After some troubles with a broken V-belt over the weekend we finally got underway with compacting the recycled glass pebbles. Although the insulation company only specified a 90 kg ( ??)compactor Peter had hired a 180 kg (??) beast as that was all that was available at the time. Unfortunately we quickly discovered that the compactor was more work than expected. It would sink a good 4-5cm into the ground and begin veering off course or tilting over. This was made worse by the fact the layer of pebbles was not level. After persevering across half the site the decision was made to hire a smaller compactor to go over the loose pebbles first before following up with the bigger one. This worked out admirably.
Using the JCB to lift the compactor onto site
Peter fighting to keep the beast on course
Smooth sailing. Terry manning the new, lighter compactor which is much easier to handle.
Meanwhile Nino glues hazel stakes into the sole plate. These stakes will hold the first layer of bales in place.
Once the glass pebbles were compacted the next task was assembling the sole plate. This involved lifting the railway sleepers onto their footings and ensuring that they were level with the concrete footings. At 85cm thick, the straw bale walls will be supported by both elements so it was important that they were at the same height. This process turned out to be quite fiddly and involved lifting the sleepers on and off their supports.
Peter checking the levels between a railway sleeper and the external concrete footings.
Peter using a hand saw to shave off a thin layer of a recycled glass block that the sleepers sit on so that it will be level with the concrete foundations
Old railway sleepers are never level on all surfaces. Luckily Peter had a chainsaw at hand to plane down this raised section.
One side done! This photo was taken before the chainsaw leveling above. The natural deviations of the sleepers are quite obvious here.
Once the sleepers were sitting nice and level with the concrete it was time to lay the waterproof membrane over the cement. As the surface of the concrete footing was not level Peter decided to lay another thin layer of cement under the membrane so that the wall would not be resting on any high point of the footing.
Nino sweeping down the footing in preparation for laying the new cement layer.
Cement layer going down
Sylvain rolling out the waterproof membrane over the freshly layed cement
With the membrane down we were finally ready to lay the wooden frame of the sole plate back onto the walls. Luckily we had five people on site as the frame was heavy!
VIDEO: Lifting the north-east corner of the sole plate into position
Stepping down the sole plate frame to make sure it is distributed even across all surfaces
Surveying the handiwork
No time to delay, there is still plenty more wall left to finish!
Screwing the sole plate into the sleepers