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!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What's Now, What's Next

I had a reader ask for slightly more details than a couple of pictures so...

My neighbor Tim came over with his tractor and dumped in about 50 tractor buckets of scoria so I wouldn't have to spend my winter wheelbarrowing it in. After shoveling, raking level (not perfect but pretty level; there's still a couple more floor layers to go where I can make everything exact) and tamping it comes out to a bit over 6 inches. I maybe would have done just under 6 inches but there was a lot of scoria and I didn't feel like bucketing out more than I had to (I did take out a few wheelbarrows even so).

Since then, Tim came over again and did the same thing with dirt (subsoil), just 20 buckets, to start building up the dirt floor which will be about 6 inches all said and done. I'm hoping what he dumped will be about 3 inches which will get tamped and compacted over the winter. Then, when I get around to it, I'll pour a couple layers of an adobe floor. I'll probably do one layer that's 2.5 inches and another thin finish layer of about 1/2 inch. In order to prevent the dirt from falling and clogging up the scoria, I laid down some old sheets from the free bin. They'll disintegrate eventually but by then the soil should hold together.

Wall building has continued too. All together there's five lintels down with seven more to go including the door's which will be massive. There's less than a week's worth of work before the roof starts to go up but I'm out of town and resting for the weekend, which is why I have time to blog two days in a row, and I find myself going slower and slower as I get more and more tired and yearn and yearn to move in.

As far as the roof is concerned there's some decisions I have to make pretty soon. I'm fairly certain I'm going to use 4x12's sloping to the north. They will get *very* firmly bracketed to velcro plates, and over them will be the poly strapping that was installed two courses back which will tie them into the walls. Purlins and metal roofing goes over that.

For now, enjoying my aunt's house, hot showers and a bed until it's time to go back to work.


  1. Gosh what are you going to do when it's done? You're getting so close. :)

  2. Enjoy your time off as you sure deserve it. You are a machine with the amount of work you are getting done! I feel like a slacker!

  3. Thanks for the floor details. Ditto on Frann's comment. You are a machine. It's so hot here we can't work even every morning. It is cooling off now.

    Just remember, Frann, dirt is heavier than scoria. I wish we had a close neighbor with a tractor.

  4. Dirt is heavier!! I'm actually using dirt in the bags--which would have broken my back if it wasn't for yoga. Scoria's just the floor and the perimeter. I think I luck out though because it's all sunken down--it was hard at first climbing into a pit but then, when I was really tired, it became super easy ground level bag-filling. Now there's just a bit that will be hard to fill because it's high up. And there's just a few bags on the south side which gets up to 8' or so above grade. Most of the bags are on the north side which doesn't go above my head :-). Very lucky that the heat isn't like where you guys are or even worse--Phoenix!

  5. Hello from Santa Cruz. Theo, my honey Larry and I are having a glass of wine and taking a peek at your blog. Can you hear the wine glasses klinking??? We are truly toasting your efforts and your consciousness. Theo says, let us know when it's done and we'll come out with a bottle of wine. Kevin was in the restaurant the other day and said the walls were goin' up. Theo wants to know how far from the ski mountain you are. He also wants to know if the two of you are going to share the same room or do you have a spare one for him (I don't think he minds sharing). Theo can give you a building hand and I can give you a back rub. Larry is heading back to Canada in a few days. We love you L.T. Hope you are smiling that beautiful smile of yours. XO's, Adriana

  6. I was rethinking using the mesh bags. I thought you were using scoria for the walls as well. Are you using barb-wire between the rows? You are a machine to be able to throw those dirt bags up so quickly. Of course, you're half my age ; )

  7. I am not using barbed wire which I feel okay about. Have used some 1/2 rebar to pin them, though. I'm also doing vertical walls not a dome. Which are you doing? Half your age and lots of friend help. Without the latter I'd be lying in a gutter drinking away my sorrows :-)

  8. I can hear the glasses. Tell Theo I'll put him in the shed in the back. 1 hour to ski valley. You can look at it from my house though. I'll write you an email soon love. Miss you.