WHAT ARE EARTHBAGS AND WHY AM I BUILDING WITH THEM?

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!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Baby Has a Bedroom and I Am Still Alive

You may have noticed that I don't post much these days. The honest truth is that the last time I posted was eight months ago. Wow. I used to post like four times a week. But that was before I had a baby, a dog, two (living) cats, chickens, a boyfriend and a job.






Yesterday was my last day of said job, which is maybe why today I feel able to write a post I've been meaning to write for six months. Bryan is at work, Xiomara is napping, Behra is on the porch and I have...what is this? oh, yes, time to myself for another twenty minutes or so.

So way back in February or so I started building the baby's bedroom. I took a section of dead space between the kitchen and my bedroom, directly in front of the front door, and built pallet walls, which were then mudded and plastered, along with a little loft that X can eventually sleep in, though for right now it's just extra storage space.

I had never built with pallets before and I really liked it. They were held in place by some 2x4s and 4x4s connected to a 2x4 bottom plate nailed into the earth with some very long nails, and ceiling beams on the other end. Building the wall was a cinch. I didn't have to worry about letting stuff dry for stability as I mudded along, or about building straight walls which is sometimes problematic for me :).

One thing I did dislike about the pallets, which I'm not positive was their fault, was problems with the mud walls drying. I had some mold issues taken care of by spraying borax water. I may have sprayed bleach water at some point too. It was a relatively wet spring so it could have been due to higher humidity. Also, the bedroom cuts off some of the airflow in the house, so reduced breeze could have been responsible. In the future I maybe wouldn't use straw so there wouldn't be anything to mold. Also, I would have made more of an effort to dry it from the very beginning with more open windows and fans. I just usually have the problem of things drying too fast if anything so didn't think ahead.

The outside of the wall is mud plastered and I must say it didn't turn out too bad. I ran electric wire through the walls to outlets and future switches for when I finally wire my house this fall or winter. I placed some 2x4s in the wall where I planned to hang kitchen cabinets, but ultimately decided not to. I might use them for something else or just plaster over them sometime. The interior of the bedroom I did not plaster. Instead I used some whitish canvas fabric that I had lying around for a planned ferrocement mold that never came into fruition. It was an idea that came from my brother and it's great--quick finish and X can color her walls!

The loft was kinda tight. I extended it to the bathroom wall, which makes a hallway going into both bedrooms. No problem for me and X (it's about 5'3" high) but Bryan has to duck a bit as does anyone else taller than a midget. I like that aspect of it though: it separates the private part of the house from the public spheres with a change in ceiling height alone, as opposed to, say, a no trespassing sign.

While the bones are very finished, and X and all her toys moved in months ago, there is some finishing work to do still. It's on the list that goes on and on and on, getting added to everyday.
Ground got broken this week for an attached greenhouse, which is very exciting. We had a hundred year flood this week so need to do a bit of grading etc. but it was good to see my house was fine after such torrential rain and flash floods. Nothing much besides greywater basins filling to the top and sending mud and water up the pipes into my house. I will try to write more often!


3 comments:

  1. Hi! glad you are writing your blog. I enjoy hearing your progress!

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  2. Aly, It's been a while since we connected, but I think of you frequently and wonder if you are still living in your earth bag home. Please post photos. Would love to see the transition to home from having seen the hole and a few rows of bags. Peace to you and your family.

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