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Earthbag Homes in Maine...is it possible? anyone have one?

 
Posts: 5
Location: Central Maine
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I am planning to move to Maine within the next year to start our very own off-grid homestead/small scale farm. I have my eyes on building an earthbag home, but I am concerned with building codes, regulations etc. Does anyone have one or in the process of building one in Maine? I am looking to know about what hurdles where involved with local planning and building codes and if you would like to share where you are located, what the community is like etc. Any advice/feedback would be greatly appreciated thanks!
 
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We moved to Maine at the end of January of this year. We bought some land in Washington County just off the beach. We are currently living in a big canvas tent and looking at building an earthbag home. We keep hitting brick walls metaphorically speaking and we are running out of time as it is now July and we have not ordered a single earthbag. I don't know squat abut building but my husband knows a little. He is concerred about how we are going to insulate in and roofing. We only have about $500 a month we can put towards this and we are current finding more issues than solutions.

I know this doesn't help you but I we hope to find out more and soon. I heard Canadian Dirtbag is a good blog as its a couple who built an earthbag home in Alberta Canada.

If you have found out any info please let us know and we will do the same.
 
Wayne Blum
Posts: 5
Location: Central Maine
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Hey Kimberly,
 We will be moving into Waldo County around Unity in April of next year, we're just waiting to finalize the details. As for hitting walls are you referencing codes in the area or just with the building process? For insulation there are a few options available to you, you can wider earth bags and do a gravel/clay mix or look into lava rock to see if it's either available in the area or able to be affordably shipped. You could also make the walls two rows thick which should suffice as enough insulation on their own but is literally double the work. Your last option would be to build the shell and then install wall posts, insulation and then sheet rock, like with a standard house. As for the roof a standard roof design would be best, avoid the earth bag dome due to the moist climate. For insulating that it would be just like with any other roof, just making sure you have the proper r value insulation. There is a really great book if yous aren't familiar with it, it's called Earthbag Building by Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer. It's a great resource and one of my main sources of information. They go into great detail about insulation options for colder climates, along with building and insulating roofs, I strongly recommend it I got mine from Amazon for like $20 or $30 only. Best of luck with everything and as things go on keep me posted as my girlfriend and I seem to be more or less on the same page as you!
 
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I live in Maine and plan to build an earthbag home. I am clearing trees now and plan to start building early next season.
 
Wayne Blum
Posts: 5
Location: Central Maine
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Glad to hear, We recently finalized our property purchase and will be moving up to Troy in the spring. There aren't any codes in town and it seems we just need to present the project to the planning board along with the permit payment.  Hopefully smooth sailing, stay in touch if we aren't too far perhaps in the future we could exchange help and knowledge regarding our construction. Best of luck!
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any updates here? were in augusta,havent found our final home yet but i was told we will need to find a licenced engineer to design and oversee construction, i plan to do strawbale
 
master pollinator
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Location: southern Illinois.
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Forget the state to state variations. Codes differ county to county.
 
master pollinator
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Location: Durham, NC
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Regarding insulating an earthbag dome house, my research has led me to conclude that it's very important.  But I have different opinions on the solutions here.  A double earthbag wall is more than double the cost, very difficult logistically to build, and doesn't insulate very much. Traditional sheetrock has almost no insulative properties, is flat instead of round, and also interferes with earthbag's ability to breathe.  

The best solution I've come up with thus far is blown cellulose insulation.  You can pay someone to come out with a huge truck filled with cellulose that they pump out and spray to cover your dome interior.  You need to mask off anything you don't want covered. Its reasonably cost effective, very fast, highly insulative, and allows the dome to breathe.

Now I've learned a bit more about what this is, and cellulose insulation is essentially shredded cardboard mixed with Borax for fire resistance, plus a wetting/binding agent, AKA water.  And since you are probably going to want to stucco the exterior and/or interior, you're probably going to want a stucco sprayer, which can also spray this cellulose junk.  So the next question is, can you get your hands on a paper mill and lots of discarded cardboard?  If so, you can mill the cardboard and bag up all the fluff, sprinkle it with a borax/water solution, and save yourself thousands of dollars. At least, that is what I'm currently planning to do.
 
pollinator
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I think it would be more like you'd make a borax slurry and mix the shredded mass in a cement mixer until homogenous. If spots are missed, that cellulose is essentially food for any cellulose-eating microorganism.

I knew that borax treatment was proof against insect infestation, but hadn't heard about, or perhaps forgot about, the issue of its fire retardance. Another good fire retardant is sealing it up on the inside with cob and a waterproofed natural plaster outside, greatly reducing availability of oxygen. Or burying the structure in a thin layer of soil and sod. Or a thicker layer, growing pasture, pollinator food and habitat, and maybe some trees.

I would keep the insulation on the outside of the earthbags. If you insulate outside, the earthbags act as thermal batteries, trapping heat while you're heating, and acting as a heat sink in the summer, keeping it cool. If you insulate inside, you're subtracting interior space for no good reason I can see.

I would love to see pictures of and hear about ongoing or completed projects. To all earthbag adventurers, good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
Rob Lineberger
master pollinator
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Location: Durham, NC
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Chris Kott wrote:I think it would be more like you'd make a borax slurry and mix the shredded mass in a cement mixer until homogenous. If spots are missed, that cellulose is essentially food for any cellulose-eating microorganism.

I knew that borax treatment was proof against insect infestation, but hadn't heard about, or perhaps forgot about, the issue of its fire retardance. Another good fire retardant is sealing it up on the inside with cob and a waterproofed natural plaster outside, greatly reducing availability of oxygen. Or burying the structure in a thin layer of soil and sod. Or a thicker layer, growing pasture, pollinator food and habitat, and maybe some trees.

I would keep the insulation on the outside of the earthbags. If you insulate outside, the earthbags act as thermal batteries, trapping heat while you're heating, and acting as a heat sink in the summer, keeping it cool. If you insulate inside, you're subtracting interior space for no good reason I can see.

I would love to see pictures of and hear about ongoing or completed projects. To all earthbag adventurers, good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK



Great points.  I go back and forth on the insulation location (see this case in point: https://permies.com/t/89654/Proper-shell-layers-earthbag-dome) but in general I'm quite sold on the sprayed cellulose approach to insulation.  I gave clif's notes above, obviously there is more to the process, but in general I like the fact that with some initial investment in equipment (a paper mill and some form of sprayer) you have the ability to insulate any shape of structure on your own schedule, economically, and reusing waste materials.  Now this is all theory, but the more I think about it and learn about it the more convinced I become.

Water is still the biggest danger area to me in terms of earthbag building.
 
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