I recently received an email asking if it was possible to get the interior walls of a straw bale house flat and smooth. I have included the email and my response to it below.
Question: Are there any alternatives to finishing the interior walls of a straw bale home with plaster? More specifically, can I do drywall or something similar that gives me the crisp, smooth, flat surface typical in most homes?
Answer: You could do the drywall on the interior of the house, but it would be a huge waste of time as there would be many extra steps necessary to achieve this.
The best option is to take care in placing the bales and weed whack them once they are all stacked. In the plastering process, you can use rods and darbies to straighten the walls even more. The finish product can be very straight, but will likely never be as straight as a conventional home. I think you will find that this is actually yet another advantage over conventional homes. The straight walls in conventional homes can feel sterile while the slight undulations in SB walls offer a connection to the “real world” where nothing is perfectly straight and sterile. The comfort that imparts on the occupants is priceless.
That said, you can get pretty darn close to perfectly straight with enough attention to detail. It’s all about what you want to accomplish and how much time and money you want to spend in the process. Plastering is a slow and technical process as is, so adding labor to an already laborious job may not be in the budget. As I mentioned above, you can save a lot of that “extra” work by paying particular attention to building straight walls during the baling stage.
For more tips on plastering straw bale walls, check out our Plastering with Natural Hydraulic Lime DVD.