Advantages of Timber Frame and Straw Bale Houses


From 2012-2013, my partner April and I took on the work of building a new home for ourselves. After living in a less-than-warm cob house in a cold northern Missouri climate, we quickly decided in favor of using straw bale for the wall construction to provide insulation in our new design. That left the frame in question, but we quickly decided that it had to be a traditional timber frame, and I'm glad we made the choice.

Advantages of Straw Bale Building

The union of straw bale building and timber framing is a harmonious one, and there are numerous advantages of employing the two systems in collaboration. Straw bale and timber frames are highly compatible, beautiful, and the efficiency and longevity of using these natural building techniques is superior in a cold climate setting.

The use of straw bales in home construction is actually rather "new", relative to the historical longevity of other natural materials, especially stone, cob, adobe, wattle and daub, and others. All of these long-lived materials have one thing in common -- they are all massive, and do not provide much in way of actual insulation values (R-values). If your goal is to maximize insulation and minimize the amount of fuel you burn to keep comfortable, straw, and specifically straw bales are an excellent option to pursue.

A two-string straw bale is typically quoted to be an average of R-27.5 for its 18" of thickness when used on-flat. (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1998). Though there are other materials with a higher R-value per inch, I would argue that straw bale is a highly effective choice of insulators, considering all other factors involved.

6/6/2019 2:47:28 PM

I built my girlfriend a straw bale home with a timber frame 13 years ago and she has had virtually no mice or bugs compared to my mobile home where catch a mouse almost nightly and bugs can move in. Mold doesn't happen if u never get the bales wet with a large roof overhang & raise the bales up off the floor. Her home is at 9000ft in CO & it is super comfortable year round with very little energy input since I faced most windows south (passive solar) and did most interior walls with heavy adobe bricks 9 ft tall to hold the sun's heat or the coolth of summer in the forest. She's going back to Ohio & must sell it. Straw bale is the best home u can build but u should put it on the planet correctly oriented with its longest wall facing true (not magnetic) south, in the northern hemisphere, where the winter sun will pay your heating bill if it has somewhere heavy to go & be stored for the cold nights. That mass can be adobe bricks, cob, rock, brick, concrete, gold bars are my favorite or any other heavy material that is as natural as possible.

1/24/2018 10:17:10 PM

Hi, Would the bales break down over time? Mold, mildew, varmints?

1/24/2018 10:17:08 PM

Does the straw bales break down over time? I'm concerned about mold and mildew, bugs and rodents, myself. Sounds like something to consider, I'm planning to build a home and this sounds ideal.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters