Straw Bale House: A Four-Person Barn Raising

| 6/22/2011 5:04:03 PM

Tags: straw bale house, straw bale building, straw bale walls, barn raising, bale needles, Dave Larson,

Dave L HeadshotFrom installing the window and door bucks to topping the walls with bond beams, this crew of four completed the exterior walls on this DIY 720 sq ft house in four days. Next comes the roof!

Barbara and I retired from teaching high school the last week of May, 2009. With the help of our neighbors, Dan and Anneke, we moved lock, stock, and barrel from Tucson to Cochise with a couple round trips in a pickup with horse trailer, Chevy Blazer, and Barbara’s little Corolla. After a day of resting from the move and getting organized, we were ready to build. This blog is not just a chronicle of our straw bale house walls going up, it is a “thank you” to our neighbors, Dan and Anneke. They not only got us moved, but devoted their time and energy to helping us get our walls up. They are the kind of people that put the “good” in good neighbor.

       Crew Day Three 

About a week before we retired, our ranch supply store delivered about 180 straw bales freshly baled and tightly packed. Bales from different machines can vary in size, number of strings, and the length of the straw strands. Our bales averaged about 4 feet long x 15 inches high x 24 inches wide.  The bales we bought had long strands, which made a variety of building chores easier than a chopped straw bale. The market here at that time was $6.50 per bale. Thus, our walls, without rebar pinning or bucks, cost us $1,170 delivered. The bucks and rebar pinning added a couple hundred dollars more.

     Bale Needles 

To accommodate openings less than 4 feet, we had to retie bales into shorter lengths using baling twine and bale needles. Retying with long strand bales was a dream compared to the choppy bales our neighbors used. A long-strand bale holds its shape, while a short-strand or chopped straw bale tends to crumble when retying. Ugly!

11/22/2013 12:16:08 PM

We are in OK and looking at a similar structure. We have really sandy soil and no clay where we are. What kind of foundation should we use.

11/22/2013 8:07:38 AM

Hi, I am from southeast Colorado and we just bought 2 yrs ago a foreclosure straw bale house that needed lots done to it , mainly on the inside. I thought that we were unable to use a evaporation cooler due to the moisture it expelled and it gets hot here at about 90-110 for days! This house can really get warm sometimes , so is it ok to get a EV cooler?, Thanks!

Dave Larson
6/27/2011 7:24:40 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave, One of the bizarre things about straw bale houses. They are less combustible than a stick house. The tight bales covered by plaster don't permit aeration for fire growth. Because they are straw, assumptions are made - often by planning and zoning folk. Most states, don't know if Nebraska is one, have county level authority on most of the elements of building codes. In our country, P & Z was being driven by developers for a while. They did not want independent, owner/builders taking away their niche. Here in Cochise county, a group of citizens (Cochise County Individual and Property Rights - CCIPRA) started a grass roots movement which finally made the county supervisors change their minds. If an owner is also the builder and the primary resident, "non-traditional" building can happen on land that is zoned RU-4. Love to see that spread!Enjoy your Nebraska summer!

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