It is often difficult to tell the quality of any home, let alone a straw bale home once it has been in existence for a few years. With bale homes, there are usually not experience home inspectors who can help as in conventional homes as the details of straw bale homes are often beyond the scope of what inspectors know. For that reason, you may be left inspecting the home yourself. Here are some things to consider.
I suggest you look at details like roof overhangs (should be no less than 18″ and 24″ is best) and the finish details of the home. The quality of the finish can tell a lot about the attention to detail in the rest of the home. Roof overhangs are not necessarily indicative of attention to detail in construction, but they will give an indication as to how much the builder knew about bale construction. Large overhangs are a must, especially if the house is in an environment that sees a lot of rain. Relatively small cracks in plaster are normal.
Big cracks could be an indication of trouble. They usually indicate shifting in the foundation or bales or improper plastering techniques. Again, small cracks are the norm so only be concerned about cracks you consider big. Look for patterns in the cracks. Do they seem to tell a story about the plaster or the foundation? Look underneath the windows for discolored plaster on the inside of the house. This would indicate leaks that could cause wet bales.
If the owner will let you, you can insert a moisture meter needle into the walls below the windows to see if the levels are high anything above 20% is a serious problem. That requires making holes in the plaster so don’t be surprised if the owners say no. Finally, see if you can get a hold of the original plans and the builder. If the builder’s name is known, you can contact him or her to ask questions and/or research their license and history in the area.