Straw Bale Houses

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by momlaffsalot, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. momlaffsalot

    momlaffsalot Well-Known Member

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    I'm very interested in building a straw bale home, making it a family project. I've done a lot of research; books, videos and internet searches, but I'm wondering if anyone here has built one or knows of someone who has?
     
  2. LagoVistaFarm

    LagoVistaFarm Well-Known Member

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    I know a couple of people who have. Our son is helping finish one now. We had plans to build straw bale chicken houses.
     

  3. bbbuddy

    bbbuddy Well-Known Member

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    We helped stack bales on a house projerct in CA.
    Right now we are building a strawbale powerhouse to get practice before tackling our house.

    Many things about it are more labor intensive, and it ISN'T cheaper. However, it will always be far more energy efficient!
     
  4. primal1

    primal1 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I've thought about this alot to.
    I have heard that some of the building regulaions are tough though.
    bbbuddy, seems to me it should be quite a bit cheaper to build can you clarify.. thanks.
     
  5. CatsPaw

    CatsPaw Who...me?

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    built one for a client. We did the foundation, timberframe, rebar uprights, floor, roof, mechanicals, etc. They did the strawbaling, mudding, etc. For this you'd have to find a flexible contractor. What will happen is everything will go fine until the "client" has to do the work. Then suddenly things slow WAY down. Contractor has to leave to make a living elsewhere while waiting for the client to get their part done.

    Regarding cost effectiveness and doing it yourself, I think you'll find many strawbales are built with "volunteer" labor at the "stacking, tying, mudding" stage. For some reason some of these dinks will actually pay to come and help you build the thing as a "class" (unless you have alot of friends who are just itchin' to jump into a hog-waller.) Consider hiring a consultant. Many travel for the reason that so few are built anywhere in particular. Sometimes they'll bring things like hay needles so you don't end up investing in a bunch tools you'll never...ever...use again.

    It is very labor intensive. The bales are easy compared to working like a jew in the mudpits of egypt. Alot of sifting of clay. Letting it hydrate in dozens of buckets of water. It gets and sticks to everything (you, your tools, the house, the windows, the doors, the cars and trucks.) Endless mixing with a drill and cement mixer. Retying bales everytime they don't land on an interval.

    Don't let the bales get wet. sounds stupid to say that, but if it's going to rain, you better make sure everything is covered...those waiting to be stacked and those already stacked. They will shed water to some extent, but, the residual water will cause mold and things to grow.

    Building dept. will probably have never seen a straw bale. Basically negotiate the approval. Ask them what they will accept and what they won't on things like electrical and stuff. Electric was kind of a head scratcher. We punched the wire thru using smurf-tube and made stakes screwed to the back of smurf-boxes. Then pounded the boxes into the bales after carving a detent into it. Plumbing was mostly in interior walls.

    Plan WAY ahead on anything and everything. Bales don't budge very well if you decide to make changes or forget something. Spec. you're windows, doors so you can get the frames right the first time.

    I think my brain is empty. good luck
     
  6. frazzlehead

    frazzlehead AppleJackCreek Supporter

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    ... smurf tubes... ?????
     
  7. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Myhome is 3200 SF of glorius strawbale, built in the only really reliable way to build one - its called modified post and beam. PM me to discuss and I can email pictures and diagrams.
     
  8. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My son works for a fellow who builds them. My son has worked for him for 3 or 4 years I think, mostly in NW Wisconsin and Minnesota. I think they have all had radiant in-floor heating, usually active solar with wood or gas back up, and passive solar design. Very easy to heat, and keep cool in hot weather.

    Biggest problem that I hear from him is getting good, clean, uniform, tight bales.

    The MREA has, in the past, offered some weekend straw-bale construction workshops, but I don't think they did this year. Something like that gives you a chance to work on an actual house with knowledgable instructors (my son and his boss and co-workers) giving hints and assistance.
    http://www.the-mrea.org/workshops.php?id=1048450033
     
  9. Sparticle

    Sparticle Well-Known Member Supporter

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  10. CatsPaw

    CatsPaw Who...me?

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    smurf tubes and boxes are blue plastic flexible conduit system. If you just say conduit, everybody thinks you're talking metal. The flexy stuff is a whole lot easier to run.
     
  11. momlaffsalot

    momlaffsalot Well-Known Member

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    Wow, only $75 for the course. I wish Kansas would do this...maybe in the future. A guy out here just recently built one and it was int he local paper so maybe it will spark enough interest. Thanks for the link!

    I'm hopeing that being in Kansas, it won't be difficult to get good, clean bales. Maybe I can contract with a farmer directly.
     
  12. momlaffsalot

    momlaffsalot Well-Known Member

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    Catspaw..thanks for emptying your brain for me :). A lot of good information in your post! I really don't intend to hire a contractor, I have four healthy boys, one college age with a whole bunch of friends, I'm thinking BBQ and music and lots of good friends to do this. I don't know if that is a reasonable thought, but it's what I am looking toward. I had never thought of hiring a consultant, but I sure would if it were affordable. I joined a newsletter (The Last Straw) and like I said, am reading tons of books on it. You give a less cheerful picture of mixing the clay, probably a dose of reality that I needed, but I appreciate your insight. I'm a 'can-do' gal, so I'll keep you all posted as the project nears. Thanks!
     
  13. primal1

    primal1 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for alll the great info guys. Ever since I first mentioned this to friends they have been keen to become a part of it... I bet most of them would pay to roll in the mud too hehe
     
  14. momlaffsalot

    momlaffsalot Well-Known Member

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    How many bales did it take for your home? A diagram I looked at said to build a 2000 sq. ft. home with two-string bales I would need only 300 bales. For three string a little closer to 400 bales. Not sure why the strings make a difference? Also, the number of bales doesn't seem right to me. Not that I have any business questioning what I read, since I know absolutely NOTHING, but it just doesn't seem like 300 or 400 bales would be enough.

    Also wondering if a basement can be built with straw bales?????
     
  15. momlaffsalot

    momlaffsalot Well-Known Member

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    Well, looks like you might have to get busy and start building one!
     
  16. fishhead

    fishhead Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There's a commercial straw bale building going up in Pine River MN. It will have in-wall sensors to monitor humidity throughout the building.

    Google HUGS + Pine River MN and you should be able to find the website.

    In the future I would like to build a straw bale home too.
     
  17. momlaffsalot

    momlaffsalot Well-Known Member

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  18. CatsPaw

    CatsPaw Who...me?

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    Don't know how much the consultant was. I wasn't in the "money" end.

    If you're going to build a standard ranch type thingy, the mudding probably won't be near as hard. The one we built had 12' high first story 3 or 4 feet above ground ('cause of the basement) + half story on the second floor. Living room was full height cathedral. Inside mudding was probably 20'. Walk-out basement. So the back side mudding was carrying it up onto scaffolding to the top and mud the "first floor" that was actually at second floor level. The gables were probably 30' to the peak.

    Between the three of us doing the timber frame on site (2 @ 40 yrs and me @50 yrs) getting 24' 10 x 10 poplar beams 12' in the air by hand is not something I would recommend subjecting your family and/or friends to. Unless you're feeling lucky. A standard one story wouldn't pose as much of a peril. Safety on the site when timber framing is something you have to consider in these circumstances.

    bottom line: You feel better going into it knowing it's a big commitment as opposed to going "what the h*ll did I get myself into."

    with that said....go build yourself a strawbale.

    (o.k. o.k. I know that one line wasn't actually the bottom line...this one is.)

    So think of the effort relative to your project. Maybe it won't seem so daunting.
     
  19. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    Hey Yucca, could I get some pics???
     
  20. Sparticle

    Sparticle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Have you looked into any other methods? What has drawn you to stawbale? have you looked into cinderblock or concrete block? No I don't know anything about that method, just asking. I've heard it is easier to work with than straw bales.