Installing A Dryer Vent in An Existing Bale Wall

Sometimes even the best planning can result in a mistake. For example, I recently heard from someone who purchased a house and found that there is no dryer vent through the straw bale wall to the exterior of the home.

Here’s a quick step by step guide to installing a vent after the fact. Be sure that you do this job with the power turned off to the house. I suggest you turn off all of the power, so there’s no risk of hitting a live wire buried in the bales.

It’s best to cut a larger hole than what you need as trying to cut a perfect size hole in a bale wall can be difficult. By all means, try it if you want as you can always enlarge your first attempt and continue with the method below. Much will depend on what size vent (or other protrusion you’re working with) you are trying to install. It will also depend on the density of your bales.

For the larger box method, start by using a rotary hammer drill with a chisel bit to remove the plaster. I suggest you score the outline of the area heavily with a scoring tool so that the plaster doesn’t continue to break in all directions as you go.

Cut out any mesh in the wall. Be sure to leave enough mesh when you cut it out to later anchor the framing that will go in the hole. You’ll need to bend it out of the way for now.

Use a chainsaw to plunge cut the straw out of the hole. Again, watch for wiring here!!!

Insert a small wood frame into the new hole and anchor it to the wall by attaching the bent back mesh to it.

Insert the dryer vent exterior wall fitting.

Insulate around the piping.

Trim out the new box with a wood detail, tile around the vent pie as necessary to hide the repair, or replaster the area with a skim coat over the entire wall to hide the repair.

Connect the dryer vent to the stub out.

Get going on the laundry that’s been piling up!

9 Responses to Installing A Dryer Vent in An Existing Bale Wall

  1. Robert Wed, December 30, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    excellent article. you certainly cover the basics of the project.

    it’s great that you stress the importance of cutting the power to the entire house, because i’ve seen a guy get a little toasted cutting through a live wire doing a very similar job.

  2. bill Sat, January 16, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Dryer VENT!
    Dryer!

    Not very green is it for a straw bale geezer. Please tell people that they shouldn’t have dryers; you have 10 days otherwise I’ll join Barry Qaeda, this is an organisation run by Al’s fundamentalist brother.

  3. Todd Sun, January 17, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Andrew,

    I’m about to attempt a similar project, which is putting a 6″ round duct through the wall for a range hood exhaust. Do you think there is a benefit to you technique over using a hole saw to cut the plaster, then plunge cutting with the chainsaw, and running the duct right through without the wood framing?

  4. Todd Thu, January 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    See comment above

  5. Andrew Morrison Fri, January 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    Bill. I hear your passion around keeping things green. I have to remind myself that there are different levels of green in the world and that any level, if one step up from where someone once resided, is better than nothing.

    That said, I too have a dryer and I use when I must. My climate is such that I can’t hang my clothes up year round. I keep my house cool in the winter, minimizing my use of fuels, and drying clothes in my living room doesn’t work very well. Therefore I, like many other people in the world I imagine, need a dryer for certain times of the year.

    Anyway, I applaud your commitment to being green. I hope that you can find ways to continue to inspire those around you to get greener and greener. I try to do my part too.

  6. Andrew Morrison Fri, January 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Thanks for the nudge Todd. Yours was one of the missed responses when the system went weird on me.

    I find that cutting a hole to the exact size I need is difficult and having a little wiggle room is worth while. That said, it is certainly possible to do it the way you suggest. The difficulty comes in when the size of the hole is small enough to make it difficult to move the hole saw, and especially the chainsaw, in and out with accuracy. Keep in mind that the hole saw will work well in wood and will be hard to run through plaster. It will dull quickly. It won’t be easy to keep the chainsaw in check through such a small hole either.

    Let me know what you decide to so and how it works out.

  7. Todd Sat, January 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Thanks Andrew…Just waiting for it to warm up a bit before I knock a hole in the wall, but I’ll let you know how it goes when I finish it.

  8. Sandy Mon, October 31, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    How are you powering the rotary hammer drill with the power off?

  9. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Mon, November 7, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    You can use a generator or a battery powered (smaller unit) drill. If you don’t have access to either of those, you can leave the power on in another room of the house and use an extension cord. Just be sure the power is off where you are working.

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