Welcome to StrawBale.com
My name is Andrew Morrison and welcome to my straw bale building site dedicated to anyone interested in building their own straw bale house. If you are brand new to straw bale or are a straw bale construction specialist there's something for you at StrawBale.com.
Click here if you are NEW TO STRAW BALE BUILDING and want to know the basics about straw bale construction.
I have a ton of information for you including: photo gallery, step-by-step instructional videos, information about straw bale workshops around the world, free straw bale articles, free straw bale social network, and a full straw bale building blog.
Be sure to sign up for my e-mail updates and my free 16 day straw bale e-course so we can keep you posted of the latest developments in the ever-changing world of straw bale.
p.s. If you are eager to fast track your education in straw bale construction, click here.
Most of us don’t have a commercial plaster spraying machine lying around, so we can’t just run out to the garage and turn it on. That said, the benefits of using a commercial plaster sprayer are well worth investigating the availability of one in your area either to rent or to hire out (the entire job). If you have access to a commercial sprayer, it’s an incredible machine that will speed your process up dramatically. You have seen me post in the past about sprayers that we as consumers can use with great effectivity. I am still a big fan of these sprayers and highly recommend them; however, the commercial sprayer shown here, and others like it, is a big step up in power and production.
These machines have the mortar mixer built right in so you can literally mix the material and dump it straight into the pumper. The pump then drives the material down the hose and provides a constant stream of plaster. Because we have to mix the scratch and brown coats of natural hydraulic lime plaster for a minimum of 20 minutes, it’s best to have a secondary mixer on site as well so that you can work between the two to keep the flow going.
I have included some video footage of the sprayer in action on the Flathead Lake, Montana straw bale workshop from this past year. Rather than tell you about the benefits, I figured I would just show you. If you have ever plastered, you will see the advantage right away. If you have never plastered, let me tell you that the main advantage is the speed and ease of application. It still takes several people to do the work, but less than a hand applied crew.
The first video is of the scratch coat application on the interior of an exposed timber frame. The ability to quickly “cut in” around the timbers and ceiling line is immediately apparent.
The second video shows plastering on the tall gable ends. If nothing else, not having to transport the mud to the top of the scaffolding makes this machine well worth having on site. Keep in mind that even with the other sprayer I use, one would still have to transport the mud to the point of application.
The final video is of the finish coat application. Note that there are two trowel finishers in addition to the two men running the sprayer. It is also necessary to have someone making the mud. That means you are looking at at least 5 people for the crew. That’s better than the 15 people I used to have on my plaster crew that did everything by hand application.
Repairing water damage in straw bale walls is a skill that is not required very often, especially in well built homes; however, even with the best construction practices, water damage can happen. If it does, it’s important to know how to recognize it and how to fix it. Below is a series of steps to consider wen dealing with water damaged walls.
Here’s a short article about straw bale construction in the most recent version of the on line Green Builder magazine. Short but sweet. The article starts on page 44 and can be viewed at this link.
For those of you interested in purchasing land in Colorado and building a straw bale house, here’s an incredible property that has the ball already rolling towards your success. Check out the information below about this amazing piece of land. Here’s a quick summary: 1.4 acres; Active building permit & plans for 1200 square foot straw bale, passive solar house. The photo is at the St. Vrain trailhead, 1/4 mile from the land.
For those of you who have been wondering what it will take to help straw bale homes become more mainstream, this may be a part of the answer. David Arkin and Annie Tilt (Arkin-Tilt Architects) are well known for their beautiful and functional designs. They have received many awards over the years and their straw bale homes have at least twice graced the covers of Fine Homebuilding Magazine, this time in the fall 2014 edition of Small Homes Cabins and Cottages.
I have said for many years that we as a group of individuals, a community of straw bale fans, really need to focus on bringing straw bale construction into the light of everyday people. One way to do that is to start with inspiring design. As an example, when I would walk prospective clients through a home of mine, I would leave out the words “straw bale” and focus on the beauty, energy efficiency and overall design of the home. Once the prospective clients were drawn into those details, the words straw bale had much less scare factor to them.
Let’s keep building on this exposure that Arkin-Tilt Architects, and others with a similar passion for straw bale construction are sharing with the world. Getting the word out to the masses will take time and effort. Every time a beautiful straw bale home is shared with the world, that steep mountain we seem to be climbing gets a little smaller. Keep it positive. Keep it beautiful.
And of course, way to go David and Annie! Feel free to congratulate them yourselves…
I just returned from Flathead Lake, Montana where a group of 35 people put together an incredibly beautiful straw bale home in 7 days. I continue to be amazed at how much fun these workshops are and at how incredibly quickly a random sampling of people become a community of friends and how those friends can work together to create something special.
This was the last workshop of the year for me and I am now focussing my efforts on finalizing the workshop schedule for 2015. We will be announcing next year’s schedule over Thanksgiving weekend, so stay tuned, and get excited!
By the way, if you are interested in hosting, I am still looking for one or two more locations for next year. Click here and fill out the application on line ASAP if you want to be considered as a host for 2015.
In the meantime, I want to share a couple opportunities to learn about straw bale construction with CASBA (the California Straw Building Association). They have two upcoming events that would be a good introduction to working with bales. They are listed below along with links to learn more about each event.
Hi everyone. I have a brand new, never used plaster sprayer for sale. I bought it a while back but have not used it. I guess I don’t need two after all! If you are interested in buying it, let me know. It is a great little sprayer and the same kind I have used on many jobs in the past. It sells for $265.00 plus shipping. I’m hoping for something close since it is literally out of the box. I’m open to offers.
There is no question that plastered window wells look beautiful; however, the skill it takes to get them to that point may seem out of reach to a novice plasterer. The good news is, it’s not. With a little practice and a good serving of patience, anyone can learn to plaster their window wells to look magnificent.
Perhaps the hardest part of the entire process is getting the plaster to stay put. Gravity has a large say in this process and whenever a novice plasterer tries to apply mud to the top of a window well, often called “the lid” in the industry, gravity usually wins. Below are some tips to beat gravity and create your own beautiful window well.
Perhaps the most commonly asked question about straw bale construction is: “How do I finance it?” Unfortunately, the answer hasn’t gotten much easier over the years as straw bale construction is still considered alternative to the mainstream and, as we all know, banks are not big fans of taking risks on alternative construction techniques. That said, there are some things that you can do to improve your efforts and increase your chance of receiving funding.
I recently met a bale broker during the New York straw bale workshop. He delivered the bales for our project in Montgomery, and I was very happy with the bale quality. In fact, they were the best bales I have seen all season. I assumed he was a local farmer until he visited the site. That’s when I learned that he is actually a bale broker and that he can arrange for bale deliveries all over the United States. He works with over 120 different farms across the country and many different trucking companies. They not only deliver the bales but stack them on site as well. He is definitely worth the call if you are looking for quality bales.