Getting Bales off the Stack (without squishing your friends!)

When building a straw bale house, the bales are likely delivered to the site in squeeze blocks: tall 8′ x 8′ blocks of straw bales. Here’s a simple solution for getting the bales from the top of the delivered pile to the ground where you can handle them. In most cases, people climb their way to the top of the pile and then throw the bales off to the ground. This will usually damage at least some of the bales and is a good way to squish one or more of your generous helpers! There is a better way.

To safely get your straw bales to the ground, use two long sections of 2×12 framing lumber. Place the leading end of the 2×12’s on the top course of bales far enough apart to fully support the width of the bales. One at a time, slide the bales down to waiting hands on the ground. This will allow you to quickly and safely deliver bales to the bottom of the stack without deforming or destroying any bales or friends!

When you are done with each course of bales, move the 2×12’s down to the next level and continue with the unloading. The lower on the pile you get the closer to the house the end of the 2×12’s will be, which makes the day seem even easier. When you are all done unloading the bales, set the 2×12’s aside as they make excellent scaffold planks for the first story plaster job. Lay the planks across several bales and you have a long working surface that will allow you to reach the top of any standard wall height. Be sure to support the middle of the span as 2×12’s are not technically strong enough for scaffolding with an unsupported span. Remember that the planks will be longer than your pile of straw was tall.

One Response to Getting Bales off the Stack (without squishing your friends!)

  1. Warwick Rowell Fri, January 30, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    We built a strawbale house in 1996, which was, we think, the first “class 1 residential building” with strawbale and stucco walls in Australia. There had been sheds, studios, power houses, etc, but this one got through the bureaucracy first. If we’re wrong let us know please.

    Something we found useful when taking bales off the truck (which is how they are transported in this country) was to separate them into three piles – long, regular, and short. Regular was 900mm (+ or – 50), long was 950mm up to sometimes 1100mm, short was anything below 850mm.

    This saved a lot of time. By judicial selection and use of long or short bales, you can avoid sectioning bales at the end of a run, while not having one “join” above another, and so maintaining the strength of the Flemish bond.

    And sectioning bales is the most time-consuming part of the process..

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