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Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by tnborn, Nov 24, 2006.
Has anyone built a house out of hay bales or straw? If so, how successful is it?
I have helped build one. I have visited a completed & inhabited one. Also a large strawbale/cob chicken coop - with a vaulted strawbale roof, no less!
They are amazingly cozy in winter, and cool in summer.
I built and lived in one. They are very warm in the winter cool in the summer. I ran out of money before I could get it stuckoed (sp?) so I used huge tarps to wrap it in. It had a tin roof and a wood stove for heat. I would recomend one :nerd:
where did you all get your bales from? Is their a certain place to order from?I have never heard of bale or straw houses until today when I was on a solar sight. How long does it take to build?
I haven't built one but here are some more resources.
All sorts of "alternative" information but along the right is strawbales section
A large PDF file of plans, problems, disadvantages, permits, interiors, etc, etc. A basic on everything
another strawbale site
Lotta work.....lotta work.
CatsPaw: Not sure how helpful your "lotta work" comment is as it explains NOTHING. Stick frame houses are allso "LOTTA WORK" .... for life. Care to expand on your comment in order to make it at least helpful?
Strawbale houses are quite easy and fast to build in comparison to a stick frame house. Other than adding a roof, one can do much of the work oneself or with a few inexperienced people. Bale parties are often how most walls are put up, sometimes in a single day. Of course much depends on your design as with stick frame. However, they are MUCH more energy efficient than stick frames as well as more durable and unlike stick frames, strawbale houses are EXTREMELY fire resistant. Straw bales don't burn, unlike wood. At the most, strawbales would smolder a bit.
However, stick framing is a big industry and they've got a lot at stake to contiune promoting their highly inefficient and high profit building methods. Sort of like McDonalds advertising like crazy selling burgers and fries, even though the food quality is poor, unhealthy and socially irresponsible, but advertising works.
"Square" bales (though they're really rectangular) are not as common as they used to be, but are still readily availible. Some "straw" is somewhat better than others but mainly it's important to find well tied and tight bales, and of course, like wood, to keep them dry during the building process.
The only negative to bale building is if one builds with wet bales, which just like wet wood, will allow mould to grow. Otherwise bale building is brilliant and it would solve many housing, environmental and energy problems, summer and winter. Straw is a waste product, unlike trees. Millions of bales are burned each year just to get rid of them when otherwise, they could be used to make affordable houses. A ballpark stat a few years ago (don't remember the exact figures) had enough straw burned in California just as a waste product that would otherwise could have built 15,000 homes, of 2,000 sq. ft. each.
Some good books out there too which will get you up to speed on making a decision. Finding an bale familiar architect if you were to go that route, is a bit more difficult. Enjoy the fun of bale building if you go that route.
More stuff on strawbale homes here:
The book thats listed first is (I think) really good. It provides a very detailed description of the building process for the simple strawbale homes that the Red Feather organization builds.
I jave friends who live in a straw bale house they built themselves. It is the most wonderful house, visually, that I have ever been in. Pillowy walls, deep windows---lots of hand carved doors and wood work and exposed beams. Just lovely. Like an old English cottage.
"the only negative to bale building is if one builds with wet bales" Curious as to how you reach this conclusion? What about:
1. Code acceptance. There have been cases of homes that never left the drawing board, to homes that never were occupied due to the lack of a C.O., All a result of local and state code officials that refused to accept the method.
2. Settling. Load bearing bale walls have had issues with uneven compression, uneven settling, stucco cracking and serious structural problems.
3. Water infiltation. The more recent publications I have read show extensive and complex detailing to prevent wicking from the bottom of the wall into the wall cavity. obviously this has become a known issue?
4. Financing. Any building technique that is far from the mainstream can be a nightmare to build unless it is a strictly cash endeavour. Getting financing from a mainstream bank can be difficult to impossible.
5. Resale, see #4. You might find a buyer who loves it, will their bank feel the same?
I'm sure, given enough time and input from others who are willing to be realistic, this list could grow by a few dozen reasons. This is not to say that I have any issue with a bale structure, I think that most of them are quite impressive. I take issue to anybody who wants to take a "dreamers view" of any non traditional technique. Every building technique has a multitude of pros and cons. The stick building that you find distasteful has been the most successful technique of construction that any modern society has attempted. It is fast, relatively inexpensive, can be insulated to any standard the owner wishes, is a know commodity throughout North America, is code approved in any environment, including extreme hurricane and seismic zones, and has sucessfully housed hundreds of millions of people in the last 150 years. I have worked on stick homes that are 100 years old, quite functional, and solid. Sorry but I disagree that is a product of some highly inefficient and profitable industry with a hidden agenda. That sounds pretty paranoid to me. The traditional housing industry, for it's size, is amazingly fractionated in terms of market share for all players from builders to raw material suppliers. It is exceptionally cyclical, and at the moment FAR from profitable. I find proponents of alternative building techniques to be a lot more credible when they are willing to step up to the plate with the whole story. EVERY method of building know to man has it's drawbacks. Every alternative construction technique has serious drawbacks, or it wouldn't be alternative. Every alternative technique also has some real straight shooters among the leaders who will tell it like it is. Rob Roy is a good example in the cordwood building arena. He writes books and does workshops explaining the good and bad about his passion. the original poster needs to find folks in the straw bale world who will provide that type of knowledge.
We will be building with bale. We plan to build a structure that is not load bearing, and that has a good plan for keeping out the water. We plan to build without a loan, and to build small, so it may take us years to complete. I think any of the disadvantages of bale building can be over come with a good design, good engineering; a good overall plan.
If you want all the bells and whistles, it can be just as expensive as any other kind of building, so keep it simple and as small as you can be comfortable with.
We will be looking for our "place" to build on so that we can move onto it in June, I think, if all goes well. Not sure where we will land.
Good luck with your decision. We did a lot of research, and this is what feels right to us to do...
AHHHHH - some of us have built and are currently living in strawbale homes. Mine is 3200 SF and we love it. Be careful how you build it though. there are some methods that are much more user friendly. PM me if you would like to discuss (its techy) and want pics.
I have not but I am planning on it If I can get some raw land to buy and build on and mine will just have slab wood siding on it with large over hangs.
Does the sucess of staw bales depend partially on your location? state, etc? i dont know, just a question?
To: Ed Stanton
Websites were already posted that would provide Tn with alot of info. The one thing those sites probably don't emphazise enough is that straw bale houses are alot of work.....aLOTTA work.
So my comment was being very helpful.
TiogaCounty is on the ball there.
I'm all for saving the planet, but, there are advantages and disadvantages to every building technique. Strawbales are not for everyone. I wouldn't promote straw bale houses any more than any other technique.
I'll leave the details to the websites other people have posted here and stand by my orignal post as being helpful because I wanted TnBorn to understand they're...uh...oh yea...aLOTTA work.
thanks everyone. :dance:
IMHO, the ultimate straw bale link:
After spending almost an entire year reading everything I could get my hands on about this subject, I've come to the conclusion that if a person wishes to build a "fancy" large home, you will pay the same, or even a little more if you build with straw bales ...however, in the long term, you gain a few things . Tremendous energy savings due to the insulation, as well as using more "environmentally-friendly" materials..if that's important to you.
If what you're after is a smaller place and a "do it yourself", a straw bale house is more cost-effective considering the high price of lumber and drywall. Not only that, but even *I* can manage to stack straw bales over rebar, hang chicken wire over the bales and stucco over them. The key to moisture/humidity concerns is construction of an appropriate foundation (it HAS to be planned with straw bales in mind VS wood..HAS to) , a sloping roof with an extended overhang, and close attention to sealing with that stucco. Particular attention to window installation is also incredibly important.
It's a given that you use dry bales and keep them dry..just as you wouldn't nail up lumber that's wet & expect it to be OK ..
Load-bearing VS non-load bearing straw bale homes..where do you live? Personally, since I live in Missouri where it has been known to drop over a foot of snow once in awhile, I'd not consider a load-bearing straw bale home..but then again, the overall cost of procuring the lumber, and the labor involved in putting up a few trusses isn't exactly exorbitant..I'm not planning on a 10 room place..LOL..more like an Irish cottage.
For a place the size of what I want, the total cost would be somewhere near $ 20K ..at today's prices. That includes everything BUT a well, since I'm only looking at properties which have land and a derelict house already on it.
By buying that way, I can use the existing foundation, build it up to accomodate a straw bale home, already have a source of electricity and a well in place. I MIGHT even be able to salvage some of the lumber from the house..who knows?
I'd much rather spend $20K and have a fantastic little "Irish cottage" which is well-insulated, has the ability to sway and not break when the New Madrid fault goes ballistic, saves me a ton of $ in heating and cooling bills, is not attractive to either termites or any other "pests" , and God forbid, if it ever catches on fire, will not burn down to the ground in less than 1/2 hour on a windy day. Worth the effort? To me it is..you bet.
we considered straw bale, stick (timber frame hybrid), adobe, and what do ya call those blocks...euro blocks or something. anyway, we're doing double wall adobe (insulation in between). the one thing that we were hesitant about with bale is how moisture could compromise the structure. my .02
Whenever I come across these threads, I like to check my bale wall moisture meter. My house is now over 8 years old, and I have moisture sensors placed in each of the four directions at about 4 inches above the floor. This is the end of a wet November here ina wet county of the wet part of the state:
"The 12.92 inches of rain recorded at the Bremerton weather station along Kitsap Way in the first 12 days of the month exceeds the previous wettest start of November, the first really wet month of winter, by more than 5 1/2 inches.
The 12-day record holder until now was in 1999, when 7.29 inches through Nov. 12 launched a month that ended with 14.13 inches for the 30 days.
Not even the wettest November on record, 18.29 inches in 1983, began so relentlessly. It had only 7.05 inches through its 12th day."
My moisture meter tonight lights up at 10-11% moisture in my north wall, a wall which has never seen sunlight. You don't even need to think about moisture problems until it reads over 14%, which it never has.
My house is a post-n-beam (not loadbearing) structure, approved by the county, and happily insured by a perfectly normal insurance company. Although we do have rain here and one must be mindful of leaks, I feel very safe in my quiet, solid, earthquake-steady and fire resistant home. Do be sure to have 2ft eaves and invest in a 50 year steel roof.