Straw Bale House
If you want more specific info, check out these pages:
If you live locally to us and would like some recommendations of suppliers and contractors, drop us a line, we'd be happy to help.
Background to our journey
What is a 'straw bale' house?
Rather than building a conventional brick or weatherboard house, we have built our home with the external walls made of bales of straw, like the small bales fed to horses or cattle. The bales are around 350mm high, 900mm long & 450mm wide, and they are laid flat so that the 450mm is the width of the wall. Straw is a by-product from grain crops like wheat, rye, oat, rice and barley. Once the grain has been harvested (ie seed head is stripped) the remaining stalk is either burned or baled to feed stock.
The bales are laid in running bond, like bricks, and then strapped up with polyester stapping and compressed over three days. After compression, 3 coats of earthen render is applied to protect and strengthen the walls.
Why build with straw bales you may ask? Well for many reasons, mainly environmental, but also for aesthetic reasons (see more on this in FAQ left). Now to the beginning.......
For many years, we had been dreaming about building our very own straw bale house in the country. After over a year of searching for land, we bought our 2.86 acre block in Merrimu (near Bacchus Marsh) in December 2007. After lots of planning and research, we got our planning and building applications approved, and we officially started building on 20th October 2008. On 2nd March 2010 we received our Certificate of Occupany and we have been living in our beautiful home ever since.
Throughout process we have been working with our Straw Bale Building Consultant, Brian Hodge (photo right is of Brian and Natasha staking out the rough position of the house back in Jan 2008) Brian is from Heathcote Victoria and is a builder of 30 years' experience, with specific expertise and passion for Straw Bale building. Brian has guided us through the whole process - see www.straw-bale-houses.com/ for more details.
Peter the Builder
During May-July 2008, Peter worked with a fellow straw bale builder Ari, in Malmsbury, which is about 15km past Kyneton on the way to Bendigo. It was a win-win for everyone, Ari got another pair of hands to help her build her house, and Peter got HEAPS of hands-on experience in all kinds of things, and gained a lot of confidence in the process. This was probably one of the best decisions we made - the experience and confidence Peter gained from working on Ari's house has been priceless. In fact, we would say that without this experience, we would not have been able to get past the first big hurdle (getting stumps in - turned into a mega task!).
What does the house look like?
You can see the progress of building in our Photo Gallery.
Here are some details on the house:
- 21 squares (just under 200 square metres)
- built on timber stumps, with concrete pads
- timber framing
- compostable toilets (uses no water)
- solar hot water
- north facing to capitalise on passive solar
- re-use of grey water from bathroom & laundry
- 25,000 litre water tank (and another one planned later)
We've got heaps more info on the specifications of the house - click here for more info.
More info on Straw Bale Building
Straw bale buildings have been around for at least the last 100 years. There are some straw houses in Altona in Melbourne that are 60 years old with no signs of aging. The sites below have lots of info too.