Kristie Wolfe Builds Underground Home in Rural WA Hobbit Village

Please read my comments below this blog post. This project could have been significantly improved by using earthbags instead of wood framing.

“Inspired by the success of the Hawaii treehouse she built for $11,000, Kristie Wolfe began searching for land to build a “Hobbit”-inspired village. Knowing that there is land to be found for cheap in this country (she bought her Hawaii property for $8,000), she began to search the Northwest for sites.

“There’s a lot of land everywhere, if you look on craigslist, if you look on zillow, you can find property so it’s not really that there’s not a lot. The issue is with property that’s in my price range- I’m looking for property that’s $10,000 to 20,000- usually there’s a reason why it’s cheap, it’s either an easement problem or you have to drive through a crappy neighborhood… but if you’re wanting to be off-grid, it opens up a whole world of selections, there’s a ton out there.”

Wolfe paid $18,000 for 5 acres on a hillside above Lake Chelan, Washington. Being a couple miles down a dirt road, there was no option to be on the grid so Wolfe put in a solar panel, septic and a water tank (filled by truck for now) and began to dig the first of her underground homes.

At 288 square feet, Wolfe’s “tiny house in the shire” was over the maximum square footage allowed for an un-permitted build so she went to the county for approval. With only hand-sketched plans on graph paper, she was able to get a permit.

The structure went up in a few days “with a lot of help from family and friends” and it was “wrapped and roofed” in a few weeks and then Wolfe finished the interior on her own.

She doesn’t plan to change much of her design except to make the windows larger. The completed “village” will include an above-ground communal kitchen built to look like a thatched-roof English-style pub.”

Thanks to Kirsten Dirksen for another great video. As wonderful looking as this hobbit house is, I just moaned a loud ohhhh no when I saw they framed it with toxic pressure treated wood. This is such a shame, such a lost opportunity. This type of structure (underground or earth bermed with living roof) is PERFECT for earthbags. As long-time readers already know, earthbags (sand bags) are used to retain soil along highways and to build other similar projects. Based on testing, the US Dept. of Transportation estimates polypropylene sand bags can last over 500 years. Still not sure if earthbags are strong enough? Just look at the giant sand bag/earthbag retaining wall in this blog post. Giant retaining walls like this are designed by geotextile engineers. It’s a sub field of engineering. My point is earthbag technology is extremely well proven to retain the massive forces against underground structures and retaining walls.

In addition to the above suggestions, consider making a curved back wall with horizontal layers of geotextile fabric for even greater strength. See how Jake is building is earthbag earthship: His engineer and architect can get a structure like this code approved at lower cost, and it would be stronger, more durable, nontoxic and more sustainable.

2 thoughts on “Kristie Wolfe Builds Underground Home in Rural WA Hobbit Village”

  1. Kristie,

    can you contact my by email. I am curious about building permits etc about Earthbag building. i have earthbags and working on my house design. no property in washington yet but thats why i want to ask before i buy and any advice is appreciated. i am designer and can draw up plans. im looking in the same area you built i think. contact me by email.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.