Straw bale construction is a highly recommended alternative to traditional building methods. Straw bales are great for building houses and any other type of construction that are exceptionally durable, energy efficient, attractive, low-cost, and ideally for all the four season climate. Straw bale homes are easy and affordable to build, environmentally friendly, super energy efficient, beautiful, and can be designed to fit or match your budget, aesthetics, and personal space needs.

Straw Bale Construction Technique 

Straw bale construction technique involves taking one straw bale at a time and stacking it on top of another in a line to create a wall. A metal mesh or a plastic ties is then used to brace the straw bales together. The straw bale wall is then covered wholly in plaster to complete the wall system. The plaster gives the wall its beautiful look and also protects the building against thermal resistance, moisture, and fire.

How Straw Bales Hold Up A wall

Straw bales is a term used to refer to stem leftovers of harvested cereals such as wheat, oats, rye, barley, rice and many more. These materials are at times used as bedding for animals; however, many people see them as waste products. Straw bales can also be made from fibrous materials like pine needles, corn or bean stalks, or any other type of grass. The first straw bales construction materials were mainly build from baled meadow grass.

If you want to build a home with straw bales, you need to have a good understanding of they work and how they behave as construction materials. Generally, straw bales have a low compressive strength, but when they are twisted, intertwined, baled, bundles, or mixed with other building materials like clay, their compressive power enhances exponentially and they can then be used to construct almost anything that you want, both non-structural and structural.

Nevertheless, it is wise to remember that despite the improvement in compressive strength, straw bales will always compress if subjected under heavy loads. So, it is important that you ensure that the bales are more compact. Why? Because the more compact they are, the less they will compress. The straw bales used for construction must be compact, strong, and retain their shape when you handle them.

If you are wondering if straw bales homes can support wood fire or stove, the answer is yes. Densely straw baled homes restricts the amount of air (oxygen) required for combustion to take place, and is therefore extremely resistant to fire. On the other hand, loose baled straw homes are very flammable.

How to Keep the Straw Bales Dry

It is important for you to learn or know the relationship between straw bales and moisture if you want to build a durable baled straw house. For example, when natural fibers are bundled together into bales they become more vulnerable to moisture damage. Why? Because it becomes difficult for air to reach the inside parts of the bale and keep them dry. In this light, the inner parts of the bales are usually wet, especially if they were baled wet or during the rainy season. They will dry up eventually, but usually not until rot or mould has affected them.

Dry straw bales are usually bright and uniformly colored, without any signs or deterioration or discoloration. It is highly recommended that you build your baled house after the rains.

Advantages of Using Straw Bales to Build New Homes

There are many reasons why people would prefer straw baled homes: the inherent environmental benefits, the aesthetics of a plaster building, or the improved acoustics. The environmental benefit is the reason why many people want to own straw baled homes. Other reasons include:

Embodied energy – Embodied energy can simply be defined as the energy utilized to produce a material. Straw bales are said to have a very low embodied energy. This means that you need very little energy to produce these products since sunlight is used as the main source of energy for growing plants. The only energy required to produce straw bales is in the bailing process and the transportation to the construction site. Insulation materials such as fiberglass, expanded polystyrene plastic, virgin steel, virgin aluminum, recycled steel, recycled aluminum, or cement require a great amount of energy to be produced.

Straw bales are 100% environmental friendly - If well maintained, studies show that straw baled homes can last over 100 years. At some point, all buildings will certainly be replaced. When that time comes, straw bales can be cultivated back into the earth. The same cannot be said with other building materials such as fiberglass. Fiberglass usually ends up as a disposal problem. Straw only need one season to be harvested again and used for construction. Wood on the other hand appears to be somewhat renewable, but it takes quite a long time for trees to grow to a point where they can be harvested for wood.

Thermal performance – When compared to the conventional construction materials, straw bales are said to be more effective and reliable in climates where heating and/or cooling of home is required for comfort reasons. Homes insulated with straw bales usually have insulation values of R-30 to R-35 or more. The R-value here depends on the thickness of the bale, so the thicker the bale, the higher the R-value.

R-value is what is used to determine the amount of energy that is needed to cool or heat a home and straw bale insulated homes are able to achieve the same thermal performance like other construction materials but at an affordable price. If you care very much for your environment or you are just trying to save money on heating bills, a straw bale home is the best solution for you.

The Bottom Line

Straw baled homes are constructed using 100% biodegradable materials. This means that they are environmentally friendly and can last for many years if well taken care of. In addition, straw baled homes are twice as fire proof as traditional houses. So, if you prefer a simple beautiful home that won’t leave you dry, a straw baled home might be exactly what you are looking for.