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Building an earth Guest Cabin.

Rob Ketel


Joined: Dec 19, 2011
Posts: 18
    
    1
My Girlfriend and I were discussing the possibilities of a guest house on our property, also known as "Rob had a crazy idea that he wanted to build a hobbit hole into the side of the hill," as she would put it.

We do not have any extra room in our house for guests as it is only a small three room off grid house she built a couple years ago, and having guests sleep over is not an option unless they want to sleep in the guest tipi. Most of our friends are adventurous enough to do so, but there are others who like the thought of 4 walls and a bit of warmth at night. Barring sending them into town to sleep in a hotel, they would sleep on the floor in our small small house.

I've decided that it will be my experiment into earth ship housing, and being that it will only be around 400 square feet, I believe that the cost should stay relativity low with a little help from my friends. A few of my friends are general contractors who are very interested in learning how to build green and are more than willing to donate their time. I hope to switch industries in the future and work on green energy projects, building green houses and setting up off grid or grid tie systems.

Plan is to build with absolutely no facilities, no power, just a wood stove and maybe a small buried tank for water that we can fill from the house. Living roof is a must, I want it to look as natural as possible like there is just a door and a few windows coming out of the side of the hill. With a semi circular design, I hope to eliminate the need of bracing the walls as with sand bag bunkers. A gravel base covered in sand then brick would be my floor, but what kind of drainage should I look into? Was thinking french drains under... I also will be covering it with a couple layers of silage plastic, creating an umbrella, and hopefully keeping out as much moisture as possible. Should I put a plastic sheet on the ground level?

With enough prep work, aka- digging out the side of the hill before hand, collecting logs for the trusses, I can see this small project being done in a weekend... well the main construction of it, and the plastering being done over a few weekends.

What are your thoughts?
Chris Fox


Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 29
I was thinking the same thing. Then I tried just pounding soil into just one tire to see what it took. Took me 33 minuets and I was damn near cripple afterwards. I know that I would have gotten faster as I went along but that was just too much work for just the small workshop I was building. Ended up going with earthbag instead. Much quicker and although still labor intensive, I found I could fill and pound bags all day long and not fall over. If you have better friends than I do, maybe it would go much smoother. After about 2 hours I was the only one left. Would have went with the a dome but it rains too much here so needed a real roof. Went with a round house and cheap metal roof over it. Does get too hot in the summer, needs more shade and ventilation.
Jj Grey


Joined: Jul 30, 2013
Posts: 2
Location: NORTH Great plains (spit wrong and hit Canada)
Chris Fox wrote:I was thinking the same thing. Then I tried just pounding soil into just one tire to see what it took. Took me 33 minuets and I was damn near cripple afterwards. I know that I would have gotten faster as I went along but that was just too much work for just the small workshop I was building. Ended up going with earthbag instead. Much quicker and although still labor intensive, I found I could fill and pound bags all day long and not fall over. If you have better friends than I do, maybe it would go much smoother. After about 2 hours I was the only one left. Would have went with the a dome but it rains too much here so needed a real roof. Went with a round house and cheap metal roof over it. Does get too hot in the summer, needs more shade and ventilation.


If your metal roof is strong enough, cover it in EPD(?) pond liner, a few inches of straw, and then a little soil and grass/wildflower seed appropriate for your climate, instantly cooler, should only weigh about 10-40 lbs dry 40-80 wet, more for your roof. Put less straw and soil if it is too heavy, you only need enough to support minmal plant growth to cut your heat gain massively.


You know you are rural- if you get a big black stain on the seat of your daily wear pants and no-one knows for a month...
Jennifer Herod


Joined: Nov 13, 2013
Posts: 30
Location: Texas
    
    1
I say go for it! The tire pounding seems daunting at first, but your strength and increase over time. We pounded 880 tires to complete our walls one summer, just my husband and I and our two boys 8 and 10 working about 4-6 hours a day. 25 a day was our average working in black clay and digging up what we were packing. I dont know about a weekend....LOL...a tiny thing like that shouldn't take too long. Sounds like a grand little adventure.

Yes to plastic on the ground floor.
Yes to plastic umbrella on the roof.
Yes to french drain around the outside.

I wasn't clear about whether you were building into a hill or not, but I would say when in doubt, throw in a french drain...better safe than sorry.

We have had a great deal of luck with plastic, then sand, then rock or brick for floors. If using brick, we place them fairly close together, then sweep dry mortar mix into the cracks and wet...stabilizes them a bit.
Rob Lougas


Joined: Sep 07, 2014
Posts: 1
Hey just curious if the guest house got built?
 
 
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