Building with earthbags is essentially building with adobe bricks without going through the lengthy process of making them. You take polypropylene sandbags, fill them with a moist mix of sand and clay, tamp them down hard and connect the layers with 4 point barbed wire. Then, you cover them over with an earthen plaster.

In reality, I didn't use polypropylene bags. Some Brasilians started a type of construction they call hyperadobe which uses mesh bags, or continuous tubing, made from the same material as the onion or potato bags in the grocery store. They don't require barbed wire, though otherwise the process is just about the same.

As I talk about in the blog posts, my design has been guided by simplicity and efficiency. More than anything, what's been most important to me is to live in a house that I myself, with no building experience whatsoever, can design, build and maintain. A natural extension of that has been the desire to live in a peaceful space. For me that means a home that's in tune with nature, thus limiting the use of imported materials for construction, in addition to those that will be needed later on, such as for heating. Please enjoy reading, ask me any questions, get inspired, and come help and learn!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Course 13

Things here have been going pretty steady and fast. Finally got scoria delivered today after a series of delays. That means that next week, when Kevin's here, we can start backfilling the scoria and dirt and wheelbarrow a bit at a time 5"-6" of scoria onto the floor which will bring it up a bit closer to its final level.

The walls are high--very high. Standing on them to fill and tamp can be a bit scary due to the wobble. I'm not that worried about it, because it seems that walls that high couldn't help but wobble but I have started driving rebar in. On course 8 I drove 2' (or was it 3'?) down and on course 12 I drove down 3' in between those from course 8 to help with stability. Tomorrow we're probably going to plaster (yeah!) which should make it all the more stable. Finally, I'm going to backfill those walls so they won't be so high and if I do fall it won't be that far. It will make filling go faster, especially since there will be two and not three of us.

It's finally started to look like a real house. All the windows are up and we're just waiting to do the door which is sitting in storage still. The walls are high on the north and most all of the shelving is on on that side except for a couple more brackets in the bedroom and one more set of cabinets in the kitchen. I can actually see the end which just a week ago was incomprehensible. Still a lot of work to be done but I know what all of it is--no longer because of things I've read or planned in theory land but because I've been doing them and I know what's actually involved. Neat feeling.

The scrap wood hook up continues to be awesome--we got our second load yesterday including a bunch of 2x10? nailed together which should make an awesome lintel for the door. Speaking of lintels--my first one is ready to go up on the north side. More on that once I actually do it which might be in a while because I think I'm going over to the south side next week and breaking on the north for a while.

For the roof I've again changed my mind about things and am pretty sure I'm going to do a shed roof sloping down toward the north and supported on the south side on some internal beams set on cement piers on the gravel or scoria. It'll make rain catchment easier (it'll be falling to a tank placed where there are no windows and close to the plumbing) and seems to be the best choice as of now.

I'm planning on using strapping to connect the beams to the earthbag 3-4 layers below the top. Also, planning on doing the top two layers of bags everywhere as one continuous tube--kinda like a bond beam but not quite. Seems like it will add stability to me.

The window braces on the three northern windows have been removed and they have been screwed into their velcro plates. They were pretty easy to brace it (Jen's done it all, I haven't done anything) just doing front to back and driving rebar through. The south side has bigger openings and Jen needed to do some diagonal bracing on those to make them stable. The door will probably take quite a bit as well.

Going to add some chicken wire below and above the windows to make sculpted sills and some overhangs to protect them. But for now...just going to backfill and start stacking southern bags. Not many, but they'll be up high. Also gotta order some strapping and maybe even some PEX!

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