Your Time to Shine…Share a Success or Failure –

Written by Andrew Morrison

happy couple on cliff edgeI am interested to hear from you and what your experience has been building with bales. Write a comment on this blog so we can all hear about your success and / or failure. I am always curious as to what other people’s experience is. This is your time to shine. Many are excited to get started and then quickly tire of the work while others thrive and have fun for days on end. Let’s open a space to share our stories.

I’ll get things started. My first straw bale structure was a small guest cottage. I practiced the art of baling on the cottage for days and found that some of the techniques that passed as requirements were a total pain in the rear end! Over the years I have found that some of the pains in the rear have gone away and yet some still remain. That said, I do love building with bales. That is strangely funny because I am allergic to the straw! I get rashes on my arms and chest and I sneeze a whole bunch.

When I was a kid I was a really good competitive swimmer. This is equally funny because I am allergic to high exposure to chlorine in pools. Considering I spent about 4 hours a day in a pool, that was interesting. I guess some habits die hard. I moved from chlorine to straw and I still submerge myself in it!

Over the years I have built many straw bale projects and I have taught thousands of people to build with bales through my workshops, DVDs and consulting work. I never seem to get tired of watching a bale building go up. My favorite house was designed to represent a mix between a Mexican Hacienda and a Mediterranean home. The look and feel of the bales within the design was more beautiful than any other home I have built. I still visit the house from time to time and I just love the way I feel as soon as I walk in.

What’s your story?

59 Responses

  1. Why is it that straw bale is more expensive? What drives the cost up?

    I would have guessed it could be done much cheaper?

    Like the site…
    Want to build one soon.

  2. Buck,
    It is possible to build a straw bale home for less than a conventional home, but not when built by a contractor. The cost of labor is much higher than the cost of materials and building a bale house takes a lot of labor. In addition, the plaster is very expensive when compared with regular siding and you have to do it on both sides of the walls. In other words, plaster on the inside and out is much more expensive than drywall and siding. Finally, the other trades like plumbing and electrical have to work with materials they are not accustomed to and they often charge more for the work as a result. The good news is that you save thousands on heating and cooling bills for the life of the home and the extra money spent up front is gained back and more over the life of the home.

  3. Dear Andrew,
    Thank you so very much for all your valuable information, I am so pleased.
    I started building a lifelong dream home of circles last spring the main part was finished just before winter set in and I spent most of a really cold windy winter as snug as a bug in a rug. This circle is 40 ft. in diamiter and is the main part of the house to be. The hardest part was designing it so I could build it by myself as I have no nieghbors for miles . Although it was a lot of work it is exactly what I thought it would be, I am planing to start the next circle which will be the kitchen if it ever stops storming. Happy Baleing and thanks again.
    Betty JO

  4. Do you have any pictures of your house to post, Betty Jo? I love the idea of building in a circle, which would certainly be appropriate up here in the arctic, but I think the most I can do is maybe an octagon due to the restrictions of material supply (everything has to be pre-ordered to come up by ship in the summer, so it is hard to experiment and run to the local lumber yard for odds and ends when you need them.
    You also say “circles”, can you give us an idea of your floor plan?

  5. Lesleigh; I don`t own a camera but if you know what a real igloo looks like you got it only much larger, I did not use lumber at all. I used filled in old tires for the foundation, permafrost is somthing I have no knowledge of.
    I used chicken wire, baleing wire and mud/clay/straw for plaster.I build it one layer at a time placeing pipe style natual light as I went .I build a central open fireplace with a large cap which keeps the roof intack.
    Betty Jo

  6. We are building a strawbale home in eastern BC this summer, and I’m wondering about bathroom moisture issues. Is it okay to have tubs/showers next to strawbale walls, or should they be placed on interior walls. Layout is way better if placed on exterior wall, so I hope this is a viable optionb.

  7. Sarah,
    I prefer to use water isolation walls to keep the tubs and showers away from the bales. This also allows more room for the bathroom size in a home design. Basically, build a 2×6 wall behind the shower and then isolate the sides of the intersection of that wall with the bale wall with roofing felt. it is hard to explain in words on a blog, but something I can show you in person or perhaps better explain in direct contact. The key here is that you can build a shower next to an exterior wall, but I would recommend against using a bale wall in that area.

  8. Andrew,

    Can you tell me approximately how many bales required for a 3,000 sq. ft. home and an acre fenced with strawbale?

    Also, I live in the Methow Valley in easter Washington.
    Do you work here?


  9. Hi Sonja. There are some factors in this that will greatly impact the number. I would need to know the height and length of the walls, the amount of windows and the height of the landscape wall. I no longer contract, but I teach workshops and consult with builders and owner/builders all over the world.

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