Straw Bale House: In Anticipation of Construction

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There has not been a lot of anticipation growing this winter from friends, family and ninjas alike for the groundbreaking of the straw bale house. My dad has started receiving construction drawings and will be breaking ground officially in April. He is going to build the garage, which is not going to be made with a straw bale frame, first thing so that he can live in it while he builds the main house. More news to come on the dates for stacking the straw bale frame. While I was at my sister’s in Albuquerque for Christmas we took a trip out to the site and I got a few photos.

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In the meantime, I have been meaning to post some valuable advice on building your own home from seasoned MNP friend Jennifer over at Offbeat Homes. Jennifer actually built her own eco home in the East Mountains of New Mexico, not far from the site of my parent’s house. She had a bit of a love/hate experience with building her home, and thus, compiled two lists: 10 Reasons Why Building Your Own Home Sucks and 10 Reasons Why Building Your Own Home Rocks (in that order). Here are the abbreviated lists, but please do go check her out. I’m going to go with the good list first, to keep things optimistic:

10 Reasons Why Building Your Own Home Rocks

1. You feel extremely strong: Home building pushes you to the limits of what you can accomplish in a purely physical sense.
2. You will learn from doing: I was always into design and building but you can read about building techniques all year long; it’s only when you actually have to put the techniques into action that you get a real feel for what can and should be accomplished in building practices.
3. You get to create something from scratch: This applies even more if you design and build.
4. What you learn from mistakes is invaluable: Number 3 (above) brings up the decisions you make. Some of these decisions may be crazy stupid but the good part is you will never, ever make the same mistakes twice.
5. You gain handy lifelong skills: I could barely hammer a nail when we started the house. Now you would not believe the things I can fix, the tools I can use, and the things I know about home building.
6. You can impress people: I’ve had people tell me that they loved aspects of the house which is cool but the best person I impressed was my son Cedar.
7. House building is great for kids: Obviously if you don’t have kids you won’t care. If you do have kids they will love the whole process. Cedar spent long days at the house site. We let him nail boards, carry items, paint, and clear land. He always wanted to help.
8. You can save and make money: This really depends. On the positive side we got our land super cheap, did most of the work ourselves or bartered for help, built in a choice area, and were able to choose cost effective materials. The negatives were that we went WAY over our original time line and failed to plan which ran costs up again.
9. You can make an eco-difference: You can renovate green or build green.
10. It’s fun: It took me a bit to think of a number 10. Sometimes it is fun. you can take a group of friends out and chat while you paint or go have a sleep over in the unfinished rooms. Depending on where you build you can see and enjoy wildlife like deer, birds, and snakes. (NOT spiders).

10 Reasons Why Building Your Own Home Sucks

1. SPIDERS! Big ones, little ones, and all of them wicked scary. Not to mention we built up on a mountain in New Mexico so you just know there were tarantulas around. In fact, a friend of mine who lived on a plot of land down the road caught one. Shiver.
2. It’s the slowest process known to man. Does it have to be? Why, no and maybe someday I’ll tell you how to cut building time. But in this case it’s just going to stand alone as a negative.
3. Clearing and leveling: What you may not know if you’ve never built a house is that you have to move all the trees (obviously) but you also have to make sure your land is flat and free of rocks for the foundation. We had no idea going in that rocks the size of boulders hidden in the earth would be such a problem.
4. Hidden costs: There are maybe 618 hidden costs when you build your own house. Is that number accurate? I can’t say for sure but it does feel like I estimated a little low.
5. Unorganized people don’t know what they’re doing when. If you aren’t organized please, please hire someone who is to do all the planning for your house. We constantly fell behind schedule because something was forgotten or not taken care of when it should have been.
6. No bathroom: I do not want to pee outside with the scary spiders.
7. Your hands go to hell: You can wear gloves. In fact I hear that’s a popular choice among home builders. But I don’t like them. I always felt like I wasn’t sure where my hand was exactly and it feels slippery.
8. Child labor: It’s against the law and sad to see! Just kidding.
9. Weather extremes: It’s New Mexico. There’s no a gentle spring or a crisp fall. There are basically three weather patterns in Edgewood, NM. Boiling hot, freezing cold, or windy enough to blow a car away. The wind will occur in both hot or cold weather.
10. You can almost go blind: On the roof! Remember the afore mentioned wind that will blow a car away. We were on a deadline and decided that even though we were having heavy winds we’d go ahead and get the roof papered. In retrospect; bad, bad idea…In the late afternoon our work came to a screeching halt when a huge gust of wind blows sand completely under my goggles (great safety goggles) and into my eyes.

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One thought on “Straw Bale House: In Anticipation of Construction

  1. Thanks for the links! And for posting land photos. Your land looks a lot like ours when we started. We had tons of huge rocks to dig out before we could lay the foundation – hopefully you won’t. But beautiful site, the trees are great. We moved a bunch of our Cedars and replanted what we could. I’m looking forward to seeing another’s process of building on the same sort of landscape. What’s double odd is that my partner’s dad helped us a lot too. He got all buff. :) Good luck.

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