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Wood floors - an insane idea?

 
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Good morning. I'm new to the site & forum. I've been reading for the past few days and now I've got a question for those who have experience in earth bag building.

I've almost convinced my husband to build an earth bag home. I’ve been researching alternative building methods for years and frankly I simply love earth bags. My husband doesn’t love alternative building nearly as much but he does believe in the motto “happy wife – happy life”! This year when we take a break from working (we travel for our work) we're going to build two small buildings, a traditional stick build 8x12 and a 12ft diameter earth bag. We’re doing this because my husband is a very cautious person while I’m the one that gets crazy ideas and just expects it all to work out. Why the man hasn’t buried me in the compost heap by now is a mystery!

We’re testing our abilities and the abilities of our helpers. One helper is our son, 33 and very active & squats 320 lbs. The other two are our 17 year old grandson who squats 430 lbs and our foster grandson who is also 17 and squats 350 lbs. Frankly I think I’ve got helpers who can lift & tamp those earth bags. They all three are very committed to building whatever we choose. But my husband is concerned about several issues so we’re going to do a test project.

Currently the big question and concern he has is the floors of an earth bag house. He really wants a traditional wood floor at least a foot off the ground. He doesn’t like stone floors.

Wouldn’t it be possible to run floor joists between the 3rd and 4th row of bags and then just do a traditional sub floor? Or would that put too much weight on the lower rows? Thank you for your insight.
 
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Welcome...

Short answer with the proper design it is plausible to place a suspended wood floor in the format suggested....They may not last long...but it can be done...


What I will also share, as a traditional/natural builder, is that EB is a "new concept" in architecture as many of them are being built. I think there are much better modalities of architecture in the "natural building" realm that are much better to build with...

This is not to say that I don't feel there is good promise for the EB system, just like other earth based systems. EB structures have been around for a very, very long time as a military embattlement, strengthening for resistant against rising water, etc. This does indicate the strength that EB has, but in all its original permutations, it is only used for "transient" structures and not permanent.

I do understand and agree with its current..."original"...intent as a "new system" of building as it was "reinvented" into...and that as a quick and relatively easy way to build homes for disaster relief areas, and/or in areas with extremely limited natural resources to build with. Of course the bags themselves and other material like plaster and barbwire have to be imported to make the system work, but when all there is in a dessert but sand...things are typically shipped in. This brings me to the next element, outside desert and/or arid environments, there is "good questions" about long term durability about this building system, as none are older than about 25 years yet, and we have already seen challenges with them in less arid regions.

So, all in all, I think the concept has some strong abilities and that a raised wood floor will possibly work. I would ask if this is the best natural building system for the architecture in question and its building environment compared to other perhaps more germane vernacular or proven modalities. To build with a system because of experimentation is understandable, however, to build with a system that is this "new" when there may be more or older traditional systems with proven track records, I question the application.

I own that part of my view may be subjective, and as a timber framer I would prefer that over stick built architecture, but I think in many applications I would always build a modified wood wall truss system which follows a "stick built" format over most of the EB structures I have encountered outside of desert and/or dry regions...

Just my two cents...
 
Maggie Far
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I thank you for your welcome and your thoughts.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Good luck with your two small test project buildings, and I am sure all would love to see photos of them during and after the build. If you care to share more details or have more questions, there is a broad range of experience, understanding and views here to get good information from.

Regards,

j
 
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hugelkultur forest garden tiny house
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I think experimenting first is a great idea. Several years ago I helped a couple that was using rammed earth to build a house, and they gave up on it long before the second course was finished. You may find that it isn't what you really want, so making a smaller outbuilding first is a good way to test things out as well as build whatever skills and practice before doing the big one.

I'll also mention that I have lived for a while in a geodesic dome house, and I didn't like it. It is a darn cool building and a great place to visit, but the space just doesn't feel right to me. Your mileage may vary.

But lately I've been thinking about building longevity, and I think we (as a society) may have it backwards. Trying to build an expensive "forever home" that has everything we'll ever need (mostly space) is hard and if anything happens to it you're screwed. Building a cheap home that is good enough for now and the next 5-10 years that can be easily and quickly rebuilt if something happens to it or your life conditions change sounds a lot more resilient to me.
 
master pollinator
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I built a quite inexpensive cabin of 600 square feet. It took me about two days to salvage the wood from another project and it took two weeks to build a cabin. Total cash outlay was under $1000 to frame. I will spend another $1000 getting everything just the way I want it on the inside.

  It has a large roof overhang.  If well-maintained it will last over 100 years. Cheap doesn't have to equal short lived.
..........
Otherwise, I agree with Jay on earth bag building.

One of my closest neighbors built a tire house that is totally out of place and a huge consumer of firewood. It's in the wrong climate.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Dale, Ron, et al,

I agree on all the points...and I like the "...milage will vary..." comment very much...

From a sustainability perspective "longhaul" architecture has the least environmental impact if built traditionally (aka naturally) as the resources do not keep getting "used up" every decade or so...

Nevertheless, small footprint, and "quizi" transient (or fully mobile) architecture definitely has its place also, and is a big part of human architectural history...Yurts, Ger, Tipi, Wikiup, Igloo, Hogan, etc etc...all have a great range of speed and mobility with some of these lasting themselves over several centuries depending on the care and quality of materials...There are a range of contemporary examples of these that would be relatively easy to build and inexpensive if a "big house" wasn't the goal...per se. They can also be filled with all the amenities and meet efficiency needs too...if not just "slapped together" like many are or what it sounds like Dale's neighbor did...Which I have seen a plethora of...Up quick...uncomfortable and gone quick...It's what I call "I think" architecture that is saturated with "reinvented wheel" technology that seldom works as planned or the way folks think it should or would work...Very common...

On Dale's other point, I would expand it to add..."skill sets"...and/or the acquisition there of. For me, students I have taught, and related patrons of timber frames..can facilitate one in only a one month to two month investment of time on average for a basic frame in several vernacular modalities, and the material cost run from virtually free to only perhaps a few thousand dollars if 2000 square feet or less for the framework. This can also be said for Adobe, some cob, stone and even brick, etc....It all depends on what the resource availability is and what skill sets one cares to acquire and apply, and/or guidance/learning one seeks out...

I have seen and helped with all manner of structures...some quite large (40'x 40') and several stories "turn keyed" for under $40K and even less just because the DIYer took their time, was patient, gathered materials very well, (and skill sets) and methodically followed their plan...Planning is actually 90% or more of any project/job, and 90% of the DIYers out there I see don't apply that kind of time or effort to it...They just "wing it." That is why I love this forum so much...most of the folks the come here are "thinkers and planners," while they also explore all there options...

Regards,

j
 
Dale Hodgins
master pollinator
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I "winged it" when I built my cabin. A plan was drawn up on day one, based on available salvaged resources. I had plenty of experience.

This little cabin was built with the help of the owners. Everyone learned a little and the total cost was about $9000. It paid for itself in under four years.

https://permies.com/mobile/t/13835/natural-building/John-Cottage-Hot-Tub-Structure?foo=a
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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I should have clarified that "winging it" for some is much different than "winging it" for others...I completely agree...

I can cut most small starter home timber frames from memory and no blueprints now...Just make my story pole, get some stones in the ground and away we go...!! Individual "skill sets" adjusts the "winging it" meter quite a bit...and I imagined someone like Dale, can "wing" some project really fast and in good order! Thanks for pointing that out Dale...
 
Maggie Far
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Gentlemen thank you each for your thoughts.

Ron, that's an interesting insight about the space not feeling right to you. Thank you! I'd not thought about that and it might have bearing on my husband's hesitancy. We'll have to consider that issue.


Jay & Dale, as I said, I appreciate each of your thoughts and do understand others' love of stick or framed building. My beloved father was a builder and so I was raised in lumberyards and building sites. The smell of wood, the satisfaction of a well framed house runs deep in me. We've lived in framed houses, brick houses, stone houses, renovated houses, family built, contractor built so we know there is a beauty and purpose to all types of building. However, I respectfully ask that if you're against earth bag building that you take that discussion to another thread. I respect your thoughts and your feelings but I began this thread to ask a specific question of those with experience in earth bag building.

Thank you so much for your understanding.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Sorry I wasn't of more help...Good luck with your project...
 
Maggie Far
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Thank you for your insight. I hope you have a lovely day.
 
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WOW i think earthbag building is the best i saved literally thousands if dollars doing it rather than frameing a house and i framed house from ages 16-20 in alaska! im 24 now. i want to tell you what i did for my floor. wich is a heated floor i dug a square filled it with gravel and rocks and then i made a earthbag floor with bags filled with more gravel i then laid tubeing down for a heated floor and plasterd over that nothing beats a heated pad in alaska and it looks good. ive seen people build earthbag style stem wall foundations that allow plywood floors with a crawlspace area! make sure you lay down plastic and insulate with a vapor barier! show your husband some earthbag building books and videos with pictures of the homes finished! you can save thousands of dollars! with all the money i saved i forex traded me up some more land leverageing omps lol i woulda never been able to afford that if i had framed my home something to think about
 
Maggie Far
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Deagen Demientieff wrote:WOW i think earthbag building is the best i saved literally thousands if dollars doing it rather than frameing a house and i framed house from ages 16-20 in alaska! im 24 now. i want to tell you what i did for my floor. wich is a heated floor i dug a square filled it with gravel and rocks and then i made a earthbag floor with bags filled with more gravel i then laid tubeing down for a heated floor and plasterd over that nothing beats a heated pad in alaska and it looks good. ive seen people build earthbag style stem wall foundations that allow plywood floors with a crawlspace area! make sure you lay down plastic and insulate with a vapor barier! show your husband some earthbag building books and videos with pictures of the homes finished! you can save thousands of dollars! with all the money i saved i forex traded me up some more land leverageing omps lol i woulda never been able to afford that if i had framed my home something to think about



Thank you so much for sharing that.
 
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