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Hemp shiv alternatives?

WaysideWayside Posts: 807
edited November 2020 in Tools and techniques
I'm looking at hemp crete as a building material.  The hemp is used as an aggregate with lime.  And is good for breathability and insulation.  All good stuff.

I don't really want to import materials if I can, so was wondering if there was a similar plant that I could grow onsite.  Or whether another shredded plant/wood would do the job.  This is for an outbuilding - so happy to experiment.

I frequently have buddleia cuttings, this is quite lightweight, probably airy in structure.  Also can get hold of hazel cuttings, and field maple.  I'm thinking about whether I have stuff that I could use that is harvested here - general cuttings.

I'd happily grow hemp given the room if a license wasn't required, but I'd probably be hard pushed for room!  Would be interested from those in the know if there is another alternative.

I could buy in some hemp shiv, but I'm looking to bulk it out.

It's a bit chicken and egg, hemp seems like such a marvellous building material, but I guess it will take time for it to catch on, and prices to fall, and for it to be grown closer to home.

But if you do know a hemp shiv producers in Sussex, Kent, or Hampshire do tell.


  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 11,436
    These people in Hampshire supply it as animal bedding, so might not be big enough for your needs.
  • Have you come across the Centre for Alternative Technology They were offering this hempcrete course until Covid cancelled it. I am sure they must have some online resources and/or ideas as to where you could source product (or alternatives).

  • WaysideWayside Posts: 807
    @AnniD I hadn't thought about bedding.  That's a really interesting angle.  Thanks.

    @rachelQrtJHBjb thanks, yes I know of CAT, difficult for me to get to.  But that looks like an ace day out.  Alex Sparrow has some good resources online.  Including this good intro to hempcrete: will scour the web some more.

  • Did you sourse any hemp alternatives? I've already done part of my cottage but I've got 2 more rooms and have run out of hemp shiv.
  • WaysideWayside Posts: 807
    edited May 2021
    @casarambla no!  I was just going to go with hemp shiv, and or cork, and then Brexit happened.  So EU imports are a pain and more expensive now.  That will teach me for leaving it so long.

    Now wondering what my mileage would be with bags of bark?  Or something else.

    I have two large trees to fell, so am considering shredding them.  And/or using them in part as a cordwood build.  I have lime on-site.  But given the plague, I won't be able to fire it.  I'll do something vaguely permaculture-ish.  As it is an outbuilding - I can experiment somewhat.

    What sort of price for hemp shiv did you feel is good?  A large build can use, lots of shiv!
  • Wayside ta for the reply. Keep me posted re hemp shiv alternatives. I have a large heap of shredded willow and sycamore. If I get time I'll give it a go and let u know. Currently still up to eyeballs in renovation project so don't hold your breath waiting for me. I got my hemp for £5 a bail but that was a leftover project. Normally expect £30'sh per bail.
    Good luck.
  • I read before that stinging nettle (Urtica dioca) make a good fibre crop but I think the traditional preparation method of retting them to rot away the non fibre part of the plant sounded a bit laborious. They might still make an easier to collect alternative to hemp and some people might let you collect some from their land for free.
  • Not sure if you came up with any solutions.. I'm a traditional plasterer and make my own hemp plaster/ hempcrete etc. Aubiose supply loads of merchants across the UK and you can get it in a fine or regular shiv. The regular is fine for hempcrete and coarse plaster. The fine is brilliant for a fine coat plaster. You can also use flax, elephant grass and there's an animal bedding shredded cardboard pulp- I can't remember what it's called at the minute. Lincolnshire lime also sell their own hemp shiv. 
    It is very widely available in the UK without importing it. You don't say what you're planning to use it for- that's one of the main factors with it and the aggregate (in this case the plant fibres) you use will limit where you can use it without rot or degradation being an issue. 

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,134
    I hope you don't teach English @alexwillam6969852LPygC  :D
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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