Hi everyone. I've been on this site for a while researching information on natural building and rocket mass heaters and the like, as well as chickens and bees. Lol. Can you say varied interests? Anyway though, I just got the nerve to decide to put up a post asking for advice. So that's what I'm doing; I'm asking you all advice about earthbag house building as well as if anyone in the Southeast KY / Northeast TN area has suggestions on local sources for materials. Hit us with your best suggestions, we certainly appreciate any and all help.
From reading the Forums here and checking out some of the designs by Owen Geiger and reading some various other sources ideas, we have decided finally on earthbag over strawbale since cost is so diff't for us btwn the two, plus raising chickens we already have quite a few stored up. We are seriously looking for the best CHEAP way to get things done. We are looking to make a less than 1000 sq. ft. home for us and our kiddos (two small boys and one bun in the oven, due any day now). We figured two bedrooms at this point with the design geared toward adding a "pod" or addition at a later point for the bun (since bun is a girl unless we get surprised). We aren't sure if a standard square or rounded corner square design would be most cost-effective over a more free-form or domed-type design. Suggestions?
We figured out costs for concrete slab and ditched that idea for a tamped earth floor. We figured costs for a traditional trussed gable roof and think we need to find some better idea, since that cost alone comes to almost half of what we have budgeted for the entire project. The roof design is where we are stuck at the moment. We can source some lumber from local mills that sell rough cut and cut our costs by quite a bit, but we really want efficiency to be good too and are not sure that some more organic designed home with a dome roof or such may be a better option than traditional timber construction roof atop our earthbag base on our tamped earth foundation. Suggestions? We are really trying to get out of the frame of mind of traditional building techniques since we are talking about a non-traditional home and they may not mesh well together from our mindset. Our other big issue is electrical. Neither of us have any experience with it and know that we cannot afford to hire a professional. Any suggestions on where we can learn or find someone with experience that may help on the cheap?
Right now, its all research, research, research- trying to find the best fit for our tiny budget and our needs. We are blessed to live in a county that has no zoning restrictions, so that's one giant plus we have in our favor. The electrical inspection is about the only thing we really have to worry about passing inspection. That's the one area neither of us have experience with but we are certainly eager to learn.
Are there others here in our area of SE KY/ NE TN that have already built earthbag homes and would be willing to allow us to come check it out? We wanna learn all that we can before we start our endeavor. Thanks everyone! Looking forward to hearing from you all! Have a good day!!!
Find a source for bags. Someone that goes through thousands of bags of chicken or dog food or rice or
If you have to buy bags, the project gets expensive fast.
For that size house, a simple shed roof with metal is probably the cheapest. Easy to gutter for water collection, too.
You can find basic wiring books in any library or online. You will need to use conduit and boxes to run it in outside walls.
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I have some experience with earthbags and can offer my .02 based upon what I've learned while building a 14' radius/15'ish tall dome. Mind you, I built this in tropical Honduras, so my needs were a little different.
As for a universal lesson, I would say that building a dome is probably much more difficult to construct than a square/round house. The curvature of the form needs to be measured very accurately and be very precise. Any errors in this department and you run the risk of the dome collapsing. For your first construction, I would stick to a round or square design.
I have been working with an architect to design small homes for upcoming projects in Honduras and he is an advocate for a square design, while I like a cylinder. With his CAD drawings, he's been able to show me a lot of dead space that is created in a round house due to things like beds, furniture, etc all being square. On the flipside, a round house doesn't need buttressing around the walls and as a structure is much stronger than rectangle or square.
If cost is going to be a restriction in this project and you're trying to maximize usable space within the structure, I don't know that I would recommend a free form design. It will require more labor/time intensive founding digging and most likely more materials.
Get a dedicated notebook for ideas costs to-do lists etc.
List of materials with retail prices, then check craigslist restore scrap yards etc.
Obtain materials first, then you know that if, for ex., you can score 12' lengths of metal roofing real cheap then work in those measurements. Or, if you get a slew of straight timbers on a trade... then go viga rafters. Or if you get pdr Windows then frame Rough Openings for them.
Library YouTube and an hour of licenced consultation for utilities.
Round encompasses the most footage per wall amount. More easily usable with straight walls. Freeform may be the most aesthetic. Hexagons tesselate or stack tightly and still get big spaces per wall if you can do angles. You'd most likely be best with a rectangle. Southern Windows, good west and north overhangs for porch/carport.
Maybe start with a big shed or small garage that y'all can cut your teeth on, live in and store your stuff out of the weather.
Kids and jobs huh? Not much time to waste. Is Your soil good enough for tractorcob, simple mechanized rammed earth.?? You got a close redimix with cheap eco/mafia blocks? All in perspective, Bags are cheap, I found .07$, barbwire free. Its time we are talking because time is money.
Any buildings nearby need demolished? Run an ad? Maybe call a demolition company if they are running a monopoly. Get creative on material acquisition, cause a lot meshes.
Look around at what is local available unused tradeable or just ready to be reused.
I'm surprised bales got nixed for the price. I bet $1,000 gets enough bales for your project maybe even delivered. Stacks in a long day. Then your thermal mass can go where it's most effective--inside your house. Eb internal walls...
I'm really interested in earth bag homes. I wondered if you ever got your home built? And what county are you in? I am looking for a place to start my own homestead and having a county without a lot of building restrictions would be great. Thanks
Interested to know if this project ever got rolling. If so, I'd love to see the results. We're in NE KY and are mapping an earthbag project to begin as soon as spring breaks this year. Our design is for several small, connected cylindrical pods with conical reciprocal roofs.
Would like to connect with anyone else in the region who has worked on similar projects.