From time to time we answer reader’s questions.
Susan: I live in a part of Texas with a lot of people who live at poverty level. This sort of building around here would provide much comfort for those who live in uncomfortable old trailers and cannot afford expensive conventional housing. The only concern I have is about the soil here. It is sandy loam. Would an earthbag house be stable even during times of drought as we are having now? Also, are these houses fire resistant as many of the local residences live in wooded areas and are becoming more and more concerned about fires in the area? Thanks for all you do.
Owen: Earthbag building is perfect for super low cost housing. That’s the main reason I got involved in this.
Make one or two test bags and see how they turn out. You want enough clay to bind the soil together. It should turn almost rock hard in about two weeks in hot weather. If the bags easily break apart, add more clay. It doesn’t have to be pure clay. You should be able to find some clayey ‘fill dirt’ from excavation companies for really cheap.
Yes, earthbag is very fire resistant. It would help though to take extra steps if fire is a major concern: clear brush from around buildings and plant fire resistant plants; use metal roofing and metal frames for doors and windows. You could make metal shutters to seal windows in case of fire.