Straw Bale built homes

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Caelma, Nov 1, 2005.

  1. Caelma

    Caelma Well-Known Member

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    I have always been quite interged by straw bale homes and yurts.
    Bone a bit of pc research on them. As a fire fighters daughter I am quite impressed with the (can't remembr what it is called) way it takes a fire longer to get through than a normal wall. When I first heard about them I was stunned being a FF's daughter and having no prior knowledge.

    Does anyone live in one of these straw bale build homes? If so can you share what your experience with them is please.
    How big, when build, what your hindight is not, what you would do different, and anything else you'd care to share.
    Thank you
     
  2. Paranoid

    Paranoid Homebrewed Happiness

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    something about straw houses sets my teeth on edge...

    something about wolves and piggies

    also wouldnt the decay make it not so solid after a few years?


    also i never see bales anymore its always the rolls.
     

  3. BigBoy

    BigBoy No attitude here...

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    Paranoid,
    A STRAWbale home shouldn't decay if it was kept dry during the construction and after. There are 100+ year old buildings still standing in good condition.
    Also, hay and straw are two different things. Hay is a grass with food value and straw (usually wheat straw) is the left over grain stalk that is usually burned because it has no value.
     
  4. OneWheelBiting

    OneWheelBiting Redneck Hippy

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    I mill a lot of logs into 6 by 8, 10, or 12 inch squares for clients to build log homes from. But the straw has crossed my mind so many times I an thinking for trying a temp cabin built from the stucco-ed straw. Seems it is more of a timber framed home then a just a bale built home anyway so if I don't like I can demo the bales. Then frame up where the bales were.

    Later,
    Keith
     
  5. dmckean44

    dmckean44 Well-Known Member

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    How would you keep the rats from nesting in the straw?
     
  6. MrPG

    MrPG Well-Known Member

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    A couple points....

    1. Rats don't nest in the straw because you put a mortar mix consisting of lime/sand/mortar mix on all exposed parts of the straw. Also the straw is packed tight so tunnels will be a tough job for a rat, and the sealing of the mortar mix will mean there is little air.

    2. There are two ways to build... one is a fully-straw method where the straw bales themselves do all the load bearing, usually with a wood or 4" cement bond beam located at the top of the wall (which the roof trusses sit on) to help distribute the load from above. The other method is timber framed or post-and-beam style, where the straw forms the wall but is not itself load-bearing. This is sometimes called post and beam with strawbale "infill".

    3. Straw is mostly the lignin (sp?) and cellulose parts, which is also the main component in ... wood. Thus as long as it is kept dry and off the ground, it will not decompose in your lifetime.
     
  7. BigBoy

    BigBoy No attitude here...

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    The info that i've seen says that they don't like the tightly compressed bales and that they won't gnaw through the finish if there are easier places to live.
     
  8. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There are very few "old" straw bale homes. 100+ years is a short life span for even stud built homes. I know many homes built in the 1700's using wood and stone still stand. You won't find anything that old made of straw.

    Some straw bale lovers claim it is less expensive. This is not true. Even if the straw were free, the walls are only a small portion of the total cost of a structure. Straw is a waste product, but those who sell it recognize it's value to those who want to build with it. As a result, quality, dry, tight bales are now pricy. Plus, add transportation.

    Some straw bale lovers suggest the method is easy and quick. This is another falsehood. Nothing about it is quicker than a conventional stick built house or structure.

    The moisture issue is critical. It must stay below 14%. If it gets damp at all, the termites will find it. Moisture will allow mold and mildew growth. Eventually, any style of home will encounter some sort of moisture problem. With straw, it could take a long time to detect, and repair is not as simple as with conventional construction. A good moisture meter is a must.

    Some counties will not allow the straw to support the roof. Although the straw bale construction has become popular enough to build without a zoning fight in many locales, it would be wise to check before you invest. My county allows straw bale, but not to support the roof.

    Properly built it should be as good as a conventional house. Just don't be misled that it will be cheaper or easier. Since the straw is covered, and you don't see it, you could easily eliminate it and build thick walls with plaster materials in/out. The insulative value comes from the thick walls, not the amazing R-value of straw (3 per inch). Cellulose is a much better insulation - higher R-value per inch, cheaper, more water resistant, more pest resistant, more mold resistant and much easier to use.

    Just my $.02.
    Gary
     
  9. Tio Ed

    Tio Ed Active Member

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    Worth noting that most of the straw bales houses we inspected before settling on masonry had some problems with the bales eventually settling or compacting to a small degree, but enough to cause cracks and irregularities in walls and ceilings as joists and other attached structural elements settled along with the bales. The "no old homes made out of straw" was an excellent point, too.

    Just my 2 pfennig's worth...

    Tio Ed
    El Rey de Sweat Equity
     
  10. JAK

    JAK Well-Known Member

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    Couple of points. First, there are not as many wolves around to worry about today. Second, the walls are nice and thick and look really cool like stone houses, only warmer.

    It is also important to differentiate between hay and staw. Hay is food, and therefore wants to get eaten sooner, wherease straw is more like wood, and likes to be used to build houses. It is true that many critters besides people may want to make their homes inside the straw, but they have to get into it first. The parging should keep them out, but you have to keep an eye on critters because they are full of tricks. Moisture can be a serious problem, as it is with wood. There was a strawbale house built in Nova Scotia that has done well, but I think you have to take extra precautions in a more humid climate for sure. I think straw is more suited for places like the prairies, and cordwood is more suites for places with trees. What grows in you region should be a bit of a clue. Cordwood walls with thatch or sod roofs is a nice combination.

    But anything has to be better than living in plastic.