We first began building our home in 2008 and it truly was an exercise in patience and perseverance. We took the full two years of our permit to finish it. Even then, we only just made it in time. Some of the delay was definitely due to the fact that we got married while building (AND worked, AND completed a bachelors degree). But there were a lot of unforeseen factors that have led me to give this crucial piece of house-building advice:
Expect things to go wrong.
I don’t mean this as a message of doom and despair. I merely want to prepare you for the inevitable. Then it won’t come as a shock when you wake up one day and realise you are 3 months behind schedule. You can’t physically control everything that can impact on a build. In 2009, when we were meant to be rendering, the drought broke in Victoria. This experience is one of the major reasons Micah and I recommend infill over load-bearing. The bales were up, but without the roof we couldn’t do anything. This made building our home that much more difficult. The walls got wet repeatedly and we had to wait for them to dry, only for it to rain again.
One eventful afternoon we had to take a trip to the emergency room because I got render in my eye. This was my own fault because I was wearing the cheap non-foggy safety glasses, instead of the slightly-less-cheap-but-much-foggier goggles. Please wear the safest goggles you can. Render in the eye not only takes a huge chunk of time at the hospital and then in recovery, it also jolly hurts.
Some things will just be inevitable time sinks.
If you are only building part time, then you will have to set up each day you arrive and allow time to pack up when you leave. You’ll forget a drill bit and it’s the exact one you need that day (because of course it is), and you’ll have to make a trip to the hardware store. Then you finally get back onsite and you’re ready to work, but you’ve run out of filler foam.
I know, because I’ve been there.
Then there’s the tourists. When you build a straw bale home, people are going to interrupt you. It’s interesting and people just want to know everything about it. If you have the time and coffee to spare, it’s a fantastic way to get to know your neighbours. Even animal tourists can slow you down! We once lost an entire morning’s work because a neighbourhood dog paid us a visit. Of course we had to stop and give the good boy some pats. Another time, during our extension build, a particularly mean sheep turned up and we had to shelter inside our house (I had attempted to give said sheep some water, but it headbutted me into a wall. I no longer trust sheep.)
While all these things certainly made building our home take longer, they all make up the narrative of our house. They’re the things I tell my children, who were born here. The things that went wrong, that took up time, or that made me feel inexplicably frustrated in the heat of the moment, always make for the best stories.
Anybody who builds their own straw bale house will have their own unique narrative to tell and these stories, much like our homes, will live on after us.