Load bearing construction questions seem to follow me where ever I go. I’m writing this blog entry from a hotel in Oakland California. I’m here with my son’s ice hockey team and I thought I’d take a few minutes to respond to the many questions I’ve gotten about our upcoming Load Bearing Straw Bale video. In fact, it’s safe to say that we have NEVER had this much interest in one of our straw bale videos before it was even released.
In any case, rather than sending you a super-long email, I thought I would answer some of the straw bale questions directly on my strawbale.com blog:
Question: There’s a lot of information out there about load bearing straw bale construction, what makes this video unique?
Answer: After teaching thousands of professionals and owner-builders over the years, the thing I keep hearing from people is that they want a step-by-step system that actually teaches them
how to build a load bearing structure. Most of the information available out there shows how wonderful straw bale is, but there is little that actually teaches people how to create with the
So over the last few months, I created the perfect system to overcome this common complaint.
First of all, I created a complete step by step guide that walks you through the exact details needed to build a load bearing straw bale structure.
Secondly, the delivery of the course is truly unique. It’s set up in a day by day breakdown of the process that allows you to properly allocate the time you will need to build the exact structure used as a teaching piece in the DVD. It is the perfect practice structure for anyone interested in building their own home.
The bottom line is that this video isn’t a “wouldn’t it be nice if you could build a home like this” approach like so many other resources. It’s completely step-by-step, both in content and the delivery.
Question: When is the course going to be released?
Answer: The release date is Wednesday, April 11th at noon eastern U.S. time.
We have a couple of nice bonuses for you as well, but the number available is limited both in quantity and time. In other words, you will want to act quickly if you want to receive the bonuses. People on my Advanced Notice list are going to get the first opportunity to get these bonuses.
Question: Can I get a load bearing structure approved by my building department?
Answer: Absolutely. It may take a bit more effort to convince your building department that a load bearing structure is acceptable, but it is possible. There are three basic approaches to use.
First, find out if there is a load bearing straw bale code in your area. Some jurisdictions already allow for this type of construction under a specific code. Some allow for it under what is considered the alternative housing section of the code. Do the research primarily without contacting the building department. Once you have some information under you belt, make the call to the building department to clarify any remaining questions you have.
Another option, should you discover there is no specific code that speaks to your desire to build a load bearing structure, is to take a copy of an existing code from another jurisdiction to the department and show them that it is an acceptable building method. In fact, it is so acceptable, that states other than your own, for example: Oregon, recognize it with an official code addendum.
Finally, if you find neither of these approaches gets you where you want to be either because of the building department’s discomfort or the limitations of the code itself, then hire an engineer to create stamped drawings for you. With these drawings in hand, the “risk” as the building department sees it is no longer in their hands but on the shoulders of the engineer. This is a great option because although it costs a bit of money, it allows you to work directly with a licensed individual who can draw the building just how you want it and confidently stand behind it.
Question: Can I build a multiple story load bearing straw bale home?
Answer: The simple answer is no. The height of a load bearing wall is limited by a ratio to its width and therefore, can only stand around 10′ if using a 3-string bale.
It is possible to build a load bearing home with a loft. In this situation it is necessary to build a steep roof assembly and start the floor at 8′ even though the walls are 10′ tall. It takes some planning to make this happen and some special considerations are needed for the construction, but it can be done. This basically leaves you with a story and a half.
As the field advances and more engineers get involved, I think we will see ways to build multiple stories with load bearing walls; however, we are not quite there yet. For now multiple story bale
homes need to be either fully non load bearing or a hybrid system which incorporates structural members in specific areas to handle the loads of the second floor.
Question: How do I attach a roof to a wall made of straw?
Answer: Underneath the roof system, directly on top of the bale wall, lays a box beam. This beam is made of wood and is attached to the foundation by means of strapping. The roof assembly is then attached to this beam as if it were the top plate of a conventional home.
Some very specific details need to be addressed in the creation of the box beam which are better shown than described. I go over exactly how to create a box beam for strength, ease of
installation, and effectiveness in the video.
With the box beam in place, building a roof is no different than it would be on a conventional home. This is the one place that carpentry skills are truly needed when building a load bearing house. The other areas in which wood is used (toe ups and window and door bucks) require minimal skills; however, building a roof is as simple or as difficult as the design of the roof. In the video I show you how to build a simplified shed roof, the easiest of all roofs to build. If you plan on using a different style roof, I strongly suggest you study roof carpentry from other productions and then practice it on a small structure before you start your home.
Question: How much will the video cost?
Answer: We will be releasing the price soon. I can say this, many straw bale workshops these days are going for $700 – $800 for a 5 day course. Some workshops are going for as high as $1,000.00. This DVD will be priced MUCH lower.
And you won’t have to leave home, take time of work, or build a structure on someone else’s land! You’ll be able to study and watch this video over and over, at your leisure, in the comfort of your own home and build your own straw bale structure on YOUR land.
Studies have shown that for optimal learning, most people need to hear and see material more than once. You just don’t get that in a live workshop setting. The way I have structured this video walks you step-by-step through the load bearing process. It’s like having me for your very own private workshop. With this video you can truly master the material so that you have the same step-by-step techniques I use over and over again when I build my houses.
I will have more updates and answer more questions in the next couple of days, so keep an eye on this blog.
Your comments are very welcome. Please feel free to post a comment to this blog entry about the report or any aspect of load bearing.