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!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Roof Beams up and Strapped Down

Raymond in front of the in-place roof beams

Wavy Roof!

Polypropylene Strapping

Poly Strapping over the 1/2" plywood sill

Hurricane ties between the beams and the plywood

The roof beams are up! I did something miraculous--I've hired someone, Raymond who is a god-send, to help me finish and might hire a second person next week. It's cold! and I need to move in. I've committed to moving in next Saturday regardless of the state of the house so I better get it done as much as possible. The weather has gotten kinda crappy so we haven't gotten as much done as I would have liked but come Monday we'll be back in full swing with some serious blue skies. It frosted last night for the first time. I must admit the snow on the mountains looks quite beautiful next to the red and yellow of the fall-changing Aspens.

The beams have 24" between them on the north side and 18" on the south side to keep them more or less straight on walls that curve different and have different lengths. We cut them so they rest more or less on the wall. Well, they don't rest on the wall but on a piece of plywood that distributes their weight over a larger area. They are hurricane tied to that plywood which is strapped down with 800 lb. break strength polypropylene straps which are joined and tightened with phosphate-coated buckles. 

Next week, two bags will be stacked between all the beams which will be additional weight on the plywood and straps and will substitute for wood blocking on the ends. There will also be 2x6 wood blocking between the beams. This serves both to prevent them from shifting and bowing as well as tieing the roof together more. That way, for instance, if wind was in a battle with a beam it would be in a battle with the whole roof as opposed to that singular beam. After that's done, some 1x4 purlins, which are flexible enough to accomodate the curvy waviness, are going on at 24" centers. They, in turn will be topped with brick red pro panel. More pictures of progress next week.


  1. Your house looks AWESOME!

    Did you get snow out there yesterday evening? I couldn't believe it when it started.

  2. Thanks for the nice site...visited Kaki Hunter and Doni Kiffmeyer in Moab many years ago and have interest in earth bag construction ever since. Our earth home is built from native materials and my wife's studio is strawbale...'84 and '94 respectively. They both work very well and have stood the test of time, but I believe a combo of earth bag/strawbale would be sweet and inexpensive.

  3. I haven't been home since Thursday afternoon and am in Albuquerque now :-). Probably got snow. Brrr!

  4. I originally planned on doing strawbale but that worked itself out of the plan. Glad I didn't this time (too much to take on) but would like to do a combo in the future.