Rob Lineberger

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since Jul 01, 2018
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My current fever dream is to make an earthbag dome house somewhere in North Carolina which meets code (or gets an occupancy permit somehow.) I love to exert myself building things under the sun then relax later in the home I've created.
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Durham, NC
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Recent posts by Rob Lineberger

Tonya Hunte wrote:

C Mouse wrote:*squints* Are you me?

I jest, but from another bi-poly lady looking to build an intentional community, welcome to the group and good luck searching.

There are dozens of us, I tell you. DOZENS

3 years ago
Mathew's answer is really great! Like Eric, I also would harvest some of the wood for hugel beds. Especially in South Carolina where the climate ranges from "Hand me some oars, I'm going out there" to "please, please, please let there be three drops of rain this month." Hugel beds are perfect for regulating these flood/drought cycles.  Here in NC I have a few raised hugel beds (4 feet of buried wood, four above ground) that I haven't watered in years.  I strongly recommend the hugels.  However, I doubt it will even make a dent in the 94 acres so it doesn't significantly detract from the soil amendment.

If you want a water feature or three, which I highly recommend for mosquito control, you have the right soil for the easiest pond ever.  Get pigs.  Fence in a large area.  Maybe dig down a few feet with a tractor scoop to get things started.  Put caches of food under the stumps.  The pigs will root under the stumps and basically dig them out for you, so you can easily pull them out with a tractor.  Once you've enticed the pigs to root up each stump, you'll have lots of deeper holes in the penned area.  Come back in with the tractor and scoop out more dirt to level things, then let the pigs wallow in the clay.  It's called gleying.  With the high clay content, the weight of the pigs and their stomping will compact the soil so much it holds water.  Once it starts holding water, you need to move them out though.

You can also gley with manure/straw and a cardboard smothering layer.  Probably after you use the pigs to root up the stumps.

However, I have to say, I would do a real gut check buying a property like that.  It depends on what makes you happy.  I would much rather clear out an acre of trees to make my homestead amid a forest than try to grow the forest.  I understand getting 100 acres at a great price and that is very compelling.  But you're looking at years of muddy shoes and burrs in your clothes and lots of effort that isn't directly going towards your quality of life.  Now if rejuvenating the land is it's own reward for you, that's great.
3 years ago
I have used ceramic fireclay powder from a pottery studio to make a cob pizza oven.  It worked well!
3 years ago
This is a fascinating discussion.  I'm trying to think of a way to cost-effectively and time-efficiently insulate an earthbag dome. For the purpose of discussion let's say the default is to hire a company to come out and spray blown cellulose all over the dome and cap that with plaster.  Which has it's own problems.

So one valid approach is to make paper-pulp-based insulation from newspaper, water, and borax for fire/insect resistance.  This means a car-mounted mixer with a lawnmower blade and a garage full of newspapers which will need to be kept dry until the moment they are needed.  Doable, if a pain.

This conversation suggests another approach might be biochar.  Either using large hunks as dead space then capping with a biochar-based plaster, then capping that with normal plaster.  Sandwiched against a 2 foot clay wall in a relatively oxygen-poor environment, my guess is fire would not be as much of a concern, but then again charcoal is highly flammable.  Would borax offset this?

Another option might be crushing the biochar, mixing it with clay and water into a slurry, then spraying that over the earthbag dome, then covering that with plaster.

If either of those last two are reasonable options, I'd have no problem with making a permanent 1000 gallon biochar TLUD and doing a burn every couple days over a period of months to create the biochar needed.  But not if this is going to burn down my house.

3 years ago

AnnaLea Kodiak wrote:

I may be misinformed about earthbags, I know they operate on the property of thermal mass as opposed to insulation, but I figured we wouldn't need insulation if the thermal was thick enough. I thought that if we were heating or cooling internally, the earthbags would retain that temperature and then radiate the heat or cool, reducing costs. Is this not true? Would it just go straight through and be lost to the outdoors? I may be misunderstanding how thermal mass works.

I don't know all the ins and outs because I'm still planning and learning myself.  This is my understanding: Earthbags are no more insulative than, say, a thin sheet of metal would be.  The difference is the thin sheet of metal exchanges that heat immediately whereas an earthbag retains heat and discharges it slowly.  So slowly that if you live in a temperate climate, the sun has come up and recharged the heat before the wall has a chance to bleed off.  But in general yes, the answer is the heat would go straight through and be lost to the outdoors, just in slow motion.  So the question becomes how much temperature swing do you have, and how much do you want?  

If you have winter and it gets cold sometimes, and the home is not insulated, you need to keep the heat going much, much more.  Both because the outside cold will creep through the walls, and because the heat you generate will be lost through the walls.  Heat seeks equilibrium. With insulation, the cold does not creep in, the walls hold your generated heat longer, and you use dramatically much less fuel to heat.

If you have summers that get hotter than 72 degrees, the sun will bake the walls and that heat will soon make its way through to start heating your interior.  It might not snail its way through until 1AM or so, who knows, but at some point your interior will reach the temp it was when the sun was beating down, so you need to cool (if you have AC.)  If you insulate, that sun heat is much less likely to penetrate to the walls, so you'll get "shade" temperature all day.  

I'm currently investigating something I vaguely heard which is that if you dig down to the geothermal layer, you'll have a constant 55 degrees-ish base in your home, and if you have vents at the base of the walls and a vent at the top, convection will draw the cooler air in at the wall base and hot air out the top, pulling your geothermally cool air up as well, stabilizing the temperature of the whole interior.  And in winter, you can close the bottom vents and run a fan down a duct from the top to the bottom, sending the warm air down to re-heat the bottom floor.   This just something I'm trying to piece together from snippets I've heard and may not be accurate.  But I know it works in teepees.
3 years ago
Hello AnnaLea!  Thanks for posting more info.  It doesn't suggest a clear winner one way or another but it really helps see where you're coming from.

As to your question, no, I do not think fasteners are going to run into the $1K range or above.  I'd expect a few hundred dollars at most.

Some further comments I have based on your numbers:

In both cases you list $1000 for stairs.  I'm sure that if you went to a contractor and asked they'd quote you that.  But I feel like you might be able to get code compliant stairs for cheaper.  I have personally watched as a carpenter laid out two large planks of wood, did some math, and within the hour stairs were up.  Now that is a carpenter who has been doing that job a long time. But there are stair calculators online and at its heart you're talking about cutting two planks with a saw with cross braces and treads.

You've also listed $4K for windows in both scenarios. For stick built, that's probably pretty accurate.  For earthbag I think you could save a few thousand dollars there.  You can tell where I stand by my signature but I understand you're in an area which has restrictions.  So look for secondhand windows, mismatched, it doesn't matter.  You can save well over 50% by going to window vendors and asking for their seconds.  The multi-ton walls and generally organic aesthetic hide a lot.  

The gravel and earthbag and lime and such all seem on point.  Why do you have straw in there?  Just curious.

Why do you have floor joists for the stick house and no floor joists for the earthbag house?  Why do you have a concrete slab for one and not the other?  I'd say go with the gravel trench foundation and do earthen floors in ether case and save a thousand or two as long as you don't mind tamping and burnishing clay.  It's beautiful by the way. :)

I think you'll need more money for insulation on the earthbag house.  Earthbags are not insulative at all.  They retain heat well and slowly release it, which is a nice feature, but three days of cold/heat and your home will be the ambient temp. So I'd insulate the hell out of an earthbag home unless you are in a hot or temperate climate without huge temp swings.

I agree with Mike I'm curious why you are cutting the roof panels.  My general approach to roofs is reduce seams as much as possible.  Also, every junkyard I have ever been to has corrugated metal roofing.  One coat of primer then some dark neutral color to hide when the rust inevitably reappears and no one will know they weren't new for at least 5 years. Maybe 10.

I don't think this definitively tips it either way.  And thanks for the numbers! They're helping me plan as well. Good luck!
3 years ago
I'm really interested in using biochar as insulation for an earthbag home so I'm following these kinds of ideas.  Charcoal is highly insulative, and also filters the air if you use it as an interior plaster. SO COOL
3 years ago
These are good questions.  I had a similar question about rotisserie chickens in the grocery store.  How is it possible that it costs less than five dollars to incubate an egg, house and feed the chick, raise it to an edible size, process it, package it, and ship it in a refrigerated truck across the country?  That just doesn't make sense.

Well, in the case of my question the answer is "it doesn't cost less than $5" because rotisserie chickens are loss leaders for grocery stores.  But there are a lot of commonalities between the two.  Both have the plunder of the natural world down to an exact art, skating by at the thinnest of margins at incredible volume.  Raising a sapling to harvest size, clearcutting, processing the lumber, kiln drying, and shipping 2x4s is down to saving pennies at each stage to equal big dollars. Concrete is the same way. How can they save 9 cents here to make 11 cents down the line?  So there is infrastructure in place. Skids that fit certain dimensions within an inch or two of truck width and store shelves a specific size to make it all flow easily.  And as customers we benefit from that cost cutting. There is no such scaffolding in place for earthbag building. Everything is boutique.

Even so, I have questions about your numbers.  I am not doubting your calculations.  It sounds like you have done a thorough analysis. I hope to learn more from you about how you came up with your total to help me plan my own earthbag venture.  These are just questions and curiosity your post brought up.

I don't know what dimensions you're planning for but $36K seems low to me for a stick built house.  There are hidden costs all over the place.  Again, not seeing your numbers, are things like structural screws, tar paper, hurricane clips, seals, hot dipped galvanized nails, etc in the mix? Galvanized braces and door sweeps? Tyvek home wrap and sealing tape? I don't know, just asking, because having dabbled in home construction and roofing I know my foreman was always cutting costs to the bone and still venting money.  Now if you have access to secondhand windows and a supply of free barn wood that starts to make more sense.

By the same token, $42K seems high for an earthbag home. Again, not doubting your research, but mylittlehomestead values are more like $5K per room, which includes basement, main floor, and loft.  So if you built a couple completely separate bedroom domes, a living room dome, a kitchen dome, and maybe a mixed use dome, that's in the $25-30K area.  My guess is you would not want five separate domes, so the materials cost should go down further (fewer bags, fewer exterior doors, smaller roof.)

The biggest question for me is you said "with the exact same floor plan."  I don't consider earthbag or strawbale home to have the same floorplan as a frame-built house.  Strawbale walls are 5-6 times as thick as frame walls.  Earthbag walls are round while stick built are square.  So that makes me wonder if you mean "roughly equivalent 2 bedroom, 5 room house with roughly the same square footage" or if you are trying to replicate an exact floorplan? Some people argue that round homes have more efficient uses of materials.  Some argue that round walls waste a bunch of liveable space.  But everyone agrees the construction and layout are vastly different.

I suppose I'm asking for more detail so we can help you refine the tradeoffs in time, labor, cost, and especially layout.  Also I appreciate you raising these questions because it's making me think harder about my own venture and what costs I may be overlooking.

3 years ago
Should one's phone capture something impure,
I s'pose that's what pixelization is for.
3 years ago
Pee on a plant will earn you a badge bit!
Hold the phone, aim, and try to hit.
3 years ago