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Re: GSBN:Borax in plaster

Hello all - One more idea to add to the borax/plaster/mold string...

A couple of years ago, we were faced with a fairly high vandalism-fire risk on a large commercial building. Not believing we could saturate the erected bale walls with enough borax fire-retardant through any reasonable spray apparatus (and not wanting to get the borax on other building components... steel, finished concrete, etc.), we explored a "dipping" process.

We planned on a shallow trough large enough that it could take the full surface of a bale's "edge" (the side with the exposed cut or folded ends of the straw) in it at one time. We planned on pre-mixing the borax/water solution at a proper percentage for flash-fire resistance (like a match or burning paper tossed at the wall... or an errant plumbing torch), and filling the trough about 3" deep with it. Each bale, destined for a wall we felt was vulnerable to the fire risk, would be set down in the mixture for a few seconds... long enough for the mixture to soak up into the bale "grain" a couple of inches. If necessary, the bale would be flipped over and the other side saturated as well. These bales would be stack aside until they were needed. By the time the bales got to the wall and up into it, they would no longer be "wet", but would have a nice, deep coating of fire-retardant capacity soaked into them. (We never actually used the process we developed, in that the owners of the project (a 22,000 s.f. school campus) decided that a security patrol was a better risk management approach during construction, and so they didn't think the time/cost/effort of the fire-retardant protocol was necessary...)

Being that we're in Arizona, mold from plastering is not an issue, nor was it in this project. But, it seems this might work great for the concerns brought up in this thread... It puts the mold retarder right where the mold is likely to start, while not altering the plaster composition at all. I don't know what the treatment would do to adhesion between the straw and plaster, but the little bit of remaining moisture in the straw might actually help the bond of the clay (Bill Steen, any thoughts on this?). Also, it might be a bit more achievable on the couple of hundred bales necessary for a house, versus what we were faced with in dipping some 2,000 bales on both sides for the school project...

Tom Hahn

Hello baleheads,

One of our workshop participants asked me if they can earth-plaster (inside)
late in the autum. (of course they know that it is better to plaster during
summer but time flies...
I suggested to ventilate and to make sure the moisture laden air gets out of the house. They might heat the house also (but I'm conviced that ventilation is more
important, like stirring a cold coffee to dilute the suggar rather than hot
coffee without stirring).
I remember reading that one can also add borax to the earthen plaster to avoid
mould. Does any of you have exp?rience with borax in the plaster. And how much
would you advice to use?

Thanks for your advice.

Warm bale greetings,

André canyoupleasescrapeoffthatmouldofmyback de Bouter

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