Woman builds house using clippings from local hairdressers

Posted on 4:34 PM by Sameer Shah

With a knowledge of ancient building techniques and her own 16th century cottage, Paula Sunshine wanted to renovate her home the traditional way.

But the lack of long-haired livestock in modern Britain meant it would be difficult to recreate the lime render plaster once used by builders who added animal hair for strength and flexibility.

Instead, she turned to local hair salons which allowed her to collect the clippings from their floors.

Over the past ten years she has replaced plaster inside her home and coated a 15ft by 6ft timber-framed extension. She is now using the unusual technique to render an outside wall.

'It might sound weird but human hair does a fantastic job,' said Miss Sunshine, 45, who teaches historic home renovation techniques.

'It is just as good as animal hair. In some respects it is better because it adds real strength and texture to the plaster. It also has great insulating properties.

'There is no problem getting hold of it because salons are more than happy to give it away.

'It is a brilliant product that they would otherwise just sweep up and throw away. If it were not for me collecting hair, it would end up on a landfill site.'

She added: 'A lot of builders giggle and think I am crazy when I tell them that human hair works just as well as animal hair.

'Some say it is not thick enough but I just put more hair in and it works brilliantly. Professional plasterers who have seen my work have complimented me on it.'

The practice of putting hair in plaster began hundreds of years ago when Tudor craftsmen favoured clippings from long-haired cattle.

Builders using the traditional technique today to renovate historic buildings tend to use hair from yaks or goats.

Miss Sunshine's series of projects have been carried out on the four-bedroom farmhouse in Lawshall, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, she shares with husband Barry Harber, 60, a PR consultant for a construction firm.

She said her lime render plaster mix - comprised of one part of lime putty to three parts of crushed chalk and as much hair as she can cram in - was best for historic buildings as it was flexibile and does not crack if the timber frame moves.

First she used the plaster to replace in-fill panels inside the house which were covered with modern gypsum plaster.

She then made a traditional wattle and daub mix from clay and straw to build around the timber frame of a porch extension and used several dustbins of human hair to plaster over the outside and finish the interior walls.

Miss Sunshine, who has written two books on house restoration, added: 'The extension was finished two years ago and it still has not got a single crack in the plasterwork.

'My current project is replacing the modern cement render on the north side of the house.

'I will be using a couple of rubbish bins full of hair which is probably only a couple of weeks' worth of clippings from a salon.

'The hair is supposed to be cut into lengths of about two inches but I find that longer hair is just as good.

'I have only ever used women's hair because men have their cut shorter so the bits of hair that are swept up are too short.

'I also always go to female hair salons because women usually have their hair washed before a cut which means it is very clean.

'People think the hair is going to smell awful but the opposite is the case. I have to say, my bin full of hair smells divine with all the products used.'

The walls of her home probably contain some of her own hair as she collects supplies from the local salon she uses.

She has also thrown in hair moulted by her cat, miniature daschund and black labrador.

Viv Cawston, owner of VMC Salon in Bury St Edmunds, said she was impressed someone had come up with a use for leftover hair.

''It's great that it's used, otherwise it just gets thrown away,' she added.

'I have never had anyone else asking to use it and I think Paula is very clever to come up with the idea.'

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