An Earthbag Hut

The Hut

I had a make-shift tipi down the hill behind our house that I used as a retreat until Hurricane Ivan blew it down. I had been reading about earthbag construction and wanted to see if I could use sand bags to replace the tipi. I ordered 300 sandbags from the internet. In October of 2004 I began filling each of the 200 sand bags used in the hut. It took several Saturday afternoons to fill the bags. I dug a small pit about fifty feet from where I would build the hut. After carrying enough of the 65 lbs bags for a row I laid them in a circle and then tamped each bag. The small pit would later be used as a camp fire location.

I used an old tire to help form the arch doorway and shaped extra bags on top of the tire to actually form the top of the arch and once the arch was in place these bags and the tire was removed. I put small pieces of pvc pipe at different locations to provide ventelation. It took three separate attempts to get the arch ... just right.

The hut is 8' in diameter (wide enough to comfortably lay down inside) and stands over 7' high inside at the center. I used 200 bags for a total cost of less than $40.

I completed the sandbag portion of the hut in January of 2005. I filled and stacked every sand bag myself!

I purchased a book on earthbag construction which really helped with design questions. It recommended not leaving the sandbags exposed to the sun for too long. Once all of the bags were in place I began applying an earth based mud plaster to the outside. The photo above was taken from our small paddle boat (peddle powered!) with plaster applied to the upper half of the hut.

Applying the mud coat was a lot of fun. When it was complete I felt like it was like a sculpted piece of art work. My wife thought it looked like a giant termite mounds.

Heavy rains proved to be too much even after adding straw to the mud mixture. Eventually I just threw a lot of dirt on it. It has not leaked since applying the dirt. It held up in Huricanne Dennis in 2005 and after my duaghter did some landscaping the dirt covering doesn't look so bad.

In August of 2005 I added a small front porch to keep rain from coming in the doorway. Walking down the hill on the backside of the hut it looks like a giant pile of dirt. Its hard to believe people can actully sit inside. In winter it was 15 degrees warmer inside the hut than outside.

Building the hut was inexpensive, but required a lot of labor. As far as I'm concerned it has provided many
hours of silent retreat for me and it was indeed a ... labor of love.


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