Load Bearing Bracing During Construction on a Straw Bale House

Written by Andrew Morrison

load bearing straw bale wallWhen running a one day bale raising workshop on a load bearing structure last weekend, we encountered the problem of complete walls with no box beam to compress them with. The owners had prepared for the workshop, but had not yet built the box beam for the top of the wall as requested. This meant that we would have all of the bales standing, no internal pinning since we would be using external pinning once the box beam was installed, and no box beam.

In other words, there is nothing holding the building up except for the bales themselves and some corner staples. This is certainly not an ideal situation. To make things worse, no one will be able to work on the structure again until this coming weekend and we were forecast to have high winds on Monday and Tuesday.

To remedy the situation, the home owner used long wood braces from the top of one wall to the top of the other and then braced each wall diagonally to the ground. We used 1/2 rebar as “nails” to attach the bracing to the bales. With this simple solution, the walls felt 100 times stronger and have survived the strong winds of the last two days. For a potential disaster, the end result has been quite cool.

The box beam will go up this weekend and then the external pinning will be installed along with any corner wire mesh. The space will be sweet when finished and all the troubles we had during the workshop will soon be forgotten and lost in the beauty of the space.

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One Response

  1. Can I add a load bearing addition to my stick built home? If so is this covered in the new DVD?

    At 7:53 AM, Andrew Morrison said…

    It is possible to add a load bearing structure to an existing structure. Be sure to pre compress the bales as much as they can possibly handle so you don’t any additional settling over time. This is especially important when building a hybrid structure (some LB and some post and beam or stick frame) because the stick frame section won’t compress at all. Any differential movement could cause cracking along the line of transition. For that reason, you will also want to add a transition piece of plaster lath that is nailed to the original, stick framed house in a manner that will allow the mesh to slide up and down a bit. In other words, nail it loosely to the wall and then overlap it onto the bales. This will allow the plaster a bit of room to move should there be any unwanted movement. This is not discussed in the DVD as it is an instruction on building load bearing as a stand alone. There is always more I can cover in these DVDs so I have to decide what I will cover and stick to it. Good luck with your project.

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