Excellent Advice On Building Your House From a Workshop Grad

Ryan Image 10Like many of us, Ryan (a 7 day straw bale workshop graduate) held a deep desire to build his home using his own two hands. After all, growing up in a family in which his father had built three (the last of which Ryan was heavily involved in), the concept was familiar and natural. While attending a green building conference circa 2002, Ryan was introduced to the concept of straw bale construction. Being an environmental consultant, the merits of this technology made sense so he proceeded to create a multi year plan to build his own house using straw bales.

A plan of action, timeline, and goal are incredibly useful tools when bringing big dreams to fruition. They serve as guideposts when we feel overwhelmed and give us perspective on what the next step is.  With these tools, it doesn’t matter how far into the future your goal might be or how many actions will need to be taken to reach it. As long as you continue to follow each step, in time, reaching your goal is inevitable.Ryan Image 3

For Ryan and his wife, their steps included selling their condo in the city, renting a cottage in the area they wanted to settle in, and then waiting patiently for the right piece of property to show up. For three years they waited. And when their dream property showed up on the market, they didn’t hesitate.

Ryan was already experienced with Auto-Cad (professional architectural design software) so he undertook the 2,000 sqft home design process himself. He also did all of his engineering calculations. Before turning his plans into the building department, he had them professionally reviewed and stamped by an architect and structural engineer to make certain that the residence was well designed. Though he navigated his way through the whole design process successfully, he wishes that he had enlisted professional help earlier on to simplify the whole process.

Ryan Image 1The actual building process was an adventure. For Ryan, there were “a million ups and downs”. Some days felt easy and perfectly on schedule. Other days he felt defeated and would ask himself, “What have I done??” Peace of mind was re-established each time doubt came in by reminding himself to just take things one step at a time. During the build, he made it a point to break down each task into manageable bites so that in general, none of the jobs took more than a day to complete. He also quickly realized that it was much more productive to spend time in action rather than spending too much time thinking out every single step ahead of time.

Obtaining a loan and insurance for his straw bale home posed no obstacles for Ryan and his wife. He shares the secret to his success was in his approach. He arrived at all of his meetings with as much information as he could, answering questions before they even had a chance to ask them. He went to all of his meetings with a comprehensive business plan and presented himself professionally. Ryan’s efforts paid off without a hitch.

Ryan Image 6When I asked Ryan if he has advice to anyone building their own straw bale home, he shared (wisely) that as tempting as it may feel in the moment to cut corners not only in craftsmanship but also in materials, that it’s extremely important to stay committed to the values of safety and creating a house that will last for generations. One of the big pieces of the success and beauty of his build is that he stayed true to his commitment to build the best house that he could.

Ryan Image 5When Ryan first informed his father that he was going to build his house with straw bales, his dad thought it was the craziest thing he had ever heard of. He could not for the life of him understand why his son would build with straw. I am pleased to report though that his father now “gets it”. It’s so important that those of us who are passionate about building a straw bale house do so even at the risk of having others deem us insane (even if just temporarily). When others see the process and the end result, they can’t help but see the light. We are the ambassadors for this technology and the more of us there are, the more available safe, beautiful, energy efficient and green straw bale housing is to those around the world.

We want to congratulate Ryan on doing a beautiful job on his home. It is wonderful to see past workshop graduates go out there and build their own dream straw bale homes. We hope to see you at a workshop sometime in 2013!

 

17 Responses to Excellent Advice On Building Your House From a Workshop Grad

  1. Enga Sun, February 3, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    Wow, beautiful house!!!! Congratulations. Any chance to get a better picture of that unique and beautiful stone floor. Can’t tell exactly what it is but it looks amazing.

  2. Diana Sun, February 3, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    Your straw bale home is lovely. What a great way to conserve energy and stay green. Awesome! I’m looking into this method and comparing it to building a cordwood home. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Mike Tabony Sun, February 3, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Andrew,

    Plenty of good advice here for anyone building a house, no matter what the materials, or tackling any really big job.

    I especially liked the idea of breaking the task down into day jobs while still in the planning stage.

    Keep up the good works,

    Mike Tabony

  4. Diana Sun, February 3, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    This home is really gorgeous. Love it!

  5. Paula Stenzler Sun, February 3, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    What a wonderful achievement. Thanks for sharing. Congrats Ryan!Paula

  6. Andrew Morrison Sun, February 3, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    Hi Diana. I’m obviously biased, but straw bale is WAY more efficient, durable, and user friendly than cordwood. I can give you reasons why if you want, but I don’t want to be too pushy as my bias is clearly on the table. :)

    Andrew

  7. Tracey Pera Sun, February 3, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Thanks ever so much for the posts. Do you ever get to SO. Cal? ( Big Bear area? ). Hoping to learn more, and build myself a home… says a pioneering single mom of five home schooling children all adults… hahhahaha

  8. Andrew Morrison Sun, February 3, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    HI Tracey. Not this year; however, I do have a class in Taos, NM and one in Sacramento, CA this year. Check out http://www.strawbale.com/store to learn more about those dates and locations.

  9. Angela Sun, February 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this article. I really love the simple elegance of the bathroom counter and sink area – more ideas for our build. Great advice from Ryan. I’ve done some building with my father when he renovated the inside and outside of our family home, and I helped with Habitat for Humanity builds, but outside of that, I am a relative newbie to home construction. Reading articles like these inspire me to stay the path.

  10. Kelly Keith aka Kabeman1 Sun, February 3, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Beautiful home Ryan I hope that when I get started on my place it looks as great as yours Thankfor the pictures. Kabeman1

  11. David Adamson Mon, February 4, 2013 at 4:53 am #

    How about some exterior shots?
    Is there a case study repository to your site?

  12. Ryan Fletcher Mon, February 4, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    Thanks so much for the kind comments. You can read more details about my build on the blog my wife and I kept during the planning and the build. There are more pictures and many details about the planning process there.

    Houseonthelake.WordPress.com

    Thanks, Ryan

  13. william Tue, February 5, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    Wow,looks like a sweet pad,love what he did on the floor with it coming out of the bathroom mixing with the wood.Gives me ideas for my earthen floor.Hey Andrew where is this place? Would love to see it and chat with Ryan about it.
    Cheers to another great article and I got 3 acres of land to build on in Crystal River Fl. but do not think straw is a great idea down here with the oceans rising :( so thinking a small cabin on piers.
    Peace and Love,Billy

  14. william Tue, February 5, 2013 at 5:06 am #

    Just saw Ryan’s post as I downloaded the article prior to posts.Cool.

  15. sally Mon, March 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    I purchased a piece of property. It has a strawbale barnhouse on the site. I am trying to find out more about these buildings. The end is exposed to the elements. It was built about 10 years ago. Can I put siding up and seal the end or has it become untrustworthy? It still looks good

  16. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, March 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Hi Sally. I would check the moisture content of the bales before anything else is done. You can use a hay moisture meter with a probe for this task. You may be able to borrow one from a local farmer. If not, they cost about $250 and I would recommend one by Delmhurst. Again, borrowing is the first step I would attempt. The moisture content should not be above 20% on the meter. Anything close to 20% is a concern, where as 16% or less is fine. If you read the levels at the right moisture content, then you can close it in. I would recommend plaster, but if the rest of the building is siding, you can do that too. It will be harder to side it properly unless there are nailers in place for the siding to attach to. Even if you side it, be sure to lay one layer of plaster on the walls to protect the bales. It can be earth plaster or lime and since it will be under the siding, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Hope that helps.

  17. Guilherme Wed, March 20, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Wow Ryan ! Congratulations on a beautiful house, and perservering on making your dream come true.

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