Build A Gorgeous Straw Bale Home for Around $20,000

I work with people from all over the world who are looking to build their own dream straw bale home. One thing is always a concern: the cost. I know that times are tough for a lot of people these days when it comes to finances and building a home is a large undertaking to be sure. It doesn’t matter if you live in Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, or anywhere else on the planet, housing is still a major part of the cost of being human. How to build a house for yourself that fits within a budget is always a challenge and one thing that ends up being lost very often in that process, is the architecture. After all, it’s cheap and easy to build a box.

Many of us don’t want to live in a box though. In fact, we want to live in something that has style, clean lines, and architectural interest. That’s not to take anything away from a simple design, as I also love simplicity and believe there most definitely is a place for it in home construction. For me, however, it’s simply not what I want. Because of this, Gabriella (my wife for those of you who don’t know her) and our friend Chris Keefe (Organicforms Design) have come up with a great design for a simple house that has a fantastic “curb appeal.” Take a look for yourself…

Many of you have already seen this structure as I recently put out a blog post in hopes of finding someone to build the home during a workshop. We really want to start putting this plan out there in the world because we believe it fills a real need for “reasonably sized” housing. There is so much in the way of large housing out there these days. You know the stuff, 2000sf, 3000sf and bigger. Some call them McMansions. Some even dare to call them Green construction because they use reclaimed kitchen cabinets or some other detail. The reality is that a home that size is simply full of wasted space in most cases, if not all. Do you really need a home that big? I doubt it. It’s true that I don’t know what’s best for you, but I can tell you that smaller spaces take less energy to live in, less time to clean, less cost to build, and less time/effort/money to maintain. Sounds pretty good to me.

The house above is roughly 770 sf. The main floor is 570 sf and the sleeping loft (one of two bedrooms) is 200 sf. You can check out the floor plans at and learn more about the design there if you want.  What’s amazing is that the house only costs about $20,000 to build (depending on the finish materials you choose). Wouldn’t you love to have an attractive house with a simple and functional floor plan on your land while maintaining little or no mortgage to speak of? I would.

It often seems like we, at least here in the US, work harder and harder each year to make more money to pay for the details of our lives. The problem is, that the details of our lives get more expensive each year too. Why? There are lots of reasons, but building a house bigger than you need is a great place to start looking. Look at your money situation. Where do you spend the most money each month? Your mortgage/rent? Your food costs? Your car? Chances are that the single biggest expense you have is related to your house. And it’s not just the mortgage/rent payment. It’s the utility costs associated with the home. Take a look at the numbers and then consider what you can do to make a change. Consider building a smaller house that’s super efficient. Chances are that will make a big difference on your wallet and, more importantly, the joy and free time you experience in your day to day life.

Build Smart. Build Small(er). Build Efficient. Enjoy Life…every day!

56 Responses to Build A Gorgeous Straw Bale Home for Around $20,000

  1. Caleb Tue, January 12, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

    Hi Andrew.

    Have any homes been built with the Applegate plan? I’m intrigued and would love to see pictures of a finished build.


  2. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Mon, January 18, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    Hi Caleb. There have been many builds with the plan but very few have been done exactly to plan. Most people make slight modifications to the plan to fit their needs while others make significant changes. I have had one person send me photos over the years. It is pretty similar in style, with some minor changes. We will be building a modified (only slightly) Applegate at the Washington workshop this year. I can’t attach photos here, but I’ll shoot you an email with the few that I have.

  3. Jennifer Wed, February 3, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi Andrew,

    I live in Northern Maine and the winters up here can get pretty cold (sometime -30’s but not often), are straw bales houses still okay to build in this weather? Also, who would I call to see if I can even build straw bale house where I live… I have a huge desire to build this house, but everyone keeps telling me its not gonna work. What are your thoughts and suggestions how to get my dream rolling in motion?

  4. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Sat, February 6, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    Hi Jennifer. Yes, Maine is a great climate for straw bale construction and I know of several homes in the state already. There are a few homes listed here that you might want to contact to see if they have any feedback about building in Maine.

    In terms of whether you can do it or not, there is now a provision for straw bale construction in the 2015 IRC. The IRC is the building code used in all 50 states so unless Maine has specifically voted that section out of the code, you can reference it for your build. It’s likely that the 2015 version of the code has not yet been adopted as the adoption process is usually a couple years behind the approval of the new codes; however, you can certainly reference it with your building department to show the viability of building with straw. Let us know how it goes!

  5. keli Sun, February 7, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    Andrew, that’s not quite true–We live in Southern CO–codes predominantly in use are IRC 2006. I’ve talked with the planning/zoning engineer about including straw and adobe, but they are few and far between. I question whether or not the strawbale home I want to build would get a second glance. Any thoughts on how to sell these adequately, and to code?

  6. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Mon, February 8, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    Hi Keli. I just re read my comment and I see where I caused confusion. I didn’t mean that the 2015 version is used in all 50 states. I meant that the IRC is used in all 50 states. Because of that, you can approach the building department with the new version of the code as evidence of the viability of building with straw. I’ll change my comment to reflect this. There are a lot of straw bale homes in Colorado, so you shouldn’t have a problem. If you do, it is more locally based, so I imagine you can quickly open the building/planning department’s eyes with a few examples. There is a great one in Walsenburg that I worked on a couple of years ago and many more that you could use as examples. I suggest you contact the folks at the Colorado Straw Builders Association (COSBA) on line and see what in-state help they can offer. Have faith, you will be able to build that bale house!!! :)

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