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Alternative Building methods - Bales

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Alternative Building methods - Bales

Post by assassin on Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:49 pm

Bales are becoming popular as a building material for houses and even local pereived authorities are accepting them as an acceptable building method, they are cheap and easily erected with few skills and are thermally efficient meaning no to little heat is needed to keep them warm, and that little heat needed uses very few resources and can be totally sustainable.

Bale construction needs to be done on a platform as they cannot be sat on the ground as they rot when wet so many people construct them on a wooden platform sat on mini piles which gives a cavity under the floor which can be boarded out and the cavity can be infilled with insulation for an insulated floor to conserve even more heat, bales usually overhang the floor so no rain can sit on the floor and seep under the bales, and by overhanging the platform, any water drips straight off the bales and onto the ground.
Bales usually sit on a waterproof membrane which turns up on the outside and inside and is pinned to the bottom bale to prevent any water getting under them and this membrane can be anything which is waterproof, from there you set any door openings and their frames in the correct position and set your bales, you overlap them by cutting one in half and you overlap each level by half as you build your stack, as you build each layer you pin the bales using hardwood sticks to secure them to the bale below them.

When you encounter a window reveal you can install a wooden frame and build up to it and along its sides, you pin the frame to the bales by drilling the frame and using wooden or metal spikes knocked through the frame and into the surrounding bales, you then place a heavy wooden hardwood lintel over the top of any window frame to support the bales on top of it, often you will use a lintel on the inside and one on the outside. With your walls complete you set a ringbeam around the top of the bale structure, a ringbeam is a solid ring of laminated boards or a ring of steel, and these are pinned through them and into the top bales to form a solid structure and something to support the roof structure on, and something to attach it too if you use a lightweight roof so it doesn't blow off in high winds.

You need to protect the outside of your bale walls to protect it from the weather, especially the rain as moisture rots the bales and you render the outside of the bales with anything, wet clay, lime mortar, concrete based renders, and even commercially available sprayed on synthetic renders can be sprayed directly onto the bales due to their texture being rough, but you do need to whip off any stray bits of straw sticking out so the bales have total coverage, and you need to install your drip detail at the bottom of the bales and cover this at least partially with render.

On the inside you can use a traditional plaster, lime based plaster, or any form of finish of your choosing to cover your internal walls.

Pros and Cons of bales

Cons include having to have surface mounted pipework and electrics for ease of installation, but there is a way around this by cutting slots into your bales and using plastic sleeving which is solvent welded you can run wiring safely inside your walls and for water you can use the potable water rated convoluted hose with the correct fittings for any sinks, baths, or showers. You have to be aware of the wildlife setting up home in your bales during the construction phase as mice are particularly attracted to bales as homes and once you have rendered the outside and plastered inside your bale home they only have one way out which is to eat theyr way through your render or plaster.
Pros include the high thermal values, cheap initial costs, readily accessible sources of bales, rapid and simple construction, and the total lack of skills required to build a bale house.

How do you cut bales? simple, use a sharp chainsaw as you can cut and shape bales very efficiently, want rounded window reveals? shave the corners of the bales to your desired rounded finish before plastering.

What about internal walls? you can use stud walls for dividing walls or you can use bale walls if you dont mind the loss of space, with an internal wall you can tie them into the external walls during the construction of the outside walls for more structural integrity.
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