Although straw bale houses don’t need a frame, frameless straw bale houses are not usually built more than one story high because of concerns about the stability of high, weight-bearing walls. A frame enabled us to build a multistory house, leaving a smaller footprint on the land, requiring less roofing material, and allowing us to take advantage of rising heat.
Our frame is made of hemlock that was cut and milled locally. The waste wood from producing the frame was used to make the rough-board for the sub-floor. The floors are made of locally cut and milled pine which has gotten pretty scuffed up over the years but is a tried and true local material. Although maple is more expensive, we chose it for our stairs because it is a hard, durable wood that could withstand the heavy use we knew our staircase would get.
In our new building, we used the same timber framer, Dan MacArthur, as on our original house, and the same wood, locally cut and milled hemlock, for the frame. Our floors, as yet unfinished, will be made from locally cut and milled ash as will the stairs and some of the walls. Some other walls will be made of locally cut and milled pine, as will much of the trim. The flooring and trim wood for our new building comes mainly from Steve Smith who milled the timbers for our first house. In this way we have been able to keep a sense of continuity between the two buildings, they are “related” to each other in a way that rarely happens in the modern age.
Living in Vermont gives us the opportunity to work with local mills and local woods. We enjoy knowing the people who have handled the wood that goes into our buildings. Each piece of the building has a name and face attached and we would not trade that for anything.