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Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

The driving factor behind this project is the belief that simple design is high design, particularly when working in the developing world.

For the Love of Earthbags (F.L.O.E.) is an interactive design project that aims to prove that it’s possible to approach high-design in a manner that is tasteful, modern, and groundbreaking by using only the most basic materials, such as the dirt beneath our feet.

This project is an initiative led by architect Travis Hughbanks and supported by Edge of Seven (www.edgeofseven.org) in partnership with the local community of Basa, Nepal.

Edge of Seven is a nonprofit organization that generates awareness and volunteer support for projects that invest in education, health and economic opportunity for girls in developing countries. According to the World Bank, 30 percent of Nepalis live in poverty and this population is most concentrated in rural areas where people survive off of agriculture and subsistence farming. For Edge of Seven, earthbags offered an opportunity to improve rural educational infrastructure and combat poverty in the most low-cost, efficient and sustainable way possible.

How will the funding be spent? The money raised through this campaign will be used for supplies to create the earthbag school, educational tools, and the production of the graphic materials.

F.L.O.E.’s end goal is to elevate the practice of earthbag construction by producing several engaging and creative educational materials that will be used both to promote earthbag construction and teach local residents how to build with this method. The materials to be produced are an animated video and a graphic print manual.

To read more about this innovative project and see more of their interesting graphics check out this website: www.indiegogo.com

We have profiled the Nepali school project on several other posts:
finished-earthbag-school-in-nepal
earthbag-building-spreads-in-nepal
earthbag-school-in-nepal

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Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)

Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)


Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)

Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)


There are a lot of little details you can search on the Internet. This is just a basic introductory video to show you the cordwood/earthbag concept. What I like to do is have the mortar recessed slightly. It looks a little better if the wood is protruding slightly. You smooth this out. The mix is very similar — it’s basically cob. You could also call it earthen mortar.

Here is my general impression of cordwood construction. It’s extremely beautiful. It’s very practical in certain areas where you have an abundant wood supply. But it’s very labor intensive. Earthbag is several times faster. So it’s very slow. What I would recommend for most people is maybe just use it around a doorway, an entryway, because it’s very beautiful. Maybe around your fireplace, something like this, because it’s very beautiful. You can search the Internet and see some really beautiful examples of cordwood construction.

You can watch almost 100 videos at Earthbag Natural Houses YouTube channel. Each step of instruction, including how to make gravel bag foundations, is shown in detail.
Earthbag Instructable: steo-by-step earthbag building instructions

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Custom Log Furniture
Fastest Tenon Cutter
Rustic Log Bed
Rustic Woodworking
Rustic Log Benches

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Natural twig bench

Natural twig bench


Twig rocking chair

Twig rocking chair


Twig furniture by Andrew Gardner

Twig furniture by Andrew Gardner


Twig dining set

Twig dining set


You’ve built your sustainable home with low cost, natural materials. Now you want to look at furniture options that match your new home. Rustic twig furniture can be built practically for free if you make it yourself, and is quite attractive.

“Rustic furniture is furniture employing sticks, twigs or logs for a natural look. Many companies, artists and craftspeople make rustic furniture in a variety of styles and with a variety of historical and contemporary influences. There are two basic types of rustic-furniture construction: bentwood (sticks are harvested fresh or steamed to make them supple, then bent into a variety of structures and decorative shapes) and twig work (sticks – straight, curved or forked – are assembled into structures and decorative shapes within a structure). Sometimes both types are used in the same piece. Some rustic furniture makers use mortice and tenon construction; others simply nail or screw members together. Dan Mack is a well-known furniture maker who has authored several books on the subject. Ralph Kyloe has written books on rustic furniture and related topics.

Rustic furniture was originally made from whatever natural materials were in greatest supply, and often by poor people as items of trade for food or cash. It is associated with the Great Depression and other hard times in America; however, it is also associated with the Great Camps built by wealthy Americans in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Various rustic styles reflect the personality of their maker, with techniques such as chip carving, silver or gold brushwork, milk paint, peeled bark and other decorative enhancements. The basic wood used for rustic furniture was usually willow, although many other hard- and softwoods were also used. In the American South, palm fronds were occasionally employed. Historical examples of rustic furniture may be found in museums and antique shops, although fine historical pieces are rare outside a museum setting. One showcase for this style of furniture is the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York. Typical items of rustic furniture include chairs, love seats, tables, desks, clocks, chest of drawers, rockers, coat racks, mirror frames and lamps.”

Source: Wiki
Image source: Natural Tree Furniture.com
Image source: Log Cabin Rustics
Image source: Twig Furniture
Image source: Custom Rustic Furniture.com

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Homes built with natural materials are beautiful and less expensive than homes built with concrete, steel and milled lumber.

Homes built with natural materials are beautiful and less expensive than homes built with concrete, steel and milled lumber.


The way to save the most money on your new home is to build it yourself. Anyone who has priced new houses or gotten bids for remodeling knows how expensive contractors are. If you build with conventional modern materials, houses tend to be quite complex and beyond the scope of DIYers, so most people end up paying contractors to build their home. Building with natural materials provides a way out of this debt trap. People have been building their own homes with earth, stone, wood poles, bamboo and other natural materials throughout human history. Anyone can do this if they really set their mind to it and move to an area with minimal building codes. In the past, building everything by hand was very arduous. Things are much easier now thanks to ready availability of good tools, machines (low cost if rented), and books and articles that explain the process.

Here are just a few ways to save tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of hard work.
• You can save an enormous amount of time and effort over traditional methods by having soil, sand and gravel delivered right where you need them. This one step could save you 100 hours of hard labor.
• Buy bags for earthbag building instead of building time consuming wooden forms for rammed earth.
• Buy poles from a woodsman if you’re too busy, or harvest them yourself from a local forest. Either way is far less expensive than milled lumber that has been shipped 1,000 miles and marked up in price by numerous middlemen.
• Build tamped earth floors or another type of earth floor and save a bundle on materials. Tamped earth floors are dirt cheap because you don’t need beams, joists, special hardware, sheathing, glue, nails and so on.
• Earth plaster is another way to cut costs. People have been plastering their own homes for thousands of years, so obviously there’s no need to hire contractors for this. Earth plaster creates a superior wall finish on the interior and is suitable for exterior walls with wide roof overhangs.

Image source: Caribbean Living Blog
(excellent blog that I just discovered!)

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Southwestern style distressed wood finish on weathered wood creates a timeless look.

Southwestern style distressed wood finish on weathered wood creates a timeless look.


Antique finished cabinet

Antique finished cabinet


Old world style furniture with wipe off antique finish

Old world style furniture with wipe off antique finish


Most people choose standard wood finishes for cabinets, furniture, doors, trim and other woodwork around the home. The most common finishes include wipe on oil finishes, paint, lacquer and varnish. These standard finishes work quite well, but sometimes it’s fun to explore artistic options to make something out of the ordinary.

If you’re working with recycled wood such as barnwood and wood from pallets, the wood is already distressed and so you might consider highlighting the weathered look with a distressed wood finish to save time and effort. It’s far easier to work with what you have than milling and sanding rough salvaged wood and trying to make it look perfect. For example, the grit buried in the wood will quickly dull planer and joiner blades. And keep in mind a little bit of distressing goes a long way. I don’t know about you, but subtlety looks far better to my eye. You might want to practice on a small piece and gradually add distressing to discover what looks best.

There are many types of distressed finishes and so you’ll want to search and read up on the details. Techniques include: highlighting the pores and cracks with colored paste-wood filler or paint, rubbing or sanding through the finish, removing some finish with paint thinner, applying multiple coats of different colors and exposing lower coats, rubbing darker finish into trim or recesses, flyspeck and splattering, chipped off finish, crackle finish, glazing finishes and a whole host of others.

Many times, multiple techniques are combined. As an example, one time I made a bathroom vanity cabinet out of white cedar. I wire wheeled the wood to create an interesting texture, and applied a medium dark wood stain and let it dry. Then I lightly rubbed on different colors of paint (turquoise, dark blue and gray) – just a little here and there! – and quickly rubbed it off to create an antique look. A little color was left behind in the pores and recesses. After drying, I sprayed the cabinet with clear lacquer. The final antique appearance looked great with custom wrought iron hardware.

In addition to distressed finishes, you might want to explore alternate ways of physically distressing wood to achieve an antique/aged look: weather the wood naturally with water and sunlight, wire wheel (for softer woods), sand blasting, wood rasps and files, hand sanding with sandpaper or steel wool, power sanders, chisels, sharp instruments such as nails and awls to simulate insect damage, heat/fire, chemical treatment.

To learn more about distressing wood and distressed wood finishes, search these keywords: antique finish, distressed wood, distressed finish, rustic finish, faux antique wood finish, rubbed painted finish, weathered wood finish, whitewash, pickled finish, wood glaze.

Image source: Great Southwest Furniture Design
Image source: Airlass.com
Image source: Wisno Furniture Finishing.com

Related:
Wood finishing PDF
Sundance Furniture and Décor
Pallet Craft

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Developing a network of friends can be a big help for achieving your dream of home ownership. A quick search on Meetup.com for ‘earthbag’, just one of numerous social networking sites, turned up the following groups that may prove helpful.

Texas Natural Builders “This group is for anyone interested in Natural Building. We explore and experiment with strawbale, cob, cordwood, pallets, rammed earth, earthbags, wattle and daub, papercrete, earthships, adobe, and all other natural building methods. This group is not centered around the Waller location — it is intended for all of Texas locations and all members can set their own meetups in their areas!”

Portland Natural Building Group “Meet other locals who explore a variety of building techniques that use in-situ materials for housing: earth, clay, cob, rammed earth, earthbag, straw bale, wattle & daub, round wood, bamboo.”

Another search on Meetup.com (again, just one possible site to consider) for ‘natural building’ turned up dozens of groups in Chicago, Vancouver, Great Lakes, Syracuse, Louisville, Los Angeles, San Diego and elsewhere. Some groups seem more interested in permaculture or holistic living, but you might find some people with common interests in natural building.

Search for ‘earthbag’ or ‘natural building’ on Facebook and you’ll find loads of interesting sites and most likely find others with common interests who live nearby.

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Straw bales with pallets on each side tied together create a strong, superinsulated wall.

Straw bales with pallets on each side tied together create a strong, superinsulated wall.


“Hello, We want to add two rooms to an existing small older home, my question is: We want to build a straw bale home with pallets on both sides, the thought is to put up the straw bales, then put on earth/clay/mud on the bales. As we put the mud on we will put a pallet up against the mud on each side and finish the wall, then once the mud is dry put adobe mud with straw [straw/clay] inside the pallets. This would create a very thick insulated wall. We live in North Dakota where it gets very cold and windy. Maybe we could put a somewhat flat roof so that it can be an earth roof with herbs. We will recycle rain water. Has anyone built walls in this manner? The room would be about 20ftx12ft Would this be sturdy enough to hold two story? There would be a partition wall in the center. We want to build being considerate of the environment and have little money. The pallets we are collecting free of charge just gas to pick them up. We would make our own mud/adobe and can get straw inexpensive, otherwise we will not be able to add on. We appreciate all the help you can give us as our funds are limited and work up here in the North is very little in the winter months and pay is not so good either.”

Owen: I like your idea very much. A straw bale/pallet wall will work for your purpose. One suggestion is to lay lengths of baling twine between the bales as you stack them and then later tie to the pallets. This will add a lot of strength. Be sure to raise the bales well off the ground away from snow and rain on gravel filled earthbags. And you’ll want to build a bond beam along the top of the wall to tie the whole structure together. If you do everything correctly, then I believe a 2nd story is possible, but only with careful workmanship and working out the details.
Key points:
– It’s way faster and easier to use earthbags filled with gravel instead of tires.
– Brick on the outside is possible, but will greatly add to the cost unless it’s recycled.
– Typical living roofs are very heavy. Research thin, lightweight living roofs.
– Do not use a moisture barrier on the walls. Vapor must be able to pass through the wall.
– Build a strong bond beam as shown in the drawing and then you can add a second story. Insulate the cavity in the bond beam.
– Papercrete is prone to molding, especially in damp, cool climates. Do not use in your area.
– Add plaster mesh or chicken wire to the pallets, and plaster the walls. Wood siding is another option.
– Rainy areas create risk of the walls getting wet during construction. I suggest building a post and beam structure (pole building) first, then the roof and then the walls.

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With the vast majority of people unable to afford a contractor-built and code-approved home (over 70% in the U.S.), we must look for alternative solutions to lower the cost of construction. Ideally, these lower-cost solutions also reduce energy costs, cause less harm to the environment and cut long term maintenance.

Here are 10 simple ways to achieve all of these goals:
1. Use locally available, low-impact natural materials: Earth, straw, cellulose insulation, small diameter wood, sand, stone and other materials can often be gathered for free or at very low cost. Try to do this without causing harm. Thinning small diameter wood from crowded forests, for example, can actually improve the health of forests and reduce forest fires.

2. Earthbag foundations: They offer many advantages over reinforced concrete foundations and work well with many types of sustainable buildings. In particular, they are low-cost, fast and easy to build, require no cement (a major expense with high CO2 emissions) and require no forms or expensive equipment. This is an easy way to save thousands of dollars.

3. Strawbale or earthbag walls: Of the many natural building options, strawbale and earthbag building seem to be the most popular. They are relatively fast and simple, and well-suited to do-it-yourself builders. With thousands of happy homeowners and successful examples to learn from, these building methods are gradually progressing into mainstream use.

4. Earth floors and plaster: Earth creates stunningly beautiful homes, perhaps unrivaled by any other material. Its use in homebuilding is almost limitless, often turning homes into sculptural and livable works of art. The benefits are many. Besides being beautiful, earth plasters control indoor humidity. Earth floors are slightly resilient underfoot and can last many hundreds if not thousands of years. Both create additional thermal mass inside a home, which helps stabilize indoor temperatures and reduce energy costs.

5. Build small and simple — only what you need: This greatly simplifies and speeds construction, cuts costs, and reduces heating and cooling costs.

6. Passive solar design: Orient the home on an east-west axis (the long side of the home facing south in the northern hemisphere). Proper window placement and correctly-sized roof overhangs will improve energy performance.

7. Carefully consider the building design: Create a sealed, superinsulated design in cold climates. Passive House technology in Germany has shown a furnace is not needed with a well sealed, superinsulated building. With good solar orientation and other design detailing, an air-to-air exchanger is sufficient to keep the home comfortable. In hot climates, create an open design for improved ventilation and use plants for natural cooling.

8. Use low maintenance materials or materials that age well: Consider long term maintenance costs as well as initial costs of construction. Durable metal roofing, for example, (light colored in hot climates) will outlast asphalt shingles, and works great for collecting roofwater.

9. Shop and compare, and use recycled materials whenever possible: You can save about $1,000 on a small house just by shopping around. Another way to save big is to stockpile materials gleaned from yard sales and construction sites. It’s amazing what some people throw away. (I helped build a house years ago that used almost 100% recycled materials. We helped demolish an old warehouse and, in payment for our labor, got rock-solid Douglas fir lumber.)

10. DIY owner-builder: Being your own general contractor can save thousands of dollars with careful planning. It’s not something to take lightly. Building your own home takes a lot of work and time, but the rewards are significant. The end result will be a personalized home that’s perfect for you and yours at significantly lower cost.

This article was originally published at ArticleBliss.com.

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Description: This article explores the growing popularity of earthbag building (also called sandbag building) and how it can be used to provide affordable housing that’s simple enough for do-it-yourselfers to build their own home. By using dirt-cheap building materials (earth, sand, gravel, recycled materials, etc.) and eliminating expensive contractors and specialized equipment, the cost of construction can be slashed to a fraction of conventional housing costs.

The two largest obstacles to home ownership are expensive building materials and overly complex construction methods that require specialized skills and equipment. The problem is so acute that over 70 percent of Americans are unable to afford contractor-built homes. With the current downturn in the economy and the loss of millions of jobs, the housing situation in the U.S. is definitely taking a turn for the worse.
Everyone needs a place to live – shelter is a basic need. But since the current system is bypassing the vast majority of the population, it’s time to investigate simpler, more affordable building methods.

The answer may be right under our feet (earth). That’s right; building with earth is a timeless building tradition with some structures lasting many hundreds of years. Over a third of the buildings in the world are earth structures. Earth is probably the least expensive building material (literally dirt-cheap), and therefore holds enormous potential for solving our housing crisis. Some may assume earth buildings are just mud huts. Far from it! If your background isn’t in architecture, you may not be aware of the amazing diversity of earth structures. Look up “earth architecture” on the Internet if you’re not already informed.

There are many earth building methods – adobe, rammed earth, CEB and so on. This article explores the growing popularity of earthbag building (also called sandbag building) and how it can be used to provide affordable housing that’s simple enough for do-it-yourselfers to build their own home. By using dirt-cheap building materials (earth, sand, gravel, recycled materials, etc.) and eliminating expensive contractors and specialized equipment, the cost of construction can be slashed to a fraction of conventional housing costs.

Earthbag building has it’s origin in military sandbag building. For about 100 years, the military have been building durable, blast and bullet proof structures out of sandbags. Also, sandbags have been used for many years to hold back floodwaters. Today, builders are using the same basic process of filling, stacking and tamping bags to build a wide variety of structures the world over – beautiful homes, offices, shops, schools and more.

Besides affordability and durability, the other main advantage is simplicity of construction. What could be simpler than filling and stacking bags of earth? The main skills can be learned in a few minutes simply by being shown or watching a video. Almost everything you need to know is available free on the Internet. And most people already have the basic tools around the house – shovels, buckets, garden hose, ladder. The other few tools required can be made quickly and easily or purchased inexpensively.

Here are just a few ways of saving money by building with earthbags:
– Recycled bags are readily available in most places. Polypropylene or burlap bags are ubiquitous, being used for all types of grain, fertilizer and animal feed, and sometimes for concrete, plaster and other products. Talk to local farmers and feed supply outlets.
– Misprinted bags are often available direct from manufacturers at greatly reduced prices. Between misprinted bags and recycled bags (in good condition) you can cut the main expense of earthbag building to almost nil.
– No special mix is required. Most soils, including those on or near most building sites, are adequate or can be adjusted with sand or clay to create an appropriate mix. This makes the other primary material for earthbag building basically free or close to it.
– You can order special mixes of earth from sand and gravel producers, such as road base and reject fines, at very low prices. The main expense is delivery, but this has to be weighed against your time and effort to dig it from the ground. Spending $200-$300 for delivery of an excellent mixture free of large rocks and roots can save hundreds of hours of hard labor. And, they’ll dump it in piles around the building site to speed construction and save even more work.
– No need for a typical concrete foundation. Earthbags filled with gravel make an excellent foundation. This step alone can save you thousands of dollars.
– Build an insulated earth floor and save thousands more. Sealed earth floors can last hundreds of years. Think of all the wood, plywood, linoleum, etc. that can be saved.
– Use earth plaster and save thousands more. With wide roof overhangs of 36” or so, earth plaster will hold up very well in most climates, requiring only minor maintenance.
– Use recycled materials whenever possible. Door and window forms, for instance, can be made from scrap wood from pallets, discarded barrels or tires. Sinks, tubs, doors, hardware, shelving, tile and many other components can be salvaged for very low cost.

Go to EarthbagBuilding.com and Earthbag Building Blog at to learn more about this novel building method.

The original article was published at EzineArticles.com.

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