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DIY Earthship-style Home In a Dome Shape?  RSS feed

 
Wolf Ahanu
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Hey there my name is Wolf, I'm 24 years old and have recently become very interested in off-grid living/sustainable living.
I'm definitely a nature-fanatic and hope to meet others like myself and more than anything else I want to learn more of how
I can live as comfortable and harmoniously with nature as I can.

Recently my husband and I have been trying to make plans to build an Earthship-style home, which you may know utilizes
wasted tires and earth as well as adobe and other elements to create a (mostly) self-temperature-sustaining home, or what
have you.

We are wanting to create a dome of sorts, as we feel spiritually connected to our canine brethren and feel that a more den-
like home would suit us. Okay so here's our questions:

1. What would be a suitable frame for an Earthship tire dome home? (metal, wood, or maybe no frame at all is necessary??)
2. Would/could it be sturdy enough to be an underground home? (Kind of like a Hobbit hole I suppose.)
3. What sort of foundation would we need to be sure the whole thing doesn't sink/shift/erode/collapse/etc.?
4. How big/small could a structure like this be and still be sustainable/sturdy/whatever?
5. What would be the best ingredients to use to plaster the outside of the tire walls?
6. Are there better combinations of materials as far as building the walls of the home aside from tires full of rammed earth?

Those are all the questions we can come up with at the moment! I appreciate you guys' time and effort to help us figure
this out.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I don't see tires being suitable for building a dome, unless it's a very small one, as the dome structure needs to transition from vertical loads at the edges to nearly horizontal loads near the center. Corbelling (horizontal courses of "blocks" stepping inward with each layer) could work for short distances, but I'm not certain it could be stable for more than one decent room's worth of size. True dome "masonry" would have the tires angling inward as the courses rise, and holding them in place during construction and ramming sounds like a major headache and not safe without significant formwork structure. You might start the first 6 to 10 feet (depending on the wall profile) with tires, then continue with rigid timber structure in a dome shape.

Earthships as I have seen them have been entirely tire structures with roofs of other materials, no frame for the tire walls. The tire structure, once built in a stable configuration for the loads, would be strong enough to bury completely. The major question is, would you want to live underground? A hillside type layout with windows and emergency exit possibilities sounds more reasonable.

Structural questions need more specific design parameters for meaningful answers. Do you have any books on earthship building? Those would give more good answers than anyone who is not an expert on earthships could give you.
 
Wolf Ahanu
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Glenn Herbert wrote:I don't see tires being suitable for building a dome, unless it's a very small one, as the dome structure needs to transition from vertical loads at the edges to nearly horizontal loads near the center. Corbelling (horizontal courses of "blocks" stepping inward with each layer) could work for short distances, but I'm not certain it could be stable for more than one decent room's worth of size. True dome "masonry" would have the tires angling inward as the courses rise, and holding them in place during construction and ramming sounds like a major headache and not safe without significant formwork structure. You might start the first 6 to 10 feet (depending on the wall profile) with tires, then continue with rigid timber structure in a dome shape.

Earthships as I have seen them have been entirely tire structures with roofs of other materials, no frame for the tire walls. The tire structure, once built in a stable configuration for the loads, would be strong enough to bury completely. The major question is, would you want to live underground? A hillside type layout with windows and emergency exit possibilities sounds more reasonable.

Structural questions need more specific design parameters for meaningful answers. Do you have any books on earthship building? Those would give more good answers than anyone who is not an expert on earthships could give you.


My husband and I aren't really seeking to build anything larger than 400 square feet, as it is only the two of us. I've seen images and a few useless videos about dome-shaped Earthships and I and know it's possible of course. But yeah, after we researched more (after posting this) we discovered a whole lot of future headache if we were to invest our time and energy into that. I'm here to learn as I don't even have the land to build on quite yet, so no I don't have any books on building Earthships.

We've honestly just been trying to figure out WHAT we want to build our future home out of, plan it out, design it, etc. before even trying to just "wing it", which of course would more than likely result in us continuing to live in our van-home.

Anyway, I've been looking at using earthbags as an option as well. Apparently they're relatively stable and make great dome houses, but have a kind of "meh" R-value. I'm definitely NOT referring to a COMPLETELY underground home, maybe hill-side is what I meant? Just think Hobbit hole, that's more what I'm aiming for here. I plan on having this dwelling in Colorado, so hail, snow, quite a bit of rain. I just want something that isn't going to wash away or get destroyed by hail. Earthships just seemed to be a decent idea.

If you've got anything better, by all means, let me know. So far all I got are earthbags and earthship for possible ideas.
 
matthew fernandez
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Not really on topic. Does anybody know anyone who might need 10,000 tires? Can anyone think of a place that might take them free of charge?
 
M. A. Carey
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I believe an earth bag home would be suitable for you.  If you are concerned about the R-Value, I suggest using cinder rock instead of the clay-sand mixture.  This should increase the R-Value and the bags would be at least half the weight of the earth mixture.  From research that I have done on earth bag homes, many people in cold climates use the cinder rock (lava rock or scoria) in the bags because of the air pockets in the cinder rock making some insulation value.  From what I understand, the cinder rock earth bag home needs little heat if any, and cool in the summer.  In the Flagstaff, AZ area, the cinder rock earth bag homes are considered Zero Energy. I have no experience building one, but my husband and I have considered for a future home. 

 
Jeff Higdon
Posts: 48
Location: Idaho
tiny house transportation wofati
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Earthship Biotechure has an app for iPhone or android called Simple Survival Earthships.  It cost $9.99 and has complete description of all the systems of an earthship as well as detailed plans that can be printed off for several different styles of earthships that utilize rammed earth walls out of car tires and a domed roof using rebar and concrete.  Well worth the price I think.  They continue to update the app, an updated plan came across just this week.  A small 400 sf simple survival shelter runs about $20,000 in materials, though that does include solar, water, toilet, etc., all the systems complete to survive with.

  I personally don't like the prospect of swinging a sledgehammer that much ramming up the tires, but that is just me.  Otherwise it has solid concepts.  My personal favorite is my now deceased friend mike oehler's $50 and Up Underground House book.  As Paul Wheaton has done, combine Mike's concepts which are very sound with John Hait's  concepts he outlines in his very good book Passive Annual Heat Storage and you will have an inexpensive house that can be built in a fraction of the time that an earthship style house is done in unless you have 50 friends willing to help you for a whole month.

  My family and I have gone through Mike Oehler's houses several times and I am still impressed. 

  Another good place to look at ideas is Open Source Ecology's website.  They built a rammed earth construction house very cheaply, and the plans and concepts are all posted free for the reading.
 
Bob Stuart
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FWIW, One dream of mine is to find a south slope with a pond at the bottom.  It is noticeable that such places turn from white to green first every spring.  With maybe 50 vertical feet to a hilltop or knoll, you could have an underground house with a large south window for passive solar, and a skylight for interior light.  After burying it all, you can plant trees to encase the home in roots, so that it will become a self-supporting cave if the original walls last a half century.  You can put another reservoir upslope, and use a mechanical pump on a windmill to keep it full from the pond.  Whenever you need power, you use a hydroelectric generator.  No batteries needed, and a windmill you can build and fix yourself.  A car tire makes a great start for a simple bellows pump. 
 
Terry Byrne
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Wolf Ahanu wrote:


We've honestly just been trying to figure out WHAT we want to build our future home out of, plan it out, design it, etc. before even trying to just "wing it", which of course would more than likely result in us continuing to live in our van-home.

Anyway, I've been looking at using earthbags as an option as well. Apparently they're relatively stable and make great dome houses, but have a kind of "meh" R-value. I'm definitely NOT referring to a COMPLETELY underground home, maybe hill-side is what I meant? Just think Hobbit hole, that's more what I'm aiming for here. I plan on having this dwelling in Colorado, so hail, snow, quite a bit of rain. I just want something that isn't going to wash away or get destroyed by hail. Earthships just seemed to be a decent idea.

If you've got anything better, by all means, let me know. So far all I got are earthbags and earthship for possible ideas.


If you build an earthship using PASH, you have no need, you do not want any of the buried portions of your house to have any insulation. With this style you insulate and "waterproof" the soil surrounding you, which becomes your heat sink, heat source for keeping your house and you warm.
 
Josephine Howland
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Location: White Mountains of New Hampshire zone 5
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A couple in our area (White Mountains of NH) are building an earth bag dome home. There facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Dome-icile-Homes-754452851275955/
They have been documenting the building of their well house first (as a trial) and now their home.  They could surely send you in the right direction.  My dream is to build a geodesic dome on my property.  Good luck in your adventure.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I've seen play ground domes made of tires.
This would be geodesic style,with course of tires bound edge to edge.
One layer of these might not be strong enough to hold a significant amount of soil,perhaps two domes,one inside the other with a water proof membrane sandwiched in between?

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Jeff Higdon
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Location: Idaho
tiny house transportation wofati
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I like the tire dome picture you just posted!  bolt it together with nuts and bolts and fender washers, throw overlapping layers of billboard tarp over it, then cover it with chicken wire and concrete.
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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A dome looks great if it is an open space. As soon as you cut it into pieces (toilet, bedroom) the form creates all sorts of difficult to manage nooks and crannies which streches your build capabilities.  And what would you do with all the space were you can't stand?
 
Terry Byrne
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Jeff Higdon wrote:I like the tire dome picture you just posted!  bolt it together with nuts and bolts and fender washers, throw overlapping layers of billboard tarp over it, then cover it with chicken wire and concrete.


An excellent idea, Jeff, for a quick, cheap and not at all dirty form work [ie. no dirt fill needed], tires bolted together, which will support, PROPERLY ENGINEERED, a rebar or lighter steel dome that can be sprayed with gunnite. Hand applied with trowels "gunnite"??

EDIT: I forgot to say, this tire formwork stays in the house. It can then be filled with soil cement, a mixture of soil and small quantities of cement, or other similar methods to help it stay intact on sloping ceilings until dry, then a mud/earthen plaster for finish. Think of the THERMAL MASS one would have!!!
 
Terry Byrne
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Angelika Maier wrote:A dome looks great if it is an open space. As soon as you cut it into pieces (toilet, bedroom) the form creates all sorts of difficult to manage nooks and crannies which streches your build capabilities.  And what would you do with all the space were you can't stand?


Unless there is an absolute need for the privacy of full height walls, eg, boinking parents, bathroom smells, the walls do not have to touch the ceiling.

But if they do, the carpentry is not that difficult. One piece of one time all walls use, shaped plywood/OSB can be used to mark all interior walls/partitions framed on the ground for cutting to the dome shape - all this work can be done on the ground and the walls then stood up at the higher dome locations and slid into place for a tight fit on the lower dome ceiling.

For getting a tight joint on finished wall surfaces meeting the ceiling, for say drywall, it it even easier using drywall and a surform. Rough framing does not require hairline joints.

Perfect joints can easily be attained when using a mud/earthen plaster combination.



Surform - A surform tool features perforated sheet metal and resembles a food grater. A surform tool consists of a steel strip with holes punched out and the rim of each hole sharpened to form a cutting edge. Wikipedia
 
Terry Byrne
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William Bronson wrote: I've seen play ground domes made of tires.
This would be geodesic style,with course of tires bound edge to edge.
One layer of these might not be strong enough to hold a significant amount of soil,perhaps two domes,one inside the other with a water proof membrane sandwiched in between?



Excellent original thinking, William, upon which other scientists build. Speaking personally, thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Terry Byrne wrote:
William Bronson wrote: I've seen play ground domes made of tires.
This would be geodesic style,with course of tires bound edge to edge.
One layer of these might not be strong enough to hold a significant amount of soil,perhaps two domes,one inside the other with a water proof membrane sandwiched in between?

.

Excellent original thinking, William, upon which other scientists build. Speaking personally, thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders.


Awe shucks!😏
 
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