Andrew Answers Your Questions- Part 1

Question

In a post and beam construct, can the bales be stacked on the narrow part rather than wide? I understand the R-Value would be less, but to add to an already existing (West facing) wall -this might do what I need it to do. (Shield the afternoon sun from heating the house)

Andrew’s Response

In terms of stacking on edge, it is possible, but it is difficult with post and beam because the strings interfere with notching the bales. To remedy this, you have to stack in front of the post and beam so that it remains exposed, or create a loose clay slip infill around the posts. This is messy and not easy to accomplish. I personally think stacking on the flat is MUCH better. If you have an existing wall you wish the wrap with bales, on edge or on the flat will both work. I hope this helps.

Question

I am building a straw bale dog house with 2 rooms and an entrance chamber type thing. It is one I can walk in without having to go on all 4’s. [It is practice for a house, can you tell?] My question is also about paint.  First, is there a good scrubbable paint I can use inside? I would like to be able to keep a little clean in there.  Second, I plan to paint potted plants along the walls outside instead of trying to landscape it since one of the dogs “landscapes” already. Is it OK to use just any old paint for that? I won’t be covering anywhere near the entire wall. How much of a wall can I cover with any old paint before I start getting into trouble?

Andrew’s Response

The key with paint is to use the right kind and the right quality. You could try and find a threshold of when you cause problems to the house, but I don’t think that is a good idea. I would recommend using quality paint with a high vapor transfer rate. Radiant heat is fantastic and a great compliment to SB homes; however, it may be a bit much for the dog house!

The roof comes down to loads and design. You could do a shed roof (one sloped direction only) and use framing lumber large enough to handle the extra load of sunbathers. For example, if 2x8s 2 feet on center are required, you could use 2x10s instead. The idea is to strengthen the roof assembly so you don’t fall through or bow the roof into a sag. Good Luck and have fun.

Question

I need the name and locations for a two string bale supplier that might provide rice straw bales to my property in Nevada. Can you recommend a contact or two?

Andrew’s Response

Bales in that part of the country seem to be difficult to find. I suggest you contact the following two agencies and see what they have to offer. There should be straw in the Southern part of California nearby.

Here is the info on straw suppliers to your area:

California Rice Commission
701 University Ave., Ste 205, Sacramento CA 95825

California Wheat Commission
PO Box 2267, Woodland CA 95776-2267; 520.661.1292, fax 530.661.1332.

You could also contact farmers in Arizona or Utah if there are no local farmers in your area.

You might also try one of the following links and see if anything is listed there:
www.strawlocator.com and www.hayexchange.com

Question

Hello, My name is Frank and I recently purchased your DVD series. We are about to put a bale addition onto our 1790 farm house. I have been watching the DVD over and over and have a question about the construction technique. What joins the bales together? In other projects I see, the bales are pinned together using bamboo or re-bar. Does the wire take the place of the stakes? I saw in part of the video when a twine was passed through the wall and tied to a piece of bamboo, however, I thought that was for earthquake zones. Can you clarify? The county we live in here in Maryland does not have any bale houses and I want my project to sail through the inspectors.

Andrew’s Response

Frank, You are right on the money when you ask if the welded wire mesh replaces the pinning. The fact is that the mesh does a much better job of attaching the bales to the frame and to each other than the pins did. Consider that the mesh is heavily stapled off to the framing and then is tied to the mesh on the other side of the wall (this is the section with the small pieces of bamboo. You could use twine stretched over several inches without bamboo). The mesh completely encapsulates the bales and attaches them to the frame. Good luck.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Morrison has a passion for straw bale construction that is matched only by his desire to teach his knowledge to others. He has a wealth of experience in designing and building both conventional and straw bale homes. After years of building, he has moved his practice entirely to consulting and teaching. He shares his knowledge with thousands of people via his DVD series and this website and teaches roughly six-eight hands on workshops each year. For more on his workshops, please visit www.strawbale.com/store/category/workshops.  Andrew received a BA degree from Hampshire College in 1995 for Glacial Geology. He also has a degree in construction technology.

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