Anyone here done any "alternative construction"?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Hears The Water, Aug 23, 2004.

  1. Hears The Water

    Hears The Water Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You know, like Straw Bale or Rammed Earth or Earth Ships? Dh John and I have been entertaining ideas about Strawbale construction but we are petty leery about these claims that you can build for $7.50 a square foot. That sounds realy good, but does that claim include the cost of pipes and the wood needed for the frame and the trusses etc etc etc? I would welcome any links to sites or any books that anyone could recomend. I would also love to hear from anyone aobut their own stories if they have done this. Realistic stories. I know that log cabing building is pretty popular here, but I am in SW MO and we don't have access to all of those lovely large trees to build with. So that is probably out. We realy want to build our own home and we are willing to do it in stages if we have to, but we want realistic ideas. Thanks in advance for any and all help.
    God bless you and yours
    Debbie
     
  2. I have always wanted to try straw bale for a barn. I do think it is basicly fill or curtain and requires almost a standard pole frame to get most codes to accept it in other words you probably won't get aproval to use a staw bale wall to bear a load the load will likely need to be carried by poles that could be imbedded in the wall. I have also wanted to try rammed earth for a fence as the thermal mass would be quite usefull as a pack for espelier fruit etc. I have not found a lot on the net other than sites selling books and manuals. both would probably be best set on a solid concrete foundation on footings below frost the foundation sticking up above grade at least 6 inches to prevent standing water contact during heavby rains. it may also be advantagouse to leave embeded rebar sticking up to extend through the stack of hay or dirt. In most climates rammed earth needs stabilized you may even need some hrizontal reinforcement for staw to try to prevent sway and a thick stucco or gunnite to get any resistance to wind.
     

  3. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    I built a straw bale house in colorado, but never occupied it because of the difficulty I had with ONE building inspector. I finally found out that the problem was neither me nor the strawbale, but with the man who sold the property to me. He didn't jump thru sufficient hoops with the county prior to selling his property. The building inspector was pushing the price of the home out of sight with rediculous requirements. I finally sold and moved. Fortunately you should not have that problem.

    7.50 a square foot is not realistic. However, if you do all the work yourselves and use some salvage materials, and don't use expensive finish materials, you can come in very reasonably.

    I would not even consider doing a load bearing wall. Modified post and beam is prob the cheapest, esiest and safest method. If you get Bill and Athena Steene's book, there is one house they show that was done using this method. They were able to do a direct comparison with the load bearing walls as they built another home with the same blueprint, but loadbearing. The modified post and beam came out ahead in materials and labor. It also has less problems with settling and plaster cracking.

    You might want to look into rubble foundations with a concrete bond beam on which you would place the bales and posts. Plan on an adobe plaster with lime render as working best with the bales. You would also want to make sure attic insulation is as good as the wall insulation. Also you want a good roof overhang to direct water away from the bales. Here are 2 good books. There are more now that I have not read, but you could start with these.

    # Build It With Bales: A Step-By-Step Guide to Straw-Bale Construction, Version Two by S. O. Macdonald, Matts Myhrman (Rate it)


    The Straw Bale House (A Real Goods Independent Living Book)
    by Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill Steen, David Bainbridge
     
  4. Hoop

    Hoop Well-Known Member

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    Do you consider vertical log buildings such as
    [​IMG]


    to be "alternative construction"?

    When it comes to claims of building for $7.50 per square foot......of course its possible. Just not very likely & even less realistic.

    But if you're building a place that is up to code on a steadfast foundation, comfortable, has running water, electricity, a legitimate septic system, modern windows/doors, etc......I'd have to think $40/square foot would be a bare bones real world minimum with $50 - $60/sq ft a far more realistic figure.

    People always forget.......the shell of the house is just that......the shell. A building that has 4 walls, a completed roof, doors & windows is far from livable.
    One will need a water delivery system, a hot water heater, a pressure tank and a network of pipes to route the water through the house. A septic system will be needed. Electricity also is pretty nifty. Then we need a heating system.....and lets not forget a cooling system. Lighting fixtures, toilet fixtures, kitchen cabinets, insulation, interior walls, floor coverings, paint, trim, interior doors, curtains, etc, etc, etc will also be needed.


    I saw a show a couple of years ago on Public Television where they showed someone building a straw bale house. All work was completed by a contractor. When all was said & done......the straw bale house cost came in at a not so paltry $100/sq foot!

    And, of course, it goes without saying.....trying to sell a straw bale house will not be a quick sale.
     
  5. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My house is 3200 sq ft modified post and beam straw bale. Nope you can't build one for $7.50 a SF, even if you leave out the kitchen and bath. Materials cost way more than that. Check the price of concrete, wood, plywood, and metal and we aren't even talking about plumbing fixtures and cabinets, nor floor coverings.

    Sorry.
     
  6. Hears The Water

    Hears The Water Well-Known Member Supporter

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    YuccaFlatsRanch, don't be sorry that you had to tell me that it couldn't be done for $7.50 a square foot. I realy appreceate your honesty. That is why I came on here to ask. I knew I could count on y'all for telling me like it is. I got that dollar figure from an article in Countryside Magazine. It was from back in like 2000 or 2001 and I suspect that they where talking about just the strawbales and the mud for the walls. When I read the article to dh John he and I both agreed that it sounded unrealistic. The first thing he said was "Does that include all of the other things like lumber, cement, rebar, conduit pipes etc etc etc.?"
    C's post above about post and beam for the load bearing walls sparked an idea. John works at our local Home Depot and he works with a lot of Mennonite folk. He thought that we might be able to have them come in and put up a post and beam "shell" inexpensively and we might even be able to get straw from them too. At this stage we are still realy just dreaming outloud but I don't want to get my hopes up on an un-realistic dream. Any more input???
    God bless you and yours
    Debbie
     
  7. where i am from mennonites are good people, but far from cheap labor not shy about spending or charging. just so you know.
     
  8. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    I believe a man named McDonald did build a house for 7.50 BUT, he did all the labor himself and he recycled a lot of the materials. It was also done more than 20 yrs ago.