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GSBN:Re: Moisture in SBW

Hello again-

It's great to hear the thoughtful response that you have been providing.

A little clarification perhaps on the stucco. The process for the
application of the stucco that I can discern from photographs of
construction is that diamond metal lath was attached to the bales around the
window and door openings and in at least a two foot wide strip up each
corner of the building. The field of the bales was without any netting or
other metal reinforcement.

The first or "scratch coat" of cement stucco was applied with a gun,
embedding it thoroughly into the straw and leaving a fair amount of
stucco-coated straw protruding from the surface. I believe the second or
"brown" coat of cement stucco was then trowelled on forming  a smooth
surface. The final or "color " coat was the elastomeric coat, also trowelled
on. It is similar to latex paint with some aggregate in it for texture. It
stretches as it peels when you pull it off and it provides a very good vapor
barrier, keeping rain and exterior moisture out of the wall, but not
allowing any moisture out of the wall either.

Our idea for repair is to keep the first two coats intact, where the walls
are dry, and just remove and replace the elsatomeric (1/16th of an inch +/-)
with a cementitious color coat. Thus the question of sandblasting.

I like Derek's idea of blown cellulose, as it dries pretty rapidly. I am
also thinking of refilling the walls with flakes of bales and then tying
stucco netting over them with tie wire that has been wrapped around the 4"
concrete columns (on 18" centers running vertical the height of the wall.) A
point of clarification is that there are no blocks in the wall, rather the
bales are used as blocks because they have drilled cores that are grouted
with concrete- as blocks are.

On the insurance issue, the contractor was also the architect, carrying both
licenses, I believe.

Thanks again for the feedback

Danny Buck

----- Original Message -----
From: "Danny & Fionna Buck" fiodanbuck@...
To: "GSBN" GSBN@...
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2004 5:56 PM
Subject: Re: Moisture in SBW

> Hello everyone;
> Haven't spoken up for a while, but am following what's going on. Thanks
> all the good SB energy.
> I have been called in to look at a house that I did not build, but was
> showing a spot of moisture in one of the interior walls in the mud
> plaster.After some investigation, we have found extensive moisture
> throughout one wing of the house.This wing has a flat roof with no
> The other two wings have overhangs and are testing dry. Moisture in the
> former is as high as 40% in spots, but a lot of areas in the low 20%
> The pattern seems to be mainly under the flagstone window sills (about 8"
> deep and probably without any flashing under the flagstone.). The other
> factor seems to be that the entire house has elastomeric stucco. The owner
> has been caulking cracks in the stucco, which appear to be caused by
> moisture buildup- ie the areas along cracks tend to be very wet just below
> the stucco.
> The house was built with a system local to our area caled "bale block".
> a system where two 4" diameter holes are drilled through each bale prior
> it being laid into the wall. After two courses have been laid, a 4" PVC is
> used as a form and a reinforced concrete column is poured through each
> drilled hole, the PVC then being extracted. At every other course, a 2"
> reinforced "beam" is poured the width of the bale. Thus we have a concrete
> grid running vertically and horizontally throughout the wall.
> The owners are committed to making the house right (and rightly so for
> everyone's sake). Here are some questions under consideration:
> 1. We want to strip the house entirely of the elastomeric stucco,
> it with a cementitious color coat where the walls are dry. We are thinking
> of sand blasting it off. any other ideas?
> 2. The stone sills run the full depth of the straw bales, with the windows
> set on top of them. Is there any realistic way to make this waterproof
> without tearing out the entire sill?
> 3. We are expecting to tear out straw, wherever it is wet. Ibelieve it
> be difficult but doable in spite of all of the concrete. I am thinking
> we can get some drying once the walls are opened up, but doubt that we can
> expect to really dry more than a few inches from the surface. Can we dry
> deeper than that? What parameters shoud we use in deciding how much straw
> extract? When the moisture meter hits concrete in wet areas, the concrete
> as wet or wetter than the bales. Why?
> 4. Once straw is pulled out, with the concrete grid still in place, what
> we possibly refill the walls with?. The moisture tends towards the outside
> of the walls, so we are hoping to keep the interior surfaces intact and
> work from the outside.When refilling the walls, we want to keep moisture
> a minimum, so straw clay or other poured or puddled materials seem
> I do not see how to use straw realistically- would that be possible? We
> going into winter here.
> 5. I have not had a chance to investigate any possible coverage from
> liability insurance the original contractor may have carried. Would we
> expect this to apply? The house is about 4-5 years old.
> I am sure that other questions will arise as we proceed. This a very
> beautiful home, with lovely interior finishes. One problem inside is that
> the clay floors are wearing poorly around furniture. They want it replaced
> with colored concrete. Any ideas on this?
> Look forward to a response. Anyone want to do some volunteer (or perhaps
> paid) work on forensic straw bale?
> Cheers
> Danny Buck
> Santa Fe, NM