StrawBale or eartthbag?

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by Aflyingweasel, Jul 29, 2015.

  1. Aflyingweasel

    Aflyingweasel New Member

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    I live in North West Arkansas plant hardiness zone 6b max low winter temp is 0 to -5 degrees fahrenheit average is 30 to 40. Summer max is around 100 with average of 80 to 90 my location is relatively humid.
    I am wanting to build a self sustaining home stead. I have narrowed it down between strawbale and earthbag there are a couple of each in my area and have tried to contact the owners (I've done everything short of knocking on their door) with no luck and don't want to be too pesky, so here I am.
    We are on an extremely tight budget (about 20,000usd) I already have sewer, well and a level pad. Which ate up more of my budget than I had planned (have about 10,000 left). I am living in an rv with my wife and 18 month old little boy which is miserable due to its complete lack of efficiency. My AC unit runs from 8am to about 10pm non stop to keep it close to 80deg (closer to 85 if there is any cooking going on) and am terified to try and spend a winter in it going broke and shivering while trying to heat the darn thing..
    This all being said I would really like to get something dried in by September and finished out by the end of November (fall and spring are wonderfully temperate here) that will be comfortable for the winter. I have an abundance of cedar on the property. The original plan was to do a cedar post and beam strawbale infill with lime plaster. But just the substantial foundation and amount of concrete that I need (to achive the high and dry factor for the longevity of strawbale) comes close to using up the rest of my budget plus the extra precautions that have to be taken to avoid moisture, mold, bugs, rodents ect. Has me leaning towards earthbag using my cedar posts for roof rafters and to frame out the windows. But that doesn't give me any insulation (which I am assuming that I need in this climate) I have a bunch of ridged foam insulation salvaged from a chicken house that was being torn down that I plan on insulating the foundation and slab (hopefully going to do an adobe slab floor, I have yet to get a soil test done to see if I have enough clay in it.) but I didn't know if there was a good way to fasten the ridged foam to the outside of the earth bags then then do metal lath and just stucco over that?
    I've done a lot more research on strawbale since it was the plan for the last 6months or so but now with the lack of funds I'm leery to embark on a project as sensitive as strawbale. Also I should probably throw in that I've little to no building experiance, despite that I plan on doing all the work myself. I'm pretty handy when something breaks or odd jobs around the house but never embarked on such a huge project.
    Hopefully I didn't leave anything major out. I greatly appreciate any input!
    Thanks,
    Stephen.
     
  2. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    I prefer straw bale & / or cob. Especially since earth-bags require extras like the bags and something to stabilize them like barb wire between rows. Lastly, polypropylene bags may or may not contain volatile chemicals that off gas and you cannot know with certainty without sending a sample to a lab due to the fact there is no way any receptionist at a chemical plant is going to give out the proprietary chemical formula for the polypropylene they make.
     
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  3. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    In Arkansas there has been great success with straw bale construction and cob construction. The biggest thing that would keep me from using earth bags is the bags and staking needed. Our house is going to be timber frame with straw bale walls. We chose the straw bales because we have a source of them for 4 dollars per bale. The biggest thing to keep in mind here in Arkansas is that you will have to have at least 4 foot eaves all the way around and you will need to have the bales or cob up off the ground surface around 16 inches for sure fire splash protection.
     
  4. Errol

    Errol New Member

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    Hi,
    If I were you I would stick to the strawbale idea. Sounds like you need some insulation, both summer and winter. If you have a budget make it smaller, then plan to grow. If you go all natural you should be able to make it pretty cheap. Rock foundations, earth floor, straw and clay walls, internal walls can be earth bag, cypress roof rafters and even straw roof insulation with shingle roof tiles. Make the straw bales strong enough to be support walls. Make a rocket stove for summer, and make sure the building is passively heated and cooled, ie make sure the building is facing the correct way in regard to sun.
    I'm in the same situation as you, so this is where I've started. Good luck! I've just built my first straw house and they are amazing! Do some straw building workshops and you to will be addicted!
     
  5. Brian Knight

    Brian Knight Junior Member

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    I agree that strawbale is a better choice, mainly for the insulation value. Unless your home is tiny, the thermal mass of cob or earthbag walls will impart a heavy energy load. Walls are really just a small part of the big picture though. I 2nd going passive solar and would also go to great lengths to do a heavily insulated roof system, good airtightness and if including a heat pump, explore using the RMH strictly as a back-up to reduce the indoor-air concerns of burning wood inside your living space.
     
  6. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Stephan,
    It sounds like you'll be doing most/all of the work yourself and it's already August, so with a wife and young son, ensuring winter comfort is your primary concern.

    How about building a timber framed strawbale "garage" with south facing windows. This would be a do-able project in the time you have left (and with your experience), give you good practice on strawbale construction, and provide an insulated envelope within which you can park and continue to live in your RV in comfort over the winter. install water and septic lines along with electricity for the RV and if you have time you can also put in a rocket mass heater outside the RV but within the "garage".

    This would alleviate the need to completely finish off a new house with sinks, showers, outlets, and kitchen in such a short window. You would gain a lot of practical experience on a project you are sure to complete before winter, provide warmth for the family (with some living space outside the RV), and you would be able to evaluate the merits of strawbale while gaining valuable "garage" space to complement your real house once built.

    Good luck! Let us know what's up and how you choose to proceed.
     
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  7. mullerjannie

    mullerjannie Junior Member

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    In terms of your options, bales or bags. You will have to do quite a bit of digging. What is your plans for the location and how many rooms ? what's your plans for drainage? In terms of budgets. If you a stretched with 20k how about considering tyres? etc.

    Types won't need reinforcing and depending on the general design i.e. shape, location in hillside etc. It might be easier to manage for a single person.
     

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