Alternative housing in Alabama (or elsewhere in the South)

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by DayBird, Jul 28, 2004.

  1. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    Once we do buy land, we would like to build a strawbale house. It just seems that all the information we find details how to build a strawbale house in arid regions. Has anyone built with strawbale in a more humid environment? Would wrapping the bales with that white house wrap help, if there is adequate ventilation within the house to keep humidity from building up on the inside? Of course, we'd have to use cement plastering. We'd like a metal roof with large overhangs and gutters to collect rainwater and large, South facing windows. We know that the Burrit Mansion in Huntsville was built with straw infill but it was treated with lots of chemicals that we'd not want to use. Also, the Rural Studio from Auburn University has experimented with strawbale in South Alabama but no studies have been done in regard to moisture infiltration. (They even built a strawbale "kissing hut" at the Birmingham Museum of Art not long ago that my wife and I completely enjoyed.)

    thanks everyone
    robert
     
  2. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Get Athena and Bill Steenes book on Strawbale houses. ( The Straw Bale House )
    You can buy it from amazon.com

    Do NOT wrap the bales. It seals in moisture. You do not need chemicals. Keep the bales dry and use adobe plaster with a lime render over it and it will keep you very comfortable.

    edited to add: there have been straw bale homes built in the PNW, washington state, oregon, northern calif.
     

  3. FolioMark

    FolioMark In Remembrance

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    Two ladies I know just built a huge strawbale house right here in town on an old infill lot. Trust me Central Illinois is not arid. Hot and humid summers ,wet springs and plenty of snow. The house has weathered two winters so far with no problems. go for it.
     
  4. januaries

    januaries Well-Known Member

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    We have a strawbale house here on the campus where I work (in Alabama). It has a rock floor and tin roof. I'll ask somebody who knows what they did about the potential moisture problem.
     
  5. barefoot gal

    barefoot gal Member

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    "Serious Straw Bale" by Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron has alot about building in more humid climates. I've studied with the idea of building one in Missouri (in summer we usually spell it Misery). From all my reading, cement stucco or any non-breathing surface treatment (even acrylic/latex paint on interior) is a BIG NO-NO. Moisture trapped in walls/bales could cause serious harm to you and your home. Mud or lime plasters seem to be the accepted finishes. The maintenance required has me looking more at cordwood masonry.
     
  6. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    Any chance of us coming to take a look?
     
  7. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    We have relative humidity in the summer as high as 90%. I can't think there would be any way that adobe or lime plaster would hold up. Also, this is near saturation, if there were any moisture in the straw to seep through the lime plaster, where would it go, air can only hold so much water vapor? I was hoping that with an airconditioner to cool and dehumidify the air inside the house, that any moisture in the strawbale wall would be drawn through to the inside to be forcefully expelled through the outside. (Osmosis-the process by which a substance flows through a semi-permeable membrane from a greater concentration to a lesser concentration.) I was hoping that I could make the exterior completelly impermeable to both liquid water and water vapor. It's more our hot, very humid, muggy summers that I'm concerned about than the cold, rainy winters.
     
  8. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    A good bit of research has gone into this. Moisture probes inside the bale walls of strawbale homes have shown that an adobe/lime plastered bale will continue to lose moisture even in a high humidity area. However, if an impermiable coating is on the bales they can get water inside and it will not evaporate. Adobe plasters will hold up just fine if they are not standing in water or have water running off them. The lime render is a fairly soft plaster, however, it reacts with moisture in the air and hardens further over time. It is soft enough not to crack the way cement based stucco cracks. These plasters have been used for millenia in some of the most humid areas in the world. Furthermore, they inhibit the growth of molds and mildews, unlike latex or stucco.
     
  9. januaries

    januaries Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely. We're located in Lineville, Alabama--about 30 miles south of Anniston. You can check out our website at www.sifat.org. A map is located on the "facilities" page. PM me and I'll give you more details.

    I talked to someone this morning who had helped with the construction of it. She said the walls have a foundation of cement block, and the straw bales rest on that. Rebar runs through the straw into the cement blocks. Chicken wire reaches down past the straw bales to the cement blocks, and runs over the top of the straw bales and down the other side. The stucco covers the chicken wire and thus encases the straw bales. I'm pretty sure the stucco is made of mortar, lime, and sand. (Don't know anything about straw bale building--this stuff may be basic to all strawbale homes.)
     
  10. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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