What Help Do You Want from Me?

Here’s an opening. I am trying to get a clear line on exactly what you are looking for from me these days. The economy and the entire global picture has changed so drastically in the last few months, that I want to check in and make sure I am providing you all with the best information possible.

So, what exactly do you want from me? Do you want entries about specific questions you have? Do you want blogs about general green building? How about being your own contractor or builder? Give me some input by responding to this blog and I will act from there. Otherwise, I will assume that what I am doing is still serving the majority of you and will move forward accordingly.


21 Responses to What Help Do You Want from Me?

  1. April Sat, October 25, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    I’d like a guide for starting the process. My husband and I have purchased the land, but the process of having a house built seems so big that I don’t know where to start. Would I find an architect first, pay out of pocket, and then go to a bank for the loan. We want to owner-build (Dad lives near and he’s in construction, plus we’ll want a straw bale expert to consult), so do we have to come up with the pricing breakdown ourselves, or can we pay for someone else to create the estimate?

    I guess I just don’t know how to jump in. We’re planning to start building in about 1 1/2 years, once we have 20+ percent to put down, including land equity (we’re about halfway done paying off the land, and it’s a 5-year owner financed loan).

  2. Scott Sat, October 25, 2008 at 1:57 pm #

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m always interested to hear more about weatherization from rain, splashing, and groundwater, plus specific supporting data sources or positive stories about getting strawbale homes through the permitting process.

    Keep up the great work! It’s always informative and interesting.


  3. steve satow Sat, October 25, 2008 at 11:33 pm #

    Hi Andrew. Have you considered creating a list of recommended publications and websites on your own website?

    I would find it a real help to know which books or magazines or sources of information you or other people have found useful during alternative building projects.

    Best regards, Steve

  4. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, October 26, 2008 at 7:40 am #

    Thanks for the ideas. I want to let you all know that I plan to compile these ideas and whatever anyone else contributes and then write about them in the coming weeks or take other actions that appear to be a good idea. Please keep the ideas coming and keep an eye out for my responses.

  5. salim Wed, October 29, 2008 at 7:56 pm #

    Dear Andrew,
    i am from Quetta Pakistan.Yesterday our province was jolted with a powerful earthquake.A few km from where i live the vicinty of Ziarat is destroyed.I immediately wish to take up with the rebuilding process.I know about earthbabg building but i assume strawbaling would be quicker.your site seems like God sent at this moment as no books are available here.if you have any info on builing a reciprocal roof please let me know.Thanks a million

  6. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, October 29, 2008 at 9:00 pm #

    Salim. I am so sorry to hear about the loss for your province and the people affected by the quake. I hope that you all can find a way to move forward as soon as possible. I do not know much about the reciprocal roof design other than it can be a simple design for those with limited construction experience. It is similar to a tipi design and is very strong. I think it would work well on a bale house; however, I think the roof design works best in a round structure and round structures are harder to build out of bales than square ones. please let me know if there is any help I can offer as you rebuild.

  7. SC Mon, November 3, 2008 at 4:07 pm #

    I wanted to know more about straw houses and how well they do in the south with humid conditions?

    I saw where you were looking into rice straw homes any news on that?

    Also what is the average cost for two three bed room straw home?

    Thanks so much!

  8. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, November 11, 2008 at 1:26 pm #

    Humidity is still the toughest part of building with bales. So far, I have nothing that would make me feel good about building in really humid areas.

    Cost depends so much on the area and the labor force. You can plan for around 20% more than a conventional home in the same design as a rough start.

  9. Meaghan Malleaux Thu, November 13, 2008 at 6:38 am #

    You have any ideas how to make some extra money from all the local attention a straw bale house gets? Apparently we are all the talk… and yesturday someone was standing on the road taking pictures … somehow I should be able to make some money off this attention in order to finish the house… lol .. Of course, a steel frame, straw walls and SIP panels on the roof would make people scratch their heads.


  10. Amy Fri, November 14, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    Hello Andrew,
    My husband is in the remodeling business and I bought him your DVD last year for Christmas. He became almost obsessed with this kind of building! He simply cannot understand why builders are not adopting this instead of the stick houses we have here. Building has come to a stop here like it has everywhere else, but we haven’t given up hope. My husband has big dreams including a completely green co-housing project with straw bale houses for the type of buildings. There are at least 3 co-housing places here already, one of them utilizes partial straw bales for the buildings. We went on an alternative home tour last week and there was one straw bale house on the tour…Carolyn Roberts who wrote a book about her experience. My husband convinced everyone that walked through the door that this is the way to build! I guess what we might still be needing is encouragement that the possibility is still out there…that people will still be building, and maybe he could use some advice as to how to get to people so they know he is out there and available to do this. Do you know of any contractors that advertise they do this…or is this mostly an owner building kind of thing? He wants to be the one anyone can come to, but not quite sure how to go about it. He will be building a straw bale barn for a customer in April here with living quarters..if she still can….We LOVE your web site and tell others that this is by far the best one out there. So PLEASE keep up all of the information you have as we check back here all the time. Thanks very much for all of the awesome info!

  11. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, November 17, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    Thanks for the feedback Amy. That all sounds really exciting. There will definitely be a shift in the markets again towards building. There is so much inventory out there right now, that things will take a while to recover, but I am confident it will happen. As far as contractors for SB construction, there are many, although nowhere near as many as conventional contractors. Where are you located

  12. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, November 17, 2008 at 8:39 am #

    I’m sure there is a way if that is a real need for you. You might consider doing a class: an introduction to building your own straw bale house. It could be a lecture and tour style class. Good luck.

  13. Amy Mon, November 17, 2008 at 7:11 pm #

    We are in Tucson AZ. I know there are several straw bale houses here but finding them is difficult. This one by Carolyn Roberts was the first one we had ever been in. It was amazing! She said her son used to have a rock band and you couldn’t even hear it if you were outside!

  14. Meaghan Malleaux Wed, November 19, 2008 at 6:07 am #

    Can you shed some light on occupancy permits? At what stage in the strawbale building process is the earliest one can move in? What happens if you move in to finish the house before final inspection? Is there any laws about what state the house has to be in in order to live in it?

    E.g. Does drywall have to be up? Does interior plaster have to be on the straw? etc …


  15. Jordan Lentz Sun, November 23, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    I am wondering how to approach winterizing my straw bale house for winter? It got cold much sooner that it usually does and I was not able to plaster the outside. The inside is plastered and ready to move in but I am wondering if i should cover with a house wrap or just let it be. All the straw bales are on the second floor. Any advice would be appreciated.


  16. D.M. Dougall Tue, December 2, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    Hi Andrew,
    For starters, just “want” of you to say a huge Thank You for all the free info, generously given. I am just about to order your dvd on building, and already devour everything I get from your blog and mini “how to” emails.
    I am dragging along a slightly bemused husband, and want to impress on him that even though we are two middle-aged people who couldn’t run a marathon without inducing cardiac arrest at the moment, we “could” do this!
    I would love, love, love to see more info on building in cold, wet climates. We live in Vermont, where it is hot and humid in the summer, with lots of wind-driven rain, and cold and snowy in the winter, with lots of wind-driven snow!
    Also, I’ve been reading up on cob building, and would like to see more info on the possibility of building a cob supporting structure, (instead of, for example, a post and beam structure) with bale infill, or even using earth bags as a supporting structure with bale infill. Ever tried it? Pros, cons? Possible?
    Keep up the helpful info for the growing number of Americans who just can’t (and reeaaally don’t want to – phooey!) buy a McMansion and wish to build a small,beautiful, energy-efficient home, or at least have a big hand in it!

  17. Heather Wed, December 3, 2008 at 10:29 am #

    I have a question for you to weigh in on.

    I live in Sacramento CA and currently there is NOT a network of natural builders. There’s one person I know of working with Cob, there are 2 strawbale homes in the 5 surrounding counties, and a few faux finishers who’ve tentatively branched into earthen paint and plaster.

    My haunch is that this will grow but it needs water. I want to pioneer a Sacramento/central valley natural building network with a few goals in mind.

    To form a cooperative of builders/artisans who are committed to building naturally,
    To start a school/class where the skills can be shared with a new generation and with eachother.
    To work with structural engineers to give these building methods credibility with inspectors.
    And to educate the public of the safety, beauty, and durability, of a well built natural home.

    This is alot to do and I have never ever tried such a thing before. Any advice would really help.

  18. Sune Grønnebæk Thu, December 11, 2008 at 5:46 am #

    Hi Andrew.

    Thank you very much for a great forum that I have studied fore quite some time now.
    I have bought a bunch of books and 3 of you very god CD’s. All very informative and stimulation.
    I feel I have A LOT to learn yet (The more you know, the more you know you don’t know) I am almost ready to take the big step.

    The thing that is holding me back the most at the moment is the uncertainty of the financial cost of the project. What does it cost? How do I calculate? Maybe a standard breakdown of all the details like so many penny nails, So much welded wire mesh and so on… I don’t need prices, because thy change with time and place, but a breakdown of materials.
    I’m afraid of leaving something very important and expensive out in the planning phase.

    Maybe one breakdown fore LoadBaring and one fore “Post-n-Beam”.
    or even one fore each type of room. Kitchen, living, Bath ect… Calculated by the sq feet (or even better sq METER)

    That would help me where I am right now.

    I have never build a house before, but controlling the money flow seems the most difficult and daunting task to me. After your videos building is easy:-)

    Also In your “Load baring Video” you mention that you have the engineered calculations for using wire mesh as a stabilising system I can’t seem to find them on you site…

    Happy Baling.


  19. Brad Thu, December 11, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    I am a Canadian, living on the west coast.The straw bale building has been in my mind for a long time.I have widely travelled the western north american continent and one thing keeps coming to me.The control of the forests are the same controls that decide our futures ,in that the people that issue the building permits ,are controlled by the people that write the laws, that are influenced by the big money corporations that will keep us building with the products that they produce.In my travels I have seen huge piles of rotting bales in the grain farming areas of north america and was driven to ask the farmers that I met what they did with the leftover stalks from the grains.They all said that some was sold for cattle bedding ,but mostly it was a problem because it couldn’t be plowed back into the soil.I have been offered all the straw I want for the price of bailing or free if I bale it.The farmers in the north like to bale what I call super bales,bales 4ft wide 4ft high and 6-8ft long and I have dreamed of the superbales building me a bullet proof,fireproof,soundproof,(almost) terrorist proof,totally insulated castle.Ok castle might be pushing it but with such large bales the bales become more structural don’t they.I was thinking that the walls could be prestressed(pressed) on the floor,framed in steel and lifted into place.The actual weight of the individual bales is around a ton .This as a wall isn’t that heavy,I imagine making prefab house walls with a scratch coat on them,delivered to your location,and finished on site.The cost would be considerably less than a wood house,totally efficient and the finish coat of plaster in side and out, would be mixed in large enough amounts that the color would be consistent and may never need to be done again, ever……The cost savings in construction would be realized in the finer aspects of home fixtures,solar heat& electrical, greenhouses attached to the kitchen(for tomatoes at christmas or anytime),fancy tilework,hammered tin ceilings,old wood cook stoves…..the sky is the limit.Any way, the staw that is the longest lasting is barley straw and it is grown in many parts of our world and is cheap or free at this time.Build it!

  20. Dave Wise Sat, January 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    I would like to build a free standing wall approximately 5 feet high x 80 feet long. I would stucco both sides.
    What size footing should I have?
    Should I have a post ‘ steel’ every so often?

  21. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, January 26, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Hi David. Thanks for the question. I suggest you go with a foundation that is roughly 6″ thick by the width of the bales. Be sure to use a bed of compacted gravel, no less that 4 inches, underneath the concrete. If you have drainage concerns, I would use a french drain system on either side of the foundation as well. In fact, this is a good idea unless you can provide positive drainage away from the wall for the length of the wall. You could also use a rubble trench foundation concept which is similar to what I describe here, with some small changes. These are especially good in areas of high ground water as the extra depth of gravel allows the ground to drain better and reduces heaving in cold climates. Check out the following link for a quick description http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubble_trench_foundation. The rubble trench is a great system, yet you still need a concrete cap to use it. You might be able to get away with using a rubble trench with a sand bag foundation cap. This is a little more risky as you cannot provide any “hold downs” for the wall. This may not be a problem for a landscape wall in the end. Be sure to use buttress walls to support the out of plane direction as well. There is another blog entry on this site that discusses this more fully.

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