Granny's Country Store > Home-Building Resources > Strawbale Construction | Search | View Cart

Strawbale House Construction
Books & Overview
by Thomas J. Elpel, Author of Living Homes

      Strawbale buildings are all the rage in alternative construction today, and with good reason--they are cheap, easy to build, and very energy efficient. Strawbale buildings look similar to adobe, with massive walls, wide window sills and typically rounded corners, but with the added benefit of a higher insulation value. The soft, sometimes curvy edges of strawbale construction can lend a fairy tale look to the finished structures. The fun part of strawbale construction is that anyone can do it. Anyone can help stack the fluffy, oversized bricks in place.

      Strawbale homes and outbuildings were first developed by pioneers in the Sand Hills of Nebraska where there was lots of straw, but few trees. The early pioneers built houses of sod, up until the late 1800's when baling technology provided the first compressed, string-tied rectangular bales. The next logical step was to stack those bales like bricks to make warm walls. Strawbale buildings from the early 1900's are still in use and in excellent condition today.

      Due to publicity in the 1980's and 1990's there are now strawbale buildings popping up all over the world--in wet and dry climates, from hot southern environments to chilling northern extremes.

      Strawbale homes are very well insulated. The orientation of the straw in the bales makes some difference in the insulation value. Bales laid flat (with strings running around the top and bottom) rate about R-2.4 per inch while those laid on edge (with strings running around the sides) rate R-3 per inch. However, the bales are usually wider when laid flat than on edge, giving a higher overall R-value. The bales are slightly stronger too, when laid flat.

      There are two types of strawbale houses. One type has load-bearing walls, where the weight of the roof is supported by the bales, while the others are non-load bearing, where the roof is supported by a framework and the bales are filled in afterwards. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach.

      In a load-bearing strawbale building the windows and doors have to be placed carefully to avoid compromising the strength of the walls, and the roof has to be designed to equalize the load distribution to the walls. The size of the building, the height of the walls, and compression and settling of the bales under the weight of the roof and potential snow loads must also be considered. All of these obstacles are overcome when using an independent support structure for the roof. My neighbor built a very large load-bearing strawbale workshop, but it has only two doors and no windows. Two pictures of the building are shown in the pictures here. The details of the project are featured in Living Homes.

      Typical support structures for non-load bearing strawbale buildings include conventional lumber framing as well as timber framing, framing with poles or logs, or concrete posts and beams. The support structure holds up the roof, taking the pressure off the bales (and the builder). Besides, a supporting framework enables you to put up the roof first, so that the rest of the work can proceed inside the shelter, protecting yourself, your tools and the strawbales from the weather. That's important since it only takes one rainstorm to soak the tops of the unprotected bales, quickly rotting out your good work.

      On the other hand, a supporting framework often requires more lumber than you would use with load-bearing walls, and the framing tends to get in the way of the bales, requiring extra design work to position the framing for minimal interference with the walls, and/or to notch into the bales to fit around the framing. The strawbale home pictured here is a non-load bearing structure built by another neighbor. It is also featured in Living Homes.

Living Homes
Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
by Thomas J. Elpel

      Although there is only one chapter on strawbale construction in Living Homes, it is packed with the essential details of strawbale construction and tied together throughout the book with all other aspects of building, from innovative foundation solutions to creative roofing ideas, solar design, heating, plumbing and wiring. For complete details on the book, please go to: Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction    $30.00    Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

The Strawbale House
by Athena and Bill Steen

      Imagine building a house with superior seismic stability, fire resistance, and thermal insulation, using an annually renewable resource, for half the cost of a comparable conventional home. Welcome to the straw bale house! Whether you build an entire house or something more modest--a home office or studio, a retreat cabin or guest cottage--plastered straw bale construction is an exceptionally durable and inexpensive option. What's more, it's fun, because the technique is easy to learn and easy to do yourself. And the resulting living spaces are unusually quiet and comfortable.

      The Straw Bale House describes the many benefits of building with straw bales: super insulation, with R-values as high as R-50; good indoor air quality and noise reduction; a speedy construction process; construction costs as low as $10-per-square-foot; use of natural and abundant renewable resources; a better solution than burning agricultural waste straw, which creates tons of air pollutants.

The Strawbale House    $30.00    Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Serious Straw Bale
A Home Construction Guide for All Climates
by Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron

      When The Straw Bale House was first published the response from many people was a loud, "Huh?!" But those days are gone and we've entered a new era. Even building-code officials and insurance companies now look favorably upon straw bale buildings, with their extraordinary energy efficiency and wise use of agricultural waste for construction materials.

      Bergeron and Lacinski's book is the first to look carefully at the specific design considerations critical to success with a straw bale building in more extreme climates--where seasonal changes in temperature, precipitation, and humidity create special stresses that builders must understand and address. The authors draw upon years of experience with natural materials and experimental techniques, and present a compelling rationale for building with straw--one of nature's most resilient, available, and affordable byproducts. For skeptics and true believers, this book will prove to be the latest word.

      Thorough explanations of how moisture and temperature affect buildings in seasonal climates, with descriptions of the unique capacities of straw and other natural materials to provide warmth, quiet, and comfort year-round. The book includes comprehensive comparisons between the two main approaches to straw bale construction: "Nebraska-style," where bales bear the weight of the roof, and framed structures, where bales provide insulation. Also included is detailed advice--including many well-considered cautions-for contractors, owner-builders, and designers, following each stage of a bale-building process.

      This is a second-generation straw bale book, for those seeking serious information to meet serious challenges while adventuring in the most fun form of construction to come along in several centuries.

Serious Strawbale    $30.00    Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

More Straw Bale Building
A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw
by Chris Magwood, Peter Mack, and Tina Therrien

      Straw bale building is no longer a fringe idea, but has blossomed into a mature and highly developed construction technique that is widely practiced in North America and elsewhere. Houses built from straw bales are straightforward to build, affordable, super energy efficient, environmentally friendly, attractive, and can be designed to match the builder's personal space needs, esthetics, and budget. But with the evolution of the method, the details of what to avoid and how to achieve acknowledged best practices have also changed.       More Straw Bale Building is a completely rewritten edition of the 20,000 copy best-seller Straw Bale Building. It leads the potential builder through the entire process of building a bale structure, tackling all the practical issues: finding and choosing bales; developing sound building plans; roofing; electrical; plumbing, and heating systems and building code compliance.

      Now, with More Straw Bale Building, this technique is explained in the fullest depth yet, enabling everyone who wants to build with bales to do so with confidence, safety and flair and to do so in compliance with local building codes. Furthermore, while many early straw bale buildings have been built in drier, southern climates, More Straw Bale Building includes a special focus on northern climate construction.

      Straw Bale Construction guides the reader through every stage of the design and building process and is heavily illustrated with both architectural quality drawings and photographs of on-the-job action. With its extensive listing of further resources, it provides all you need to plan and then create the building of your dreams!

      The authors are professional straw bale house builders, co-founders of Camel's Back Construction. Together they have constructed more than fifty straw bale houses and structures. They have taught strawbale classes in several countries.

More Straw Bale Building    $33.00    Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Straw Bale Details
A Manual for Designers and Builders
by Chris Magwood & Chris Walker

      Straw Bale Details is the perfect companion for those who are serious about building with straw. There isn't a lot of text in the book, just high-quality drawings detailing how all the parts fit together in a straw bale house.

      It focuses entirely on the specific design theories and practices that result in well-built, long-lasting bale structures, and extends the range of books like Straw Bale Building through large, easy-to-read architectural drawings rendered for a wide variety of building options, including load-bearing and post-and-beam designs. A range of foundation, wall, door and window, and roof-plate scenarios are presented, along with explanatory notes and possible modifications. Also included is testing data from the most recent rounds of bale wall exploration, and interpretations of the data are given to help base designer and builder decisions on sound science.

      Chapters include: Foundations & Floors; Curb Rails; Walls; Openings; Top Plates; Pre-Stressing; Roofs; Wall Mounting, Electrical & Plumbing Systems; as well as sections on Key Scientific Test Results; Building Code Provisions; Bale Basics; Plasters & Finishes; and a Bibliography.

Straw Bale Details    $33.00    Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Buildings of Earth and Straw
Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw-Bale Architecture
by Bruce King, P.E.

      There are many other excellent books on strawbale and rammed earth construction to help guide the novice builder down the path to building the house of their dreams. Buildings of Earth and Straw is intended more as a companion to the other guides, rather than a competitor. Author Bruce King has tackled the engineering side of working with earth and straw building materials to create a common language for builders, architects, and building inspectors. With this book as your guide, you can build a strawbale or rammed earth house in a way that is truly structurally sound and you can provide the building inspector with the engineering data to back it up.

      Although parts of the book will require an engineering background to understand it, most of the content is accessible to the lay person, and King makes even the mundane engineering interesting, and at times, humorous. This book is truly essential for anyone building a strawbale or rammed earth house in places where building codes are enforced. In places where building codes do not exist, this book is still highly recommended, to insure that you build a safe and stable structure.

Buildings of Earth and Straw    $25.00    Quantity:

-Please scroll down the page for the "Add to Order" button.-

Strawbale Home-Builder's Dreampack!
-Be informed before you build.-
Cost: $149.00 (Save $32.00)
-This package counts as 6 items for calculating postage.-

Package includes:

Strawbale Home-Builder's Dreampack (6 books--Save $32)    $149.00    Quantity:

See also Strawbale Home Design Books
Strawbale Construction DVDs
Adobe / Strawbale


PO Box 684
Silver Star, MT 59751

How to Place Retail Orders

      Order On-Line: Order on-line with your Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express. Simply click on the links to learn more about each product and enter the quantity you want in the little white boxes, then click the "Add to Order" button. You will be transferred to our secure payment service for the final check-out. We also accept PayPal payments. Please Click Here for PayPal instructions.

      Order by mail or telephone: We accept checks and money orders payable in US dollars. Please use the on-line shopping basket to tally your order. Click the "Pay for Order On-line" button to calculate the postage, then print or copy the information and call or send it to us at the address above.

Shipping Options
USA Customers
We ship all USA orders via USPS Priority Mail, except as otherwise noted on the website. Express Mail shipping is available by special request.

Customers outside the USA
please click here for additional
shipping information.

Granny's Country Store
Home-Building Resources | Holistic/Sustainable Living
Wilderness Survival | Resources for Educators
Native Skills & Culture | Nature, Wildlife, Tracking
Wildflowers and Edibles