Ever wonder how to build a simple home for very little money, without going into debt? Free articles on the Geiger Research Institute Publications page and articles here at EarthbagBuilding.com explain how to use low-cost, locally available natural materials such earth, small diameter wood and straw to keep expenses to a minimum. The real fun is incorporating all these methods into an optimum, affordable home.
Earthbag construction: Of all the various earth building methods, earthbag construction is probably the fastest and easiest. For starters, here’s a table of earthbag advantages over other earth building methods. Earthbag building can be done very simply and for very little money. This qualifies it as dirt cheap shelter and therefore a very promising solution to the world’s housing needs. Almost all the materials and supplies can be obtained for free or next to free, and most people already have the necessary tools around the house.
Materials: misprinted or used grain bags, local soil for fill material, earth plaster and earth floors, old barbed wire (still in good condition).
Tools and supplies: shovel, knife, hammer, level, tape measure, wire cutters, trowel, saw, garden hose, buckets, #10 cans, rope and stakes (as guides for domes), and rocks or old bricks for holding down barbed wire between rows. Specialty tools such as tampers and sheetmetal sliders can be fabricated from scrap metal. ‘Bucket chutes’ (buckets with their bottoms cut out) are helpful in filling bags (they add support and help keep the bag open).
Tractor cob: Cob houses last for centuries and can be built using the soil from the building site. Consisting of just clay, sand and straw, cob is well suited for owner-builders short on cash. However, the process hasn’t become widespread because it is so labor intensive. This article (the first full-length article on tractor cob) explains how you can eliminate over 90% of the labor using a tractor to mechanize the process.
Tamped earth floors: Earth floors have been used since the beginning of history. Floors in Taos Pueblo, for example, have lasted for over 600 years. Imagine how much you could save by not replacing carpet or linoleum every 10-20 years. And, they don’t require expensive wood framing, offgass toxic chemicals or clog up landfills. The main drawback to earthen floors is they are very slow drying. Tamped earth floors are much faster drying than poured earth floors and have the potential to turn this age-old building technique into mainstream use.
Small diameter wood: As a result of poor management, US forests are choked with small trees. Thinning this excess wood improves the health of the forest, reduces risk of forest fires, and provides a nearly unlimited source of wood for those who harvest it. These small trees can be used in the round (which is inherently stronger than milled lumber) for pole trusses, posts, beams, etc. Or they can be turned into door and window bucks, studs, plates, rafters, cabinets and furniture using an inexpensive chainsaw guide.