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ubersiren's avatar

What do you know about building or living in an earthen home?

Asked by ubersiren (15208points) October 25th, 2010

I long to live in a Hobbit house, or at least a partial one. It’s been a silly dream of mine for as long as I can remember. The image was always in my mind, and was solidified there when the LOTR movies came out. But, I have learned recently that they are not just fantasy, but real and shockingly attainable!

What I mean is that I’d love to build a cob or straw bale home, or maybe another alternative. My husband has given the green light to build our own house rather than buy an already standing structure, though it will be a few years off.

Do you have any love or horror stories about living in an earthen home? I’d love to hear your pro’s and con’s. I’m also interested in green-building-on-a-budget tips.

If you’re unfamiliar, Google Image search “cob style homes” and prepare yourself for heart-warming, fantastical wonderment!


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12 Answers

Katexyz's avatar

:D I saw “earthen home” and was about to rant and rave about hobbit houses and how much I would love to live in them, but you already have that covered!

They wouldn’t need a/c, would need only very mild heating, and would lose less heat therefore saving energy. They wouldn’t require as many building materials, or destruction of natural landscapes/habitats to nearly as significant a degree as modern homes and subdivisions.

Gaaahhhh!!! Hobbit houses are my dream home.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
WestRiverrat's avatar

Just build the roof strong enough that you can plant and work a garden on top of the house.

Earthen houses are nothing new. Many of the early settlers in Wisconsin built duggout houses into hillsides. One or two walls would be built to seal rooms dug into the side of the hill.

Most of the first settlers to stop and settle on the prairies used sod to build their houses.

Cruiser's avatar

My cousin lives in one not far from me and I have to admit it is a very cool thing to see. Incredibly coz year round and they built in amazing southern exposure and it is QUIET! I want one!!

jrpowell's avatar

The people down the street from us in Eugene built a straw bale house. The inside was totally finished. It was beautiful. It had electricity and plumbing. I don’t know if I would call it “green” to build since they used normal stuff like drywall and brick on the outside. But they certainly are going to save a lot on heating and cooling over the long-run.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
rooeytoo's avatar

I have seen the mud covered straw bale houses, they are interesting to say the least. They didn’t strike me as a place I wanted to live, but lots of people do.

In Coober Pedy, South Australia, where it gets hot as hell in the summer, many live in underground houses. Check out this for pics. I have a nurse friend who just spent the winter there in an underground house and she said it was toasty warm, but she did use electric heaters.

ubersiren's avatar

Thanks, everyone. I hear lots of positives and only a few negatives… I’d love to know what these ‘unhelpful’ answers were. :/

@rooeytoo Ooh, living underground… it’s so pretty. You don’t even have to paint since the walls are already gorgeous earth tones. I would probably go nuts with no windows, though. I lived in a basement once upon a time, and it was very stressful! Although, my husband does request that we add a “man cave” so maybe we can dig him a hole in the ground hahaha!

Cupcake's avatar

My friend looked into building an eco dome in Zambia. It’s super interesting.

Trillian's avatar

I remember reading about sod homes in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. You cut the sod in squares and stack them up. I have always thought it was a cool use of available resources, but I’ve also always wondered: Wouldn’t the dirt dry out eventually and shrink up?
Also, some cows once wandered by and one put a leg through the roof! That could really have ended badly.

Cupcake's avatar

Update: Here are the pics of the house-size superadobe house (much bigger than the eco dome).

ubersiren's avatar

@Cupcake That is really cool! It’s definitely one of the bigger earthen homes I’ve ever seen pics of. I love the feel of these places. Now I just need to find a local builder…

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