Retrofitting a Home With Straw Bale Construction, Part 2


| 5/1/2014 5:30:00 AM


Tags: straw bale, natural building, New Mexico, Cadmon Whitty,

Read "Retrofitting a Home With Straw Bale Construction, Part 1" to learn how Cadmon assessed his home for straw bale retrofitting.

Though I didn’t know exactly how, I decided that if my family and I were going to move into a 50 year-old Albuquerque house, I would substantially change it — and I would do it with straw bales. I’d pledged to make it more energy-efficient, more valuable, more aesthetically attractive. I would do it on a shoestring budget. And with my previous experience of bale construction in mind, I promised myself that I would think differently about how to do it.

Rewiring a House Yourself

First, I put my ‘rewiring-from-the-outside’ idea to the test. It proved to be even easier than I’d thought. I walked around the inside of my house with a drill, and wherever I wanted an outlet — or a light switch or wall fixture or even a hook-up for my computer — I made a small hole that punched through the thin sheetrock on the inside and the old layer of stucco on the outside. Then, I ran wires around the exterior of the house, and as I pushed a loop of those wires through the holes I’d made, an electrician-friend quickly placed an electrical box on the inside of each loop and attached the plug or the switch to it.

The work was easily completed in a couple of weekends, there was only a bit of patching around the new outlets to be done (and some sweeping up, which my awe-struck children happily did as they watched their new rooms get all the outlets they needed for their electronics), and I knew the exterior wires I’d just run would get covered by the bales.  Once my friend had connected the wires to the main electrical panel, I had a newly-rewired house, accomplished at a fraction of the cost it would otherwise have been.

Doing the Straw Bale Retrofit

Next came the main work: setting the straw bales. I had the advantage of having worked with straw bales before, and I’d put up privacy walls about 8 feet tall. But here I was looking at a two-story house and I faced unknown questions.

Would 20 feet of straw bales stacked on top of each other just crush the bottom bales? What would happen when I came to window openings, especially ones I wanted to make bigger?  How could I attach the straw bales to the existing structure so they wouldn’t peel off in some windstorm? And what sort of a foundation would the bales need to rest on?


orlobo2
5/23/2014 11:19:00 AM

Wow, I just love this. Wish I could do this with our house. The original version matches the challenges we have, but ours is 100 years old + and has wooden siding. I expect you couldn't do the same thing because of that.


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