Blog: Natural Homes

TRC Timberworks is now a Licensed Builder!

TRC Timberworks is now officially a Licensed Residential Builder with BC Housing (formerly Homeowner Protection Office – “HPO”). This means that we can now make it easy for you to build your dream home. On top of the services of designing, building, and project management, TRC Timberworks can now pull your building permit and provide you with a 10 year home warranty program to protect your house.

TRC Timberworks is now offering full general contracting services, which takes the stress out of building your own home. TRC Timberworks can manage all of the details so you can relax and enjoy the process of seeing your dream home coming to life.

If you are thinking of building your home, or if you are looking for a registered Licensed Builder, give me a call! Tel: 250-551-6584

The Birth of a House

I often think that building a house is similar to the birth of a child.

The conception is the time when my clients dream about what type of house they would love to have. They look at websites and read books or magazines to gather as many ideas as possible that fit with their imagination and values. Then there is the gestation period – the drawings phase – where I work with my clients to get their ideas and dreams down on paper and fleshed out.

Then comes the actual birth, starting with the foundation and getting the house out of the ground. From there it’s like the child that grows up. Different phases continue on the house, the walls get built and the roof goes on. Then the building continues to grow with the addition of decks and siding and the windows getting put in. It keeps growing, with kitchens and bathrooms, flooring and trim, paint or plaster, until it is fully grown and the move-in date has arrived.

And just like raising a child, it’s a lot of hard work with many hard decisions, and a big investment of resources. In the end, all of that hard work pays off and my clients get to enjoy the fruits of their efforts! And the best part is, every house that I build is just like a child, unique in it’s own special way.

This photo shows the framing being done on a straw bale house near 6 Mile, just outside Nelson, BC.

Hybrid Post & Beam

Working with rounds is a lot different than working with square timbers. Layout is completely different: working off of chalk lines and carving the rounds down to square posts at the joinery took a lot longer than just working with square timbers.

Making the braces was a challenge in precision – getting the square part carved perfectly to fit the housing and then adding 45 degree cuts in the end really gave me a challenge! I cut all of the log joinery using a chainsaw to rough out the joints and then cleaned them up with an angle grinder fitted with a sanding disk.

The customer really liked the round look, so we used round logs for the posts and braces to give the house an open concept log home feel. However, since the square beams were faster to layout and cut, the hybrid of both square with round was the solution we came up with to work within budget.

This home will be an off-grid straw bale home, with clay plaster.


Exterior Earthen Plaster

An exterior photo of the body coat of earthen plaster on the woodchip/clay walls, showing the smooth shaping of this coat of plaster on the second storey of the building. The final coat of plaster will be a finish colour coat.

The first storey was built with Durisol blocks. Durisol blocks are a brand of ICF (insulated concrete forms). They are cement bonded wood fibre blocks (similar in shape to cinder blocks), made of ground up post-consumer wood waste, portland cement and a non-compressible rot-proof insulation material such as mineral wool. The blocks are stacked, keeping the insulation part of the blocks to the exterior, and the hollow space that is biased to the interior of the building is filled with concrete to create a stable wall. Continue reading Exterior Earthen Plaster

Interior Woodchip Clay Wall

Here is the same project of earthen plaster on woodchip/clay walls. You can see these are interior walls, and the clay plaster is still in the process of drying.

Once the walls are dry, an amazing thing about using clay plaster is that it is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs excess moisture and releases it slowly, providing a more even moisture content in the air. Continue reading Interior Woodchip Clay Wall

Woodchip Clay Truth Window

Here is a neat photo of the “truth window” for the clay/fibre walls of this building. It’s a large truth window, showing both the clay/fibre mixture and the internal framing of the wall.

The truth window is located just above the stairwell, so anyone going upstairs in this building will see it at the top of the stairs. For those who can’t believe the inside of these walls are built from wood, clay soil, and woodchips — there is the proof! Continue reading Woodchip Clay Truth Window

Woodchip Clay Using Forms

A woodchip clay wall that was made by infilling the woodchip/clay mixture into plywood forms, then removing the forms to allow the wall to dry. This was part of a large project in Winlaw. The infill walls were done two years ago by Cindy Walker and Peggy Frith, and now the homeowners are ready to do the earthen plaster.

This photo shows the interior walls, which are 3.5 inches thick (framed with 2x4s). The exerior walls are 12 inches thick, to provide a much higher level of insulation and thermal mass. Continue reading Woodchip Clay Using Forms

Woodchip Clay Lath

This is a close up photo of one way to build the form work for a woodchip clay wall system. The thin strips of wood (called lath) will keep the woodchip clay mixture in the wall as well as provide a strong foundation for the coat of earthen plaster to adhere to as it is applied to the wall.

Woodchip clay walls systems involve mixing a clay slurry (either clay soil or just clay with water) with woodchips or long wood shavings. Then the mixture is packed loosely into forms, leaving small air pockets as thermal breaks. The wood fibre provides the tensile strength of the mixture and some of the insulating property, and the clay provides thermal mass and moisture content mitigation. Continue reading Woodchip Clay Lath

Natural Plastering Project June 2012

I’m going to be helping finish plaster an office/workshop over the next few weeks. It’s a large structure built with Durisol blocks on the main floor and woodchip/clay infill walls on the second storey.

I wanted to show a few “before” shots of the walls so you can get a sense of a couple of different options for building woodchip/clay walls. The woodchip/clay infill was done by Peggy Frith and Cindy Walker – two amazing natural builders in the Slocan Valley.

Check out the next couple of blogs for close up photos of the infill walls and explanations of the different styles. Continue reading Natural Plastering Project June 2012

Cherry Trivets

These are some cherry trivets (hot pads) that I played around with for the kitchen. The variations in colour and grain in the cherry wood are very attractive, and having beautiful wood trivets for the tea pot makes having a cup of tea even more appealing. They are coated with two applications of LandArk natural oil finish and one application of food grade beeswax and mineral oil top coat. Continue reading Cherry Trivets