Raising the Roof

We are now one year into the build. We’ve reached a significant milestone in that we  have now finished the bulk of the work on the main roundwood structure. This has taken the best part of six months. We are delighted with the outcome and are very thankful to Osian, our carpenter, for his skills and attention to detail, and to David and Chris for their engineering advice and opinions. We have a beautiful, unique and incredibly strong structure for our house.

…to this! (Feb ’18)
From this (Feb ’17) ….


Our work on the large roundwood poles has involved a huge effort. We’ve been working outdoors throughout the winter and have a new-found respect for builders, farmers and other workers who have to brave the elements in their daily endeavours! Working in sub-zero temperatures is tough and can be physically draining. Stamina, as well as creativity is a vital quality for a self builder, you just have to keep at it until you are satisfied (see video of the frame being erected here)


Using chain-blocks to position each brace into place
Misty, damp, cold morning









Raising the roof involved placing the two reciprocal roofs we built last year onto their resting place along the wall plate (beams). Great skill was needed, not only in building the reciprocal roofs, but also in constructing the posts and beams to accommodate them accurately. Ill-fitting beams and rafters would  compromise the strength of the structure. Osian’s attention to detail, and his carpentry skills, meant that we were very confident that everything would be fine. Ultimately each roof fit snugly and correctly into place.  It’s important in this type of construction to avoid tension in the joints and connections, as too much tension would eventually cause problems.


P1110825 (1)
Timber Engineering: Three beams meet at this junction. They are connected with M20 threaded bars and the trough is then filled with Rotafix TG6 Grout.
Detail of one of the corner posts with beams and braces.





We contacted O’Grady Crane Hire to assist us with this lift, as each roof weighs about 2 tonnes and mechanical lifting was the only way to do this safely. We also needed to lift into place our largest rafter (600 kgs) which rests on the north-east corner of the lean-to and supports the joining of the north and east roofs. Some of our friends and family attended our Crane Day, and it was great to share this exciting day with all of them. The topping-out ceremony was completed by fixing some sprigs of Douglas Fir and Larch to the roof and adding some Holly (to symbolise longevity), completed by sprinkling some whiskey and a song in Welsh by Osian!


…lands perfectly in place
Reciprocal Roof lift, and it…


The completed structure


Luckily, we were able to complete the work with the crane on that day because by the following week Storm Emma had caused the countryside to grind to a halt for several days.

Our next stage is to complete some of the remaining work on the frame, organise our scaffolding and begin work on adding the various layers to the roof. With straw bale building in a temperate climate, it’s vital to have a covering before you begin building the walls so as to protect the straw bales from absorbing excess moisture.




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