Build diary – week six, it’s got a top

Taking shape

With great pleasure, I am handing this blog over to Whistlewood volunteers. If you would like to contribute, you can write your own piece as Chris has or send me notes using the contact page or via Whistlewood.

By Chris Gregson – 2nd July to 6th July.

Wow what a week! We’ve started the roof structure and it’s now starting to look like a real building.

But first things first on Monday the top wall plate was filled with straw, for insulation, and topped off with OSB.

Once the top wall plate was finished the hard work of compressing the wall could begin, typically the walls have to be compressed 10.0mm per bale, that’s 70.0mm as our walls are 7 bales high. Pre-compressing the walls at this stage ensures that when the roof is built the weight of the roof structure doesn’t move the walls unexpectedly. We used lorry straps (the big blue ones) to compress the walls and once the correct compression is achieved the permanent straps (the thinner white ones) are secured. The lorry straps will be removed once the roof is on.

For much of this week we’ve had the help of one of our more experienced volunteers which greatly helped the build. Salli, who has worked on other strawbale builds, has commented:

“l’am really enjoying working on this build and it’s great to see it progressing so quickly. I have worked on round buildings and rectangular ones but an octagonal roundhouse! That presents a few new challenges.

Getting the bales neat on the angles still needs a bit of work. Before compression we got the walls as straight as possible knocking them with a big wooden block on a long handle known as a persuader. This can be a bit frustrating when the bit you really need to bash is obscured by the scaffolding. The compression went very smoothly in my experience.

Alternating the ratchets on the inside and outside of the building helps to keep the compression even and the roof plate level. Once the roof is finished and the scaffolding moved back we will be able to get at the walls and ‘persuade’ them into even better shape ready for stuffing and plastering.”

Also, this week the steel ‘shoes’ were fixed in place awaiting the large Larch poles which will support the veranda roof.

Steel shoe

Wednesday saw the arrival of the main compression ring that sits at the top of the roof and supports the roof rafters.

The ring beam is 2 meters in diameter, 700.00mm deep and 100.0mm thick which made it too heavy to lift manually. The crane did the whole operation in less than an hour and saved much grunting, groaning and bad language!

To ensure that the ring beam sat centrally to the building we dropped a plumb line down from the centre of the beam to a mark on the floor of the Roundhouse. The skill of the crane driver and his mate was a joy to behold as they inched it into place and onto the pre-levelled blocks.

The crane driver and his mate demonstrate their skills

The ring beam is in place

With the ring beam in place the rafters can be fitted and roof starts to take shape.

In these pictures you can see the way the rafters are ‘birds mouthed’ over a piece of timber secured to the top wall plate with additional steel plates holding them in place. You can also see both the lorry and permanent compression ties in place.

Chris Gregson.

Get involved?

We will soon need lots of willing hands.

Once the roof structure is complete (building the roof will take three to four weeks), we will be nailing on several thousand cedar shingles. The bottle floor (weekend job) will follow soon after. Then we have some key finishing jobs – the lime and mud plastering and the decking.

To find out more keep an eye on this space, visit the Whistlewood website, read your newsletter (members only) and talk to the Whistlewood members in your life.


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