Consideration of straw bale construction

I had quite the sleepless night last night. I tend to get very obsessive over projects like the one I just posted about, thinking and rethinking details until it becomes a real problem for me. I can’t help it – I lie down and try to sleep but my brain just keeps racing in circles for hours. Last night images of particular joinery options, ideas for bracing so I could raise walls myself, and potential problems with screws, wood splitting, and strength issues kept floating around and around in my tired head until I clutched my pillow over my face and wanted to scream “Enough! Let me sleep!”

I hate how I do that. How can I tell my brain to just shut up? My doctor actually gave me some sleep meds to help with it, but they make me groggy all the next day as well – even just a 1/4 dose worth! – and I’m dubious about drugs anyway, so I rarely use them.

In any case, my overactive brain might have been useful this time because I woke up this morning thinking “Straw bales? What? Why on earth am I thinking about straw bales?” And then it hit me – what about straw bale construction for the tool shed? Maybe my brain had actually come up with something useful.

Straw bale construction would certainly be easier for me than trying to clad the entire shed with split timbers. (The shed would still have a timber frame, just the walls would be straw bales). In fact, it could cut my time by much more than half. And we’ve got all the clay we need right here to coat the outside of the bales with. Plus, a straw-bale wall would be weather-tight, whereas a wall put together from slabs of naturally-shaped, not-all-that-straight logs would leave big gaps. Sounds pretty intriguing.

There are drawbacks, however. Most importantly, I have plenty of timber on hand already. If I do straw-bale I will have to buy all the straw bales and also bags of lime for the outside coat of plaster (to make it weatherproof). It will be a negligible cost, but still. I have to decide which principles are more important to me: self-sufficiency (timber), eco-friendliness (both, considering the timbers are already felled), cost-effectiveness (timber), time-effectiveness (straw-bale), ease of construction (straw-bale).

It just struck me, actually. Those logs won’t necessarily go to waste if I don’t use them for the shed – I still need rails for a goat fence. Hm, another point in favor of straw bales!

4 Responses to “Consideration of straw bale construction”

  1. Da' Says:

    Exciting!!!! Strawbales are a great building material, but it is also technical. You still need concrete footings (and preferably slab, don’t do what I did!), and you have to rat-proof it, which involves sheet metal. The hardest things are the footings, rat-proofing, plastering (big job) and roof-framing. Also you need to lift the strawbales and timbers up (will need a helper). No need for posts, just a plate over the bales and timbers for the roof. One-shed or two shed. You can use your logs for timbers. You’ll need help lifting things up. There are seminars and workshops all over the country now, check it out. It could be great fun, satisfying and a lot of work!!! Caution: Do you have time…? :-)

  2. diana Says:

    Hi Papi, I thought you might chime in if I mentioned straw bales! I’m not thinking of doing any load-bearing bale walls though, because that would make me more nervous and you need rebar and you have to be careful that the walls are plumb… no, I think I’m going to make a post-and-beam structure and then just fill in the walls with bales. You see, I was most worried about trying to make frame walls out of timbers and getting enough support for the rafters and things… but if I only have to worry about the posts in the corners and the beams across the top, that saves me SO much tedium and effort. Before, I was dreading starting, but now I’m excited!

  3. Erin Says:

    For more straw bale info, ask T! Her mom and dad are building a straw bale visitor house.

  4. diana Says:

    Right! Maybe she can give me her mom’s email or something, maybe they have pictures! At least they can tell me what they’re using to coat the walls and how they make it, as my dad says, “rat proof,” which is something I hadn’t read about having to do.

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