Saturday, October 11, 2008

Straw bale barn

I drove out with a friend this afternoon to help build a straw bale barn at an organic farm. It was a small post-and-beam building (made mostly out of salvaged lumber from old barns) with straw bale infill walls. We arrived after the bales had been stacked, so we helped fasten the chicken wire onto the bales and apply the first layer of stucco. It was a beautiful fall day--hot, actually. If I ever build a new house, I would definitely consider doing straw bale construction. It's inexpensive, uses mostly local materials, and is very energy efficient.

Front of the barn
Side of the barn
The foundation was made of layers of old tires filled with gravel
Interior, showing the post-and-beam construction.
You can see the old pegged mortise & tenon joints from the original barn framing.
The upstairs is a hayloft, so about 1/3 of the ceiling is open to the attic floor.

Wetting the straw and applying stucco
(a mixture of sand, Portland cement, nylon fibers, and a few other additives)
First layer of stucco


  1. Cool, but how sturdy and permanent is it? Would it actually work to build a house out of straw bales? Can we call you the first little pig? ;D

  2. ahh, a feast for the eyes. we love straw bale houses, my husband says next house he builds will be made from these. they have a wonderful acoustic and atmosphere. nice work, nice day.

  3. Kelley: Yep, it actually works to build a house from straw bales. There are a number of them in my province (where we have lots and lots of straw!).

    Here's a little info from a builder who works in my area:

    On their FAQ page they say there are some hundred-year-old straw bale houses in Canada. Sturdy enough for me!

  4. That is so cool! ALMOST beats my Saturday of couch-sitting and baby-snuggeling. :)

  5. Amazing! That looks like it was a lot of fun.

  6. Wow! I didn't realize all this. That sounds really great. I'll have to go follow those links.

    I must say that I've learned a lot from your blog, Rixa (I'd never thought I'd cloth diaper, for instance, but here I am), and this goes to show I can always learn more.

  7. Awesome! I've never seen one in the making before these pictures Rixa, but I first heard about (maybe read about in Mothering?) straw bail in connection with a brand new Waldorf school that was being built by a community of parents. It was just so gorgeous and so *right*. Environmentally friendly, energy efficient, all natural materials so the children spend their days in a building that embodies the very ideals that the school strives to teach.
    Well yes, it was Mothering! here's links:
    a picture:

  8. I live near an organic co-operative farm in Ontario, and they've done workshops on straw bale building. But when my parents tried to build their addition with 'alternative' methods, the building inspector was very against anything that was different from current practices because he didn't know how to enforce the building codes!

  9. I am inspired! We will be adding a shed to our yard next spring... straw bale it is!

  10. What about horses kicking? How does the wall hold up to....abuse?


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