Do you live in a Straw Bale House?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by moonwolf, Aug 11, 2005.

  1. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Got a chance today to inquire about a log framed with straw bale insulated house.

    Do you live in a straw bale house? and if so, what do you like about and what don't you like about it.

    First off, is the insulating value simlar to similar 2x6 construction with pink battt insulation?

    What is the longevity of the staw in the house before it breaks down or decays or whatever?

    What about bugs that might live within the straw? Isn't that a potential problem?

    Also, what if one wanted to remove the straw at some point and reinsulate with fiberglass batt insulation or styrofoam sheet? Must be a bitter mess to try removing straw from inside the wall for any reason???
     
  2. decamper

    decamper Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to know more about straw houses too. We've been thinking about putting one up on our Old Settlement (we are rebuilding a village) property.
     

  3. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    decamper...do you mean you bought something like a ghost town and are rebuilding it? i always wanted to be a zillionaire so i could do that !
     
  4. Cheryl in SD

    Cheryl in SD Living in the Hills Supporter

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    Here is some information...

    A place you can get plans http://customhouseplans.8m.com/strawbale/

    This site gives a lot of information on strawbale construction http://www.daycreek.com/dc/HTML/DC_strawbale.htm

    I don't know where you are, but this group will help you build it if you are close enough http://www2.whidbey.net/lighthook/strap.htm They also have a page of what you need to build a Strawbale house.

    And TADA, a site with pictures of several strawbale houses in Canada http://home.primus.ca/~chapman/straw.html

    We looked into building a strawbale house here in SD, but local building codes wouldn't allow it. I still think it would be a great option and hope to build one some day. There was a place in Montana that would let you come to a workshop in the summer to learn how to do it.

    Cheryl
     
  5. decamper

    decamper Well-Known Member

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    Well, not exactly. Bought 7 acres last year for next to nothing. The property just happens to be across the tracks from our house. This property was a coal mining village during the turn of the century. Of course, there is nothing on this property but with the history, we thought it would be neat to build a rustic village and give a history lesson even if not the exact village.

    Our house was a general store and living quarters. It is the only building left from the coal mining village. I have a blog started for anyone who would like to see what the village looked like. It is at http://360.yahoo.com/lynn1948 . Give me your feedback.

    The livery stable is almost done as well as the weaving shop which was built on our property last year and has yet to be moved, or figured out how to move it. LOL

    Each one of our buildings will be a mini museum of sorts; a weaving shop (with my raw wool, roving, fiber, spinning wheel, looms, etc.), a doctor's office (with all his collection of old medical stuff), mercantile store, etc.

    We started holding monthly flea markets this past May and will continue that until October. People are really excited once they hear the history and especially now that they are seeing the beginning of a village. A bike trail is scheduled to go in this fall too.

    Sisterpine, I too wished for a ghost town; I got one without buildings though. So I decided to make lemonade out of those lemons. Well, not really lemons because I got the property for a steal. We are having fun though.
     
  6. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    There are a lot of websites that are for and some 'against' strawbale construction. I was wondering if any members on HT here actually have experience living in one.
    I did a search on this topic and there was some input previously that was mostly favorable for the idea.

    The pluses I see are great insulating properties, easy construction, and cheaper generally. Also, materials like straw are environmentally considerate and easily obtainable locally.

    The downsides I am not that versed about is maintenance and possible degredation of the natural straw material that might happen within the walls either from moisture infiltration (with rot) and/or vermin infestation problems of such a dwelling.

    There is a straw bale house I am checking out locally and have no idea of it's interior wall condition. It may, or may not, need maintenance or repair so I need to know how people owning straw bale houses are fairing over the long haul and what they do regarding maintenance such as putting new layer of stucco outside, etc. ?? :shrug:
     
  7. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    Well I don't live in one and haven't but have visited several. When built well they have little maintainance, similar in level to a wood sided house. When built poorly they are a nightmare. I do belive there are one or two folks here that actually have one.

    I would however check back over your plusses. They are indeed great insulated homes and the thick walls are very comforting. However, to build a strawbale home that lasts (in anything but the dryest of locals) there is some rather involved framework that make it neither "easy" to build or cheaper than standard construction. Ultimately a well build SB home is better ahn a standard stick built home... but in all likelyhood it won't be cheaper to get there.

    I'm far from against SB homes just trying to present some of the realities of them. Hopefully one of the folks that have one will see this thread.

    I would suggest reading "Serious Strawbale" as a good guide to how to do it so it lasts. Most of what they say in that book is pretty good. I do have major issue with thier use of concrete stucco however and believe a clay/lime plaster would be much better. Concrete is a killer for natural homes. You WILL have water issues with a concrete stucco sooner or later.

    Best of luck finding some first hand accounts.

    J
     
  8. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My 3200 SF home is straw bale. PM me for more info.
     
  9. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I live in a 1680 sqft post'n'beam with strawbale infill. Built to code and approved by the county -- and a soggy county, too. Do a search in this forum, because there have been a number of threads on strawbale and Sometimes it gets tedious reposting the same basic stuff.

    Strawbale rocks! It is not cheaper, but it is better. Better environmentally, seismically, and fireproof-wise. SOLID. DO it!
     
  10. AppleAment

    AppleAment New Member

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    I do not own a StrawBale Home, but I am planning on Building a Cob Greenhouse this spring (for my parents) as a test-run at building Cob, since that's what my Husband and I want to live in.
    I think it might be relevant to have a thread devoted to
    Buildings - Projects, Questions, etc.
    as many people endeavor at least a few building projects and have at least a few building fix-it questions along the way...
    What do folks think?

    And by the way - anyone here have experience with Cob?

    - Apple
     
  11. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    thanks Snoozy for your experience.

    Strange as it may seem I also thought a lot of information on the forums here about straw bale houses, but mostly it's reference to sites or 'off topic' rather than actual people experience living in one and for how log, maintenence, etc.
    I must assume that from not too many negative posts, that the experience of living in a straw bale house is meant for long term and comfort.

    I am checking out an existing straw bale house tomorrow.
     
  12. lynnheater71968

    lynnheater71968 Well-Known Member

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    Moonwolf...You might want to go over to Backwoods Magazine's forum and read where Backwoods Bob and his wife built their own strawbale house
    with a loft.

    I bought 8 acres without public road access, which was a real gamble.
    It worked out. I have public road access now and had a well drilled and
    the water is yummy. Everything I have done is cash as I am on a
    shoe string budget. I have two manuel water pumps outside, each with
    faucets and can use my exercise bicycle to draw the water up, if needed.
    The faucets are designed with a attachment so I can hook up a water
    hose.

    My straw bale cabin will be four squares and load bearing. Very small.
    30x30x30x30 on the outside and 28x28x28x28 on the inside. Dig a trench 2 foot wide and 12 inches deep. Pipe laid down and slanting for drainage then covered with gravel. Floor is very cheap. Just sand, then landscaping squares and varnished. Backwoods Bob did it that way and he has been in his cabin since 1999. Everything I will do is off grid. No electricity or plumbing.

    I can get my straw bales for $.75 in the field. 14" high, 18" wide, and 36"
    long, two string bales, weighing about 50 lbs.. I salvaged my 2 french doors, one for each end. Also salvaged my 4 double windows, 2 on one side and 2 on the other side. All windows are metal. I have read that termites didn't
    eat the straw but did eat the wooden window frames. I will have someone install the windows and doors.

    Some say chicken wire or mesh is not needed to cover the straw bales.
    I just don't know.

    I want to use the least amount of wood as possible. Maybe use the bales
    on the top and have the roof over the bales. I just don't quite understand
    the concept on this yet.

    Termite shields on the bottom and top all around. Stucco on the outside
    and plaster on the inside.

    Here is the thread where Backwoods Bob talks about his straw bale cabin.

    http://www.backwoodshome.com/forum/...ilding;action=display;num=1109341927;start=20
     
  13. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Yucca, I sent you a PM several days ago, but haven't received a response back. No matter, and thanks anyway.

    I looked at an existingly built straw bale dwelling built to code and looks cozy enough and dry.

    Question I have to those living in a straw bale house is how often you put a layer of stucco on the outside?
     
  14. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

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    This past weekend I attended a workshop where we put lime plaster on my next door neighbor's straw bale timber framed house. the folks who ran the workshop showed us a slide show of homes they have visited and built in the humid southeast. Several were hundreds of years old. Any building with a good hat and good shoes will stay dry and last a long time. Any building whose walls get wet becomes a real problem really fast. If a building does get wet, however, it has the best chance of that drying out well if the walls can breathe out the moisture. Lime plaster is best, as it breathes. Straw is not really food, like hay is, so it isn't consumed by insects...i guess it's like wood, in that sense. The lime plaster becomes lime stone (CaCO4) over the years, so it will weather as fast as any limestone in a dry environment (in other words, not very fast). It is about as labor intensive as standard construction.
    Replacing straw and plaster in small problem areas is way easier than replacing standard construction, too, as it is a very forgiving medium.
    Sorry I don't have experience living there, but from building it and using the waste building materials to grow our food in the garden, I can already tell that it is a good idea all around.
    I'd suggest you check out the building for signs of water damage, (just as you'd check out any building for water damage) and if there is any, see how extensive it is. there are people around who can repair the roof and others who can repair the straw and plaster.
    Also, people don't use chicken wire on the bales anymore. It can fall away from the bales and create pockets of air which can act as chimneys during a fire. (Even with those problems, however, straw buildings still won't burn down like wood ones, but the damage wil be much more extensive. Strawbales have been officially given a class A fireproof building materials rating.
    ray
     
  15. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    So, when they put on the initial coat of lime plaster on the outside, how many years does that last? Do they occasionally put another layer on that? How many years between layers roughly? Or is the one layer sufficient forever?
     
  16. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You put on your first coat, called the scratch coat because you excoriate it with a rake so the second coat, the "brown coat" can get good purchase. The second coat goes on just as soon as the first is dry. The third coat, called the colour coat, since that is the one in which you mix your stucco colourant, can go on whenever. In my case, it was three yaers later. Full stop. It's done. No more. Hard to groc, isn't it? Maintenance free, not like paint. It's concrete -- how often do you re-do your driveway?

    As for chickenwire, we chickenwired ours. Greater seismic whatever. And I cannot see that a strawbale house would have more extensive damage than a pindly stick-built -- after all: studs are already kiln-dried and ready to go up ike matchsticks, whereas strawbales are covered in stucco and so dense that they don't go up in quick flames, they smoulder. (Of course, firfighters spraying it with water would probably be the really damaging part...)
     
  17. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

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    I don't have the experience to tell you I KNOW the answer, but I believe it lasts at least a few generations between touch ups. By the way, the plaster is at least an inch or two thick.
    ray
     
  18. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    OUt of curiousity, moonwolf -- how big a place was the one you looked at, and how much are they asking for it?
     
  19. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    Lime plasters are put on once and pretty much stay on until some sort of damage happens to remove them (excess moisture being the top one) BUT you apply subsequesnt lime washes to the plaster for color. Depending on your exposure this can be 2-5 years (or longer) between "washes".

    J