Interesting Approach to Adding Openings in Load Bearing Construction

Written by Andrew Morrison

straw bale castleI just got an email from someone who plans to install his windows and doors the following way. I think it is an interesting approach to adding openings in load bearing construction and will provide for very good compression of the bales and a very quick construction of the walls. This is in line with how additions can be added to existing straw bale homes. I always suggest that if people have specific intentions to expand later on down the line that they plan for the expansion by leaving electrical out of the area where they plan to cut in the new hallway.

Check out the idea sent in via email and let me know what you think about it.

1. The spaces required for windows and (over sized) doors are not left open but
rather the walls are built as full walls with no spaces. The lintels for the
doors and windows are however, put into place.

2. Once the walls are at roof height, wall plates are in place and the bales
have been compressed and have settled (some 2 days or longer after
compression), the door and window spaces are removed via chainsaw or other
appropriate method, from below the lintel.

3. The sides and bottom rails of the door/window spaces are immediately put
into place and the sides are attached to the bale wall by pinning through the
timber into the bales with wooden dowels. Care will be take to ensure that any
part-bale section within the space that are small enough to fall out, are kept
in place. This should not be a problem however, since once the bale compression
has taken place, the compressive force should keep the straw in place even after
being cut.

4. The pre-made window can then be attached to the frame or constructed within
the frame from scratch. Doors are made to fit the space.

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8 Responses

  1. This sounds like a little revolution… Let’s see how it works out with other constructors, I’m still in the planning stage and will keep eyes & ears wide open!

  2. Hi Guys. I am just finishing up my straw bale house in San Juanico BCS Mex and my whole house was built with this method and I have learned some things. I heard of this method in a forum that reported results of a meeting and I believe it was Matts Myrmin? who had that Idea. Anyway feel free to contact me at [email protected].

  3. The last posting on this method (of building solid walls and cutting out the door and window spaces after compression) was in May of 2009. It’s been some time now, has anyone heard any follow-up on how this method is working out?

  4. Hi , Just saw this old post again. 4 years later and My openings are all in great shape. The windows “float in the wall and so there is no force causing them to move separately from it, the wall. I have earthen plaster ( the only way to go for many reasons, bale and people health etc) and i do not have cracks around my windows. A neighbor here in San Juanico, middle of nowhere southern Baja, attached frames for the windows to his footing and header and has cracks.

  5. Very cool Steve. Thanks for the update and it sounds like things are working really well. I was in Mulege all last winter (5 months) and LOVED it! Once our kids have left for college (4+ years) we plan to spend our winters there every year. I so love Baja and the people there.

  6. Andrew,

    I am planning to build a small building as a test project, (great excuse to build a Mancave!) and I would love to use this method…It makes sense to me, but I’m certain tht there are issues that I haven’t considered. I’d love to have Mr. Winn provide some additional information, or direction to the forum’s that led him in that direction. In any event, thanks, love the site and I’ll be attending one of your workshops.


  7. I’m going to try this when I build a chicken coop next year. Right now we are about halfway through building a post and beam house.

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