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April 24, 2014  |  Login
Straw Bale Home Construction
By Eric Corey Freed
Because the bales are a waste product, you’re doing the farmer a favor by taking the “waste” off his hands.
  • Because straw-bale construction requires a simple set of skills, homeowners can often build their homes themselves. They often invite friends over for a “bale-raising” party (complete with pizza and beer), to get free labor to help build the walls.
  • Because the walls have triple the amount of insulation of a traditional home, you can reduce the size of your heating equipment and save money from the start. Plus, your monthly heating bills will be much lower.
  • It’s quiet. The dense, stuffed walls create an incredibly quiet home. One of the first things people notice in a straw-bale home is how silent they are.

Taking Advantage of Straw Bale’s Building Assets

The superhigh insulation factor of straw bale makes it perfect for both hot and cold climates. From the hot desert to the frosty mountains, a straw-bale home will keep you comfortable year-round. Damp, humid regions are probably not the best climate for straw bale, but anywhere else is fine.

The modular nature (stacks of large bricks) of straw bale makes it incredibly flexible and versatile in your design. Consider the following when designing for a straw-bale home:

  • Curves: Gentle curves are easy to create with straw bale. The plaster finish hides the segments of each bale, creating a smooth, finished appearance.
  • Deep windows: The thick bales create thick walls. In hot climates, place the windows on the inside of the wall to create a deep shadow box around the glass. In cold climates, place the windows on the outside of the wall to create interior window
  • seats and deep sills. These deep windows are part of the look of a straw-bale building.
  • A truth window: Proud straw-bale homeowners often keep a small area of the wall unfinished to show off the straw below the plaster. Called a truth window, these fun details distinguish your home from a typical one.
  • Deep overhangs: Although the bales are covered with stucco, you need to keep the walls dry. Use deep roof overhangs to shed the rainwater away from the walls.
Remember: Because of their thickness, using straw bale only at the exterior walls is best. The walls on the inside can be made of wood framing (see Wood Framing) or anything you want.

Wall costs are usually only about 10% to 20% of the overall cost of construction. And straw-bale homes cost the same as, or only slightly more than, traditional wood-frame houses. When comparing the costs to wood, remember to factor in the price of the wood studs, insulation, and higher heating bills. A straw-bale wall goes up much faster than wood, saving you money on labor.

As with any home, reducing the size, keeping it to one story, or cutting back on the number of corners can lower the cost. Find a source for the bales ahead of time. more


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