Earthbag Home Update

Owner-builder Aaron posted a progress update on his small earthbag home. One of the aspects we don’t usually see online is the hard work involved in building one’s own small home.

While this video shows just a few minutes of what turned out to be a 19-hour marathon building session – you can get a good idea of how exhausting pouring a concrete bond beam on top of an earthen wall would be. Most folks will use wood but Aaron went with concrete. In the end his home should be much stronger for the extra effort but I wonder if he’d make the same choice next time?

By day Aaron is a web developer and works from home, which is currently a small trailer he shares with his wife and baby girl. Their property is located somewhere in rural west Texas (I think), has a pond, garden, and lots of blackberry brambles. They’ve made a few improvements like having a well drilled but otherwise the property is rustic and without an amenities – sounds like they are carving out an idyllic life.

Great work Aaron! Rock on! Looking forward to more house updates.

4 thoughts on “Earthbag Home Update

  1. Ed Raduazo says:

    Next time mix the cement on a small blue tarp. Place one batch of concrete and aggregate on a small tarp then two guys grab the four corners of the tarp and roll the mix side to side. It works like a charm. Also if you have a scooping hollow formed in the earth the shape of a drywall bucket you can place the tarp with the cement in the hollow and scoop out the cement with the drywall bucket.
    Also have the guy on the ground hand the bucket up to the guy on the ladder.
    Little things make a big difference,
    Ed

  2. Troy says:

    Aaron,

    Great work on the house.

    If you do this again, or you have similar work to do, here are a few tips I’d give you. I did this work for 20 years, starting as a child. I had to mix mortar, and haul that, plus brick, block and stone up ladders on to scaffolding and roof tops.

    Analyze how you can work without bending over very often. Bending wastes a lot of energy and induces pain, especially when your tired. I always get all the cement bags up on something to sit at waist height or above.

    Carry two half buckets, not one full one. It balances the strain on your body. It will take a bit to balance on the ladder, but after a few times its get a lot easier.

    Always, always washout your buckets with water between fills. I just have one bucket 1/2 full of water, dump into the second bucket and use that one for the mud. After an hour or so, you should change the water out. This stops you from hauling any mud back down the ladder that you took up.

    Speaking of ladders, if possible, get rid of them. When you haul buckets of mud up the ladder, you are also carrying your own weight has well. Set up an intermediate scaffold with a board on it. Shovel the batch of mud on to the board. Get up on the scaffold and shovel the mud into the forms. You are moving the minimum mass up in the air. If shoveling doesn’t work for you (mud too wet), do it with buckets.

    I’m 48 now, and I have been in high-tech for 22 years (cube land). I can still get out and mix 50 pre-mix bags in a day and place it. I’m a bit sore at the end of the day, but not bad. I’m not a big or strong guy, but by dad taught me to conserve energy for every little movement.

    Best of luck on the house.
    Troy

  3. Timby says:

    Well, there was this guy on Permie’s web site stating how cheap and easy these homes are to build. He was bragging that the homes can be constructed from the dirt and a person can put up 200 sq ft a day. From what I see is that it takes someone experienced in this type of building and the building has to be adapted to the area of the country. I would think that in Texas you would have to worry about getting some insulation on the outside to create thermal break. I would be worried about condensation on the inside if you were to rely on just thermal mass. So I gather if you have a ton of folks and someone schooled in this type of building it’s not really that easy to construct, Also, it’s not as cheap as they tout for building method.

  4. ydhtt says:

    That’s nuts how closely this resembles my experience pouring a bond beam on my tire/timber-frame/cob house 6 months ago. Our mixer didn’t break but was undersized and it was just me and my gf. We worked 18 straight hours and ended up pouring half of it in the dark with headlamps on.

    That was the toughest part of the build and it’s not even close. I carried around 3 cubic yards of concrete in 5 gallon buckets up and down ladders and didn’t get done til 2am. Concrete’s a cold-hearted ruler, once you pour that first bucket, there’s no turning back. Every hour or so one of us would break down and start trying to convince the other that a cold joint couldn’t really be such a big deal, could it, haha.

    Oh and the two half filled buckets suggesting above is correct. You get so numb at some point that as long as the load is balanced, you hardly feel the weight.

    Congrats to you, beautiful project, I hope it brings you (or is currently bringing you) lots of happiness and satisfaction.

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