a Wall-Raising Party!: The wall-raising is one of
the highlights of building a straw bale house. There
are many long, lonely, hard-working days when you decide
to do the labor yourself or even partly by yourself,
so to me it was great fun when party-day arrived. Strangers
arrive, ready to help you build your house for free
(and lunch, please)! To me, it was a real warm fuzzy
to realize that people do still help each other for
the joy of helping. As with any party, it took lots
of preparation however. Here are some tips:
You will need a party-planner - someone who is familiar
with straw bale building (perhaps your consultant) who
can organize everyone and make sure you get the most
out of their time. You will also need volunteers. Put
a flyer up at any organization you belong to: church,
school, work, etc. If you don't get enough people from
that, then put a flyer at health food stores. Make it
eye-catching with a photo and make it sound like fun
and education. This really is a rare opportunity for
people interested in natural building to learn about
it and see a house in progress - for free! And of course,
make a Facebook event for all your friends to see and
sign up for!
volunteer wants to arrive and find that nobody really
knows what they want him or her to do, so their
time is wasted. The funny thing is that people (me
included) who want to build straw bale houses often
study how to raise the walls and yet, you really
don't need to know much about this because your
party planner is the one who will guide it. But
it's always good to know what you are doing, so
you can make the big decisions on what should be
done. You are going to be gathering 30-50 people
and you will be busy helping them all find the restrooms,
find water, gathering supplies as they run out,
and answering questions.
me, you won't have time to also organize the labor
teams, so pay the fee to have someone come and organize
the work. To find a consultant in your area, try
looking at the directory on greenbuilder.com: directory.greenbuilder.com
The builder will organize your party into wall teams,
so you have a group for each wall and a wall-captain
to watch the work and make sure it is staying straight.
Actually, each captain should have one corner, plus
one wall to guide. The corners are the most important.
These people will all be new to the job, so they
need a guide who is not distracted by kids that
need to go to the bathroom. =) Plus, your builder
may be able to help you get scaffolds (which you
will need ) and even a loader tractor - bales fit
very neatly into a loader and can be raised to the
upper levels of a wall.
of the first things you'll need to do is get some graph
paper and draw out each of the walls of your house.
Measure your bales and turn the little squares on the
graph paper into bales, so you have an exact measure
of how each of your walls will be put together, plus
an understanding of smaller bales you'll need to make
to fit around your windows and doors. On this diagram,
notice where you will be putting the frames for your
windows and doors, so the wall-raising teams will know
exactly when to pause and insert them. Believe me, it's
easy to stack up a wall and suddenly realize you forgot
the window! Plus, you want all your windows to be at
equal height. It looks very funny, if a house has high
and low windows along a wall. So, you want to be sure
everyone knows exactly what their wall should look like.
The wall captain will need this diagram to refer to
and use as a guide.
you have your diagram, check in with your builder and
find out what other items you need for the wall-raising.
I needed 3 foot lengths of all-thread. They had to be
four feet apart, so we had to know exactly where they
would go in each wall. They fastened to j-bolts in the
stemwall, so we had to be prepared for this as we did
the foundation. I also needed lots of rebar, so I had
to order that and have it laying in piles by each wall.
You don't want to make one wall team walk around the
house to get their supplies, so everything they need
should be lying in neat piles at each corner of the
house or each wall. You may need mallets or pounders
of some sort, plus rebar caps to put on top of the rebar
as you pound it into your walls. Or perhaps you are
using bamboo - think of everything you need to fasten
it. You may need strips of metal lath to connect the
bales to the window bucks, so they don't slip against
the wood. Some builders use large wooden spikes from
the bucks into the bales. Or maybe you are using lentels
and not bucks. At any rate, be very clear on how your
walls are going to be constructed and what you need.
My wall-raising guide was the very knowledgeable author,
a month before the wall-raising, Matts gave me a
list of supplies I would need. Then, the day before
the wall-raising, Matts came over and we laid on
some of the bales of the first course and put up
some of the all-thread. This saved time and helped
us see exactly how the bales would fit against the
size of the foundation - its really a good idea
to have your foundation be the same size as a certain
number of bales lined up. Another really helpful
thing is to make the width of your window and door
frames equal the width of a bale.
began the wall-raising with a brief talk to the
group, then dividing it into wall-teams. Then, we
gave them instruction on how to divide a large bale
into smaller bales, to fit around the windows and
doors as needed. You will need baling twine and
large needles to do this, so be sure you have those
supplies and a book that shows you how, or you get
instruction from your builder. Some groups of people
will need to be bale-dividers and others can pick
up loose straw around the site, to eliminate fire-danger.
Anyone who has asthma should be in charge of lunch,
or wear a mask.
make the corners of the house vertical, we taped
four-foot levels to 2 x 4's and had the wall captains
(or corner-captains) use them to guide the walls.
You can also build vertical corner guides or really,
it often works to step back and watch. It's usually
pretty obvious if the wall is going crooked. Your
builder shoudl have a preference on this, or again,
read a book and study the various methods. I did
have to do some adjustment work to a couple of corners
after the wall-raising, but it is a lot of work!
when you have your supplies, your trained group
of workers and captains, your lunch table filled
with a big jug of water, a couple bale-dividing
areas, some snacks and a designated person to run
out for sandwiches or pizza, a temporary bathroom
of some sort set up, the work can begin! We set
up a portable toilet with wood chips next to it
for my wall-raising. It was inside the trailer that
I moved into after the wall-raising.
a photo of my house after a day of wall-raising.
It took us a few days, but I scheduled this right
before Christmas when everyone needed to go shopping,
so the volunteers thinned after lunch. Try not to
do that. One other thing I highly recommend, is
to prepare your top plate for the wall-raising.
The top plate is very heavy and requires a group
of people to heave it up onto the top of the bales.
If you can get the walls up with enough time in
a the day left, you can ask the group to even get
your top plate in place.
is the top place in place over the straw bale walls.
In this photo, you can also see how the bales fit
around the window bucks and how the bucks had to
be the height of several bales on the outside, then
framed to fit the windows on the inside. The small
hole is for ducting - don't forget to make holes
for anything like that, also. You can see where
the all-thread comes through the top plate. That
comes all the way from the foundation.
I hope this gives you an overview of how to get your
walls up and even though you will have an expert to
guide you, and even though you may do very little of
this work because you'll be busy getting lunch, supplies
and answering questions, it's good to know what's going
on! Most of all, have fun! This is a very, very special
you have other questions - send me an email - email@example.com.
it Simple - and be kind!