Baling in Wet Weather: Mitigating Inclement Weather on the Job Site

rain falling on the groundI don’t know what the weather is like where you are while you read this, but it’s pretty rainy here today! It’s always a concern for bale builders that the rains will come at just the wrong time. In fact, I’ve said it before that as soon as your bales arrive on site, you can expect rain, even if you live in the Sahara! It’s Murphy’s Law I guess. Anyway, I’ve got some simple and cool tips for you to implement when baling in wet weather.

Tarps. Yup, that’s the most obvious tip of all. The key is, how do you use them effectively.

1. Most people want to wrap their bales up tight with tarps so that there’s no way for water to get in. I prefer to wrap my bales with a top tarp that is pulled away from the bales with ropes at the bottom. This keeps the water off but allows wind to blow through and keep the bales dry from condensation.

2. Be sure to stack your bales in a pyramid of sorts so that there are no flat spots on the top of the stack. Those flat spots will collect water in the tarps which will eventually fail and the water will enter your stack. By keeping the pyramid shape, the water will always flow off and away from the stack.

3. Build a breezeway. I use tarps from the main stack attached to the house as a breezeway for transporting bales into the home. Be sure to angle the tarp so that it drains, usually to the side is best for simplicity. This keeps the bales dry from the well covered stack to their placement in the house.

4. If you can’t shape and cut the bales inside, use 10’x10′ portable tents with optional walls. This gives you a dry workspace in which to manage the bales.

5. Hang tarps from the house eaves to protect the bales as you install them. If the rain is unusual for the time of year in which you’re building, you don’t have to worry much about the sides of the bales getting wet once they’re stacked in the wall; however, keep the tops of the bales dry the entire time. If it is indeed the rainy season, keep the bale sides dry as well. You’ll be spraying them with water right before you plaster, I know, but if they get really saturated, you can end up with some rot before the dry season comes around again. It won’t likely be much rot, but none is better than any.

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7 Responses to Baling in Wet Weather: Mitigating Inclement Weather on the Job Site

  1. Charles Court Fri, November 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    Good update. When I got back from the Grant’s workshop I was in a panic to get the bales. Well now I have them and the workshop is not until June 14, 2010. I hope they last because they are really tigh bales…..thanks Andrew

  2. David Tyler Mon, November 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    What about stacking the bales inside the house? Assuming you have the roof in place and are using a frame construction/infill process.

  3. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, November 23, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    Stacking the bales inside is a good option David. You’ll need to make sure that your subcontractors have adequate space to move around and do their work in the meantime. It’s a good idea to stack the bales in several small piles through out the house rather than in one large one in the middle of the building. This way, they are staged near wear you’ll need them. Of course, keep them out of wind driven rain reach.

  4. cathy sellers Tue, December 15, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Hi Andrew, thanks for being so forthcoming with your expertise.I have a ?. Some of my bales are moldy, as I have discovered when taking them apart to use for other things. They look fine on the outside though, and may just have a little area in the middle. Is there a way to tell if they are moldy (a mold meter??) or, how bad is the middle mold? I have had trouble with wind. The tarp was great but the gale force winds stripped it just before the torrential rains. I have since learned that pails of cement at the anchor points work better than stakes screwed into the ground with ever increasing depth and exasperation, just in time to be stripped before the next rain! Thanks Andrew

  5. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, December 15, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    That’s a tough one Cathy. I would strongly recommend you get a bale moisture meter with a probe so you can reach the center of your bales. If the centers are wet, chances are they won’t dry out very well. The problem is that once in the middle of the bale, the moisture creates its own environment for mold growth. There is warmth, from the decay, which creates moisture, driven out of the straw (whatever little moisture there is to begin with), and the cycle continues. This is the problem with getting the bales wet from the top: it drops into the middle of the bales and is almost impossible to get out.

    It’s possible that the damage is only on the top couple layers of bales though, which would be good. Get yourself a meter and see what happened. It may be a major bummer, but it will be better than building with wet and moldy bales.

    Here’s a link for a meter: http://www.delmhorst.com/products_hay.html

  6. Mark Sun, March 30, 2014 at 3:15 am #

    Any hints on load bearing construction and rainy weather?

  7. Andrew Morrison Tue, April 1, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    It’s tough. The best one can do is erect a very large tarp over the build site and drain it away from the structure on all sides. Other than that, you can have a bunch of tarps available in case the weather turns for the worse and hope for the best. If it looks like rain, drape the tarps over the partially built walls and wait for the sun to come back out. 🙂

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