How to Build a Truth Window

straw bale truth window
Home by Prairie Wind Architecture, p.c., Jeff Shelden, Architect. Photo credit Lois Shelden.

A truth window is a location in a straw bale home where people can view what’s behind the plaster, Very often, they inspire conversations with curious visitors. Most, if not all, straw bale homes have one. Some are simple and others elaborate. The style of the window is often a reflection of the owners. Most of the truth windows I have seen or created are simple and humble.

Often, the window is no more than an open hole in the plaster. I don’t recommend this though as it provides an easy pathway for moisture to enter your wall system. Building science shows us that air movement into and through a wall is a major problem. It lowers the efficiency of the wall and can introduce moisture that can cause damage. I recommend using glass to create a beautiful window into your wall, while maintaining the seal that protects your bales.

Determining Location

The first decision with any truth window is where to place it. Would you rather display it in a more “public” setting or private location within your home? Once you have a sense of where it will be located, consider what you will see in the window. Position the opening so that the different components that make up the wall are displayed. Show the straw, wire mesh, bamboo and whatever other materials were used.

What you likely DON’T want to show are spray painted lines from the construction process. It’s common to spray paint the location of electrical wires and other components of the build onto the wall surface. Be sure that you know where the truth window will be installed before you start painting up the walls. Although you can “erase” some of the spray paint if need be, it’s much better to simply know your location and avoid that area when marking up the walls.

Step-by-Step Directions
  • Determine how big of an opening you want for your truth window.
  • Now cut that opening out of a piece of plywood such that you have 2-3″ of plywood around the opening. It should like like a picture frame, assuming a rectangular truth window.
  • Cover that frame with roofing felt to protect it from plaster contact
  • Carefully mark the location of the frame on the wall. Be sure not to overspray into the actual viewable area.
  • Use a chainsaw to cut out the shape of the “picture frame” so that it will sit flush with the surface of the wall once installed. Do NOT cut the area that will be seen once the truth window is complete. That should stay at the same plane as the face of the wall.
  • Place the frame into the cut out and secure it with landscape pins. Make sure it is level/plumb.
  • Install the wall mesh as if the truth window doesn’t exist. Secure the mesh to the wall.
  • Check for level/plumb and secure the mesh to the picture frame with structural staples.
  • Carefully plaster over the picture frame and the rest of the wall, but leave the viewable area free of plaster. You’ll need tp pay attention as you “cut in” to the edge of the open area so s to leave a clean line.
  • Create a finish truth window either like the elaborate one shown above or a simple picture frame with glass.
  • Screw the finish frame to the previously installed “picture frame” backer.
  • Plug the screw holes on the finish frame.
  • Cut the finish plaster into the edges of the finish frame for a clean look.

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