Steel Framed Kit Buildings and Straw Bale Construction

Written by Andrew Morrison

steel framing straw bale houseMy mother in law is currently having a barn built for her horses. I have been very impressed with the speed in which the structure has gone up. Three to four men have been working on the site for a bout a day and a half and the entire frame is up and most of the 2×6 interior wall boards are laid. This has lead me to think about steel framed kit buildings and straw bale construction.

Others have mentioned this to me in the past and I quite honestly did not see the advantages with the same sense of excitement that I do today. I can imagine having a house framed in two days and ready for bales! Wow, that would be exciting. I failed to mention that the barn currently under construction is no small affair. It is about 3000 SF so the day and half progress is very impressive.

My mother in law said she had a lot of opportunities to fine tune the design to her liking, but not so many that she became overwhelmed. That is a great balance. If you have any experience with steel framed kit buildings and straw bale construction, please let us know!

Want to learn more about straw bale houses and how to build one? Want to do so for FREE? Sign up for our totally free 16 Day Straw Bale eCourse! Find out more HERE.

22 Responses

  1. Hi

    I’ve been considering this very thing but when I took my plan to a kit shed company they said they couldn’t help me because they can’t do custom designs for dwellings (only sheds) even though they have a dwelling range. This seemed crazy so I contacted the local distributor to look into it.

    I’ll let you know how I get on, however, I’ve since found that you can buy all these lightweight steel components and brackets separately so it might be just a matter of specifying that to your architect or engineer.



  2. I’ve designed and built a double storey straw-bale dwelling in Kalbarri, Western Australia.
    All material has been bought in bulk lengths, cut and welded on site. Me and a TA erected the whole steelwork, post and beam, in 12 days inclusive the finished roof.
    The posts are designed with spacing to take 3 bales (2.7m). The roof is made out of 100mm sandwiched insulation panels called “Econodeck”, allowing a span of 5.6m.
    All internal walls are standard Stud walls lined with plasterboards. The bales are cut around the 50x50x3mm Posts to allow a render cover of 25mm.

  3. Why not put the bales outside the steel frame and box around it on the inside? Could even be finished to resemble more expensive timber frame. Metal liner panels would make easier/faster interior finish for mechanical and or garage space with out affecting exterior appearance. As a pm for a heating and cooling contractor in Missouri I would not worry about metal attracting condensation as long as there was no thermal bridging from the cold side to the interior steel in the winter. This would not be as big an issue in the summer with the lower humidity inside due to air conditioning. It would be very important not to oversize your air conditioning unit as it will cool the space quickly and not remove enough of the humidity.

  4. I am working toward building a strawbale structure on the back portion of my property. Dimensions are 34′ by 20′. It will be comprised of two rooms of equal dimension. the roof line will be split with the studio side rising to 18 feet and the shop side rising to 11 feet. I’m considering using steel frame – have a gentleman who has done barns before with steel framing and strawbale and we’re currently talking and hopefully getting to the point where he’ll be able to give me an estimate. The structure will have two doors, on the shop side 4′ wide, on the studio side just a standard 3′ door. Planning placing 6 windows. Want to make accommodation down the road for a 7 ft. by 17ft. loft, radiant floor heating and other amenities as time goes by. The partition wall between the studio and workshop will not be straw bale due to space considerations and placement of plumbing for down the road improvements. My question is – I have the DVD on strawbale which shows how to build with post and beam of wood. What are the variations on this theme using steel? Do you incorporate wood construction along with the steel or how does that look?? I’ve poked around a bit but can’t find any information on this aspect of framing. Seems everything in the wooden post and beam is nailed here and nailed there – but what to do if it’s steel is my question. Thanks for anybody’s input.

  5. Georgine,
    The most difficult part is attaching the mesh to the frame. You cannot staple to the steel, so you will need to find another way to attach the mesh tightly to the frame. I have used wood nailer strips over the mesh that are screwed into the steel to hold the mesh in place. That may be the best option; however, I would suggest you ask the steel framer what his thoughts are. Also, be sure to isolate the steel from the balers so you don’t have condensation directly in contact with the straw. Good luck.


  6. Steel framing can be used for two storey homes as long as the engineering is in place and approved. I personally like wood better, but if steel is the way you want to go, that is fine as well.

  7. Hi, regarding the isolating of the steel from the straw and thermal bridging, what is your recommendation? I have thought of wrapping it in building paper, but that seems like a lot of work, so was leaning towards (though have not researched it yet) painting them with bitumen. Do you have any viable alternatives? Your thoughts?

  8. thanks Andrew, Do you mean the wrapping or the painting sounds reasonable? If I paint the beams with bitumen won’t the temperature differential still exist, and water still condense on the beams and dampen the surrounding straw? Or is the bitumen sufficient to change the differential so that it is no longer a risk? talking to a plumber he says wrapping the beams will create a ‘pipe’ for the water to accumulate in – and eventually drain down, but is this preferable so that the straw is not in contact (but the well anticorrosive primed beams are?)

  9. The frame would be too big for PVC to cover adequately and PVC is a very nasty product for the environment. Any metal will present the same concerns as it will be cold within the walls.

  10. If the moisture is contained within a “pipe” and it drips down into the gravel, that would be okay. I think the bitumen painted on would provide enough of a differential (if applied thick enough). I think the painted on material will provide a better protection as the wrapping could easily rip and send drip into the bales.

  11. We have had several clients use the sovereign stand alone features of our frame design to easily add straw bale construction. Our particular steel frame design is not dependent on the building envelope per se to meet building codes. So you can virtually put any exterior finish with any of our basic frame models and designs! Check out for some photos…

    Steel is an earth friendly material in that it is made up of predominantly recycled steel – so it does harmonize with “sustainable” building construction…

    Check out the many frame design possibilities – all soulfully crafted and very USER FRIENDLY to assemble and work with –

  12. I have a 40’X 60’steel frame building I want to use for the frame of a straw bale home. It is 13′ high at the sides and I am going to use a poured concrete floor. I was planing on putting the post on top of 24″ X 3′ deep sono tubes filled with concrete and rebar. Then I was going to pour the floor so it extends past the post 1/2 the distance of the straw bales. The post are 10″ X 10″ I beams that are anticrossive painted. I was thinking of spraying them with a foam insulation. What are your thoughts on this?

  13. Sounds like a very solid system. You may not need as much concrete as you;re planning. You’ll need to talk to an engineer about that. Try Nabil (Nah-Beel) Taha at 541.858.8500. Good luck.

  14. Atttaching mesh to the frame can be easily acomplished using metal strapping. To begin a corner cut a piece of strapping to length and wrap the mesh around it two folds. Place it at the edge of the beginning point and use self tapping metal screws ( the same kind used for metal roofing- the ones with the neoprene washer are unnecessary since your not worried about shedding water) to secure it in place. When securing to a post or beam in the middle of a wall place the strapping over the mesh ans secure withe same sel tapping metal screws.

  15. Good day you have a very nice and interesting article it gives a lot of information regarding this matter. I absolutely beleived that using still framed is the best thing to do or the best thing to used to build a good and quality house or a building. Thank you for sharing this informative posts, more power and keep it up!

  16. I plan on building a steel kit shed with verandahs on four sides on a concrete slab. The reason for steel is partly because in New South Wales termites eat timber. The kit shed people do a small kit house which could be strawbale instead of zincalume sheets. After reading the above posts I am still a little confused about condensation with steel and attaching the mesh. Does anyone have any photos of progress when doing a steel strawbale? I really want to do strawbale for it’s cooling/heating qualities and it looks beautiful!

  17. If I were to do this, I would install my mesh on the steel frame ahead of the bales and simply tack weld it in place. Be sure to pull it as tight as you possibly can first, of course. Then you can place the bales against the frame/mesh and add the interior mesh once the bales are complete. That will require the use of a wood toe up and top nailer, but that is minimal and is INSIDE the building envelope.

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.