Once the foundations were in place, and the wall plates were ready, I raised the walls in one weekend. I bought 100 straw bales from a straw supplier in August and had them stored in Brecon over the very wet winter!
In the end, my building used about 80 straw bales, though the spare 20 bales came in handy for packing and insulating areas of the building. They are also excellent when used as scaffolding – building up a pile of bales to stand on – for things like roof installation and plastering the top of the walls.
I made a lot of mistakes with the straw bale wall raising. The building would look a lot different if I were to built it again.
Stakes / Wall Plate Preparation
My research into straw bale informed me that stakes in a wall are, in the long run, not structurally important, so I didn’t plan to have in them in the walls. However, they are very handy to have to help with construction. Especially if you have curved walls!!
During the wall raising, we had to delay the construction so that we could install small stakes in the bottom wall plate to help hold the first course of bales. This made a massive difference. We also staked the walls every three bales to add a bit of stability, which, again made it a lot easier working on the later bales.
One of the volunteers took a bit of time out to make this awesome straw bale persuader which was fantastic to ram the bales into place. 2 lengths of 4″x2″ wood screwed together and hammered onto a stick recovered from the ground behind the building. The tool has received lots of use since for many tasks!!
I bought a gripple and high tensile wire to wrap around the walls and get some compression on the wall. At the top and bottom, where the wire wrapped around the wall plates, I used some garden hose to protect the wood from the wire. The difference in stability once the walls were compressed was incredible. Most of the wires were flush with the walls so I could then plaster them into the walls.