ReddIt Earthbag construction is an amazingly sustainable building method and has been a popular topic for years in the off grid community. For those new to this concept, an earthbag is just as the name implies: a bag filled with earth. The bags are stacked to create buildings of various sizes and shapes quickly and relatively simply. The same idea is used in earthbag construction to erect homes worthy of withstanding natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, and even bullets. The stacked bags are covered in plaster, giving homes a beautiful adobe appearance when complete.
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ReddIt Earthbag construction is an amazingly sustainable building method and has been a popular topic for years in the off grid community. For those new to this concept, an earthbag is just as the name implies: a bag filled with earth. The bags are stacked to create buildings of various sizes and shapes quickly and relatively simply. The same idea is used in earthbag construction to erect homes worthy of withstanding natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, and even bullets.
The stacked bags are covered in plaster, giving homes a beautiful adobe appearance when complete. Image via Jose Andres Vallejo Why build with earthbags? Dirt to fill the bags is usually obtained right at the building site, eliminating the purchase and transportation costs of most traditional building materials. In addition, earthbag houses use far fewer materials throughout than traditional homes.
Another factor related to costs is energy savings. Earthbag homes provide natural insulation in the form of thermal mass, helping to keep the home cool in summer and warm in winter. Simplicity — Compared to other building methods, earthbag construction requires skills and basic knowledge that can be learned by just about anyone and taught to others in a community.
Basic materials and tools can turn an idea and a pile of dirt into a beautiful structure. Therefore, a home built with dirt walls will outlast homes constructed from other materials.
The materials also make the home naturally fire-resistant and able to withstand extreme damp and dry climates equally well. Earthbag buildings have even been shown to withstand earthquakes, and as such are being used around the world as emergency shelters and to rebuild homes in disaster-striken areas. The vehicle was totaled. Earthbags also excel at withstanding floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.
Engineered plans are now available for whatever conditions you face. Earthbags are even bullet resistant. Following are some of his tips: Use polypropylene bags as opposed to burlap to prevent erosion of the bags over time. These can be found cheap from a variety of sources, including buying imperfects or misprints directly from bag manufacturers.
Use buckets to fill the bags, and use the same number of buckets of material in each bag to ensure uniform sizing. Once the bags are filled, stitch the ends or fold them over to keep the material securely inside. Place barbed wire between each layer of bags to provide tensile strength and to keep the bags from slipping. Tamp down each layer of bags to prevent settling and to ensure each layer is level. Add doors and windows as you move up, checking the level often. How to build an earthbag home Assuming you have the building site cleared and leveled, the first step in earthbag construction is to dig a trench where the foundation will be placed.
Approximately 12 inches of gravel should be placed in the trench, upon which the first layer of bags will be laid end to end. Images via EarthbagBuilding. This provides stability in addition to the ability to drain water from the walls.
Subsequent layers consist of bags filled with soil. Two strands of barbed wire strung over each layer of bags are temporarily held in place with bricks. Geiger uses a sheetmetal slider when placing the bags to prevent them snagging on the wire and ripping open. To ensure a consistent shape, the foundation radius is measured from a center pole and each layer of bags is measured again to ensure accuracy.
Roundhouses are perhaps the simplest, fastest, easiest earthbag structure to build. The main impression is one of incredible fortresslike strength — massive walls with no sway.
Durable thresholds made of concrete or stone are important to place in doorways, atop which a door frame is placed. Metal or wood anchors are placed every few layers to secure door and window frames to the bags.
Wood anchors are also placed within the layers of bags in places along the walls where electrical boxes will be attached Once the bags are built up to a suitable height, the roof is constructed.
In this case, the roof consists of a metal ring with radiating wood poles covered in thatch. In cold climates, thicker, insulated roofing material can be built instead of thatching. The roundhouse has a super strong feeling due to the concrete bond beam, thick walls, sturdy poles and round shape. You could probably have a dozen workers on the roof with no visible effect.
After the roofing is in place, doors and windows are added to their frames and the exterior of the building is covered in concrete. This concrete plaster is placed in layers, first in the wedges between each row of bags, then as subsequent layers until the exterior is smooth.
As you can see, the process is quite simple, although labor intensive. It boils down to adding a little plaster at a time. Leave each coat rough so the next coat will better adhere. No plaster mesh is needed — the plaster sticks to the earthbags, no problem. The same concept applies to finishing the interior of the home. Earthen plaster creates gorgeous, smooth interior finishes. Viewing the interior of this home, it is hard to believe its walls consists of a pile of dirt bags, right?!
The last step to building an earthbag home is to install the electrical and plumbing fixtures, cabinets, shelves, etc. The finishing touches are what makes a house a home, and in this case, Geiger and his team did a fantastic job.
It boggles the mind how flimsy stick-built houses meet code and yet some people have doubts about earthbag building. And even more hilarious is how trailer houses are somehow considered safe and adequate.
The same person would probably be struggling an hour later trying to penetrate an earthbag wall, even with a sledge hammer, pick, shovel and crow bar.
How to Build an Earthbag House (and Why You Should)
Bags or tubes can be used. My YouTube Channel has short video clips that show each step of construction. Step 1: Earthbag Foundation Earthbag foundations — gravel-filled bags or stabilized bags — offer many advantages over reinforced concrete foundations and work well with many types of sustainable buildings. In particular, they are low-cost, fast and easy to build, require no cement a major expense and cause of global climate change , and require no forms or expensive equipment. In cold climates you can use lava rock or pumice to create an insulated foundation.
How to Build an Earthbag Dome
This earthbag dome Instructable simplifies the process and illustrates each step of construction with photos. The two critical drawings are also included here. Please refer to the complete article before asking questions. This multi-purpose dome can serve as a storage shed or cool pantry above ground, or as a rootcellar or storm shelter below ground. No building permit is typically needed, because it is below the minimum size required by building codes, is not inhabited and is not attached to a residence.
How to Build an Earthbag Roundhouse