Protecting Your Bales Before Construction –

Written by Andrew Morrison

straw bales being unloadedAll too often the conversation about protecting your bales before construction is held without any mention of how to protect those bales prior to their installation. So, how do you protect the bales once they arrive on site and before you install them? For some reason, most likely Murphy’s Law, it will rain once the bales have been delivered, even if you are building in the middle of the desert! I consider a fresh stack of dry bales to be a rain magnet.

The first thing to consider is timing. Do not have the bales on site before you are ready for them. There is no point in storing them on the job site while you are still framing or preparing for bales. They take up space and are more likely to be damaged the longer they “hang around.” Deliver the bales the same week you plan to start baling.

Place them on pallets in strategic locations. When they are delivered, immediately distribute them around the site so that you will not have to carry them around the house just to install them. It is a little extra work in the moment but will ultimately speed up the construction of your project.

Once they are distributed, cover them with quality tarps. If you live in an area prone to wind, you may need to anchor the sides of the tarps down. If, however, you don’t see much wind, it is best to leave the sides of the bale stack exposed to the air so that any moisture that builds up under the tarps can be eliminated by air circulation. It is also a good idea to stack the bales in a pyramid so that any condensation will slide down the tarp and not simply drop on to the bales.

the-bales.jpgIf you have to receive the bales before you are ready to use them, find a dry spot on your land and stack all the bales in one area on top of two layers of pallets. The two layers help to keep the bottom course of bales out of the grass or away from the moisture of the ground. Stack the bales like a pyramid and cover well with quality tarps.

I use “Hay Tarps” because they are big and well built. The last thing you want to do is skimp on the tarps and find your entire lot of bales get damaged by rain. Leave the sides open for air circulation as described above unless wind driven rain is in the forecast. If it is, be sure to cover the sides before it shows up!

Again, the key is to leave your bales at the source as long as possible, assuming that the source has a dry barn. If the bales will be left unprotected at the source, then you may want to have the bales delivered so you can ensure that they are protected.

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10 Responses

  1. In my experience, we had the bales delivered the from the farmer in a transport trailer. It was easy, because we used local straw from two small farms, we had a local transport company drop off a trailer at one of the farms (they were neighbouring farms) when the straw was ready for us it was then packed into the trailer by the farms (approx. 502 bales 2 twine). Just a call is all it took to pick up the packed trailer then droped off at our site for storage.They were stored in there for us to use the following year. When the bales were needed they were easy to get with the ramp we built,only lost a few bales because of a small hole in the roof of the trailer. All in all it was a perfect storage bin for the straw. The cost for the use of the trailer for the year was economical and well worth the peace of mind knowing that our bales were here and ready when needed

  2. A further question. Our neighbour is growing 60 acres of wheat this year(2011), and we were planning on starting construction in the spring of 2013. We have the barn space, but most of the barn floor gets wet and will form an ice layer in the spring. It forms ice typically in February and is dry again by mid May. I had the idea myself of having a double layer of pallets underneath. In a case like this, does anyone have any recommendations on going to a triple layer of pallets, or other suggestions?

  3. Alan. Double pallets will give you adequate lift off of the floor. The biggest concern I have is during the thawing period. What happens to all the water? Does it drain off or sit there. If it sits there, that’s a lot of moisture in the air for the bales to soak in should conditions be right. If it drains away or if you can shop-vac it out, then I see no problems.

  4. Thanks, and a further update. There is probably quite high moisture in the air for a couple of weeks. What happens is as the water moves through, it freezes at night and creates a dam to block and hold further water. Eventually once things are fully thawed, the water runs off. While the ice dams are there, we are at the mercy of the weather. For this reason, and other reasons also, we are talking about spending to have a ditch dug in between the back fields and the built-up area (including the barn). That, and a bit of banking the soil at strategic places should greatly reduce the water, but will not be able to see the result until after the bales are already in the barn. During the summer however, the barn is so dry that any soil inside becomes dust.

  5. Andrew, Murphy’s law struck today. Yesterday we had winds of 35mph gusting to 50mph. The walls are up and the box beam in place, cinched down with strapping and the trusses installed, but it was just too dangerous to finish installing the decking in that wind. Of course it rained this morning…

    Given that the tops of the bales are covered by the box beam (filled with fiberglass batts and lined with felt), should the walls still be okay?

    A warning to others, we had plenty of sunny dry weather to get this roof on, but the truss supplier repeatedly failed to deliver the trusses…After the third “delay” we opted to build the trusses onsite. This delay burned through our window of dry weather and lead to this disaster. Tarping sounds easy enough, but in those winds it would have been impossible to install tarps (or for them to remain in place even if you got them installed) so even though I had tarps onsite…The walls were still left exposed to the rain.

    This goes to show both the perils of load bearing construction and how the best laid plans can be thwarted by circumstances beyond your control.

  6. Sorry to hear that Bob. I suggest that you get the roof sheathing and roofing on as quickly as possible at this point. I would also check the bales directly underneath the box beam to see if they are wet. Use a bale moisture meter with a probe to investigate. If the bales are wet, get some fans set up to keep a strong wind on them. This will help to dry them out. In the end, you will likely have a few bales that may need to be replaced but the majority will probably be fine. Again, the quicker you protect them, and the sooner you get the wind blowing on them, the smaller the damage will be. Good luck.

  7. Thanks Andrew. I went out to check on the house and the straw on the walls actually feels dry to the touch, but there may still be moisture deeper into the bale. The rain came through early this morning (lasted maybe an hour and half before daylight at my home about 30 miles south of the buidling site) and we’ve had winds in the 15mph range during the day and the sun came out as well.

    Winds are forcast to be light and the weather dry and sunny for the next several days. We’ll have it decked and roofed soon.

  8. That’s all good news. I would definitely recommend getting (borrowing if need be) a moisture meter to check the middle of the bales. That is the hardest part to dry out and the most dangerous part to leave in place if wet.

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