Straw bale Construction in Missouri -- Come again?

Services for Real Estate Pros with Bar JD Communications


 strawYes, we did -- if this graphic  is any examplestraw house of the structure selected. Straw or hay construction is not a new concept. In this country, it was an idea born of necessity. People were moving to the midwest to settle in the plains -- settle meaning they needed appurtenances to the homestead to provide shelter from the elements. In the plains, there wasn't adequate timber to build wood structures. In some midwest areas the black soil and clay soil made blocks of sod or dug out of a hillside as a manmade cave. In the sandy soils of Nebraska, these options were difficult to use.

But, innovation came with another innovation for the agricultural settlers of the plains. That wonderful tool was the stationary baler. (photo of stationary baler)  Today, balers are pulled behind tractors with the bales being dropped on the ground. The first balers just did the baling. With a picture of the threshing machine in the mind's eye of the engineers, the first balers were powered using huge belts connecting them to a power unit which didn't move around easily. Thus, the term stationary. With the further advancement of engines in tractors to become mobile power units, grain was separated from husk using a combine and balers were developed to utilize the tractor. (There, you have your little agricultural lesson for the day) I can barely remember corn shocks in my dad's fields from which he husked the corn the hard way and had at least one run-in with a mouse which had set up housekeeping in the little stack of corn stocks (shock) but which rapidly moved up his pants leg. Dad shed his pants right there in the Iowa November Cornfield!  mouse





Richard likes to estrapolate on the first straw bale home. He says, "I can just picture some Nebraska settler cramming the hay into the baler and turning out the blocks of feed that will make the difference of livesstock food source for the winter. While he's doing that, his wife is busy cutting blocks of sod that aren't good sod, but prairie grass rooted in exceptionally sandy soil. Probably lots of cutting for few blocks. When she took a break from her labors to take a bucket of water to the fields, she would have seen the fine stack of hay BRICKS sitting there so invitingly. The rest is history."   massiveMassive Wall thickness shows the quiet beauty and strength of a sound structure.

Some of the straw or hay structures from the 19th Century are still in use in Nebraska and other parts of the country.    straw bale This house was may have been built in 1899 and is still occupied.  You can see more photos of Nebraska straw/hay structures at the Straw Bale Association of Nebraska  THE LAST STRAW  has a registry of straw bale structures and other information about building with straw.

straw baleOften, straw bale construction appeals to do-it-yourselfers, people who enjoy using 'found' materials. In the Missouri project, the houses can be built using some "found" materials, but the building codes have to be followed. This is kind of a turn-off for some folks. Richard says at first he was a little reluctant to be 'regulated' about building too. But, he has obtained the code books and really feels that the majority of the code is just common sense. Some of us just need to have it spelled out.

At the present time, there are no applicants planning to build within a town's limits. The city of Ava, Missouri would likely the the only choice involving codes. The building inspector there has told Richard that one building method would be acceptable because it involves framing, but a structure without adequate framing wouldn't meet the codes being used by Ava. Not that the unframed structure might be fine, but the city would have to spend time to adopt a new code and this would be detrimental to the building progress. Future posts post will cover the different methods of construction with pros and cons.

A straw bale house doesn't have specific design demands. The application can be used with any design, but builders need to allow for the much thicker walls which cuts the interior square footage. There are some limitations in height when not using a framing method. Straw bale additions are not an outrageous possibility.

Real estate people can be involved to help establish a value base. The banking and insurance industry has a challenge when searching for comparables because people don't build straw bale houses to sell. Structures that will survive elements for many useful years are an important factor to us, personally. As former real estate agents, we don't like to have to market property without quality and substantial structure.

Stay tuned for more!  You can 'read ahead' with the resouces listed at Cardinal Bluff which follows this project.

Comments (28)

Roberta Murphy
San Diego Previews Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad Real Estate and Homes
JudyAnn: Thanks so much for your terrific post. I am thinking the insulation factor would be pretty high.
May 06, 2007 03:26 AM
Laura Monroe
Inman News - San Francisco, CA
Dir. of Industry Engagement & Social Media

Judy~ There is that wisdom again;) Ooohh I love it. I have learned one more lesson from you. Growing up in Arizona it was all about Native American culture (wonderful and amazing by the way)

It just made me think about  of the technology from the good old days, and use of resources. If we ever had to make use of resources again like that, would we survive?

Congrats on the Gold Star! I'm a tomato.....

May 06, 2007 03:31 AM
JudyAnn Lorenz
Bar JD Communications - Mansfield, MO
Virtual Marketing Consultant

Roberta - The R factor on the walls is 'voer the top"  GOOD

Laura - Straw bale construction is particularly successful in the Southwest.  We have found some dazzling photos and moving stories.  Thank you for the encourgament

Tomatoes are PEACHY

May 06, 2007 05:51 AM
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
Judy, Strawbales are one of the things that got me interested in getting my Ecobroker Cert. I even went to the regional building department to get addresses on some. The more you learn about them the more interesting they get. We have a company in Southern Colorado that does high end strawbales that are amazing.
May 06, 2007 05:54 AM
JudyAnn Lorenz
Bar JD Communications - Mansfield, MO
Virtual Marketing Consultant

Unless built with 'found' things, strawbale housing is not CHEAPER to construct, but, more about that later.

May 06, 2007 06:05 AM


I am looking forward to your next installment about how much it costs to build straw bale. I thought it might be less expensive than stick-built (??)

May 06, 2007 06:16 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Judy Ann:

What, if any, maintenance issues do straw bale houses have? Very informative post. I do belive that we have some folks down in in Western North Carolina doing some straw bale homes as well. Will have to check it out further.

May 06, 2007 08:10 AM
JudyAnn Lorenz
Bar JD Communications - Mansfield, MO
Virtual Marketing Consultant
Bill, I will be covering the maintenance topics in future posts.  Please do check on any homes you can look at.  The owners will be proud to show you how they work.
May 06, 2007 10:28 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Thanks, look forward to your next post!

May 06, 2007 12:44 PM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!
JudyAnn...Congrat on a great article and a gold star! I learned something! How fun to "find things" to build your house with!!!
May 06, 2007 03:53 PM
Melissa Kruse
Gryphon - Lewis Center, OH
This was very interesting to read. We used straw to insulate an apartment building here in Columbus, temporaily last winter. It worked very well
May 07, 2007 12:16 AM
Tricia Jumonville
Bradfield Properties - Georgetown, TX
Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense

The parents of my daughter's best friend in elementary school (and teachers at her Waldorf School) built a straw bale house, over time, using "found" labor.  There's a group of people here who will help you build your straw bale house (if you help others), as a way of getting the word out. 

It's a lovely home, and I understand the utilities are quite low.  Fits well in its environment, as well, something that always appeals greatly to me. 

May 07, 2007 02:17 AM
JudyAnn Lorenz
Bar JD Communications - Mansfield, MO
Virtual Marketing Consultant

Neighborhood labor and contribution has been part of the fun for 'green' construction for many years, with all sorts of construction types.

Strawbale construction seems to attract a party!

May 09, 2007 02:33 AM
Michael I. Pulskamp
Mainstreet Brokers - Jackson, CA
REALTOR, EcoBroker, GREEN Desingnee
Great post, I want to help push this and other alternative/green building systems. I am a member of CASBA California Straw-bale Builders' Association and have had the joy of working on a few projects. I can attest to the great fun and warm friendships that develop in doing these things. Something deep in us is kindled when we come together to build, especially a home, and to add the ecological benefits that straw bale building offers redoubles that feeling. Have you participated in a building project yet?
Sep 05, 2007 06:18 AM
JudyAnn Lorenz
Bar JD Communications - Mansfield, MO
Virtual Marketing Consultant

Michael, no we haven't.  The initiative is still in the process of getting things lined up for the applicants. 

Your projects sound great; the 'barnraising' aspect of having people work together.  I know that when Richard gets started on his own project, he's going to want to be very hands-on, but will appreciate the connection of having a building party.

Sep 05, 2007 02:39 PM
Billnulls Blog Florida Realty Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
This web site provides so much educational material; I really love it!!!! Wonderful post!!!
Sep 06, 2007 02:30 AM
Michael I. Pulskamp
Mainstreet Brokers - Jackson, CA
REALTOR, EcoBroker, GREEN Desingnee
  • JudyAnn, Feel free to call or email me with any questions of thoughts that come up, I'd love to help!

Sep 06, 2007 03:05 AM
J. Marzolf

I am trying to build a straw bale structure here in missouri. I am having a problem finding a source of bales. Any helpful hints?

Jul 27, 2010 01:31 PM
Richard Morrison Vancouver Homes
RA Realty Alliance - Vancouver, BC
Vancouver realtor

I am trying to help a client to buy a straw home in Vancouver BC Canada. Any advice? 

Nov 03, 2018 02:58 PM
JudyAnn Lorenz
Bar JD Communications - Mansfield, MO
Virtual Marketing Consultant

Richard, as with any structure, have your client do due diligence. We recommend lots of research..there are good books and a huge amount of internet information.  But being informed about the strawbale process isn't enough. This is only one structure and they have to be sure it is working in a way that will make them the home they want.  Knowing what they are getting into is part of it. 

While we are enthusiastic about the strawbale process, not all structures are equal  We watched a series on TV for building them and found the process seriously flawed. We've seen homes that were working properly for the straw part, but  a ventless gas heater in the house, kept too much humidity inside, rotting windows and requiring replacement in about 10 years.  That is only one little thing.   

IF they find their dream home is functioning effectively I hope they can get it and enjoy it for many years to come. 

Nov 05, 2018 05:17 AM