The Most Bang for the Buck? Part 2

Part 1 discussed the most efficient, cost-effective ways to build with earthbags. This post discusses a few related items.

Building site: Follow these steps and you’ll save lots of time preparing the site and reduce the risk of problems in the future. Choose a building site that’s clear of obstacles and naturally higher than the surrounding area so water will drain away from the structure. Do not build in flood-prone areas. Building on rocky ground or gravelly mineral soil on high ground is best. Make sure there is truck access.

Soil: Buy suitable soil (approximately 30% clay, 70% sandy soil) and dump it in several piles around the building to minimize labor. Trying to save a few dollars here by hand digging the soil will cost you a lot in time and labor. If you can, buy soil that’s free of large rocks and large clumps of clay, roots and other organic materials, and needs no screening, mixing or additives.

Foundation: The fastest foundation is gravel-filled bags on a rubble trench. Scoria-filled bags are my preference, but most any local gravel will suffice. Scoria is easy to work with, lightweight and insulating. For a small house, you can have a scoria insulated foundation built in about one or two day’s work with a few helpers.

Use salvaged materials when practical: I’m not recommending leaky single pane windows, of course. Most salvaged materials are a real bargain and usually impart a lot of character that’s missing in sterile modern homes. It takes time to locate recycled materials, but the effort is typically well worthwhile.

Use low cost natural materials: This can save you a ton of money: earthen plaster, clay, tamped earth floors, road base, sand, gravel, stone, small diameter wood, rice hulls for insulation, straw, reeds, bamboo, thatch.

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