Friday, 11 January 2019

Progress with the garden - sustainable and easy to manage

Our lovely builders decided that we really needed a space that didn't look like a building site, or a railway garden so they tidied up the eastern side of our house and we employed the skilled Matt Dux to design and layout our garden.  This was a few months ago, as you can tell I have been rather slack with blogging, it has been at least a year.

I am really pleased with how the garden has worked out.  Our gardening guru envisaged an Italian style garden- incorporating citrus, vegetables and most controversially pencil pines - you heard it here first!

Some of the features include:

  • plants even I couldn't kill
  • a gorgeous decking area using some recycled pieces of timber, our architect Barb drew up rather substantial vertical beams and I think they really balance the side of the house.
  • we used radial sawn pine for the decking-this method takes advantage of more of the tree so there is less waste
  • our pergola will eventually be covered with an ornamental grape, it is growing beautifully
  • we also have some jasmine as a climber and lastly a couple of different types of hops that have been wonderfully vigorous and have really softened the look of the garden. Over time the grape will cover the pergola and reduce the direct sunlight into the living area. At the moment we have a shade sail to assist.
  • our home grown hops shall be used for our home grown beer!!
  • our vegetable planters are industrial sized storm water pipes (I think) and they have been made to work as wicking beds- so once again I haven't managed to kill a thing.
  • we have a privacy screen that hides some of our utilities, including our Sanden Heat pump, clotheslines and rubbish bins 
Here are some progress shots

prior to any garden being completed

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Equipment needed for making hempcrete - some updated information

I thought it was worthwhile updating some information regarding the list of things needed to build a hempcrete home.

Here is a list of helpful items when making building a house made of hempcrete.

  • a large pan mixer- although ours is quite small, approx 100l it worked well for a small team. It has had few minor repairs along the way but survived the renovation!
  • a shaded area for mixing hempcrete. The mixer is out in the weather all day so ensure you have protection from the elements.
  • a large tub to open up the bales of hemp as it is much easier to break up the hemp lumps. We used one of those containers that hold chemicals. Our friend Neil who has a hempcrete home in Violet Town recommended that to us and it worked very well.
  • plastic sheeting and tarps to keep the hempcrete dry when it rains - IMPORTANT UPDATE: tarps ended up damaging the walls due to wind more than saving them from the rain
  • many plastic tubs and buckets for holding tools, holding sand, hemp, the mix IMPORTANT UPDATE: we used the larger tubs for holding and weighing dry hemp but smaller tubs for transporting the hemp mix - lighter and less fatigue (better for dodgy backs)
  • spades for shovelling hemp and sand
  • hose with a water meter on it so that you can measure out water accurately
  • something to help protect the hempcrete as it is drying- in our case we  used leftover poles from our concreting works and OSB (Oriented Strand Board) from our timber frames. This was important because a hose or power lead can take out a corner of a freshly made wall
  • set of scales for measuring the hempcrete pie! Initially we used suitcase scales, I have since purchased some butcher clock face scales. IMPORTANT UPDATE: The butcher clock scales have been terrific.
  • sprayer to dampen the wood and hempcrete prior to adding a new mix. It is important as the wood formwork will suck the moisture out of the fresh hempcrete mix, therefore the ratio of water to the rest of the mix is changed and there is a greater risk of cracking along the wood frame. This step is very important, you must wet the top of the last hemprete wall. IMPORTANT UPDATE: In areas where the top of a wall had been left for a few weeks I ended up using a vacuum cleaner to remove the loose bits of hemp. Trying to complete a house with one sprayer has been challenging, buy a second! They get a little gunked up with lime and they are not made for such hard work.
  • safety equipment such as disposable gloves covered with long gloves, long sleeve shirts, mask for your mouth, eye goggles. These are all to protect you from the lime that can be quite harmful. IMPORTANT UPDATE: You go through a lot of long gloves and gardening gloves, if you see them on special, buy them!
  • An impact drill for a range of tasks including making formwork
  • scaffolding- we bought it and will sell it off at the end of the project
  • hand forklift trolley - we ended up buying one as it has saved our backs many times over as we move the lime around the space to give us room
  • A pulley system to lift the hempcrete up high
  • Plenty of ply and OSB to make extra formwork IMPORTANT UPDATE: Often you need to use smaller pieces of formwork for an angled roof line - small pieces of formwork are worth holding on to and collecting.
  • Conduit- for protecting all the wires including above the ceiling where the wires go through the hemp insulation for the lights
  • Conduit for use with form work-we used a lot of this in all sorts of lengths (make sure you are accurate with your lengths so that your formwork is straight). Ensure it is not so wide a diameter that it leaves a gaping hole to fill but not so narrow you can't stick your finger in it and twist it out later.
  • Bituminous paint and putty to paint over strapping and nail holes

Device used for measuring water

large tub for opening up the hemp bales

poles and ply to protect the fragile, damp hempcrete

barrier cream to protect your hands, this has
made a big difference
long gloves to keep the lime off

I use these as inner gloves and then long gloves
on top.
We could not have done this build without an
impact drill 
A pulley system to lift the hempcrete up high
and scaffolding

When a hose brushed along the corner it knocked out some of
the hempcrete. This will be repaired easily enough. We just
can't wait for the hempcrete to dry.

The sprayer I am using to dampen the wood.

Grant setting up the geoplast formwork. The green gaffe tape was
used to cover the strapping and screws as they were too difficult
to cover with bituminous paint

Recently bought this scale for measuring the dry ingredients. Some
may say it is a bit anal to measure everything so accurately but at
least there is consistency in our mix.

Ingredients list for mixing the hemp. This is useful for volunteers. We have adjusted the water a little depending on the
conditions on the day. Generally, we have been using 11 litres. Using our water meter has made these minor adjustments

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Preparing the sub floor for hemp insulation

Using some old joists from other parts of the house that were knocked down we managed to retrofit the floor so that we could create a dumping space for lovely thick hemp insulation in the old part of the house.  It has been somewhat breezy around our place with the wind whistling through the place.

We have made sure that any pipe that has hot water going through it is also well insulated.

All of this has taken months longer than anticipated, there were a number of stumps that had to be replaced, working within a tight space caused damage to Grant, in fact he broke his finger and has been working on the house one handed for months! A week later Sam damaged his thumb, thankfully he recovered from that injury, the hospital started getting suspicious.

under joists

preparing pipes with sleeves to insulate
using old lathes to sit across the under joists, then
followed by the breathable fabric, finally the hemp
is dropped in to that space

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hempcrete underfloor insulation

Had a good day of work today, managed to fill the link (hallway between the old house and the hempcrete renovation). Once it dries we can get the floorboards laid!

We are trying to recycle any products we can. These slats, originally from our lathe and plaster walls in our house have been trimmed and de-nailed to fit between the joists. The membrane (leftover from outside wall) has been laid over the lathes and then we covered it in hempcrete, same recipe as ceiling insulation (no sand and half the lime). This will provide the most amazing floor insulation.

We are a little nervous as our dog is not terribly bright and is likely to walk on the setting hempcrete insulation.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Retrofitting continued..

We are now making some good progress with the back part of our old house. The kitchen and study area have had cladding put on. This area is going to become a bathroom and laundry. The links to our other retrofitting posts are and

I feel like our renovation is suffering from the 80:20 rule. 80% complete and it takes 20% of the time, 20% to go takes 80% of the time.

The left side is the laundry and the right side is the bathroom

The laundry and bathroom with the windows in and cladding on.

This is where we are going to build a bicycle shed. The wrought iron gates that can be seen were
bought second hand from Ebay,, a good way to reduce the need for buying something new.
Looking towards the back of the house. The back yard really needs an enormous amount of work.

This is looking into what used to be our dining room, it will become our study/guest room/
second living area
The same image but now hemp insulated and cladded (almost.
Another retrofit post showed the hemp.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Hempcrete it working??...bloody oath!

I took four photos today at about midday. I just thought I would check the temperature of different parts of the good is this!
This is the back of the house, completely hemp built. We have 2 hydronic panels installed but have not yet
turned them on this winter. This is thermal mass and amazing insulative properties doing its thing!
However, we weren't quite brave enough to forgo heating entirely. I don't think the space would remain
warm enough if there was a week of overcast days (although that could be my next test).  Now
this is still not as good as it will be due to the link. The space between the hemp renovation
and the old house. The link is drafty with gaping holes in the floor and ceiling.
Brrrrr....This is the temperature of the drafty link, just a single sliding door away from the hemp
renovation.We are definitely keeping that sliding door shut!
This is my daughter looking stylish in front of the stated sliding door
that is keeping the chill out. As you can see she is on her way
to an 80's party with a very genuine look.
It helps when the 80's was your era
....and the era of your friends!!!

I had the heating on in the old part of the house in the morning before it turned itself off
at around 8.00am. By midday the temperature had dropped from 19C to 16.5C, a little cold
to be comfortable. This part of the house are bedrooms and are empty for most of the
day, so it is ok being this cool. Before the renovation I had to use heating if
I was working from home because 16 odd degrees and dropping is uncomfortable
and my typing fingers would get cold...oh poor me!

This is the outside temperature when I used this device (thingy)
pointed at an outside wall.