Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our Earthship adventure: building our new home Update: 7/25

     Okay, so I figure something that a lot of people will enjoy reading a little more about would be our adventure with planning and building our new home. We have went over and over the different types of "green" building styles there are out there. In the end we have decided on an earthship home. An earthship is a passive solar type home designed by a gentleman named Michael Reynolds. They are built out of recycled materials. The main structure of the house is rooms in a "U" shape connected by a main hallway/greenhouse in front. The load bearing walls are built out of tires that are rammed full of earth. He gives some more information, photos, and plan sets on his website for Earthship Biotecture

     Because of the materials used for these homes they can be on the rather small side when it comes to cost, or they can have an extravagant cost. It really depends on where you get your materials, whether you get them free or cheap or just buy them new like a few people who are impatient about waiting to find them, also the cost depends on if you are going to be doing most or all the work yourself or hire out for someone else to do it. We are hiring out for the excavation work of course which is going to cost us around $1000 for the original layout of the house. We plan to add more rooms on later when we can afford more, but for now the house will consist of the living room, kitchen/dining room, greenhouse, master bedroom, kids' room, bathroom, mud room, and then the laundry/mechanical room. Which I will scan and add pictures of the design and layout when I have more time. Also because we plan on doing things on the cheap side we are using the trees that are to be cleared in the house footprint area for the viga and latilla roof system. We are aiming for a total budget of under $8,000 for the original house.

      When finished it will be bermed on three sides and the roof for a sort of underground feeling. Instead of buying plans from one of the several sites online that do sell them I just got all three of Michael's books, read through them, and designed my own plan. Now I have to put out there that I live in such a rural place that I do not have to deal with local building codes that force me to go through all types of loops to build this house. The basic concept of an earthship home is that although you can connect to the grid it has the ability through being built to Michael's design of being completely self contained. That means that we are going to be saving on not needing a septic system, we will be using composting toilets, won't need as much maybe no extra heating or cooling, thanks to passive solar design and mass thermal storage of the tire walls.

     Our house is going to take right around 1400 size 15 tires to complete the original house build. That is a lot of tires to stack fill and pound with a sledge hammer but we will get it done. I imagine that while the walls are still short enough to not have to be climbed I will be doing most of this myself while my husband is at work. We are planning on starting in January or February so hopefully Mother Nature will be kind and consider us building when she decides our areas weather this year. 

     This home is just one more step on our way to being able to deal with anything that happens in the future. My kids are very excited about the finished home when they will each have their own room and their own growing space in the front hall. I plan on incorporating a lot of the systems in our new home into their school work. It is important to me that they understand how the house "works" because one day they will have to be on their own and hopefully will already understand how they can live just as comfortable then as they will in it as children. 

     We have come up with some interesting ideas for the flooring in each room also. Since the base floor for each room is an earthen floor, we will just be able to add these as we can get the things. Some of these designs which I will add pictures of once we get to that stage are as follows: in the kitchen we will be using wine/bottle corks for the floor, in the laundry/ mechanical room the floor will be made from pennies, the bathroom(s) are going to have a bottle cap floor, the greenhouse/hallway area will have a brown paper bag floor, the living area will be a floor made from old recycled leather belts of all colors and sizes, the kid's rooms are going to be done in a few different things, the first one that will be built with the original house section is going to be crayons, and then i was thinking one of them could be done in playing cards, so the only rooms left are four more kids rooms and then my dining area and mudroom. Feel free to offer up suggestions if you have any. 

     I also plan on using cement and crushed glass bottles to make my counter tops and the top for my dining bar and island in kitchen. I plan on having a well done in the laundry/mechanical room or possible even the kitchen with a hand pump as a back up well in case anything happens to the main one that will be drilled outside the home. We will have a cold pantry added on to the back of the kitchen for long term food storage so I will have somewhere to put away all the food that gets canned out of the garden. I got the idea for a cold pantry after realizing that our climate just would not work for a thermal mass refrigerator like Reynold's describes in his books. I found information and even contacted and talked with Kelly Hart, a fellow green builder from her website, Green Home Building. She was very helpful with my questions, and has tons on information on her site about a lot of green building ideas.

Update 7/18/12 :
     Okay so after sharing some thoughts and ideas with a fellow green-builder in the planning process, I have decided that the front wall to the house will be a cordwood wall on a rock filled tire foundation. I think it will look pretty cool. Also I am thinking about putting our kitchen toward the front of the house as to help with the grey-water reuse and to keep as much natural light in there as possible. 

Update: 7/25/12:
      So I have decided that I want to add a rock pizza oven into the kitchen. My Mother's family was Italian, and I love to cook especially Italian foods so something like this would fit perfectly. I found a couple a pictures of ones I like will post a picture once I decide on the design... I might just draw one out myself though.


  1. This all sounds really interesting. How many tires have you acquired so far?

  2. So far none on the property, lol, I have however located a few places that we are going to get them for free... I have to go pick them up and in our Suburban I can only fit about 10 or 15 probably. I was thinking of using a small UHAUL truck but not too sure how it would do on our driveway. Our drive is very steep, narrow, all river rock and about 250 feet long. Everyone keeps telling us to expect to park at the bottom and walk up come winter. Not going to be fun at all.