't have to reverse the trailer, were not stopped by the police for having a dangerous load (Nick's fear), and arrived at Mill House around midnight (Nick driving the last few hours - he doesn't seem to get sleepy as I do).
The excavation revealed (as Roy next door and friend Martin observed) that we are on a small hillock rather than a moraine heap (the cut was through original shaley bedrock). Masses of concrete were poured into the holes - the Morrisons observed with good humour (after all, they were being paid for it) that the foundations were strong enough for a 3-storey house rather than the lightweight building we had in mind. The strawbale walls will start about 50 cm above the (lowered) ground level, on a wooden ring-beam placed on top of a concrete block base-wall faced with granite. Nick and I searched the garden for suitable stones - not too thick, with a flattish face, squarish, with small stones to fill gaps - and Allan, Bob and Mike (their young assistant) did an excellent job (so neat that someone asked if the stone facing was real).
The first job was to position the posts (my job, interpreting the drawings) and fix the shoes to the concrete for the posts to be bolted to. The fixing was by resin anchors - lengths of threaded rod set in resin in holes in the concrete - set hard in a few hours. Ralph had lent us a powerful Hilti drill. The posts were temporarily braced to stop them waving about. The eaves beam was then fixed along the top of the posts, with bolts. Each side was in 3 parts, joined by scarfe joints (specified to be close to a post and in such an orientation that the short stub from a post carried the weight of the longer length from the next post) bolted together. This was where Dusan's expertise was first revealed. And the wood was heavy, so holding it in place while fixing was tricky. After that, the purlins - 3 sections, the middle one being the glulam beams. They are fixed to posts, and to the chimney with a clever steel bracket made by Ralph Ross. The rafters are notched to fit over the eaves beams and purlins and they meet at the top against the ridge beam (relatively lightweight, compared with the other beams, as they take no load to speak of). Cutting the notches in the first rafters was an iterative process, but after that Dusan and Peter had the confidence to cut them in advance.
PS In October, with Gero and Liam's help, we put up this tarpaulin 'tent' to direct rainwater away from the wooden ringbeam.
PPS The framework survived the severe December gales unscathed.
For a time-lapse view of phase 1, go to this link:
Sunday, 9 December 2012
At the end of October, I came for another long weekend, to finish building the pellet store, and to see how things were progressing. Alistair had finished the roof, and Andy's Masonry and Lime were working on the harling, hoping to finish the first two coats before any bad frosts. Alistair's fine roof was covered on the south side with solar panels, and we started generating electricity. Time to relax and let the house take its chances through the winter?