Once the workshop framing was done I could begin with the insulation and drywalling, first I had an electrician pass all the cables through the walls and ceilings since that wouldn’t have been possible afterwards.

For insulation I wanted something natural and healthy as most chemical insulations do emit harmful substances into the rooms and before commencing the construction we had spend the previous year demolishing and cleaning up the land, which also involved chemicals and other harmful materials which are a pain to dispose off, so we didn’t want to leave the next generation with the same rubbish. But the available natural products such as wood/flax fibres, cork or cellulose were quite expensive starting at €27/m2. I had about 380m2 to insulate, this would have cost over 10K! While on the farm we produce tons of straw, so I thought of using that as an insulation. it’s also why I made the walls extra thick.

The year before we especially made a few hundred bales from spelt, which is a type of grain, it gives straw that is compact and which holds it’s shape. At one time I used wheat straw but this was more difficult to work with.

Above you can see a straw bale from spelt, the bale press take new straw and presses it against the straw already in the baler, this makes that the bales are not one solid piece but rather a collection of pressed disks. You can set the bale length on the press so we actually tried to make 18cm long bales so they would fit in the walls, unfortunately this failed because they were not long enough to remain square, the pressure from the rope pulled them into a round shape.

None of this had ever been done as far as I knew, the idea was to staple the moisture barrier to the walls and then take an approximate section of 18cm from the bale and tuck it in between the wall beams. This took a bit of trial and error but it basically worked. Our bales are about 38cm wide, while in between the walls I have 36cm. This means that they fit snugly.

The trick is to not push too hard or the paper tears at the staples. Consumption was of about 0,75 bales per m2 (and these were shorter than average) Since we usually sell these for €1 a piece (way under market price) this means that theoretical cost is €0.75 cents per square meter. Or a cost of less than €300 for the entire construction.

Before doing the walls it was necessary to place the drywall panels on the ceiling first, for this my supplier suggested “Ladura” from Siniat, these are reinforced with fibreglass so they are more resistant to pressure, especially from the straw inside. But this also makes them very heavy, so I had to use narrow panels that were 60cm wide. This makes that I had to place them perpendicular to the wall and ceiling beams which all had a 40cm spacing.

The MFTC proved to be a very efficient table to cut drywall panels, when doing the assembly room we placed the ceiling panels by hand while standing on a little platform. This was extremely exhausting due to their weight and need to balance the panel with one hand and the drill with screws in the other. So when doing the machine room and apartment I rented a lift which greatly facilitated this task.

This was my first ever experience with drywalling so I watched a bunch of videos and tutorials to get it right. I did the finishing room by myself entirely and used a mesh tape for the joints and paper for the corners. This turned out ok, not perfect and with lots of sanding. Below you can see the apartment for which I had some help from experienced friends. They all told me that using paper for the corners was useless and time consuming. Looking back I can tell it isn’t, as almost all corners have developed cracks over time, but none in the room I drywall myself with paper.

Below is the machine room being drywalled, this one I did mostly alone and this took a big toll on my morale, I absolutely hate drywalling. Doing this room took nearly 2 weeks and it was in the middle of the summer during the harvest so I had to work on it in the mornings and late at night when we came home.

The other rooms I had sanded by hand or with my woodworking sander, but for this room I rented a drywalling sander giraffe, which was a Flex model. This made sanding go much faster but this sander had the motor up front which made it extremely nose heavy and exhausting to use. Some models like the Festool Planex have the motor at the back which makes them much lighter to handle.

Then came time for the painting, I chose a completely natural paint with zero VOC. Luckily there is a store nearby that sells exclusively natural and ecological building materials. This paint doesn’t emit any harmful substances into the air, which is important since I will be spending most of my time inside.

In the assembly room below I later added a third pole between the two poles so that I had a support to attach the dust collection and power supply for the panel saw and jointer/planer.

Below you can see the apartment practically finished, we chose earthy tones for the walls.

The next step was to install the lighting and do the flooring of the workshop.