How Much to Charge Clients for Baling in a Straw Bale House

This is often he most difficult part of becoming a professional bale builder. There is no book of standards out there from which to pull a “man-hour” rate for baling. So, how do you bid a house without gouging your client or digging yourself a financial hole? Experience is the best resource for any estimating question. If you have been lucky enough to work on a crew of experienced balers, you will have an understanding of just what is involved in baling a structure. If you have not, you need to either get some experience, or connect with some one who has that experience themselves. You can either work on some one else’s crew, or pick their brain for information.

Here are some thoughts on how much to charge clients for baling.

1. You will need to charge for each linear foot of window in the house. Remember that the windows and doors in exterior walls need a lot of attention in order for you to be confident that they will not fail and cause rot in the bales over time. For that reason, a lot of time and effort is spent flashing the windows. In addition, a lot of time and effort is spent on the inside shaping those openings. Charge per foot of the window perimeter to cover your costs.

2. Charge per bale you put in the house (standard and custom bales have their own rate). Don’t base your estimate or bid on the square footage of the house. Instead, base it on the number of bales you will place in the walls. Consider that a 1500 sf with 8′ ceilings will not cost the same as the same size house with 9′ ceilings. On the same line, a house with 10 windows will not cost the same as one with 30 windows. Yes, you have covered much of the cost of the windows in the section above, but not all of it. Here’s why.

A window or door interrupts the running bond of the bales and requires you to make custom bales. You need to charge for the custom bales because they take time and materials to create. On my homes, I charge for standard bales, and I charge more for every custom bale in the house. A custom bale is any bale that is altered before it is placed in the house. Niches and other alterations to the bales are priced separately.

3. Is the mesh system part of the engineering or simply for plaster reinforcement and bale shaping? The engineered mesh systems require a lot of nailing so the labor is higher for this system. Is the mesh a special order item? Is there extra shipping chargers associated with the material? Make sure you cover all these questions before you give your estimate.

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2 Responses to How Much to Charge Clients for Baling in a Straw Bale House

  1. Anna Sun, October 26, 2008 at 5:35 pm #

    Hey Andrew-
    Thank you for all this imput. Pricing baling and plastering has kept me up at nights many times (including tonight!) and you raise some excellent points. What I see in this post is the importance to thoroughly think through every step of the baling (and plastering) process to the very best of your knowledge and experience, and to be absolutely clear with clients about the individuality of their project and what steps are required for each detail the project calls for. P.S. in my plastering biz I factor in extra per sq. foot of corners, windows, electrical outlets etc.
    keep it up andrew–you’re efforts are very very very appreciated. I dont know how you do it.

  2. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, October 26, 2008 at 8:04 pm #

    Thanks Anna. I am glad you find the resource helpful. Good idea about the corners, etc…

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