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, September 1, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Kevin went out of town about a week ago for two and a half weeks so I've been taking this time to tie up all sorts of loose ends. Sawhorses were in desperate need. Oh yeah, so was a shed. So I constructed one out of some of my scrap wood. Looks like a little red barn to me. All said and done it took less than 4 days and needs one more to finish it off. There's going to be a metal roof but I'm waiting to find some cheap scrap pieces to throw on there instead of buying new. I think. For now I have a tarp on top. Also, I need a bit more 1x4 to finish the sides, in addition to a door that I'll either need to find or make.

A couple added pluses, beyond having a dry place to store things as an alternative to the mess that was here before, is extra, and early--because it will be done before my house roof--rain catchment surface. Also, since it slopes from north to south, unlike my house's roof, I can mount my solar panels on top of it and store the battery and all that in the shed. I'd probably build an additional, more secure mini-area inside for all that though.

I saw an ad on craigslist for horse manure in the town closest to me, so picked up a total of four truck loads, including one load of aged compost. Along with the copious amounts of topsoil, old straw, and bountiful saved cardboard, not to mention the free mulch to be had at the dump, I will have some nice beds in the spring. For now I'm going to get one bed in in early September made from straw bales for insulation and with some plexiglass on top. A type of cold frame.

I've also been collecting rocks on my road for the curtain drain that my neighbor Tim will come dig over Labor day weekend. Once those trenches are dug, I'm going to lay my greywater plumbing. I was planning on running the pipe from both the kitchen (west side) and the bathroom (southeast) out to some mulch basins on the west where I will eventually, maybe even this fall, plant trees for a windbreak. I decided though that I'd rather do simpler and significantly cheaper plumbing with a less toxic plastic--1" HDPE vs. 1 1/2" ABS. The thing with HDPE is that is is flexible, and thus more difficult to get a perfect slope (it needs 1/4" per 1') especially over long runs. Also, there are no connectors for it that won't clog. So, if I use it it should be for a shorter distance and has to be straight. I'll experiment with it and test it before I cover it up. It means, though, that while my kitchen water could still go out to some western trees, my bathroom water would have to go south. Thinking of what to plant there. Maybe some pinons since they grow so slow.

Also on the agenda was making two cement piers with sonotubes on either side of the door entrance (inside) to hold two vertical viga beams, which in turn will hold a horizontal beam. They will support the roof so that the area right above that large 5' opening will not be on its own. There are two pieces of 3' rebar pounded into the ground below each 8" diameter/10" high sonotube with chicken wire embedded for extra strength. Coming out of the top is a 1' piece of rebar (all of these are 1/2") which protrudes out the top. It will go into pre-drilled holes in the base of the vigas. I'm looking for some cheap 8" vigas to put on there. I'll probably use a dimensional beam from Olguin's for the horizontal beam. I had a bit of extra cement so used it to make a tamper that I've been meaning to make since...oh...April.

I also spread out the sheets I got from the free bin and spread most of the pile of dirt. The sheets are between the scoria and the dirt in order to prevent the dirt from seeping down and clogging it up. Once it's finished, I'm going to wait for a good rain and tamp it. Voila! That will be my floor for the winter.

Finally, I've got to finish a few bags so that everything is at the correct level in relation to each other. Though the north wall maintains the same height along its entirety, the south wall steps down from the center to the sides. What I need to do is measure out that step and make the walls the appropriate height for each future roof beam. When Kevin gets back we'll do the two layers of tubing that go on top and unify everything. In order to avoid the back-breaking labor of bag-laying, I've been plastering. Added to the mix this time is horse manure and sand. It's been fun to experiment, but it means that I smell more or less permanently. Curious to see how it will turn out when dry!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, when you said you were working on "other projects," you really meant it!