Spring is Coming…Straw Bale Plans to Speed Things Up!

Written by Andrew Morrison

butterfly in bushAs I look out of my window at the nearly 18″ of snow that fell a couple days ago, the idea that spring is nearby seems a bit hard to swallow; however, the fact remains that spring is slowly finding its way into corners of the US and other parts of our amazing planet. My sister, who lives in Texas, sent me this beautiful picture yesterday declaring “I think I missed winter this year!” Of course, that can be balanced with the conversation I had with the host of the Montana straw bale workshop yesterday in which he declared “as much as I love the snow, I am ready for it to be gone at this point.” I suppose it all depends on where you live.

hand drawing architectural plansHere’s one thing I know about the coming of spring: if you have been thinking about building a straw bale house, now is the time to start focusing in on your design. Once the ground melts and the grass starts to turn green, you will have missed your opportunity to get a head start on the summer construction season.

It’s important to realize that designing a home or even deciding on an existing design, takes some time. In fact, a custom design can take anywhere from 1-3 months to complete, so if you start in April or May you may not be done with your designs until July. Throw in 2-4 weeks of plan review and it will be August before you can even break ground.

straw bale house in the snow
Snowed Inn by Steven Padgitt

If you plan to use natural plaster on your house, which I sincerely hope you do, then you must know about the limiting timeline that you are faced with. Plaster should not be exposed to freezing temperatures for at least 72 hours after application. If you don’t start framing your house until the second week of August and the frosts start knocking on your door in October, you are going to be hard pressed to get any plaster on your hose before winter hits. Although there are ways around it, there is no question that having a full three coats of plaster on your house before the winter comes is the best way to go.

modern straw bale house
Arkin Tilt Architects – Photo Eric Millette

I’m excited to share with you that we have recently added a bunch of straw bale home designs (full sets of plans) to our website bringing the total to nineteen sets. The homes shown here are just two of the many designs you can check out. Several architects have shared their work with us as an effort to help inspire you. As such, the feel of the designs, as well as their scope and scale, varies quite a bit. We have everything from simple and rustic homes to elaborate and elegant designs. We hope you will take a look to see what fits your style.

Here’s a quick and obvious note on costs: it’s expensive to build a house and designing a custom home adds significantly to that cost. That said, you can purchase preexisting plans for much less than it would cost to custom design your own place, and your timeline will be greatly reduced as well because you won’t have to wait for the plans to be completed. What’s more, if you like the look of a design but wish something could be changed to make it fit your specific needs, that’s not a problem. We can put you in touch with the architect and they can, in most cases, make the changes you want for an extra fee (it will still be way less expensive than a custom design, even with the alterations).

straw bale house exterior
Chris Keefe of www.OrganicFormsDesign.com

Take advantage of the current downtime that has set in due to the weather. I can guarantee you this: it will make your building season so much more relaxing if you get an early start on your project. Just imagine choosing a plan, perhaps making a few specific alterations to “make it yours,” and then sending it out for bids all before the snow has even melted! In this scenario,  you will have your contractor scheduled and your plans approved before the first flowers have broken through their shells and will be building as soon as the ground has thawed. This will give you lots of time to complete the work necessary to be dried in by the time freezing temperatures come along.

Having built many houses in all season, believe me when I say that building in the spring and summer is the way to go. It will be more enjoyable, less expensive, and easier to get your home built while the weather is good. Take this time, while the weather is…wintery, to confirm your design and prepare for the upcoming construction season.

I look forward to hearing from you as you decide on plans and start your projects! I love seeing people’s dreams come to fruition and I love being a part of that process in any way I can help! Check out the designs from Arkin Tilt Arhcitect, Organicforms Design, Integral Design Studio, and Steven Padgitt today. We will be adding new plans from new architects and designers in the future; however, there are so many amazing designs available right now, we don’t feel the need to rush it, even with spring fast approaching!

6 Responses

  1. Are you, Mr morrison interested in visiting Colombia?
    I have graduated from Universidad Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca , Here in Bogotá DC, Colombia. Our teachers are very interested in having a presentation on Strawbale technics in our technology week. If you are interested I’ll apreciate if you answeer this mail in order to contact with my alma mater. Thank you very much.

  2. Hola Alberto. Muchas gracias por su correo electrónico. Mi español no es bueno. Así, I hope I would be able to speak English if I were to come visit. I am interested and would like to hear more about what you would want from me, when it would happen and any other details pertaining to the event. Again, thank you for the invitation.

  3. This article is really good timing. I’ve got a set of straw bale floor plans that I’m interested in and I’ve requested some adjustments for, but they’re not complete or inspection ready. I know owner/builders sometimes design their own floor plans, but do you or Gabriella know of any – who are not engineers/architects – who’ve done their own blueprints…? It seems pretty difficult, but with so little money to work with, I’d be willing to put my hand to it. Cheers!

  4. With all of the programs available today, it is possible to design your own home. It is hard though and getting the lumber sizes right for code can be difficult. If you want to learn and to try and save some money, you can go for it. You may want to consider hiring a designer as a consultant to look over your shoulder once you get close to submitting. Basically, a plan review. I can do that for you (click here to learn more) or you can work with a designer like Chris Keefe at Organicforms Design.

    I would recommend at the very least that you buy my book because it is full of architectural details that you can use directly in your design to figure out wall sections, foundation details, etc. You might also consider buying a book called Basic Lumber Engineering for Builders to help with your span tables, etc. Hope that helps. Good luck!!!

  5. Thank you for the support and, yes, I definitely agree that a plan review would be a good idea! I actually already purchased your book and DVDs about a week or so ago. I’ll go to Amazon.com and purchase the book Basic Lumber Engineering for Builders as well. I saw two other books I think might be helpful. One is Basic Engineering for Builders, also by Max Schwartz, and the other is Working Alone: Tips and Techniques for Solo Building by John Carroll – my daughter will be helping, but I think this book will still be of great use to us. Thank you again for your suggestions!

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