Hand-Build an Earth Sheltered House For $5,000 | Home Design Find

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Hand-Build an Earth Sheltered House For $5,000

simondalehome500 diy

Cash, that most basic element of our economy, can be in abysmally short supply for new young families scraping by on marginal jobs.

Sustainable housebuilding may not be foremost in their minds.

But one young couple in Wales managing on an annual income of just $10,000 went ahead and built their own cheap home anyway, sustainably, mostly out of materials from “a rubbish pile somewhere.”

They had wanted to spend as much time as possible at home while their two children were young. Their nearby woodlands ecological management work would have been impractical if they were paying a mortgage.

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So they enlisted some help from family, and sometimes just from people passing by, and from any of their friends who stopped by to visit:

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The result was their very low impact homemade house. A hand built unique setting for a charmed life for their two young toddlers. I’ll bet they’ll remember this first home for the rest of their lives.

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Four months of hard work and they were all 4 moved in and cozy.

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Total expenditure? $5,000. Tools? A chisel, a chainsaw and a hammer. Building expertise? Simon Dale says:

“My experience is only having a go at one similar house 2yrs before and a bit of mucking around in-between. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverance and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.”

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Sustainable design and construction:

  1. Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  2. Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  3. Frame constructed of fallen trees from surrounding woodland
  4. Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally very easy to do
  5. Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  6. Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
  7. Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture compared to cement
  8. Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
  9. Other items were reclaimed from “a rubbish pile somewhere”: windows, wiring, plumbing

(Maybe there should be a new LEED rating just for building so inexpensively: Sustainable Financing. This is one mortgage bill that’s not going to be haunting their mum and dad for years.)

You can also save on rubbish and garbage pick up by renting a dumpster or skip yourself. Savings on a skip hire can be significant.

Inside there’s a wood-burner for heating – waste wood in the old-growth forest is locally plentiful.To get the most of the heat, the flue goes through a big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly releases the warmth.

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There are just a couple of solar panels – just enough for for lighting, music and computing. It’s a simple life. A skylight in the roof lets in enough natural feeling light, and water is fed by gravity downhill from a nearby spring. There’s a compost toilet. Roof water collects in a pond for gardening

Says Simon: “Our house is unusual but the aesthetic appeals to lots of people and perhaps touches something innate in us that evolved in forests.

Want to try making one too? Simon will show you how.

Images: www.SimonDale.net
First published by S Kraemer at Green Building Elements

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12 Comments so far to “Hand-Build an Earth Sheltered House For $5,000”
  1. Home Design Find | Weblog of Mike Bradford Says:

    […] best of all, you can Hand-Build an Earth Sheltered House For $5,000. Lord of the Rings style […]

  2. Jan Krueger Says:

    This is absolutely the cutest home I’ve ever seen! What wonders one can do with good old manual labor. One thing I question is…how you included “just a couple of solar panels” for $5,000????

  3. Gladys Smith-Duran Says:

    This type of hand built earth-sheltered house is not legal in my area. How does one go about getting the building code changed to allow these types of home and/or earthships?


  4. jashia lennon-bey Says:

    that very beautiful, i never saw that before. i love it was it hard to get the plans ready.

  5. Rich heipp Says:

    Love the home A+
    Looking to build simaler style home in Alaska. Any tips, pointers or plans? Would love to see more photos. Kid look as happy as could be in that cool castle.

  6. Susan Kraemer Says:

    The builder now offers classes in his native land – though.. might be a trek from Alaska!

  7. Merrill Johnson Says:

    When I was much younger, I dreamed of building home with rammed earth, straw bails, or rock walls. At one time I wanted to build a large basement home with a court open to the sky surrounded by the rooms. Every room would have a window to the court. But it never happened. Now I am old and quite happy with my traditional home.

  8. Tandi Says:

    I live in Alaska as well, Fairbanks. I plan on building along the same lines, but with a central indoor atrium for our year round gardening for self sustainment.

  9. Jason Says:

    Love this website. Was wondering, I have been looking for something like this over here in the states. Do you know of anyone that has contacted you from over here. Would love to know.

  10. Susan Kraemer Says:

    There is – google year of mud cob house

  11. ralph Says:

    Homes like this are nice to view and think about, but impractical on anything more than a niche scale. Else, imagine what would happen to the already declining forests if everyone else started to chuck their flats too and move into the hills; there wouldn't be enough earth to go around and there wouldn't be a tree left standing.

  12. Jazz Says:

    I think this is a brilliant low energy efficient way of creating space and working with the earth. There will still be plenty of trees left (think about how many trees it takes to create a 1000 sqft single story house let a lone a larger scale). Suburbia, and the cattle industry to name a couple are way more detrimental to forest than this earth design. Using running healthy fresh water and grey run off are smart effective ways to gather water and not to gush but compost toilets..simple and hopefully the future..Bravo! I hope more people see how we can work with Gaia and create eco- friendly spaces that make us realize how amazing it is to be alive on a gorgeous floating garden and to immerse ourselves in it.

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