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Building with bales of straw has become almost mainstream in some parts of the country, especially in the Southwestern United States. Many localities have specific codes for strawbale construction, and some banks are willing to lend on this technique. Straw is a renewable resource that acts as excellent insulation and is fairly easy to build with. Care must be taken to assure that the straw is kept dry, or it will eventually rot. For this reason it is generally best to allow a strawbale wall to remain breathable; any moisture barrier will invite condensation to collect and undermine the structure. Other possible concerns with strawbale walls are infestation of rodents or insects, so the skin on the straw should resist these critters.

There are two major categories of building with strawbales: load-bearing and non-load bearing. A post and beam framework that supports the basic structure of the building, with the bales of straw used as infill, is the most common non-load bearing approach. This is also the only way that many building authorities will allow. While there are many load- bearing strawbale buildings that are standing just fine, care must be taken to consider the possible settling of the strawbales as the weight of the roof, etc. compresses them.

Erecting bale walls can go amazingly quickly, and does not take a lot of skill, but then the rest of the creation of the building is similar to any other wood framed house. In fact strawbale houses typically only save about 15% of the wood used in a conventionally framed house. The cost of finishing a strawbale house can often exceed that of standard construction, because of the specialized work that goes into plastering both sides of the walls. The result is often worth it though, because of the superior insulation and wall depth that is achieved.





Strawbale Construction
by Bruce King, P.E.



with Dr. Owen Geiger

Where does strawbale work?




The Comprehensive Guide to Building with Straw Bales- Post and Beam Infill (2 hours 50minutes on 2 DVDs) This comprehensive DVD set contains invaluable information to help you save time and money on your straw bale building projects. The latest research in the field of straw bale design and construction is presented. The DVD includes:
* Innovative Tips and Techniques on all phases of wall building from design to finish.
* Details on the latest straw bale engineering, window flashing, electrical wiring, and much more.
* Comprehensive explanation of how to actually build a straw bale structure from foundation to final baling.
*A complete list of recommended tools for each stage of the baling project.
*All of the necessary safety features for building with straw bales
*Tips for preparing for the local building codes before you begin construction
*Foundation Details and Tips
*Tips and Techniques for Framing Your Straw Bale StructureTips and Techniques for Preparing to Build Your *Straw Bale Walls- How to Build Your Toe-Ups
*A Primer for Working with Straw Bales
*All You Need to Know About Box Beam Construction
*Electrical Details
*Cleaning Up the Straw Bale Walls Prior to Putting Up Your Wire Mesh
*How to Put Windows Into A Straw Bale Building
*All the Tips and Techniques for Applying Wire Mesh to Your Straw Bale Walls
*The Interior: Windows, Corners, and Rounded Details to Your Straw Bale Walls
*Plumbing, Cabinet Hanging, Interior Wall Partitions, High Rain Environments, and Other Considerations
*Introduction to Lime Plaster
*The Scratch Coat- Your Initial Coat of Plaster
*The Brown Coat Application- Your Second Coat of Plaster
*We Will Demonstrate All the Techniques to Use to Get a Smooth Finish on Different Aspects of Your Structure:
*The Finish Coat- Your Final Plaster Application

The How-To Guide to Building With Straw Bales -- Load Bearing

Each chapter of the DVD represents a day of work so you can properly allocate the time you will need to build the exact structure, which is a perfect practice structure to hone your skills prior to tackling a large project.
Day 1 is all about getting the foundation or decking in place.
Day 2 is getting ready for the bale raising.
Day 3 is all about raising the bales. This can be a lot of fun, especially when you see the fruits of your labor appearing so quickly before your eyes!
Day 4 is cleaning up the bale walls and getting the roof in place.
Day 5 is finishing up the roof, adding the final fascia boards and attaching the roofing felt.
Day 6 is the final day before you begin plastering. Install your doors and windows and get the welded wire mesh and the plastering lath in place.

How-To Plaster With Natural Hydraulic Lime Plaster  includes nearly a full hour of information, sourced from professionals, that you need to know in order to plaster your straw bale structure successfully with natural hydraulic lime. This is a good material to plaster your bales with due to its durability, breathability, natural ingredients, and user-friendly application. The techniques taught in this DVD can be used with just about any plaster you choose. The technical details transfer to such finishes as earthen plaster, cement/lime mixes, and more. No matter what plaster you choose, the information in this DVD will help you create a beautiful and durable finish.

The How-To Guide to Building a Monolithic Concrete Slab Foundation DVD provides the latest information you need to know to build your own concrete slab foundation. Every stage of the concrete foundation building process is shown. By implementing these simple, how-to techniques you will be able to effectively build your own concrete foundation with no prior foundation or concrete experience. Using this DVD, you can build a structurally sound foundation as well as any builder. There is a list of all tools you need to build your project and dozens of time saving tips and techniques that will not only save your body from wear and tear, but also protect your pocket book.

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Design of Straw Bale Buildings:
The State of the Art

by Bruce King, 2015

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Sustainable Compromises:
A Yurt, a Straw Bale House, and Ecological Living

by Alan Boye, 2014

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The Natural Building Companion:
A Comprehensive Guide
to Integrative Design
and Construction

by Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton, 2012

Kelly Hart's review

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The Jouney to Eco Straw House:
An Absolute Must Read Before You Start to Build Your Eco Friendly Home

by Kandi Wood, 2011

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Building With Straw Bales:
A Practical Guide
for the UK and Ireland

by Barbara Jones, 2010

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Building Green:
A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods

by Clarke Snell , Tim Callahan, 2009

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The New Strawbale Home
by Catherine Wanek, 2009

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Strawbale Home Plans
by Wayne Bingham, Colleen Smith, 2007

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Your Straw Bale Home:
From Foundations
to the Roof

by Brian Hodge, 2006

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Strawbale Construction Curriculum (Facilitator Guide)
by Chris McClellan, Owen Geiger, 2006

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Small Strawbale:
Natural Homes,
Projects & Designs

by Athena Steen, Bill Steen, Wayne Bingham, 2005

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Building with Straw:
Design and Technology
of a Sustainable Architecture

by Professor Gernot Minke, Friedemann Mahlke, 2005

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More Straw Bale Building:
A Complete Guide
to Designing
and Building with Straw

by Chris Magwood , Peter Mack, 2005

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Practical Straw Bale Building
by Murray Hollis, 2005

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Building a Straw Bale House: The Red Feather
Construction Handbook

by Nathaniel Corum, 2005

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Straw Bale Details:
A Manual for Designers
and Builders

by Chris Magwood, Chris Walker, 2003

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A House of Straw:
A Natural Building Odyssey

by Carolyn Roberts, 2002

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The Beauty
of Straw Bale Homes

by Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill Steen, 2001

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Serious Straw Bale:
A Home Construction Guide for All Climates

by Paul Lacinski and Michel Begeron, 2000

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Straw Bale Building:
How to plan, design
and build with straw

by Chris Maqgwood and Peter Mack, 2000

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Strawbale Homebuilding
by Alan T. Gray, 2000

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Build It With Bales:
A Step-By-Step Guide
to Straw-Bale Construction

by S.O. MacDonald and Matts Myhrman, 1998

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Buildings of Earth and StrawStructural Design
for Rammed Earth
and Straw Bale Architecture

by Bruce King, 1997

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The Straw Bale House
by Athena Steen, et al, 1994

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Owen Geiger, Designer

This sustainable home design is named after one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world - Chonburi, Thailand. Rich with old world charm and character, it has a tiled hip roof, covered entry with columns, arched doorways, large country-style kitchen, and all bedrooms upstairs for privacy. Master bedroom has private bath and love seat. Designed for hot climates, this plan can easily be modified for cold climates. Back doors on east and west sides make it easy to expand later. Optional cathedral ceiling in master bedroom. 624 sq. ft. interior main floor, 624 sq. ft. upper floor, total 1,248 sq. ft. interior, 3 bedroom, 3 bath; footprint: 27' x 29'


Strawbale Cottage
Touson Saryon, Designer

This efficient yet spacious floorplan has 2 cozy bedrooms upstairs and an open living area downstairs including a large kitchen, all within 1412 sq.ft.  Exposed post and beam work inside and on the covered porch add a special country touch. 

For more information about these plans, and many others, visit our sister site www.dreamgreenhomes.com, where you will find a wide range of plans for sustainable homes, greenhouses, small buildings, garages, and food storage space for sale. Dream Green Homes is a consortium of outstanding architects and designers, who have pooled their talent and expertise for your benefit.



strawbalecentral.com lots of information about natural building, especially straw bale.

California Straw Building Association FAQ's and technical information.

caneloproject.com Bill and Athena Steen's lovely site devoted to their work with strawbale building and the use of natural plasters; books, videos, articles and workshops are available.

grisb.org The Geiger Research Institue of Sustainable Building features workshops, a strawbale certification program, articles and publications on many aspects of sustainable building, house plans (including a free emergency shelter plan), and links to much more information.

daycreek.com page of photos and information about strawbale building.

strawbale.com provides some detailed articles on various aspects of strawbale building. To find out about the how-to DVDs that they sell go to the top of this page.

deboerarchitects.com Some thoughts and illustrations about strawbale building by architect Darrel DeBoer.

Here's a  page about straw bale house construction made by my wife.


naturalhomes.org lists workshops from around the world related to strawbale building.

earthnstraw.com features news, workshop listings, and a forum on strawbale building.


thelaststraw.org home of The Last Straw Journal.

eesi.org/briefings described briefings made to the US Congress about the viability of strabale building in June, 2008; includes actual presentations and audio.

dcat.net You can download a free PDF of Build it with Bales by Matts Myhrman and S. O. MacDonald.


sbregistry.greenbuilder.com is a registry of strawbale homes across the U.S., orgainzed by state, with an indication of whether the owners are open to visitors or not.

lamaisonenpaille.com extensive site devoted to straw bale projects in Europe and India.

strawbale-building mostly links to other SB sites, but does have a database of SB houses in the UK.

quietwater.net some good, detailed information about a particular non-load-bearing strawbale project.

EcoNest.com features light straw/clay construction.

This Crestone Bed and Breakfast is a very nicely done two-story strawbale.


Surfin' Strawbale Links List

strawbale-building mostly links to other SB sites, but does have a database of SB houses in the UK.


earthnstraw.com features news, workshop listings, and a forum on strawbale building.


ferrocement.net sells a very clever and well made plaster sprayer that will handle a wide range of plaster types, from earthen to ferrocement.


dcat.net lists Strawbale Codes specifically for Texas, California, Colorado, and Arizona.

Disclaimer Of Liability And Warranty
I specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. Neither I nor any of the advisor/consultants associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this, or any other page at this site. Kelly Hart, Hartworks, Inc.


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