Another Straw Bale Workshop Graduate Builds Their Home!

Written by Gabriella

straw bale house interior wallLike many of us, Ryan (a 7 day straw bale workshop graduate) held a deep desire to build his home using his own two hands. After all, growing up in a family in which his father had built three (the last of which Ryan was heavily involved in), the concept was familiar and natural. While attending a green building conference circa 2002, Ryan was introduced to the concept of straw bale construction. Being an environmental consultant, the merits of this technology made sense so he proceeded to create a multi year plan to build his own house using straw bales.

A plan of action, timeline, and goal are incredibly useful tools when bringing big dreams to fruition. They serve as guideposts when we feel overwhelmed and give us perspective on what the next step is.  With these tools, it doesn’t matter how far into the future your goal might be or how many actions will need to be taken to reach it. As long as you continue to follow each step, in time, reaching your goal is inevitable.straw bale house interior stairs

For Ryan and his wife, their steps included selling their condo in the city, renting a cottage in the area they wanted to settle in, and then waiting patiently for the right piece of property to show up. For three years they waited. And when their dream property showed up on the market, they didn’t hesitate.

Ryan was already experienced with Auto-Cad (professional architectural design software) so he undertook the 2,000 sqft home design process himself. He also did all of his engineering calculations. Before turning his plans into the building department, he had them professionally reviewed and stamped by an architect and structural engineer to make certain that the residence was well designed. Though he navigated his way through the whole design process successfully, he wishes that he had enlisted professional help earlier on to simplify the whole process.

straw bale house interior timber frameThe actual building process was an adventure. For Ryan, there were “a million ups and downs”. Some days felt easy and perfectly on schedule. Other days he felt defeated and would ask himself, “What have I done??” Peace of mind was re-established each time doubt came in by reminding himself to just take things one step at a time.

During the build, he made it a point to break down each task into manageable bites so that in general, none of the jobs took more than a day to complete. He also quickly realized that it was much more productive to spend time in action rather than spending too much time thinking out every single step ahead of time.

Obtaining a loan and insurance for his straw bale home posed no obstacles for Ryan and his wife. He shares the secret to his success was in his approach. He arrived at all of his meetings with as much information as he could, answering questions before they even had a chance to ask them. He went to all of his meetings with a comprehensive business plan and presented himself professionally. Ryan’s efforts paid off without a hitch.

straw bale house bathroomWhen I asked Ryan if he has advice to anyone building their own straw bale home, he shared (wisely) that as tempting as it may feel in the moment to cut corners not only in craftsmanship but also in materials, that it’s extremely important to stay committed to the values of safety and creating a house that will last for generations. One of the big pieces of the success and beauty of his build is that he stayed true to his commitment to build the best house that he could.

straw bale interior timber frameWhen Ryan first informed his father that he was going to build his house with straw bales, his dad thought it was the craziest thing he had ever heard of. He could not for the life of him understand why his son would build with straw. I am pleased to report though that his father now “gets it”. It’s so important that those of us who are passionate about building a straw bale house do so even at the risk of having others deem us insane (even if just temporarily).

When others see the process and the end result, they can’t help but see the light. We are the ambassadors for this technology and the more of us there are, the more available safe, beautiful, energy efficient and green straw bale housing is to those around the world.

We want to congratulate Ryan on doing a beautiful job on his home. It is wonderful to see past workshop graduates go out there and build their own dream straw bale homes. We hope to see you at one of our hands on straw bale workshop sometime!


19 Responses

  1. Wow, beautiful house!!!! Congratulations. Any chance to get a better picture of that unique and beautiful stone floor. Can’t tell exactly what it is but it looks amazing.

  2. Your straw bale home is lovely. What a great way to conserve energy and stay green. Awesome! I’m looking into this method and comparing it to building a cordwood home. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Andrew,

    Plenty of good advice here for anyone building a house, no matter what the materials, or tackling any really big job.

    I especially liked the idea of breaking the task down into day jobs while still in the planning stage.

    Keep up the good works,

    Mike Tabony

  4. Hi Diana. I’m obviously biased, but straw bale is WAY more efficient, durable, and user friendly than cordwood. I can give you reasons why if you want, but I don’t want to be too pushy as my bias is clearly on the table. 🙂


  5. Thanks ever so much for the posts. Do you ever get to SO. Cal? ( Big Bear area? ). Hoping to learn more, and build myself a home… says a pioneering single mom of five home schooling children all adults… hahhahaha

  6. Thank you for sharing this article. I really love the simple elegance of the bathroom counter and sink area – more ideas for our build. Great advice from Ryan. I’ve done some building with my father when he renovated the inside and outside of our family home, and I helped with Habitat for Humanity builds, but outside of that, I am a relative newbie to home construction. Reading articles like these inspire me to stay the path.

  7. Beautiful home Ryan I hope that when I get started on my place it looks as great as yours Thankfor the pictures. Kabeman1

  8. Thanks so much for the kind comments. You can read more details about my build on the blog my wife and I kept during the planning and the build. There are more pictures and many details about the planning process there.

    Thanks, Ryan

  9. Wow,looks like a sweet pad,love what he did on the floor with it coming out of the bathroom mixing with the wood.Gives me ideas for my earthen floor.Hey Andrew where is this place? Would love to see it and chat with Ryan about it.
    Cheers to another great article and I got 3 acres of land to build on in Crystal River Fl. but do not think straw is a great idea down here with the oceans rising 🙁 so thinking a small cabin on piers.
    Peace and Love,Billy

  10. I purchased a piece of property. It has a strawbale barnhouse on the site. I am trying to find out more about these buildings. The end is exposed to the elements. It was built about 10 years ago. Can I put siding up and seal the end or has it become untrustworthy? It still looks good

  11. Hi Sally. I would check the moisture content of the bales before anything else is done. You can use a hay moisture meter with a probe for this task. You may be able to borrow one from a local farmer. If not, they cost about $250 and I would recommend one by Delmhurst. Again, borrowing is the first step I would attempt. The moisture content should not be above 20% on the meter. Anything close to 20% is a concern, where as 16% or less is fine. If you read the levels at the right moisture content, then you can close it in. I would recommend plaster, but if the rest of the building is siding, you can do that too. It will be harder to side it properly unless there are nailers in place for the siding to attach to. Even if you side it, be sure to lay one layer of plaster on the walls to protect the bales. It can be earth plaster or lime and since it will be under the siding, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Hope that helps.

  12. I want to build a solar powered strawbale in far west Texas in Terlingua. Real close to The Big Bend National and State parks. We gave 20 acres with a septic and graded. Are there teams or workshops that may be interested in doing the build? If there was a workshop how much would it cost me. I am totally disabled and live on very little. Moving makes sense as the sunny arid temps would be best for my medical conditions constant pain etc. is Strawbale a good idea for Terlingua Texas – desert living off grid? Strawbale are pretty big and I may need a wheelchair in the future. So getting around will be easier. Anyway – does anyone have info on building group workshops that would take on a desert off grid build. It does get very windy there so that needs to be taken into consideration. Mostly sunny, mild winter, and ‘monsoon’ season. They get very little rain.

  13. Hi Mary. We do offer workshops, but our 2020 schedule is full and the impacts of COVID-19 are still rolling in. We don’t know how our gatherings will go moving forward. You can learn all about hosting on THIS PAGE. I think all your questions will be answered there. If not, please feel free to email me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.