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Wattle daub: introduction
What is wattle and daub?
Historically, wattle and daub has been one of the most common wall infill techniques for timber framed buildings. Sarah Partridge at Orchard Barn defines it quite simply as ‘mud and sticks’ – the sticks being a lattice of woven strips of wood, like a hurdle, and the mud being a daub of local, clayey subsoil, possibly mixed with animal dung and plant material.
She works in and teaches an East Anglian style of wattle and daub which uses coppice sticks, called withies, most often of hazel, tied to horizontal spars. This wooden framework, which might also be willow or might in the past have been of elm, is then covered with subsoil mixed to make a sort of cob . Traditionally this mixing was done by leaving animals on the subsoil overnight to trample it and add their manure; the mixture would be augmented with bracken, hay or straw.
Timber-framed building with panels at various stages of wattle & daub infill.
Wattle and daub, with minor variations in, for example, the orientation of the withies, or the exact makeup of the daub, has been used all over the world for millennia. It is a technique adaptable to local materials and building styles.
Wattle and daub building has a season: it has to be able to dry. The walls need to be kept dry, so they are usually built on a sill, what bale builders might call a “toe-up”, but might also be put on a flint foundation wall. In these ways, wattle daub is not unlike other earth building techniques.
Timber frame workshop with wattle & daub infill, part 1: making the wattle panels.
These walls, built using a technique that goes right back to the construction of Iron Age roundhouses, are heavy, as heavy as brickwork, and strong, very durable and secure.
Wattle and daub is making a comeback as an extremely sustainable infill for new timber framed buildings.
What are the benefits of wattle and daub?
Wattle and daub makes use of local subsoil, a free and readily available material. Wattle and daub builders can plunder the waste heaps of roadworks, and construction sites, taking away subsoil which would otherwise be hauled away to landfill. Even if you have to resort to digging it up you end up with a hole which can be turned into a pond.
Mixing clay and straw for daub.
The wood used in wattle and daub is a traditional coppice product, and so its use encourages coppicing with all of its attendant environmental benefits. Like straw bale and timber framing, wattle and daub is a carbon store.
Wattle and daub is hygroscopic – i.e. it takes up moisture in humid conditions and releases it when conditions are drier. Clay is reputed to draw toxins from the air. A wattle and daub wall “breathes”, and so, like a bale or cob wall, helps to create that most pleasant living environment familiar to anyone who has spent time in a natural building. NB: for these reasons, it’s important not to use impervious materials like cement or non-breathable fillers or paints with wattle and daub.
Like earth or stone walls, wattle and daub can be designed to provide thermal mass. Walls are typically 4-5 inches thick, but wattle and daub is adaptable and thicker walls could be built with heat retention in mind.
Timber frame / wattle & daub workshop, part 2: applying the daub.
Natural builders often say that ‘old daub is best’ – another advantage of wattle and daub is that it can be recycled. Internal walls can be taken down, mixed with water and re-made in another position. One might imagine the internal divisions of a building with wattle and daub walls changing over the generations without the need to add significant amounts of new material.
Natural building materials tend to encourage creativity, and wattle and daub, like cob or bale building, lends itself to sculpture and the creation of ‘organic’ forms. Sarah has experimented with ‘polishing’ wattle and daub. This developed naturally from the process of ‘compacting’ the daub to fill any drying cracks as they occur, but gives an alternative to a lime plaster or whitewash finish.
Wattle and daub walls are extremely durable. Original walls still exist in medieval buildings in the UK – some up to 700 years old.
Alfriston Clergy House, in Sussex, UK, has original wattle & daub panels almost 700 years old.
What can I do?
Wattle and daub is a cost-effective wall system, relatively easy to learn and fun to do. It is slow compared to building a modern stud wall with boards, and as with any natural material, the techniques need to be learned to a certain extent through trial and error, particularly as materials, not least subsoil, vary very much from area to area. Perhaps the best way to learn the basics is to go on a course. The mixing of the daub, use of the withies, and the ‘slapping on’ application technique may all be straightforward, but to gain confidence in a technique there is no substitute for learning it alongside someone experienced.
Once you start on your own project, wattle and daub is easy enough to undo and to experiment with. Trying a small panel will allow you to see the qualities of your material as it dries, so that, for example, you can add more or less straw, or whatever ‘tying’ material you are adding to your subsoil.
Timber frame / wattle & daub workshop, part 3: lime render.
The kit for wattle and daub building could hardly be simpler. A tarpaulin for the mixing of the daub is a good idea, as are wellington boots and old clothes, otherwise, all your need are your hands.
Working with subsoil requires that you take some care to wash your hands after working, and you shouldn’t daub with open cuts. Other than that, as long as your withies are secured well enough to avoid any collapse, the technique should be very safe. Bear in mind though that the daub is slapped on, and some people might prefer to wear goggles when they are daubing.
Your wattle and daub walls will crack as they dry. You can compact the daub to fill the cracks, or polish it. Even slowing the drying process by running a wet sponge over the daub will help. Finishing with a lime plaster or even a lime wash will cover or fill the cracks as well.
Nowadays, the timbers of timber framed buildings tend to be exposed, for aesthetic reasons. In medieval times, timbers and panels would normally have all been plastered. This may have been a much better idea, as the junction of timbers and plaster could allow ingress of water or draughts.
If you have an old timber-framed house, here is some information on repairing damaged wattle and daub panels.
Thanks to Sarah Partridge of Orchard Barn for information.
The specialist(s) below will respond to queries on this topic. Please comment in the box at the bottom of the page.
Sarah Partridge of Orchard Barn – a project to restore 17th century timber frame barn in Mid Suffolk, now an environmental education centre. Phase two is the reinstatement of a 1580 Suffolk Long House. Sarah now teaches wattle and daub at Orchard Barn. Courses start with harvesting hazel and digging daub!
We’d love to hear your comments, tips and advice on this topic, and if you post a query, we’ll try to get a specialist in our network to answer it for you.
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Juli Johnson said on September 21, 2016
We would like to build our home of timber frame with wattle &daub in fill. We have a lot of red alder on our property but no oak and not many cedars or firs. If we were to build with alder, (which isn’t a wood that should be exposed to the elements),and encased the timber frame with the finishing lime plaster instead of leaving the frame exposed – would that work?
Alder would be fine exposed on the inside, but would the lime plaster work well enough to keep the exterior in good condition?
Maybe only using for or cedar for areas of the frame that wouldn’t get plastered, like the sill plate.
It sure would be nice to use materials we have readily available.
Thank you for your blog, I think it will be helpful.1
Sarah Partridge said on September 21, 2016
Not sure where in the world you are building and have no experience of red alder as a building material, so I’m sorry but can’t comment on how well lime would protect the alder. However, have you considered designing your roof so that it extends a fair way over your external walls? That way your roof can help protect your walls. We’ve done this with our new tool shed at http://www.orchardbarn.org.uk and it works well keeping rain directly off the wattle and daub panels. A natural french drain of stone around the outside would help to take water away from your home too.2
Juli Johnson said on September 21, 2016
We live in Sedro Wooley, Washington State near Alger. Red Alder is a deciduous hardwood, great for making furniture as it takes stains and such well, but it’s softer than most hardwoods and decays quickly when cut and left to the elements.
Yes, we plan on 3′ eves and a french drain to take the water away.3
adrian leaman said on September 22, 2016
A house is a precious thing and you’ll have a long time to enjoy it or regret. For the sake of peace of mind i’d import some properly durable timber to use for the sole plates of the building and possibly the lower sections. Use large eves as Sarah says and use your local no-durable timber farther up in the building and for all the internal and covered components. Adrian4
Carmel Smith said on April 18, 2017
What kind of wood can be used instead of hazel for the wattle weaving? Where I am in North America, hazel is not much available. I assume another kind of hardwood branch or brush, but what are the comparable qualities I should look for?5
Sarah Partridge said on April 24, 2017
Hi Carmel, from what I’ve seen of materials used historically, they used what they had – from Elm, Maple, Oak. Once they are encased in the daub it preserves them. The qualities you are looking for are flexibility, or something that will cleave and give you strips that will weave around your uprights. Fresh material is easier to work with, but avoid willow, or anything that is likely to resprout (unless you want a living wall). Straight(ish) lengths are helpful as you want to avoid big gaps between your wattle. Good luck and enjoy!6
Veronica said on July 30, 2017
How long do you wait before putting on a lime plaster and any tips you would give to make it stick well to the daub? Thanks7
Sarah Partridge said on July 31, 2017
Hi Veronica, what a good question.
Depending on the ambient temperature you can apply plaster/render within a couple of days of daubing. You just want the daub to ‘set’ a little. If applied within a couple of days the residual moisture in the daub will help adhesion.
Alternatively, if there is a longer time period between daubing and plastering (and that’s fine too), apply several coats of fine mist/water to give the daub moisture before plastering.
Another idea that we like at Orchard Barn is to float up the daub just after it has been applied. This gives a very natural, organic look and cuts out the need for render. It may not be suitable for outdoor panels that get a lot of rain.
I hope that helps,
Kerry Lee said on February 6, 2018
I live in the Houston, TX area (sub-tropical, so extremely humid and hot), and I am investigating home construction methods that would consist mostly of material I could get from a few acres of land. I’m especially interested in tudor style timber frame construction with a wattle & daub envelope. My question is this: would consistent high humidity combined with high heat be a problem for the wattle & daub? For example, would it make the growth of fungus within the walls more likely, or would there be a risk of wet rot in wattle?9
Juli said on February 6, 2018
We are newly homesteading and so don’t have any coppiced trees ready for use as wattles. I would like to build before those trees could produce the battles or withies though, but for any alternative material all we have is vine maple (very wavery, but flexible), red elderberry and mostly salmon berry. So I’m wondering if any of these would work, especially the salmon berry as it’s the perfect dimension already though I don’t know if it w would have the strength. Which leads to my next thought I which is that the settles main purpose would just be to add a
A little structure but mainly to build the cob or Daub up without having the thickness that is required in just a cob wall. Is that correct?
Sarah Partridge said on February 6, 2018
Hi Kerry, thank-you for asking what is a very interesting question! My first thought is that the clay content of daub would provide some degree of moisture control in that clay is hygroscopic. My second thought is have you the time to make a trial panel and observe what happens over a year or so? We have a 200 year old wattle and daub panel at Orchard Barn that has 200 year old wattle incased in the daub which tells me that the daub preserves and prevents decay of the wattle in UK climate, but I have no direct experience of the type of climate you describe so I can’t answer any more than that, however if you could do a trial and let us all know the results that would be very useful for others going forward with wattle and daub, Sarah11
Sarah Partridge said on February 6, 2018
Hi Juli, from what I’ve seen of wattle in the UK they used what they had to hand. I don’t hand first hand experience of the materials you are describing but I would suggest having a go and seeing how they fare. The main purpose of the wattle is to provide a framework on which to apply (from both sides) a sticky daub (pretty much the same as cob but more pliable and without the large stones). I hope that helps. Do keep us posted as to how you get on!12
Kerry Lee said on February 7, 2018
Thank you for your reply. A trial panel is an excellent idea! I’m probably a couple of years away from doing even that, but when I do, I’ll try to remember to update you.13
Juli said on February 7, 2018
Sound good, maybe I’ll have a go at the chicken coop first.14
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Wattle and daub
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|Look up wattle and daub in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Wattle and daub in wooden frames
Wattle and daub is a composite building material used for making walls, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil , clay , sand , animal dung and straw. Wattle and daub has been used for at least 6,000 years and is still an important construction material in many parts of the world. Many historic buildings include wattle and daub construction, and the technique is becoming popular again in more developed areas as a low-impact sustainable building technique.
- 1 Construction
- 2 History
- 3 Styles of infill panels
- 3.1 Close-studding
- 3.2 Square panels
- 4 Applications
- 4.1 Pug and pine
- 4.2 Mud and stud
- 4.3 Pierrotage, columage
- 4.4 Bajarreque
- 4.5 Jacal
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Construction[ edit ]
Wattle in construction
The wattle is made by weaving thin branches (either whole, or more usually split) or slats between upright stakes. The wattle may be made as loose panels, slotted between timber framing to make infill panels, or made in place to form the whole of a wall. In different regions, the material of wattle can be different. For example, in Mitchell Site on the northern outskirts of the city of Mitchell, South Dakota, willow has been found as the wattle material of the walls of the house.  Reeds and vines can also be used as wattle material.   The origin of the term wattle describing a group of acacias in Australia, is derived from the common use of acacias as wattle in early Australian European settlements. 
Daub is usually created from a mixture of ingredients from three categories: binders , aggregates and reinforcement. Binders hold the mix together and can include clay, lime , chalk dust and limestone dust. Aggregates give the mix its bulk and dimensional stability through materials such as earth, sand, crushed chalk and crushed stone. Reinforcement is provided by straw, hair, hay or other fibrous materials, and helps to hold the mix together as well as to control shrinkage and provide flexibility.  The daub may be mixed by hand, or by treading – either by humans or livestock . It is then applied to the wattle and allowed to dry, and often then whitewashed to increase its resistance to rain. Sometimes there can be more than one layer of daub. Still in Mitchell Site, the anterior of the house had double layers of burned daub. 
This process has been replaced in modern architecture by lath and plaster , a common building material for wall and ceiling surfaces, in which a series of nailed wooden strips are covered with plaster smoothed into a flat surface. In many regions this building method has itself been overtaken by drywall construction using plasterboard sheets.
History[ edit ]
A wattle and daub house as used by Native Americans during the Mississippian period
The wattle and daub technique was used already in the Neolithic period. It was common for houses of a Linear pottery and Rössen cultures of Central Europe, but is also found in Western Asia ( Çatalhöyük , Shillourokambos ) as well as in North America ( Mississippian culture ) and South America ( Brazil ). In Africa it is common in the architecture of traditional houses such as those of the Ashanti people . Its usage dates back at least 6000 years. There are suggestions that construction techniques such as lath and plaster and even cob may have evolved from wattle and daub. Fragments from prehistoric wattle and daub buildings have been found in Africa, Europe, Mesoamerica and North America.  A review of English architecture especially reveals that the sophistication of this craft is dependent on the various styles of timber frame housing. 
A woven wattle gate keeps animals out of the 15th century cabbage patch ( Tacuinum Sanitatis , Rouen)
Styles of infill panels[ edit ]
As discussed earlier, there were two popular choices for wattle and daub infill paneling: close-studded paneling and square paneling.
Close-studding[ edit ]
Close-studding panels create a much more narrow space between the timbers: anywhere from 7 to 16 inches (18 to 40 cm). For this style of panel, weaving is too difficult, so the wattles run horizontally and are known as ledgers. The ledgers are sprung into each upright timber (stud) through a system of augered holes on one side and short chiseled grooves along the other. The holes (along with holes of square paneling) are drilled at a slight angle towards the outer face of each stud. This allows room for upright hazels to be tied to ledgers from the inside of the building. The horizontal ledgers are placed every two to three feet (0.6 to 0.9 metres) with whole hazel rods positioned upright top to bottom and lashed to the ledgers. These hazel rods are generally tied a finger widths apart with 6–8 rods each with a 16-inch (40 cm) width. Gaps allow key[ clarification needed ] formation for drying. 
Square panels[ edit ]
Square panels are large, wide panels typical of some later timber frame houses. These panels may be square in shape, or sometimes triangular to accommodate arched or decorative bracing. This style does require wattles to be woven for better support of the daub.
To insert wattles in a square panel several steps are required. First, a series of evenly spaced holes are drilled along the middle of the inner face of each upper timber. Next, a continuous groove is cut along the middle of each inner face of the lower timber in each panel. Vertical slender timbers, known as staves, are then inserted and these hold the whole panel within the timber frame. The staves are positioned into the holes and then sprung into the grooves. They must be placed with sufficient gaps to weave the flexible horizontal wattles.
Applications[ edit ]
In some places or cultures, the technique of wattle and daub were used with different materials thus has different names, including pug and pine, mud and stud (stud and mud), hourdis, rab (rad) and dab, pierrotage/bousillage (bouzillage) and columage. Bajarreque and jacal are examples of structure built with the technique of wattle and daub.
Pug and pine[ edit ]
In the early days of the colonisation of South Australia , in areas where substantial timber was unavailable, pioneers’ cottages and other small buildings were frequently constructed with light vertical timbers, which may have been “native pine” ( Callitris or Casuarina spp. ), driven into the ground, the gaps being stopped with pug (kneaded clay and grass mixture). Another term for this construction is palisade and pug. 
Mud and stud[ edit ]
A mud and stud wall in Tumby Woodside , Lincolnshire
“Mud and stud” is a similar process to wattle and daub, with a simple frame consisting only of upright studs joined by cross rails at the tops and bottoms. Thin staves of ash were attached, then daubed with a mixture of mud, straw, hair and dung. The style of building was once common in Lincolnshire . 
Pierrotage, columage[ edit ]
Pierrotage is the infilling material used in French Vernacular architecture of the Southern United States to infill between half-timbering with diagonal braces, which is similar with daub. It is usually made of lime mortar clay mixed with small stones. It is also called bousillage or bouzillage, especially in French Vernacular architecture of Louisiana of the early 1700s. The materials of bousillage are Spanish moss or clay and grass. Bousillage also refers to the type of brick molded with the same materials and used as infilling between posts. Columbage refers to the timber-framed construction with diagonal bracing of the framework. Pierratage or bousillage is the material filled into the structural timbers. 
Example of pierrotage construction in Ste. Geneviève, Missouri .
Bajarreque[ edit ]
Bajarreque is a wall constructed with the technique of wattle and daub. The wattle here is made of bagasse , and the daub is the mix of clay and straw. 
Jacal[ edit ]
Jacal can refer to a type of crude house whose wall is built with wattle and daub in southwestern America. Closely spaced upright sticks or poles driven into the ground with small branches (wattle) interwoven between them make the structural frame of the wall. Mud or an adobe clay (daub) is covered outside. To provide additional weather protection, the wall is usually plastered. 
See also[ edit ]
- Lath and plaster
- Earthen plaster
- Cob (building)
- Rammed earth
- Timber frame
- Ceramic houses
- Clay panel
Notes[ edit ]
- ^ Alex 1973 .
- ^ Harris, Cyril M.. “Dictionary of architecture and construction, fourth edition.” 2006 
- ^ Allen, Edward, & Iano, Joseph. “Fundamentals of building construction: materials & methods, fifth edition”
- ^ “Australia’s Wattle Day – Parliament of Australia” . Aph.gov.au. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
- ^ Pritchett, Ian. The Building Conservation Directory, 2001: “Wattle and Daub”. Accessed 2 February 2007
- ^ Alex 1973 , p. 151.
- ^ Shaffer, Gary D. (Spring 1993). “An Archaeomagnetic Study of a Wattle and Daub Building Collapse”. Journal of Field Archaeology. 20 (1): 59–75. JSTOR 530354 .
- ^ Graham, A.H.D. “Wattle and Daub: Craft, Conservation and Wiltshire Case Study” (Dissertation), 2004. Accessed 26 October 2012
- ^ Sunshine, Paula. Wattle and Daub. Buckinghamshire: Shire Publications Ltd 2006.
- ^ “Archived copy” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 January 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- ^ Aslet, Clive (15 August 2011). “Villages of Britain: The Five Hundred Villages that Made the Countryside” . Bloomsbury Publishing USA. Retrieved 20 March 2018 – via Google Books.
- ^ Harris 2006, p. 231, p. 725.
- ^ Harris 2006, p. 77.
- ^ Harris 2006, p. 551.
References[ edit ]
- Robert, Alex (1973). “Architectural features of houses at the Mitchell Site (39DV2), Eastern South Dakota”. Plains Anthropologist. 18 (60). JSTOR 25667144 .
External links[ edit ]
- Media related to Wattle and daub at Wikimedia Commons
- Soil-based building materials
- Archaeology of structures
- Timber framing
- Construction terminology
- Types of wall
- CS1 maint: Archived copy as title
- Wikipedia articles needing clarification from December 2012
- Commons category link from Wikidata
- Use dmy dates from October 2010
- This page was last edited on 4 November 2018, at 17:37 (UTC).
- Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License ;
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