Can I Build a 30’ Diameter Earthbag Roundhouse for $2,000?

Can you build a 30’ diameter earthbag roundhouse like this for $2,000?
Can you build a 30’ diameter earthbag roundhouse like this for $2,000?

Question from one of our readers: Can I build a 30’ diameter earthbag roundhouse for $2,000 in a remote area of Colorado or New Mexico?

Owen: $2,000 is not realistic for a house that size. You’re probably only thinking of the primary costs for the shell. Our 18′ earthbag roundhouse cost $2,100 several years ago. It used local wood poles and roof thatch to cut costs. We could have reduced the cost some, but we wanted modern plumbing and electric, and some nice features.

While anything is possible for your 30′ roundhouse, a more realistic cost would be closer to $6,000 – $10,000, and that’s with lots of recycled materials and local materials, and few or no codes. Of course the cost could be much higher if you start buying lots of stuff. Remember, even local materials have hidden costs like gas and truck maintenance to gather them. Also, your time is worth something. Most people don’t want to spend weeks doing something when they can buy something comparable for a few hundred dollars. (The $100 house that I posted about recently probably took “forever” since they did everything themselves by hand.)

Please keep me posted on your project. I love hearing about ultra low cost housing projects.

7 thoughts on “Can I Build a 30’ Diameter Earthbag Roundhouse for $2,000?”

  1. Hi Owen,
    Thought I’d send you a pic of the earthbag studio I’m building for my sister in her back garden in the UK. This is from a couple of weeks ago…we’re nearly up to the top of the door form now. Exciting but a little scary while I plan the roof structure. I’m going to do a raked flat roof similar to Atulya K Bingham’s one in Turkey.


    • That type of roof is a good choice. It’s simple and low cost. Simple is good because roofs can be complex and expensive.

      The link to your project photo doesn’t work. The image must first be published on the Internet somewhere.

  2. The more I research alternative building materials, the more I gravitate toward earthbags. I think making our own cellulose insulation for the cost of an old cement mixer on craigslist, borax, and the time it takes to raid a newspaper trailer can easily keep the cost down to something comfy.

    It really is all about how much thought and gruntwork you put into a project. And good windows,if your project needs windows.

    • Good idea. Shredded newspapers with borax will work for certain applications. Ex: You could use them on top of gravel bags to wrap around a post and beam structure. Just realize they will not be as stable as regular tamped earthbags because there’s nothing solid to hold them together such as clay. Like we always recommend, start with a tool shed or something small to test new ideas. Provide wide roof overhangs to protect the walls.

      • I was thinking using the shredded newspaper as spray on interior insulation, using studs to hold a recycled wood basketball court wall to make it easier to not only insulate, but to run and fix both the electrical and plumbing. You can rent the insulation spreaders from Home Depot. As much as I want to use perlite as a course of earthbags along the outer walls for thermal mass insulation, it’s not cheap and it had to get mined out of the ground somehow and people with lots of money are really bent on strip mining more of my beautiful state to stuff their pockets even more:/ This way, we get most of the fire retardant qualities of perlite with tenth of the cost.

        Next year will be the year of earthbag experimentation. We’ll be rebuilding the porch. If that works, we rebuild the shed hurricane Sandy threw around. By that time, we should be able to convince others to help us get this party started!

        I know it’s a lot of trouble to potentially go to, but I have a certain aesthetic in mind.

    • Just keep reading our websites. There are now thousands of pages of free information on this blog and our other sites. There are links on the right side of the page to our other websites.


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