This article originally appeared in issue #50, 2005
by Joyce Coppinger – Nebraska, USA
Tips about Bales
Why wait until you have the framing done and the roof on before finding your bales. Find your bales during the planning process and well before you begin construction. Knowing the size of the bales before you design the building will help you determine wall spans and wall heights, perhaps saving some of the cutting and retying of the bales, and can help you decide how to stack the bales flat or on edge. Placement of windows and doors may be easier to determine. You will even have time to select the best bales to use, eliminating those that might have weeds and seeds, signs of moisture or mildew, or aren’t shaped or tied well. For help in finding and buying your bales, try these web sites:
www.strawlocator.com – At this web site, you can list the specifications for the bales you need for your project, and you can search the listings of bale suppliers.
www.hayexchange.com – Remember “hay” is not “straw” when searching this web site.
The article titled Bale Wisdom-Bale Buying 101 lists 20 tips for buying your bales, information on bale orientation, bale storage and handling bales.
When you know the size of the bales in the design process, you can calculate wall heights so that you have full bales in each course, eliminating the need to fill flakes and cakes at the top of the wall. You can also calculate the placement of windows and doors so they fit readily into the bale courses as they are stacked and/or the framing for the windows can be spaced so a full bale fits under and above the windows and above the doors.
Trimming the bales to eliminate the bent or folded (rounded) ends will give you a rectangular unit to work with. All sides of the bale will have cut stems and, when the bales are stacked, will lock together bettertop, bottom and sides. The triangular hole between bales that occurs when bales are not cut will be eliminated, so you won’t have to stuff as much loose straw or light straw/clay fill between the bales and bale courses. (See Tech Tip, pg 23)