American Housing Ripoff

Moldy, rotted wood-framed house
Moldy, rotted wood-framed house

Wall damage in wood-framed house
Wall damage in wood-framed house

From Haim, a reader in Hungary:
“What gets me about the [building] permits in America is they are basically useless.
– Hurricanes in Florida
– Fires in California
– Cold as Siberia upper peninsula Michigan
The above 2x4s and drywall just don’t hold up well. People slave their whole life just to not be able to pass something on to their kids. Their kids too must slave, etc. and are not allowed to freely create and innovate.

Take the way walls are built in the country I live. Many of the houses, not all, are built with bricks from this Austrian company. [The first pic of the four is typical for wall structures here. – I’m in Hungary by the way.] Not suggesting this over earthbag, but what I am suggesting is that Americans have been and are continuing to be ripped off in quality and in price.”

My comments:
I agree 100%. Thanks for contributing. Your comment reminded me of my previous blog post How to Build Houses That Will Self Destruct and Burn Like Crazy.

Our blog focuses on how to build with earthbags, but sometimes it’s informative to stop and think of the larger picture. In most cases it’s much easier to get a building permit for a trailer house (which is obviously a piece of junk and a major safety risk) than it is to get a permit for an earthbag house that’s 10-20 times stronger, safer, more fire resistant, etc.

Your comment also suggested that I focus on positive solutions we all can do. But that’s what this whole blog is about. So instead of copying or rewording and trying to summarize a bunch of previous topics, I suggest spending some time browsing through the blog.

Image source: 3rHomeworks
Mold and Litigation article (billions of dollars awarded annually in mold lawsuits)

13 thoughts on “American Housing Ripoff”

  1. Owen,

    What is the difference between the Domes and Roundhouse, the roofs? I am also looking at the Earthbags as an option for a home, I would like to have some bermed portions and some exposed portions. Also how do you hang pictures on the walls

  2. Yes I frequent both sites and plan to incorporate the methods and advice in Kelly’s tutorial. I got our home design idea from the roundhouse dome cluster plans on the earthbagbuilding site except my plans are in a wheel like fashion. We have 5 children so we need a fairly large home. I figured 7 – 8 domes with around 315sf per dome should fit the bill, but I’m not sure. I have the plans drawn up on graph paper at the moment and have yet to convert them to a graphic representation. I’d like to build it up and then back fill over most of the house (like the half moon home), but I’m concerned about moisture, air circulation and of course collapse (not really that much but if it’s mostly underground there’s some worry about cave ins).

    • Don’t worry about cave ins with domes. I have 20 or so truckloads of soil on our little dome and there’s no sign of it budging. Domes are incredibly strong. Moisture leaking is what you need to be concerned with. Build on high ground and then add some berming around the sides with 2-3 layers of moisture barrier. Slope everything to drain moisture quickly. You can add buttresses at doors to hold back the soil.

      Domes are not the best choice in hot, humid climates because you’re limited to how many windows can be added. Roundhouses are better in hot, humid climates.

  3. I really appreciate your responses. I find the information you provide thorough and helpful. My wife and I are planning to build a large dome cluster and everything your site provides has been invaluable. We’ve never done anything like this before and I’m sure we’re bound to make mistakes, but I feel confident in the knowledge and experience you pass on to us through your site. Thanks for your pleasant and insightful response.

  4. After reading your response there are a lot cheaper methods out there. The only way for this to work would be to have short PVC tubes and use something to push down in them to release any trapped air. After that part was done you could connect another PVC tube, fill and repeat. Like you said though there are better methods. I was just trying to think of a strong frame other than wood or that flimsy metal they call “studs” in current homes.

    • There are lots of ways. Two examples:
      Wattle frame made of woven saplings or bamboo. This could be upgraded with durable plaster, chimney, windows, etc.
      Make a mound of moist sand or sandy soil in the desired shape. Add mesh and plaster in layers on top of the mound. Leave openings for a door and windows. Remove the sand or soil after it dries. Tip: make the doorway big enough for a wheelbarrow.

  5. I’m amazed by all the different methods for building homes out there. I started thinking abou how I could build home quickly, with low cost and just me doing the work. Earthbag by far seems to fit the bill, but I had another idea. Suppose you used 4″ PVC pipes and made a dome “grid” or skeleton filled with rebar to reinforce and then pour concrete into the pvc pipe. I’m not sure if this has been done before to set up the frame of a house yet, but I would assume this could be a fast, cheap and easy solution to get started. Please let me know what you think.

    • There are endless options. I’ve not heard of your idea. It would be tricky to get the concrete to completely fill the pipes. It would tend to clump and leave air pockets, which would greatly reduce the strength. You could tap the sides of the pipe a lot and use a thin mix. But be careful because a thin mix with a lot of water will greatly reduce strength. Stiff mixes are best. So I don’t think this is the best way. A standard ferrocement dome would be better than what you’re suggesting. Just google ferrocement and you’ll find everything you need.

  6. ” In most cases it’s much easier to get a building permit for a trailer house (which is obviously a piece of junk and a major safety risk)…”

    I find this an awkward statement considering that I found your site through the Tiny House Blog. Do you really dislike the Tubmleweeds that much?


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