For most people, considering a straw bale home often brings up a lot of questions. Here are some of the common questions we receive. If there's anything else you'd like to know, please get in touch.
Where are you based?
Our headquarters are located in Scone in the beautiful Upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales. We're an easy two hour drive from Newcastle.
What areas do you service?
Relia-Bale Constructions (RBC) works with owner-builders throughout the Hunter and Upper Hunter, Central West, North Western, New England and most areas north of Sydney. If we can't get there we will recommend some one who can!
If you could benefit from phone or Skype mentoring and support as you design and construct building yourself, then we can support you with that, wherever you are located around Australia.
What experience do you have with owner builders?
RBC has been working with owner-builders for nearly 20 years, we believe everyone has the right to build their own house and we love helping people achieve their most important goal.
Are you licensed builders?
As the director of the company Pete Sim holds a current Contractors license for carpentry/joinery and also a Supervisor's qualification. All staff hold trade certificates or are currently at TAFE gaining their trade. At RBC our goal is to train and assist our team to gain all the necessary qualifications and licenses.
Do you have all the necessary insurances?
Being a Proprietary Limited company, RBC, through its parent company Reliable Renovations Pty Ltd, holds all the statutory insurances necessary to maintain its license and operate.
Why (and when) would a I choose strawbale over conventional building?
This is an extremely important question. The honest answer is that the modern brick veneer home is a poor performer! It's hot in summer and cold in winter, materials used are unsustainable and have a large energy foot print. The finishes are detrimental to the occupants' health and the costs of energy to keep you comfortable are becoming excessive. Most builders and developers have no idea of 'solar passive' design or perhaps they choose to focus on the almighty bottom line - profit.
As straw bale builders, we have your best interests in mind, we'll use certified sustainable and healthy products, introduce you to solar passive theories and practices to enhance your life style and ease the burden of the running costs of you dream home.
I hear that the insulation properties of straw are good. Is that true?
Yes. RBC is confident in quoting you up to R12, which is way ahead of a conventional building. The cost to gain the levels that we quote, in ordinary building costs, would be prohibitive. Of course, that's just the walls. The remainder of the building has to perform as well. RBC can advise you on this.
What sort of straw do you use?
We use mostly wheaten straw as it's grown in most areas and is abundant in most good seasons. Rice straw is particularly good to use but is grown further south of us which means more freight and a bigger footprint. As long as the straw is cut long, little to no head (grain), baled tight and consistently for length and weight most cereal crops are ok.
Is it waterproof?
Yes, of course! Once you apply the lime coats to the external walls you're protected and a water based sealer is added for extra protection. RBC buildings are high performers in all types of weather. This all comes down to design and the finishes used.
Do you use cement render?
No, we avoid modern day cement based renders, they are high water absorbers which won't let your building breathe and ultimately rot your straw. RBC use traditional natural lime-based renders with a small percentage of off-white cement (no more than 10%) added to speed up the process and give a better structural integrity while maintaining the breathability of your home.
What are the health benefits?
The lime used is a natural steriliser. The breathability of the walls helps keep the humidity inside the house constant which ultimately aids your health. The introduction of other organic finishes will also keep respiratory ailments associated with toxic conventional house finishes to a minimum.
What about mice?
When walls are rendered quickly there is no mice problem. However, if you have a problem, any infestation will be quickly taken care of once you seal all the walls.
What about fire?
When it comes to fire resistance, straw bale homes are better than most buildings, they are fire rated to BAL29 and in the process of gaining BAL40 (Ausbale).
Is it expensive?
No, it's comparable to any architecturally designed house and will save you money down the track in terms of heating, cooling and your health!