Larry’s Earthbag House

Three-story earthbag house under construction near Bozeman, Montana
Three-story earthbag house under construction near Bozeman, Montana

“Across the hill from my cabin live Larry and Lea Van Arsdale. They are building a BIG earthbag house thirty feet in diameter and thirty feet high! They started a year ago and are still working on it, but they’ve been living in it since last fall. So far it’s two stories high and they plan on building the third story next summer. Right now they are scrambling to “cobb” the rest of the exterior before winter. That means applying the cob, (earth plaster) or adobe, to the bags which make up the wall.

In the picture you can see exposed earthbags on the right. Just to the left of that is dark area that has been freshly cobbed. The larger gray area is what the cobb looks like dry, and the white area to the left has been coated with a mixture of lime and horse manure(!) to seal in the cob.

The size of the house is deceptive. When you walk in the front door (around to the left) you walk down about 5 feet to the floor, so much of the house is underground.
The earthbags have to be covered with tarps until they are cobbed, in order to protect them from the sun. Rain won’t hurt them, but in the sun the bags will disintegrate in about three months!

Larry has been my source of information for the building process and gives me all kinds of advice and hints to make things work better. They live there full time and are off the grid, using solar and generator with big battery packs. The house is wonderfully cool in summer and warm in winter. So anyone who comes out to help with my house will get a tour of Larry’s!”

Kents Cabin blog

6 thoughts on “Larry’s Earthbag House”

  1. So I’ve been thinking on building one of these houses in the eastern side of Montana near Miles City,what did you do about building under code in your area?

  2. Any idea Owen if they are gonna attempt an unframed corbel dome for the top? Sure looks like it! Kent, you got quite the view out your picture window, and please, get your neighbors to send us more pictures!

  3. I am amazed! wonderful! would love to have mix of horse manure and lime. just what I have been wanting to do:
    I don’t have cow manure close by but I could have horse, so would love to know!! thank you! jehane
    building very small off permit little domes .I am there only 3 months in the year, so growing slowly but does!!!! with a helper got iron tailings from a local mine, added these to outside mix, pretty dark! look at my site!

  4. What an awesome building! I’ve entertained the notion of building something similar to the EnviroDome featured on this website, with two domes that intersect. However one big dome is certainly simpler in many ways.


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