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Outlets and Bales

January 11, 2012

Since we are putting in our outlet and switch boxes differently than most straw bale houses, I thought I’d dedicate a short post to our methods.

Traditionally, the box is attached to a wooden stake and driven into the wall, like so:

A small amount of straw is cut away in advance allowing the box to sit about an inch proud of the wall. This method is pretty ubiquitous, but I’ve never heard any benefits to this method. In fact, it seems to offer several disadvantages. The first is that you have to create the spikes using a jig (here is a great resource if you are interested). The second draw back is that the box may not be very stable and could be knocked out of square while plastering. Finally, since the box is sitting proud of the bale wall, there is a possibility that it will also sit proud of the finished plaster. Again, I’ve never used this method, so there are likely benefits to this method that I’m not sharing. If any readers have chosen this method, I’d love to hear about your experience.

The video Mr. B and I watched (The How to Guide to Building with Straw Bales: Post and Beam) suggested a different method. It looks like this:

In this method, you cut a hole in a piece of plywood. A remodel box sits in the hole, the face of the plywood is covered with roofing felt, and the entire face plus some extra is covered in diamond lathe. A large hole is cut in the bales to hold the back of the box, and a small amount of straw is also removed to hold the plywood. The end result is a box that sits flush with the bales and can be attached to the bales at multiple points using landscape staples in the lathe. The primary benefit here is that the box can be leveled and set at the correct height and is unlikely to move during plastering. The main drawback of this method is that it is time consuming. Every piece of plywood needs a hole cut in it, and then needs to be covered in roofing felt, then gets a box, and then the whole thing is covered in lathe. I’m also thinking that this will be time consuming during plastering since we’ll have to plaster up to (but not over) the boxes in a clean way.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom Jones permalink
    January 11, 2012 10:46 am

    I never knew there was so much to learn about electrical boxes! Thanks for the great detailed information. I think this would be the best way to deal with the lathe and plaster in my house, and I feel that I am ready to try putting one in!

  2. January 11, 2012 11:53 am

    Whoa – I didn’t know you were going to try adding outlets to the house! I’d just leave them out if it was up to me 🙂


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