Strawbales underground?

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Strawbales underground?

Postby pengyou » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:20 pm

Is it possible to use strawbales to build a basement? first dig the hole, pour a concrete slab, then build as I would a house, with the exception of the fact that it is 20 feet underground...yes, I want a two story basement, with the ceiling of the top story being 5 feet below ground level. Bales would be covered with more than stucco - something to make them as strong and durable as a cinberblock.
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby bashworth » Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:18 pm

No way should strawbales be used like this.

You need a properly designed reinforced concrete structure.
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby davidg » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:35 pm

pengyou wrote:Is it possible to use strawbales to build a basement? first dig the hole, pour a concrete slab, then build as I would a house, with the exception of the fact that it is 20 feet underground...yes


What is going to keep the earth out? Theres a lot of pressure (many tonnes) to deal with.
What is going to keep the moisture out? Straw loves water.
Then the lucky last question
What is going to hold up the roof/earth area thats a long way up and a lot of tonage on top.

Just few things to think of, before you consider it, if you made it water tight and self supporting first you might be able to use straw for insulatation but otherwise.............well you deep down you already know the answer. ;)
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby pengyou » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:19 pm

Yes...i thought the answer would be "no way in a coons age"..but what I was thinking about was a frame created either with pressure treated posts - telephone pole size - or steel and then strawbales covered with concrete or something water resistant. The strawbales would not be load bearing but would be partly insulation and partly decorative - to make an inner wall, as opposed to sheetrock.

This thought was the result of brainstorming to find the least expensive way to make an underground room 1 and a half stories tall with a ceiling that is about 8 feet below ground. I know that the soil conditions have a lot to do with how this might be done.
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby davidg » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:40 pm

pengyou wrote:Yes...i thought the answer would be "no way in a coons age"..but what I was thinking about was a frame created either with pressure treated posts I know that the soil conditions have a lot to do with how this might be done.

The real issue is WATER, straw really loves it, it would turn into a mould breeding ground and then it would break down. the other issues support etc are loading bearing issues, also straw must breath, which is the other main issue.

Overcome these and you can go for it. I couldn't so wound up using insulwool (fibre glass) insulation of our building, I know it not supposed to be eco friendly but sealed up in the walls it has "life of the building" properties, and is not hydoscopic, still should not get wet that can still be bad.

And in the long term embodied energy is eventually offset by longevity
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby bashworth » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:28 pm

pengyou wrote:..but what I was thinking about was a frame created either with pressure treated posts - telephone pole size - or steel and then strawbales covered with concrete or something water resistant. The strawbales would not be load bearing but would be partly insulation and partly decorative - to make an inner wall, as opposed to sheetrock.

This thought was the result of brainstorming to find the least expensive way to make an underground room 1 and a half stories tall with a ceiling that is about 8 feet below ground. I know that the soil conditions have a lot to do with how this might be done.


Most of the force on the walls will be horizontal so the walls will have to span the distance between the members of the frame. Something straw bales are totally unsuitable for.

Insulation isn't a big issue anyway at that depth the earth temperature is around 18-20 degrees all year round, unless you live in somewhere like Alaska, so minimal heating or cooling is required. That's why people in Coober Pedy live in (uninsulated) caves.
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby davidg » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:46 pm

pengyou wrote:..but what I was thinking about was a frame created either with pressure treated posts - telephone pole size - or steel and then strawbales covered with concrete or something water resistant.


Got to be completely waterproof, resistant is a total waste the water would get through, you could use wood, but again the forces involved will be immense, steel certainly. So the mantra for building underground is WATERPROOF, WATERPROOF, WATERPROOF, anything less is going to be a disaster and a health hazard, you would never get a C or O.

apart from that go for it, make sure you build into the side a big hill above any flood plain or any chance of flooding, then your in with a shot, oh and the other mantra is STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, without both there is a chance of killing someone. ;)
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby BruceM » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:21 pm

Love you to build it on my block!!!
Underground water table is about 5ft down at the end of winter!!
Ask the local roadhouse how often he changes his underground fuel storage tanks!!!
There is an underground house in Naracoorte though. Looks funny on Sundays watching him mow the roof!!!
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby Tracker » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:25 am

davidg wrote:....... So the mantra for building underground is WATERPROOF, WATERPROOF, WATERPROOF, anything less is going to be a disaster and a health hazard.

+5 for that.
How hard is it to waterproof a simple shower recess.. :idea:

Underground is likely the most difficult construction with especially waterproof concrete and then membrane barriers.

You could be better in a hillside and use a special cavity wall with drains between..

I go with the suggestion the water and hay, don't mix.. major healthy hazard and fire as a possibility.. ie. Hay Stack fires.. :oops: ... (not likely - as thin in comparison to a deep hay stack)
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Re: Strawbales underground?

Postby Gordon-Loomberah » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:45 am

Strawbale construction has a better fire rating than standard brick veneer housing. The straw (not hay!) is encased and sealed in plaster/cement, and even if cracks appear, very little Oxygen can get in to sustain the fire, you just end up with slow smoulder, rather than a raging inferno.
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