August 27, 2012

What's Happening?

One rainy day delays house building progress by several.  The focus then shifts elsewhere.  With the assistance of some very generous men the lights are now on in the workshop.  Top of the agenda for the past three days was building rough window and door openings for the basement.  Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) for the basement are being delivered tomorrow.  Things are going to start looking substantially different this week!



August 26, 2012

Design Difficulty

Designing our home took a very, very long time.  Three years to be exact.

Our original concept was to use prefabricated straw bale panels.  "Green Panels" built by a family owned business in southern Saskatchewan was our preference because it was much faster, more seasonally available and supported local enterprise. 
The first conversation with a designer took place in April 2009.  Shortly thereafter the designer became unavailable and would continue as project coordinator.  Her rookie colleague was taking over as designer.  This became a long, drawn-out and frustrating process.  Ultimately a waste of our resources.  We were not pleased with how things were advancing but, against our better judgement, continued.  Long story short...we disapproved of all design concepts and actually designed the floor plan ourselves.  This information was then forwarded to become official straw bale panel construction drawings.  In March 2011 we received the final drawing package.  We liked (but didn't love) the house and were relieved to be finished with the hope of building that summer. 
Our project fell off the rails when, one week later, we were told the panel builder was closing his business.  There was an option to continue having the panels built by individuals with  less expertise and little supervision.  After much discussion and several phone calls we decided to get off this path, stick it in reverse and choose a different path.  It was a bitter pill to swallow.
A local construction company dedicated to building non-toxic, earth conscious structures connected us with a designer. The original design was refined to better suit our needs and was turned into a conventional straw bale design.  Our first set of "new" plans were received in August 2011.  Final drawings were received in June 2012 after months of revisions regarding some key structural components.  We applied for the building permit and heard back quickly that an engineer stamp was required.  Another four to six week wait!  Back to the designer!  Back to the engineer!  Back to the building inspector!  Tick tock tick tock!  At the end of July 2012 we received the engineer stamped drawings and the building permit. 
Our home is a south facing bungalow  with a walk-out basement and wrap around deck.  Great thought went into every component of this plan including room placement, aesthetics, heating, roof overhang, layout, plumbing, and window placement.  We are certain it will be a comfortable and functional home.




August 22, 2012


Two weeks have passed since excavation began and there has been a lot of progress.  The land has been transformed from a field of weeds into a legit house construction site.  It has been terribly hot and the men have been busy in the "hole" measuring, shoveling, tamping, building forms and setting up rebar. Today concrete was poured and the footings are complete.  Check.

Boys standing in their future bedroom
Setting up forms

Checking out the view from their bedroom again

Setting up forms

Footing concrete has been poured

The driveway has been graded and is ready for gravel.  This is good news because every time it rains the current hilly entrance road gets pretty sketchy.  
Driveway leaving building site

Driveway heading to building site

August 20, 2012

"Why are we doing this again?"

The concept to build a straw bale house began many years ago stemming from frustration at how poorly our home was built.  We are building this home with thoughtfulness for the earth and our family.

Determining a location where we would "settle down" was difficult.  The choice, ultimately, was decided by our desire to be close to cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents, friends close enough to be considered family, sisters, and brothers.  Living in rural Saskatchewan allows us to be a hub.

We purchased our land five years ago and have been renting it to a local farmer.  Five years is certainly a long time to "dream and scheme" but that is how long we needed to get to where we are today.  Countless hours were spent reading books, discussing utilities, searching the internet, designing and redesigning plans (wish we would have kept track of number of revisions), budgeting, chatting on the telephone, and pouring through magazines.  A few things accomplished during this time were building a workshop, digging the well, buying toilets, running power to the property, purchasing oak church pews to be used for trim, designing a masonry heater, attending a straw bale building course, and purchasing a used greenhouse.

Many people encouraged, helped and shared ideas during the planning stage.  There were also people who tried to "talk us out of it" listing reasons why it is a bad idea and suggesting things we should do instead.  The downside of taking so long to plan is that doubt certainly creeps in.  There were many nights where "Why are we doing this again?" was the leading line of our conversation.  The phrase has morphed into a censored version used when we make a major life change.   We are following through with this exciting and terrifying dream to create a beautiful amazing life for our family.

We hoped construction would begin in June but, of course, there were delays.  It was stressful waiting and watching the calendar flip to the next month.  There were plenty of things to do during the wait (mowing weeds, framing workshop, and electrical) but in the back of our minds we were very anxious wondering if we would ever get started on the house.  On July 26 we received engineered stamped drawings and a couple days later we received the building permit.  On August 8 the machines started moving!