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.
If you’ve ever tried to talk through a straw bale wall during construction, you’ll immediately see the value in this quick tip. For those of you who have not yet experienced attempting to share information across an 18″ thick wall of straw bales, I suspect you will understand the value in this tip as well.
As many of us may have heard over the years, in all walks of life: “keep it simple.” This idea, born at the Middletown, Rhode Island straw bale workshop by my new friend Tara, represents that mantra perfectly. On the site we had 31 participants all working in different areas of the home. As if it’s not hard enough to hear through 18″ of densely packed straw, we had chainsaws running, weed whackers flying, nail guns shooting and other additions to the soundscape hindering our ability to hear each other as we tried to straighten our walls. By placing a 1.5″ piece of PVC pipe through the wall (next to windows and doors, or in between bales where applicable), we were able to communicate with the outside tamping crew with ease.
You can learn more about Tara and her inspiring life journeys on the website she and her husband Tyler share with the world. Way to go Tara!
On another note, the Newport Daily News ran a nice, front page article about our build in Rhode Island. You can click here to read it and even leave a comment!
Although many of you are still living with frigid temperatures and snow, spring is officially here and the weather will catch up with the date before you know it. If you plan to build this year, I hope that you have already solidified your plan and started to line up contractors. If not, there is still time and the overall timing may indeed be perfect.
One “good” thing about a slow economy is that there are lots of people, contractors included, looking for steady work. As such, you may have more opportunities to get a good price on your project. It’s quite possible that high quality contractors will be willing to lower their prices in order to stay busy. Don’t expect a half-off sale, because that’s not likely; however, discounted prices can still translate into major savings. Consider that the average home sale price in the US according to Trulia.com is roughly $152,000. Saving 5-10% would be a $7,600-$15,200 discount, and that is well worth it.
Baling with jumbo bales, by which I mean the REALLY large bales that require pretty substantial machinery to place, is possible. However, there are multiple considerations that need to be addressed to determine if the extra cost in foundation materials, plaster and roofing materials make it worthwhile. In this Straw Bale Minute, I address each of them.
Last year’s straw bale construction workshop season started with a huge project: the Eco Learning Center at Ferncliff outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. I recently hear from the host of that workshop that the 5300 Sf structure is just about finished. I am amazed at how quickly the project has moved towards completion, especially having read the mind-numbing facts that the host shared with me. It’s a great example of some of the “behind the scenes” numbers that go into building a house. I hope you enjoy the numbers.
-The slab has 3,300 fee (.62 miles) of ½ inch PEX tubing that was tied with 5000 zip ties in a serpentine fashion for the 3,900 square feet of hydronic radiant floor heat. The 5300 sq ft building is heated with a wood furnace/boiler with pumps using less than 7% of the power the 12 solar panels can produce.
-The total weight of the steel framing is 28,000 pounds and it was all hand-carried from the staging area to the slab, then assembled.
-The Straw bale “toe up” consists of 89; 4×4’s each 10’ in length running twice end to end around the 445 foot perimeter. To fasten these timbers to the concrete, 380, half-inch holes were drilled in the concrete, 380 wedge anchors driven and 380 more holes drilled in the timbers. For “grabbers,” 2,136 large nails (20 penny) were partially driven every 5 inches into the 4×4 timbers.
-4.26 miles of baler twine was used for “sewing” the walls and re-tying custom-sized bales.
-556 ceiling panels 30”x30” were milled out of OSB and pre-painted, two coats on each side adding up to 13,900 square feet of surface area painted. This is for the ceilings over the bedrooms. 95% of this painting was done by volunteers. and 95% of that was done by two women (Carol and Jo).
-25 pallets of rice hulls at 800 pounds per pallet equal 20,000 lbs. or 10 tons of material. This material was toted, poured, slung, scattered for interior wall and attic insulation. Another perspective: A five gallon bucket of rice hulls weighs 7 pounds and carried two at a time would constitute 1,429 trips to its final destination.
-Approximately 43 tons of sand and 14.5 tons of hydraulic lime, plus water were handled into a mixer, wheel barrowed to work area, transferred to scaffold to hawk and trowel to wall. This was done to plaster an 8,888 feet of straw bale wall area three times (26,664 square feet). It took 120 for the plastering and walls were wetted down at least twice per day during this process.
-Each of the four large bedrooms employed a different locally available material. A rock floor was made with rock salvaged from the old camp pool. A cement stepping stone clock was put in the middle of the floor to make it a “Rock Around the Clock” room. Another floor was made by putting about 3000 beer bottles bottom up in sand and then mortaring them. The third floor was made to look like field stone but is actually made from paper mache. The fourth floor was made with used conveyor belt that was cut into tiles laid over compressed gravel.
Susan is the energetic, fun, and charismatic host of the Butler, MO workshop coming up May 5-11. Raised on a farm in Iowa, she grew up surrounded by animals, home crafting and that good, wholesome attitude that comes from living in connection with nature.
As life would have it, a series of events and a college degree led her to a computer programming job in a city. Her residences turned into apartments and she immersed herself into the lifestyle that comes from living in a metropolitan area. Years passed in this manner until her country girl spirit began to emerge again. Her daydreams of chickens, growing her own food, and being self sufficient became so loud that a drastic lifestyle change emerged. She bought land in Missouri and has been busy homesteading it since.
Evident in her ‘can do’ attitude, Susan is an independent woman reconnecting with her love and passion for living off the land once again. Her days are now filled with the day to day care of her pig, goats, chickens, dogs, cat, guinea hens, home crafting, building her dream forever home, and enjoying the sounds of silence in her newly reconnected life.
She has a great list of suggestions/advice for anyone wanting to homestead (in her own words):
• DO IT! Even if you live in town, there are things you can start doing to prepare. I’m guilty of just jumping into things head first, but good planning is your friend. Read the rest or post a comment »
Just a quick update to let you know where each workshop stands for 2014. If you are interested in attending any particular location, please be sure to make your plans soon as things are really starting to fill up.
More than 3/4 Full
More Than 2/3 Full
More Than Half Full
Less Than Half Full
For those of you who support the important work of protecting the Earth, this is a subject close to home for me. The bakery that is mentioned in the video is a friend of ours. The people in this video are the people of our community here in Southern Oregon. The acres that are being clear cut are here, in OUR community. I hope you will be inspired by the humanity of this video and do what you can to help maintain balance on the acres in question.
Thanks for your support.
Not everyone wants square walls in their house. Some people like round walls, others prefer angular walls. In this post, I give you a simple way to create angular walls in your straw bale home. As always, there are several ways to achieve any one goal, and I’m sharing my favorite way to create the angular walls, not the only way.
Now that our 2014 workshop schedule is up and running, it’s time to start looking ahead for hosts for the 2015 workshop season. If you are interested in hosting in 2015 and haven’t sent in an application yet, this is a great time to get yours in.
To find out more about the hosting process, please click here. If you are ready to make a formal application, please fill out the questions on the bottom of the hosting page on that link and email them to email@example.com.
We look forward to hearing about your project!