Thursday, 8 May 2014

Straw bale building - the inside story...


The new toilet and shower block at Treflach
Straw bale building seems to have an image of being a cheap and easy way for people to build themselves a house. Having been involved in various low-impact buildings I'd say it's not just as simple as that...
The main points that aren't immediately obvious to people are:
  • Straw bales aren't load-bearing so your building will need some kind of a frame to take the roof
  • People seem to forget that they'll still need doors, windows, plumbing, wiring etc etc
  • You need some kind of footing to keep the bales off the ground and dry
  • Hazel spikes are often used to secure the bales as you build up the walls but they lead to various problems - they're dangerous, difficult to work in at the top layers and they may be a weak link in the long term life of the building
  • It's important the straw stays dry so your building is best designed with a generously overhanging roof, much more than you would need with other materials
  • Rats and squirrels have to be kept out with boards or render covering all straw surfaces
Really the bales are mainly there for insulation but they do a great job of that and might save you loads of cash. So if you're building a house and have a source of cheap bales it's definitely worth checking out but look into the whole thing very carefully!
The back wall mostly finished.

Azzi, who build himself a wonderful oval straw bale house at Sych Pwll, working with me on the frame last year.
You can see it all here, the brick and block footing, RS board boxes to take the spikes for the first layer, the timber frame and the first row of bales on the way.
Ian Steel and Azzi putting in the first row of bales

Azzi's way of restringing a bale to make it shorter
Dave Bibby working on the original trusses with help from Faze
With Azzi moving abroad and the pressure from other work our straw build progress came to a halt at about the point in the picture above. The frame sat exposed to the elements over the winter and having two hen houses blown into it in the winter gales didn't improve it much. Then the man in the picture below, James the Rocket, with many years' experience of roof structures and woodwork generally came to give us a hand and the project has moved forward again. We'll all breath a sigh of relief when it's wind and watertight.
James and I putting in the first row of bales... again...
James' magnificent redevelopment of the roof
James sledge-hammering in a spike into some of the top bales, a very awkward work space
Leslie lending a hand filling in the gaps between the bales on the back wall
Difficult getting to the top layers to get the spikes in

1 comment:

  1. Prestige Brick and Block Ltd is a family run commercial and residential brick and blocks laying company in New Zealand. Specializing in brick and blocks laying work means we work with together with clients and adhere to all required safety measures and ensuring quality work.

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