How to Build an Earth House

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Earthen houses have been used by mankind since we first emerged from caves tens of thousands of years ago. Earth is an easily workable material that can be applied to almost any framework to provide a unique look that can last beyond your lifetime with the proper care. Earthen walls are also well insulated to protect you and your belongings from the elements. You can build an earthen home and recycle at the same time, getting a well-built structure while saving a ton of money on building supplies.

Things You'll Need

  • Used tires
  • Tin snips
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Shovel
  • Wheel barrow
  • Concrete vibrator
  • Treated posts (6 inches by 6 inches by 10 feet)
  • 5/8 inch plywood
  • Framing hammer
  • 16d framing nails
  • Drill with 5/8 inch bit
  • 8-inch galvanized bolts with washers and nuts
  • 2-inch galvanized bolts with washers and nuts
  • Two adjustable wrenches
  • Prehung, exterior wooden door
  • Place a row of tires around the perimeter of your home. Leave a space that is just wide enough for your prehung door in one wall. Place a second row of tires on top of the first layer so that the 2 rows are staggered with the top layer overlapping the first layer by half. Cut the tires at the doorway with your tin snips to get them to the proper size.

  • Continue stagger stacking the tires until the front wall is 10 feet high and the back and side walls are 9 feet high. Lay a piece of plywood across the doorway gap just above the height of the door frame and lay tires across the plywood to fill in the gap above your door.

  • Mix soil and water in your wheel barrow and stir the mixture with your shovel until it is the consistency of thick oatmeal. Shovel the mud into the holes of the tires. Fill in the holes of the first few layers, vibrate the mud to remove air pockets and allow it to dry overnight. Continue filling a few layers at a time, vibrate each batch and allow it to dry before continuing.

  • Mix soil and water in your wheel barrow to the consistency of toothpaste and apply it to the inside and outside of your walls to fill in the cracks between the tires and get a smooth appearance to your walls. Work slowly, a few feet at a time, letting each section dry before adding more mud to the structure.

  • Lay a 6-by-6 post on top of the walls running from front to back every 2 feet across the roof opening. Drill through the post and into the tire below. Slide an 8-inch bolt through the post and into the tire and place a washer and nut on each bolt. Tighten the bolts with your adjustable wrenches.

  • Lay plywood on top of the posts and secure it to the structure with a 16d nail every 24 inches along each post. Lay the plywood so that the gap between sheets is in the middle of the posts while allowing an overhang on each side of the house. Cover the plywood roof with mud using the same mixture and method as you did with the walls.

  • Place the prehung door into the opening in your front wall. Attach the door frame to the structure with 2 inch butterfly anchor bolts. Snug the bolts with an adjustable wrench. Apply mud to the cracks around the door to seal the frame to the structure of the house.

  • Photo Credit tires stacked in herringbone design image by Zhann from Fotolia.com
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