Using Cardboard to Create Building Bales in Construction

Written by Andrew Morrison

cardboard boxWeather cycles in many parts of the country are affecting the number of available straw bales. For example, drought in the southeast has had a significant impact on the grain markets. As a result, more farmers are baling hay than producing grain crops. This means there is simply less straw available to builders and other end users and the price of those bales is higher than last year. A more global impact on straw bale availability and price is seen in the agricultural commodities markets.

Prices for grain is rising in most countries and as a result, governments are actually buying less for international aid and long term stock pile reserves. This means that although the value of the grain is higher, finding a buyer may be more difficult. Partnered with this trend is the growing demand for corn based fuels like ethanol.

When these two trends are put together, you can see why many farmers are moving towards planting more corn and less grain crops. Less grain planted means less straw bales available and higher prices for that straw. Although this is not a major concern at this time, it is something to pay attention to when planning for a straw bale house. Be sure you consider rising prices when you create your budget.

Another option is something that was asked of me this last week: what about using cardboard to create building bales in construction? Absolutely! As long as the bales are tight and dry, any material can be used. There may be concern from the building department, but that is nothing that cannot be worked out. I have seen people build beautiful homes with baled cereal boxes. The bales, if tight and dry, will work perfectly to create beautiful and well insulated walls. I do not, however, have any data about the R-value of such walls. Get creative, be resourceful, and have fun!

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7 Responses

  1. One of the great things about this kind of home building is that people with an interest in it tend to be highly adaptable. If straw bale prices continue to rise, these people may turn towards other options for creating an energy-efficient home at a lower cost. Trends may shift but the overall attitude of using easrth-friendly materials for home building is only likely to grow. Thanks for keeping us posted on these trends so we can adapat accordingly!

  2. Hello I have had an interest in straw construction for many years and have not pursued it until recently our area of missouri approved a grant for the construction of straw bale homes offering a $15000 construction reimbursment for the building of straw bale homes the problem were experiencing is difficulty securing construction monies from our local lenders who are commonly requesting 50% down on a note.

  3. Nathaniel,
    What an awesome deal that is to get a $15,000 reimbursement! There is no reason you should have to pay any more than a regular construction loan down payment. This is a case of banks being nervous about lending on something they don’t understand. It may well be that the appraisers cannot find comparable sales. This is usually because people who build with bales do not sell their homes on the secondary market. They love them and stay in them. That actually becomes an asset for the appraiser, not a road block once they understand it. I suggest you connect with the folks at the following link and see if they have any resources for you. If they cannot point you to a local resource, contact Jeff Case and Bank of Oregon. He can often run loans on straw bale homes in many different parts of the country. He may be able to help you as well. Let him know you heard about him from me. I know he will do his best to take care of you. For what it is worth, he is the guy I got my mortgage from and he was great to work for. I also built his house! His number is (541) 842-5602 and his email is [email protected]. Good luck.

  4. Andrew said “I have seen people build beautiful homes with baled cereal boxes. The bales, if tight and dry, will work perfectly to create beautiful and well insulated walls. I do not, however, have any data about the R-value of such walls.”

    According to wiki straw bales have a 1.45/inch r-value and cardboard has 3.0/inch r-value.

    Hope that helps.

  5. Thanks Brad. I appreciate the information and I am not one who believes the 1.45 R-Value. My experience in the field is that the bales are MUCH more insulative than that. There are several studies out there and they all seem to support different conclusions on the R-value. Very annoying, but that’s what we have. I expect the value to be closer to 2 per inch or even 2.2 per inch.

  6. any info on building in ct.? I have tried to connect with city officials on this and they look at me like the rca dog, not a clue. any help would be greatly appreciated, I owe you a cofee, or a drink o your choice. food can be included in that as well. be well

  7. Hi Carlos. Sorry you are getting the blank stare! I don’t have any specific contacts in CT. One option is to present the building officials with an approved code. There is an approved code in Oregon, among other places. You can print the code out from this page: This will help them see it is a real system and not something you pulled out of thin air. Good luck.

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