Win a copy of The Tourist Trail this week in the Writing forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Dave Burton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Greg Martin

Building with earth in North East Texas?

 
Posts: 6
Location: East Texas
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are living in N E Texas on a small lot ~ .2 acres. We are in climate Zone 3 with 1" snow and 46"(in bucketfulls) rain. The avg. summer temp is 95 and winter 35 with a few days over 100 and a few days in 20's. The lot has a slight slope 3-4 feet over 100'. We are living(camping) in a small 12 X 32 mobile home on the lot and plan on building something small in the spring and summer--our big dog is pushing for a doghouse--using the method we decide for our house to be started spring of 2016.
My husband was a master finish carpenter and journeyman framer in PNW before 15 back surgeries. He shakes his head at leaving his 90 degree sticks but is game for whatever. He has put me in charge of deciding shape and composition of our house before he figures out how. I fell in love with earthships but we're in our early 60's and tire pounding and his back didn't seem a match. I love cob as well and he says he can stomp cob with a walker but earthbag seems to be a lot less demanding. I've seen a thread that said strawbales should somehow be incorporated with the cob or earthbags in Eastern Texas.
We're thinking roundish of 20 to 25 feet with straight walls open rooms with loft bedroom. Toying with a chickenwire, rebar concrete ceiling.
Can you start with earthbags the first 3-4 feet and finish with cob to the top of walls?
Any ideas or advice?
Thanks
Cydny

 
Posts: 115
Location: Chcago IL
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Welcome to Permies:)

I'm not speaking from experience because i never worked with earth bags but my somewhat educated guess would be that putting a cob wall on top of earth bags would not provide a solid structure just for the wall itself, let along the roof.

It is a great idea that you have - building the house for yourself and i'm sure people with more knowledge/experience will chime in soon. Let me just say that i'm in the planing/research phase of building a house as well and from what i gather so far a timber frame which would take upon itself the burden of being a structure for the walls and roof would be the most solid and least labour demanding approach.
 
Cydny Jenkins
Posts: 6
Location: East Texas
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Forgot to mention--very low income.
Wood is so expensive, we're trying to use as much readily available materials as possible.
We have the clay, sand and a lot of rocks-iron ore I think- on site. And best of all no building code.
 
Posts: 120
7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Cyndy,
I love building with curvy earthbag walls and sculpted ferrocement roofs, or EB dome. But its a lot of work, and I'm half your age, and I don't have the patience for cob, and I don't have money to build with convenience materials. Yes you can use use earthbags as foundation for a cob building,with gravel bags a great choice as to not wick up moisture. And Owen always praises cylindrical roundhouses for ease of construction.
But on the other hand you have a fskilled framer husband with a construction workers back. How about rammed earth, straight walls, easily insulated? Hire a neighbor with a tractor to mix, move and dump bucket loadsinto slip forms. Could tamp with bucket or rent a tamper. I know you have great soil close by. You also have cheap limstone sifted aggregate that could be mixed with clay (tractor auger mixer anyone?). That goes quick and easy on the body. Or strawbale. Easy to roof and inhabit straight walls.. Thermal mass is awesome. If you use wood, make sure you have a good termite barrier in place down there.
I love the loft in my dome, but Do you really want to climb into a loft as you get older, carrying things up and down? Or do eb/FCfc high up in the air? I also love doing sculptural ferrocement roofs, but your husband is a framer. What about all those cedar and pine out there for the roof? Timbers and rough sawn are cheap and local. Find a local mill. Get grade 2 if you have no budget. Then he doesn't need to learn about catenary, ribs, how to plaster a ceiling, ferro lamination, structural engineering masonry roofs etc. a conventional roof shape will blend into the cultural environment better, and address your rains and shading needs easier too.
It's great that y'all won't start for a year. That gives you time to think, discuss and evolve your plans and to See what's local,ly available, what materials pop up in the paper, etc. have fun and choose something that won't wear out your backs. I've seen people your age build slooowwly because of the labor involved in natural building, but there are approaches so as not to haul buckets all night long. I think you can both design a beautiful natural home while your husband can shine framing sustainably.
And you don't have to mention the low income, this is the earthbag forum but do consider your time in a dirty cheap construction approach
Chris
 
Cydny Jenkins
Posts: 6
Location: East Texas
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Chris,
Are you talking to my husband behind my back?
I can almost hear your words mumbled under his breath when I show him pictures of cob and eb houses.
You did make some great points. We are doing the project alone and though I hate to admit it age is a factor.
 
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Cydny...welcome to Permies.com...

I don't really have a whole lot to add that Christopher Steen (thanks Chris) didn't add.

I do this traditional/natural building thing as a career and have full time/part time for almost 40 years...so I can relate to age and your dear husband's back.

EB (earthbag), SB (straw bale), Cobb, CS/CWC (Clay Straw/Wood Chips), etc...are all very labor intensive with lots and lots of very heavy lifting. That is not to say it can't be done as I have seen to 80 year old sisters build a beautiful stone and timber house...so anything is possible if the materials are close beauty and the skill sets are there to pull it off...

I am not sure...in the end...if EB will be less expensive than some other modality when all facets of a building projects facilitation are taken into consideration to turnkey a project....As your husband knows, the square foot price of a turn key project is the matric that a project must be looked at from...whether self build or contracted...From this metric, we can work backwards to really understand costs both fiscal and physical...

Good luck, and let us all know if you have additional questions...

j
 
Christopher Steen
Posts: 120
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How about remodeling the single wide? adding some thermal mass on the south , insulating the north, maybe extend the eaves for southern passive solar and a northern carport/porch? Or a nice earthen plaster inside with some built in wood working and exterior rough sawn cedar . Or a nice little indoor/outdoor addition? Or smaller detached (studio/cottage/workshop)? Not seemingly as glamorous, but might be the quicker, cheaper, more sustainable option that will have y'all living in a construction zone the least, and still give you a nice project/space.

Or go for a full blown build--just bounce some build ideas off the forum

Since you talked about earthships ,How about renting/hiring a machine for a possibly quick, thermal, sheltered /berm house (post and beam, wofati, spray, psp, quonset, RE, mafia block, whatever walls).I've been in one there that was nice temp year round.

What area of ne tx? How far to transport rice hulls where you're at? They seem like an interesting bag fill material, quick and easy. I bet stretching some fencing and hardware cloth around a post and beam --Jay, can we start abbreviating that as p&b?--or rough sawn framed cavity, and filing with hulls will be quick , flat, stretched prepped surface to plaster (rapidobe style).
I'll talk to your husband behind your back, Cyndy. I like building with little budget and local materials. A little creativity and constructionknowledge and resourcefulness can build some interesting, sustainable, beautiful homes .from quite little.
Chris
 
Cydny Jenkins
Posts: 6
Location: East Texas
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are a couple hours east of Dallas and an hour plus from OK, AR & LA borders in rural Marion County which as I mentioned has no building codes.
Too far south for local strawbales and north for rice hulls but I make jewelry for Renaissance fairs and visit Kansas in April and Houston in Dec. so I could probably get a trailer and haul stuff.
Remodeling the single wide is a great idea since work has to be done anyway. It is an empty box with 1/2 good floors and walls the other just studs for walls and you have to walk on joists. It came with enough plywood and 2X4s to fix the bad floors. We had planned on fixing it conventionally while studying natural building--keeping an eye on everything we built ie. cabinets counters to be moved into new house and leaving mobile home as workshop. But instead of making up little projects to practice different modalities of building we could practice on the mobile.
We were planning on a summer kitchen/ porch for the north side.
It faces SSE. Is there a way to get thermal mass around it so it maintains a even temp?
We are going to take all the walls down to studs to make sure nothing evil is hiding there. If we have wrapped the mobile in thermal mass should we put in insulation.
Is natural plaster too heavy for plywood floors?
It's in the lowest part of the lot so I guess I'd have to do something about drainage.
A lot to think about.
Thanks Chris.
 
Christopher Steen
Posts: 120
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thermal mass best functions inside the insulation. Options doing that with your studs will depend on which materials are cost effective. Although an 1" of earthen plaster adds up to a lot. Only your husband can see to assess the joists. Can you jack up the prefab to help address drainage?
 
Cydny Jenkins
Posts: 6
Location: East Texas
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This sounds stupid but are rice hulls and strawbale insulation or thermal mass?
 
Hans Harker
Posts: 115
Location: Chcago IL
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cydny Jenkins wrote:This sounds stupid but are rice hulls and strawbale insulation or thermal mass?



Those would be insulation. Thermal mass would be material that takes a lot of heat in without raising it's temperature much and then releases that heat over time when the ambient temperature drops. The examples cold be stone, water and cob.
 
Cydny Jenkins
Posts: 6
Location: East Texas
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Okay,
Spent some time talking to Michael and he says he can build to support whatever we need to.
He's actually getting excited as everything is not new, he has straight walls, familiar corners and a normal roof. He says he was just overwhelmed with everything being different.
Is there a wall thickness that is optimal for thermal mass. Say with earth is 8" or 12" or 24" the best thickness for thermal mass. Michael says he can probably put 6-8" inside with serious support underneath or more outside. He would probably remove the metal so we would have roof, floor and studs to work with.
What would be the best material for thermal mass?

 
Hans Harker
Posts: 115
Location: Chcago IL
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
All i can suggest is that you read whatever you can about passive solar. There's a separate passive solar forum here on Permies.
You may wanna take a look at this thread to: http://www.permies.com/t/43527/straw-bale-house/thermal-mass-strawbale-house . It's got some in depth analysis of thermal mass thickness requirements.
 
Posts: 256
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cydny,

I would encourage you to still consider the rice hulls. Beaumont and Houston are not that far. With the price of diesel finally getting right for the first time in about 5 years, it will not be that bad to transport. In fact the material can be had for less than it cost to transport. There are dryers closer to you than Houston, but you can contact Gulf Pacific in Houston to get prices and delivery. It would be worth investigating.

http://gulfpac.com/contact/

Your other half may be more comfortable with the idea of pole barn construction with Earth/rice hulls/strawbale infill. You are in timber country, so getting the logs for the structure should be easy and inexpensive.
 
Posts: 22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Unhelpful Comment: I live an hour west from you!! Just excited to see that there are like minded folks in the area. My husband and I (23 and 25) are planning on building an earthbag house in the next 2-4 years. I'd love to follow your journey once you get started and hear how things turn out. Maybe if I'm lucky you'll show off your new place when its finished.
 
He puts the "turd" in "saturday". Speaking of which, have you smelled this tiny ad?
Dave Burton's Boot Adventures at Wheaton Labs and Basecamp
https://permies.com/t/119676/permaculture-projects/Dave-Burton-Boot-Adventures-Wheaton
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!