At Top, Billy Sappenfield, contemplates the second floor of the home he and his family are building in southeast Keyes. The Sappenfields’ new home will be contructed using straw bales. When completed, the two story home will have about 5,000 square feet on two stories.





Billy and Debbie Sappenfield, along with their children, are building a unique home and, while it’s energy conserving it really isn’t green, it’s more….brown.

The Sappenfields, of Keyes, are constructing a home with hay bales.

It’s a construction mode Billy said he’d been contemplating for years.

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He began with research in such magazines as the Mother Earth News and graduated to the Internet.

“With the way our world is going I wanted to show my kids you can have something nice, something good, for not a lot of money,” he explained.

Sappenfield plans to have about $20,000 invested in his home when it is completed with not quite 5,000 square feet on two stories.

He has no blueprints, and he and his family have baled their own straw, cast off from local farmers in their wheat fields.

The walls when completed and stuccoed inside and out, will be 18 inches thick and the home will carry an R-factor of 60, making it well insulated.

“If I can keep the heating and cooling bills under $100 a month, I’ll be pleased. But I’m hoping for much better. There is a home in New Mexico built like this that heats and cools for $77 a year.”

The bales sit on a concrete footing and the sewer and water pipes have been installed and buried.

Sappenfield estimates he will have used 1,300 bales upon completion of the family’s new home.

Above, Monti Sappenfield, 12, looks through one of the north facing windows, in her family’s new home being built in Southeast Keyes. Below, is an inside view looking southwest from what will be the master bedroom through the dining room into the den. The home measures 90 feet across the back. the posts have been set to support the second floor.
The bales are held together by metal strapping, as they settle and before the bales are stuccoed, Sappenfield will cut loose straps and tighten them.


The electrical wiring runs between the bales.

There will be 93 trusses holding up the roof, Sappenfield got an estimate of $120 per truss; he built a jig and the family built the trusses for $22 each.

The interior walls will be conventional.

Sappenfield said that several have been concerned about the building burning.

“In California, they give an insurance discount for homes built with hay. When you have a frame home you have a built in chimney every 16 inches. With this design there is very little air, so it’s hard for it to burn,” Sappenfield said.

When the stucco is about to be applied, it will be Debbie’s job to visualize where she wants pictures, mirrors, etc. to hang on the walls.

“She’ll have to decide then we’ll put wood up where pictures will hang and stucco over it,” Sappenfield said.

As the house comes together and it comes time for a floor on the first level, Sappenfield has decided on an adobe floor, sealed with linseed oil.

“I’ll mix sand and caliche, in a five to one mix, probably add some straw and till it together. I’ll smooth it as a base at about three inches and when it dries add another inch and seal it with linseed oil,” he explained.

For the second level he’ll start with 2x12s, and make a wooden floor.

His daughter Monti is concerned that her father’s design has no doors on the second floor bedrooms.

“But I think she’s begun to understand that she’ll have to come to the landing and rail before she can be seen. I designed it that way because I want the kids to be able to enjoy the openness,” he said.

“But there’s no door,” Monti reiterated. “I’ll probably hang a curtain.”

The home can be seen one block east and one south of the Keyes Post Office.


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