All too often the conversation about how to protect bales in a straw bale wall is held without any mention of how to protect those bales prior to their installation. So, how do you protect the bales once they arrive on site and before you install them? For some reason, most likely Murphy’s Law, it will rain once the bales have been delivered, even if you are building in the middle of the desert! I consider a fresh stack of dry bales to be a rain magnet.
The first thing to consider is timing. Do not have the bales on site before you are ready for them. There is no point in storing them on the job site while you are still framing or preparing for bales. They take up space and are more likely to be damaged the longer they “hang around.” Deliver the bales the same week you plan to start baling.
Place them on pallets in strategic locations. When they are delivered, immediately distribute them around the site so that you will not have to carry them around the house just to install them. It is a little extra work in the moment but will ultimately speed up the construction of your project.
Once they are distributed, cover them with quality tarps. If you live in an area prone to wind, you may need to anchor the sides of the tarps down. If, however, you don’t see much wind, it is best to leave the sides of the bale stack exposed to the air so that any moisture that builds up under the tarps can be eliminated by air circulation. It is also a good idea to stack the bales in a pyramid so that any condensation will slide down the tarp and not simply drop on to the bales.
If you have to receive the bales before you are ready to use them, find a dry spot on your land and stack all the bales in one area on top of two layers of pallets. The two layers help to keep the bottom course of bales out of the grass or away from the moisture of the ground. Stack the bales like a pyramid and cover well with quality tarps. I use “Hay Tarps” because they are big and well built. The last thing you want to do is skimp on the tarps and find your entire lot of bales get damaged by rain. Leave the sides open for air circulation as described above unless wind driven rain is in the forecast. If it is, be sure to cover the sides before it shows up!
Again, the key is to leave your bales at the source as long as possible, assuming that the source has a dry barn. If the bales will be left unprotected at the source, then you may want to have the bales delivered so you can ensure that they are protected.