Archive for the ‘Plumbing’ Category

Best Plumbing Practices In Straw Bale Houses

Water is enemy number 1 in straw bale construction. The good news is that with proper design and construction details, your straw bale house will stay dry and moisture issue free. The key to installing plumbing in a bale house is to create ‘water isolation walls’. I describe how to do this in the latest Straw Bale Minute. You can access it by clicking on the video link below:

Plumbing Details in Straw Bale Construction

Community Building Kitchen SinkYou have likely heard me say this before, but it is worth saying again: keep your plumbing out of your bales. Of course, it’s not as simple as that when it comes to adding plumbing to a straw bale house. There are obviously more details to consider in order to ensure that the straw bale walls are not damaged by water infiltration. The good news is that there are a limited number of locations to consider in terms of potential water damage from plumbing in a straw bale home so managing the installation is easier than you may think. Let’s look at the major areas of concern and I’ll show you my preferred solution for each location.


Water Line Isolation Walls

I always suggest that people keep all plumbing lines out of bale walls. Sometimes this is not possible and water lines need to be run through bales. The most common example of this is with hose bibs. Frost proof hose bibs need to be run back into the wall about a foot or so. For that reason, and also per our local plumbing code, we cannot place them on exterior stand pipes outside of the structure. In order to keep the risk of water leaks out of the bales, I build water line isolation walls which completely separate the bales from the pipes.

A simple construction of 2×4’s, plywood, and roofing felt, the boxes or wall sections (depending on the hose bib location) are open directly to the gravel bed in the toe ups. This allows any leaks or condensation to make its way to the drain rock.

I also use these walls around shower valves when a shower is inset against a framed 2×6 exterior wall that squares off to two bale walls on either end. In some cases, the shower valve will end up outside of the bale wall but the hot water “in” line will be within the plane of the bale wall. I place plywood and 2×4’s so that if the fitting/union at the valve ever leaks, the water cannot spray into the bales. Instead, it will hit the plywood or 2×4 (both of which are covered in roofing felt) and drain to the toe ups below. A little caution and forethought can go a long way towards creating a well built home.