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Strawbale or Earthbag?

 
Stephen McDonald
Posts: 5
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I live in North West Arkansas plant hardiness zone 6b max low winter temp is 0 to -5 degrees fahrenheit average is 30 to 40. Summer max is around 100 with average of 80 to 90 my location is relatively humid.
I am wanting to build a self sustaining home stead. I have narrowed it down between strawbale and earthbag there are a couple of each in my area and have tried to contact the owners (I've done everything short of knocking on their door) with no luck and don't want to be too pesky, so here I am.
We are on an extremely tight budget (about 20,000usd) I already have sewer, well and a level pad. Which ate up more of my budget than I had planned (have about 10,000 left). I am living in an rv with my wife and 18 month old little boy which is miserable due to its complete lack of efficiency. My AC unit runs from 8am to about 10pm non stop to keep it close to 80deg (closer to 85 if there is any cooking going on) and am terified to try and spend a winter in it going broke and shivering while trying to heat the darn thing..
This all being said I would really like to get something dried in by September and finished out by the end of November (fall and spring are wonderfully temperate here) that will be comfortable for the winter. I have an abundance of cedar on the property. The original plan was to do a cedar post and beam strawbale infill with lime plaster. But just the substantial foundation and amount of concrete that I need (to achive the high and dry factor for the longevity of strawbale) comes close to using up the rest of my budget plus the extra precautions that have to be taken to avoid moisture, mold, bugs, rodents ect. Has me leaning towards earthbag using my cedar posts for roof rafters and to frame out the windows. But that doesn't give me any insulation (which I am assuming that I need in this climate) I have a bunch of ridged foam insulation harvested from a chicken house that was being torn down that I plan on insulating the foundation and slab (hopefully going to do an adobe slab floor, I have yet to get a soil test done to see if I have enough clay in it.) but I didn't know if there was a good way to fasten the ridged foam to the outside of the earth bags then then do metal lath and just stucco over that?
I've done a lot more research on strawbale since it was the plan for the last 6months or so but now with the lack of funds I'm leery to embark on a project as sensitive as strawbale. Also I should probably throw in that I've little to no building experiance despite that I plan on doing all the work myself. I'm pretty handy when something breaks or odd jobs around the house but never embarked on such a huge project.
Hopefully I didn't leave anything major out. I greatly appreciate any input!
Thanks,
Stephen.
(I posted this in both strawbale and earth bag)
 
Derek Carter
Posts: 3
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Hey Stephan,

I also live in NWA and plan on building a strawbale cabin. I plan on using a rubble filled trench foundation with an 18in earth bag footer on top of that faced with ridged foam on the outside and that covered with the same plaster as the strawbales. I saw this technique here: http://www.theyearofmud.com/2015/06/11/off-grid-straw-bale-cabin-photos/. I like timber frame/post and beam look with the strawbales wrapped around the outside of the posts. This will eliminate notching the bales and allow you to see the timber. The only concrete used will be for the footers for the posts. Where is your land located? I'm near West Fork.
 
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