• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Building without wood (except for pallet wood)  RSS feed

 
Michelle Schurko
Posts: 17
Location: Saskatchewan
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't have access to trees or nearby logging areas and I live in a cold climate (Zone 2b).  Wood ends up being quite expensive other than a nearly unlimited supply of free pallets.  What are the best methods to minimize the need for wood?  I've been thinking partly-underground earthen/cob walls with light straw clay insulation.  But my education, experience and budget is quite limited.

Very much interested in thoughts and ideas!
Thanks!
 
Bill Erickson
steward
Posts: 1133
Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
130
books chicken forest garden hugelkultur hunting wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sunken sod houses used to be the thing on the prairie in days gone by. Maybe some modernization of the idea, with the cob and modern dimensional lumber for support and roof structure. Sort of a prairie wofati without the logs and such.
 
Mike Cantrell
Posts: 555
Location: Mid-Michigan
28
bee books duck food preservation forest garden hunting solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Masonry domes, vaults, and arches go back thousands of years in mostly-treeless areas like the arid parts of the Middle East.

Two search terms that will yield exciting reading:
Nubian vault
and
Guastavino vault
 
Tobias Ber
Posts: 494
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hmm.... what could you do with pallet wood? you should look into using this. cladding cob walls with pallet wood would protect it from rain.

i think, you need insulation. lots of it. what about strawbales? i think, most strawbale buildings use timerframe, but there are ways to build it loadbearing.

straw light clay is not that good an insulator. doing that underground could cause some troubles with moisture/mold/rotting if not done very well.

earthbag(or cob?)-wofati with lots of dry turf around it and covered with waterproof membrane?

good luck and blessings
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 791
Location: USDA Zone 8a
55
bee dog food preservation greening the desert hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If someone has access to lots of free pallets, they could be taken apart then nailed or screwed together, staggering them might make them longer.  Like a 2" x 4".
 
chad duncan
Posts: 92
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Anne Miller wrote:If someone has access to lots of free pallets, they could be taken apart then nailed or screwed together, staggering them might make them longer.  Like a 2" x 4".

I think that after you factor in the time and effort of pulling pallets apart in full pieces,  add the cost of screws and more time putting pieces together , you will find 2x4's to be pretty cheap.  Also I doubt the column strength of a pile of screwed together pallet boards would compare to a single piece of straight wood.  Pallet wood is certainly good and useful but I would question it's structural integrity when it comes to holding a heavy roof eight feet in the air.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1384
152
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have always had an out of control Pycrete Fetish which bodes well for what you are asking; a MINIMUM f wood in a cold region. I am not exactly sure it could be incorporated into a home structure, but it has interesting properties for sure.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 791
Location: USDA Zone 8a
55
bee dog food preservation greening the desert hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Maybe taking pallets apart is a lot of work so if you have more money than time ... If you have time but not money, well then ...  I actually think I saw something like that on one of the Alaska reality shows.

Maybe this will help with ideas:

"Moreover, he said, he was disturbed by the irony of landfills choked with building materials and yet a lack of affordable housing.

To him, almost anything discarded and durable is potential building material. ...  A self-taught carpenter, electrician and plumber, Mr. Phillips said 80 percent of the materials are salvaged from other construction projects, hauled out of trash heaps or just picked up from the side of the road."

Using recycled materials
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
118
forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Right now container homes (made from recycled shipping containers) are fairly trendy. I don't think of Alaska as a place that is sending many bulk items south, but you're notorious for having to ship in a lot of supplies. Is there by chance an overabundance of shipping containers available in your area? Especially if you can find one that was used to ship refrigerated items (which would be preinsulated) it could make at least a good starter home. Of course, I could be underestimating how much stuff Alaska ships back to the mainland. If you don't have an overabundance of the containers, then they wouldn't be such a bargain.

edit: at least on ebay there is one vendor who claims to have shipping containers available nationwide and it looks like they're going for around 2,000 for both the 20 and 40 foot containers. I'm betting shipping is one of the big costs for these, though.
 
chad duncan
Posts: 92
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Anne Miller wrote:.. If you have time but not money, well then ..
you would be hard pressed to cleanly separate one pallet,  remove the nails, lay it up and screw it together in a 2x4 format in under one hour. A factory 2x4 costs around $2. When you factor in those screws you are working at pallet wood for an equivalent of $1.50 an hour.  You would be better off getting a bad temporary  job for $4 an hour and buying twice as many 2x4's per hour than you could make yourself.  I agree generally with upcycling pallets and I have a stack that I use wood from myself but sometimes they are not the best choice.  When it comes to making eight foot long weight supporting columns, I don't think they are appropriate. If you find a shipping crate or specialized pallet with long pieces of solid wood, well that would be another story.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 791
Location: USDA Zone 8a
55
bee dog food preservation greening the desert hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Michelle, here are some ideas:

https://permies.com/t/57416/Free-Lumber


https://permies.com/t/10600/Pallet-Shed-Building-House


https://permies.com/t/59460/ungarbage/sister-pallet-foraging


I have had a straw bale temporary tiny house idea in my head for quite a while though I'm not planning to build any more houses.
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Anne Miller's link to the Nova Scotia example looks feasible, using the pallets whole, with room for insulation in the cavities.  I would buy a little long lumber to strengthen the structure, but pallets as a filler should do fine.  What kind of snow load do you have?
I think a sod building like the early settlers lived in, would be interesting.  Not sure of the environmental impact of tearing up the sod.  Is it deep, and does it heal quickly?
What is the traditional dwelling of the local first nations, in your parts?  Did they overwinter in hide tepees?  Would you consider doing that?  Apparently people are in a canvas tepee with a rocket mass heater at Paul's, but not sure of the temperature and wind chill differences between there and where you are.
Out of curiosity, how much is an 8' 2x4 in Saskatchewan?  I live where they come from, and they are $3 to $4, even here!
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1384
152
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Around here you can get all the free pallets you want, and I am not talking about just the traditional pallets, but rather the long 8 foot ones. In the snow belt they are really easy to find...snowmobile dealerships. They are the packing frames for new snowmobiles and in the summer when the new sleds arrive for the dealers to bolt together for the fall sales drives, they can be had for free and by the ton!

We have several sawmills and we have built many things out of pallets despite really inexpensive building material sawn from our own logs. In this case EVERYONE is right. Casie is indeed right that pallets are free and make great use as building material, and Chad is right in that to pry the pallets apart would take time. The problem is as simple as looking outside the box...not in what is built out of pallets, but a faster quicker way to tear them apart. You never pry pallets apart with a claw hammer because the wood is nailed together with ring shank nails that have glue on them. The fast way to dismantle one is to use a reciprocating saw (sawzall) and cut the nails between the boards they join. In this manner you can tear down a pallet in minutes; no minimum paying wag job required. And reciprocating blades last a very long time.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1384
152
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Regan Dixon wrote:
I think a sod building like the early settlers lived in, would be interesting.  Not sure of the environmental impact of tearing up the sod.  Is it deep, and does it heal quickly?


I think it would heal rather quickly. Yes it takes nature 600 years to build 1 inch of top soil, but we ca replicate that by composting. I am not sure the square footage required for a home, but I know I produce a lot of cubic yards of manure from my sheep every winter. I would have to do the math obviously, but off the top of my head I would say I would have enough in one winter to put a pretty deep bed of compost back down, seed it and have the sod repaired by fall. In two years I would think it would be densely matted, in fact with the right blend of grasses (like clover) it might actually improve upon what was there originally.

As a side note it absolutely disgusts me what a 2 x 4 cots at Home Depot. As you know I do a lot of logging and last week I shipped 3400 bf of logs to a local sawmill and made $350. Last year I sawed out 3400 board feet for myself and built a 30X50 foot barn with it, framed and sheathed using that much wood, just for comparison. I told my trucker I am NOT selling any more logs at that price. I'll cut them on my own sawmill first. If I sell a 2 x 4-8 ft long for even $1 a piece, I'll make 6 times the money I am selling them for logs. Fooey with them!

  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!