Straw is supplied in a variety of shapes and sizes from the large jumbos bales, which are handled mechanically with a fork lift or similar, to the smaller 2 string configuration, which are the most common size used in Australia for house construction. (for more information on the bale sizes available, click here)
The two string units are quite easily handled, weighing approximately 16 to 20 kg. The quantity required will vary from house to house depending obviously on the size of the house and the number and size of the windows. On average, it would appear that most houses would have 300 to 500. My home in Heathcote Victoria Australia is a two story residence of about 22 squares and required 520. The normal semi trailer will carry 500 to 520. It is imperative that appropriate clothing be worn when unloading the truck, as the fibers of the straw are quite sharp. Heavy weight pants and long sleeve shirts are often difficult to tolerate in the heat of summer, however they are essential to prevent injury from the sharp fibers. When growing up on the farm, shifting and stacking straw and hay was a common practice, and we had special pants with leather patches sewn to the front of our pants covering the upper leg to reduce the grazing on the leg and to extend the life of the pants. Many people choose to wear gloves when handling straw, particularly when unloading them, as the twine that securing them will tend to cut into your hands, particularly after you have handled a hundred or more.
One of the more common questions I am asked is “can any straw be used to build a straw house?” The answer is not quite as cut and dried as it might first seem, as there are many factors that make up a bale which is ideal for use in the construction of a straw-bale-house. It is possible to purchase useable straw from the local farmer, and sometimes at an extremely good price, however care must be taken when checking the straw. Be clear when specifying your requirements to the farmer if he has not yet cut and baled the straw, which is often the case when acquiring straw in December and January. To simply find an add that says straw for sale is not necessarily the solution. (for more information on straw requirements for straw bale construction click here)
Where to buy straw is difficult to advise, as there are a number of factors to consider when purchasing them. If you are able to find a supplier who is willing to supply you specifically for home building you will eliminate many of the difficulties faced when trying to source the required materials.