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.
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.
Here’s his contact information:
I recently wrote to a host of one of the 2015 straw bale workshops about how to minimize her construction costs. She is concerned that she will end up with a beautiful design that she cannot afford to actually build. Having heard this concern many times over the years, I thought I would share my response with you all as I believe it is helpful information to have on hand before you start designing. Below are seven things to keep in mind when getting started.
- Keep roof lines simple. The more intricate the roof design, the more expensive it is to build. Intersections, pitch variations, and other details make construction harder and labor more expensive.
- Taller is less expensive than wider. If you are looking for square footage, it’s often less expensive to build up than it is to build out. This increases square footage without adding additional materials for the foundation and roof.
- Consider finish materials. Everything from roofing (metal versus composition shingles, for example) to flooring, plumbing and electrical fixtures, and cabinetry can have a big impact on budget. Find affordable options that still meet your aesthetic requirements.
- Get a good plan. Saving money by working with a less than qualified designer will cost you money in the end as the construction details won’t be as well laid out. That means more time head scratching for the builder and more mistakes during construction.
- Simplify the overall design. As with the roof, the wall layout also impacts cost. The more turns, corners, and angles you have in your design, the more expensive it will be to build. Keep in mind that all of those details mean more foundation work, wall framing, baling and plastering details, and roof structure detailing.
- Know your budget ahead of time. If you share your budget with your designer and builder, then you can discuss how to design/build TO that number rather than design and build with hopes of hitting an unknown. The more up front and honest you are with yourself and your team, the more successful you will be.
- Have a contingency plan. Regardless of what number and design you settle into, make sure you have a contingency fund in your loan or extra cash set aside (if you are building out of pocket) for the unknowns. There are ALWAYS unknowns and being blindsided by them can ruin your project.
Check out this beautiful, artisan-owner designed straw bale home located in rural Lake County, California. The home is located on 13 acres of pastoral valley land that provides serenity and beauty around the home. This one bedroom/one bath home has over 1900 sq. ft. of living space with a gourmet kitchen and lots of privacy. The interior has an open feel to it and the barrel ceiling/roof line is as original as it is beautiful. The interior woodwork, in the form of exposed beams and loft framing, adds contrast to the soft curves of the bales and plaster details throughout the home. Read the rest or post a comment »
Please click on the flier below to learn about an upcoming natural building workshop for women to be held in Southern Oregon June 12-22. The instructors will be Lydia Doleman and Carey Lien and the class will be held at my friend’s beautiful land: Full Bloom Farm and Community. Should be an amazing time!
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.