straw-bale mamas (or wannabes) - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-13-2005, 07:44 AM
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Do you live in a straw bale house? Do you want to? Are you just curious about it? If so, talk to me. (ESPECIALLY if you currently live in a straw bale house, talk to me!!)

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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Old 03-13-2005, 01:06 PM
 
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Wannabe here DH and I have been eyeing up straw bale for a few years now. We're in a 200 yo stone farmhouse now, and not in a hurry to leave it... but they're threatening to put in a WalMart 1/2 mile from us, which we'd be able to see across a cornfield. Ugh. So, if we move, building strawbale or cordwood is high on our priority list!
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Old 03-13-2005, 01:32 PM
 
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WE are total wannabe's. Dh has been doing research on it for years and is getting ready to build a straw=bale structure in our yard as a sample and for the kids to play in.

He wants to build out house one day, a straw bale house, off the grid. I am totally cool with that. I just think it will take years of plotting, planning and saving.
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Old 03-13-2005, 02:42 PM
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So, what kind of climate do you live in?

Do you think there will be any downsides to straw bale? (Either in the construction or in post-construction.) If so, what?

For example, I just read that the LOOSE straw on your site (while you are building) will easily catch fire, which makes sense. So, you have to be on top of having someone sweep it up, etc.

Have you ever gone to a straw bale workshop?

I'm just trying to learn as much as I can.

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Old 03-14-2005, 12:03 AM
 
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The greatest risk we learned of was, if the bales get even a little wet, they will start to decompose. Decomposition generates heat. If they're decomposing inside the enclosed space of your walls, they'll spontaneously combust. Sooooo... you have to count on dry days during building until they're plastered. Obviously, some climates are better for that risk than others. Then, you have to be sure they're plastered sufficiently that no water will leak in, and you have to be vigilant for cracks that may develop and get them sealed quickly. Whether or not they'll crack depends a lot on how prone your substrate is to settling.
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Old 03-14-2005, 12:22 AM
 
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THere are some great books on the subject but tboroson is right. Moisture in the bale is bad and given that we are in Texas, we have to wait until the summer to build. Right now, it is 'rainy' season here.

There are a lot of sb houses in arizona and california.
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Old 03-14-2005, 12:53 AM
 
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There is a book called Serious Straw Bale which discusses strawbale homes in all climates. My biggest concern, because we live in a very moist climate, is moisture. In the winter the warm, moist air inside the house moves through the walls (plasters that can "breathe", like natural and earthen plasters as opposed to cement are essential) to the cool, dryer air outside (as warm air holds more moisture). As it cools as it passes through the walls, at some point it will hit the dew point and turn from water vapor to water. My concern is will this cause a major problem in the walls. I also think strawbale in moist climates is fairly new so we don't know much about the longevity, as opposed to 100 year old Nebraska homes that are still doing great. Right now there are some great Pacific North West "tester" strawbale buildings in which they monitor the moisture over years, so hopefully some really concrete information will be coming. That aside, I think having a good, high foundation, generous overhangs, and a good breathable plaster is the most important thing. Some other concerns are that it often can end up costing more than you think it will, some states are wonderful permit wise, some states can be difficult. Many people build a post and beam, strawbale infil home because it is easier to get permitted and you can build your roof first, so your bales won't get wet. If I lived in a dryer climate I would do strawbale in a heartbeat. Given where we are, we are debating the pros and cons of strawbale, cordwood and cob and trying to find what will work for us.
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Old 03-14-2005, 12:31 PM
 
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We looked into doing a straw bale addition to our house, and one thing that dh found was that for any structure of more than one story, it is recommended that you do post and beam with the strawbales as infill. Strawbales aren't sturdy enough to be weight-bearing at a height of more than about 10 feet.
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Old 03-14-2005, 08:18 PM
 
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I'm a total wannabe, trying to get DH on board. I'm getting to him slowly but surely! Used to live in Arizona, where it is practically the only sensible way to build, but have relocated to Oregon where moisture issues may be at play. But I've seen straw bale houses in Norway, so I think as long as we could get the thing built and plastered between rains (and have something protecting the lower part of the walls from rain) we'd be okay.

They are the most beautiful buildings, and I love the sustainability and insulation aspects. Here where we live there is a small cul-de-sac neighborhood of 6 or so straw bale houses. Apparently a group of people got together a few years ago and petitioned the city. The houses are great, and aging really well.
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Old 03-14-2005, 08:51 PM
 
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Wannabe here. We're in the high desert and it's a viable option here. But us moving and building a house is not a viable option right now! lol One day!

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Old 03-15-2005, 01:04 AM
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Well, I live in Utah, which is TECHNICALLY a "desert," but we do get quite a lot of moisture, I think!

We will be doing one-story, with post-and-beam infill. We're trying to save up money for the architect and learn as much as we can.

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Old 03-15-2005, 01:05 AM
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PS. If you built a straw bale house, one story, how many square footage do you think you'd want/need? (What square footage would you probably build?)

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Old 03-15-2005, 02:28 AM
 
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We are thinking of a house that is under 1000 sq ft but with a floor plan that would be easy to add on to. Also doing a post and beam, timber frame style home so we could have an upper loft space for sleeping and storage. Have you checked out the Mother Earth News article where a single mom with teenagers built her strawbale home? It does a nice run-down of the cost.
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Old 03-15-2005, 12:50 PM
 
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We are wantabees. We are planning to take a workshop on cob construction and natural building this summer that will also cover straw bale and other forms of natural construction. We are very excited.

A&A, about your question on size, we will probably build under 600 square feet. I would really like to go smaller then that but I can only get my husband to agree to 556. We saw a floor plan that he liked in Sunset magazine and would agree to the concept. But, as we learn more, he may be changing that idea. We are buidling an approxiamet 70 square foot garden room in our back yard out of cob just to play with natural building and so we can feel like we are learning something. Also, to keep us outside and sane!

I also have the luxury that our daughter is 18 and someday (maybe) will no longer be living with us. How do we invision dealing with company? Tents, hotels, or building a one room "bedroom" a distance from our home.
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Old 03-15-2005, 03:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farmer mama
We are thinking of a house that is under 1000 sq ft but with a floor plan that would be easy to add on to. Also doing a post and beam, timber frame style home so we could have an upper loft space for sleeping and storage.
that sounds great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 03-24-2005, 06:29 AM
 
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We are currently designing the plans for a strawbale cottage in the Ozarks which can get very humid. But from what i understand we will have to do A LOT of reasearch on the best foundation and raise and plaster the strawbale in as short of time as possible for humidity reasons. Basically for us that means lots of planning. But foundation and time to "raise" the house are from my understanding very key.
As far as square footage goes we were really thinking about 1200. We live far away from family who visits often and we want to have more children. So we're thinking 4 bedrooms, a study, livingroom and kitchen/dining room, 2 baths would be good.
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Old 04-09-2005, 08:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaiamom
As far as square footage goes we were really thinking about 1200. We live far away from family who visits often and we want to have more children. So we're thinking 4 bedrooms, a study, livingroom and kitchen/dining room, 2 baths would be good.

Can you get all that into 1200 sq. ft? We want all that, too, but were thinking it would be more like 1800 sq. ft.

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Old 04-11-2005, 04:01 AM
 
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Gaiamom- where are you moving in the Ozarks? We have a family home near Table Rock lake and have thought a little about moving there.
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Old 04-11-2005, 03:32 PM
 
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I do think we could have all of that in 1200sq.ft, but the rooms would just be super small and everything very close together. Actually the house we live in now has all of that except it only has 3 bedrooms-but alot of wasted space too, and its only 1000 sq.ft.

And also the land we're thinking of is about 30min. from fayetteville. I'm not very familiar with that area so i'm not sure where table rock lake is??
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:36 AM
 
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I have started to research this. I am fascinated by the beautiful homes. I am not sure what we will build when the time comes, I have my heart set on a log cabin.
I mentioned to my dh that I wanted strawbale and he said "Did no one ever tell you the story of the Three Little Pigs?"
Amanda
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Old 04-17-2005, 02:31 PM
 
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Old 04-22-2005, 10:03 PM
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Well, we're in the planning stages for our straw bale house. (It's gonna take a year or two.) But.......I have no idea why this thread got moved to "Country Living/Off the Grid." Our SB house will be in the suburbs......not the country, and we'll still be hooked up to the grid, so we're not "off the grid," either! Seems to me that perhaps a mod around here doesn't understand the straw bale concept.

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Old 05-05-2005, 02:02 PM
 
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I just came across this thread b/c dh & I are looking for anyone with experience building a small strawbale structure. We're planning to build our dd's a playhouse (like, as soon as humanly possible) and I'd love some help with the plans for it. I really don't want to poor a cement slab (we have no experience with cement and it just seems like a lot of work for a little playhouse) so I was wondering if we could use those concrete blocks as a base and then create a wood frame that we'd build the floor on top of (does that make sense?). We plan to do post & beam with strawbale infill. I'd also like to do a living roof on top. Am I crazy? I've wanted to build us a strawbale home for at least 10 years now. Thought this would be an excellent learning experience. I don't know if we'll ever actually build our dream home. Maybe in the very distant future. Anyway, if anyone could help me out with the plans for a playhouse (or where I could buy them) I'd really appreciate it. The space we're working with is small. I'm looking at an inside dimension of maybe only 6'x6' (max, I'd think due to the size of bales).

Oh, and a pp mentioned that a bale-only wall can't support a 2nd story. This isn't true - I just read about it a few places. But the planning to do this has to be superb b/c of the weight being distributed and the settling of the bales, etc. Not something *I'd* feel comfortable with doing w/o a very experienced builder doing it for me.

Mama to four remarkable kiddos, all born at home.
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