ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Build Your Home With Your Own Two Hands!

Updated on April 20, 2012

Natural Building

I've been bitten by the natural building bug, and I've decided to infec...er, um, share what I'm learning with the rest of the world. I hope to eventually settle into an eco-community and build my own house. In the mean time I'm reading books, surfing the web, and taking classes on the subject.

Right now, this lens covers only three of the many different ways to utilize natural materials when building. As I become more educated on the subject I'll add more techniques and also build individual, more indepth lenses around specific subjects like straw bale, cob, and rammed earth.

So, sit back and enjoy the ride. Please keep all hands and feet inside the car at all...oh heck, get out and run around crazy if ya want! It's ok with me. :)

(photo by gerrythomasen / CC BY 2.0)

photo by ricoslounge
photo by ricoslounge

Strawbale Construction

I'm having flash backs to my old Leggo set...

Straw has been used in wall construction for thousands of years in some areas of the world, but usually in a mixture with clay and sand. Today's straw bales are a product of the industrial revolution, being the packaged waste from modern hay making (ok, no snickering in the back row.)

These large, fairly dense blocks are wonderful insulation in a naturally built home. They reduce the amount of lumber needed while creating thick, well insulated walls. They are great at keeping sound out and temperatures regulated. Straw bales are surprisingly fire resistant, too. They also stand up to high winds very well. So, who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Not strawbalers, that's for sure.

For more info, check out my lens on strawbales: Don't Be Afraid of The Big Bad Wolf. Build with Strawbales!

Hello (insert name here), this is Straw Bale - Just a little introduction

Build Your Library With Strawbale - Er, um, I mean: Do some reading about strawbale

photo by erissiva
photo by erissiva

Cob

And I don't mean corn

A traditional building technique from the British Isles (you know those white houses with the thatched roofs? that's cob with a lime plaster), cob is being transformed into something new in the US. Cob is made by combining clay, sand and a binder, such as straw and/or manure (ya, I said manure), with water to make a sticky mud. This mud is then used to build your structure.

Cob is more akin to sculpting with clay than any other technique. It's so versatile that you can make walls, benches, or even ovens out of it. You can add beautiful art elements right onto the walls of your living space and highlight them with a coating of colorful earth plaster. Another popular decoration in owner-made cob houses is to include glass bottles or jars into the walls. They let in light and make a colorful stained glass effect.

For more info on cob, check out my lens Building with Cob.

The Beauty of Mud - Some inspiriing imagery and thoughts

Show Some Love - Vote for your favorite natural building technique

What is your favorite natural building technique?

See results
photo by diamondmountain
photo by diamondmountain

Earthbag Construction

It's my bag, baby. Ya!

The bad Austin Powers imitations aside, earthbag construction is another great way to utilize the ground beneath your feet. Developed originally for temporary military shelters and protection against flood waters, earthbag construction for permanent structures was made popular by Nader Kalili in the 1980s and 90's.

Earthbag involves filling long bags with (you guessed it) earth and stacking them to make the walls of the structure. Because the bags act as the binder, there is less of a need to worry about the clay/sand ratio than there is in other techniques, such as cob or adobe. As the structure is being built, strands of barbed wire are laid down in between each layer of bags to prevent shifting. Earthbag structures tend to be domes, though building a rectangular or square house is possible with a little extra planning.

Earthbag in Nepal - Working towards a better future

Earthbag Education - Crack open a book before you break ground

It's an obsession, I know - Check out what natural building youtube vids I've faved

There's a plethora of natural building vids on youtube. Some are professionally produced, and some are just a random person sharing their passion with the world. Um, that's passion for building, of course. Anything else would loose me the g-rating on this lens, now wouldn't it?

Check out some of my absolute faves on everything from mixing cob to earthbag construction.

Go Ahead, Get Dirty - Just remember to wear your play clothes

There are a surprising number of educational opportunities for those wanting to know more about natural building. There are few established schools, but many eco-communities or homesteads offer courses or internships on a variety of techniques. Also, professional builders will sometimes give classes for those interested in building their own structures.


So, what are ya waiting for? Get out there and get ta buildin'!

Another Poll

Got any natural building experience?

See results

Feel free to give me any feedback. I would love to see this lens change and grow organically based on what you want.

Reader Feedback - Whatcha think?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 3 years ago

      A great lens, and relevant for me. I'm planning to build my dream retirement tiny sanctuary in the near future, hopefully on my daughters land.Thank you for the tips ideas, and resources!

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      Good informative lens, I like these natural building techniques, very interesting.

    • Piercaps profile image

      Piercaps 4 years ago

      Great info. I'd love to have a go at building one of these.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @Deadicated LM: No, but I'm not surprised. Hemp fiber is so versatile!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Cool Lens, did you ever hear of building a house using Hemp?

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I hadn't heard of all of these. A good post. :)

    • profile image

      SherryShriver 5 years ago

      Very interesting article! I just listed an original adobe home in Rancho Santa Fe - some people think they have to be small, but my La Gracia listing is over 3000 esf!

    • JoleneBelmain profile image

      JoleneBelmain 5 years ago

      I would get a great sense of accomplishment building a home, or helping with the construction of it... I rather enjoy working with my hands (although I would need someone there to show me what do to lol), I do not have the carpentry skills to do it myself by any means.

    • athomemomblog profile image

      Genesis Davies 5 years ago from Guatemala

      When I was very small, my father built a cordwood goat shed which we lived in for a year while working on the main house. It got me interested in natural building techniques and now that I'm grown and have a house of my own, I find them all the more interesting.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @Pam Irie: Well, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the lens.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      The earthbag construction was a new one for me. This was a really enjoyable lens and I did learn some new things. You are blessed. :)

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @markozolic: Thanks for taking time to leave a comment here. I'm glad the lens inspired you to give natural building a try! An outdoor kitchen sound like a great first project. Feel free to stop back by and let us know how it's working for you. :)

    • vekoslavr lm profile image

      vekoslavr lm 5 years ago

      Inspiring lens. Thank you. I didn't think that way.

    • profile image

      markozolic 5 years ago

      i think this is a little bet hard for me, i don't have skills/background on carpentry, reading and watching videos on your lens fascinates me, and its give me an idea of how great to Build Your Home With Your Own Two Hands! gonna try this Earthbag Construction on our outdoor kitchen, hope i do it right.. indeed a very informative lens, lots of thanks

      Broken Rib Symptoms | Broken Rib Treatment | Broken Rib

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @vekoslavr lm: Well, I'm glad the lens has broadened your horizons a bit. :)

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @Holysheepskin LM: Ya, tiny houses are an awesome counterpoint to the traditional McMansion. But, these natural buildings can be HUGE! For example, there's a city in Yemen composed of ancient cob skyscrapers. It's quite a site to see. :)

    • Holysheepskin LM profile image

      Holysheepskin LM 5 years ago

      I so love these tiny houses! I hate wasted space and these are just so cute!

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Ya, I saw that on your blog, Ziggy. I'm currently playing the "should I or shouldn't I" game in my head on whether or not to sign up for one.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @valiapegli: The Year of Mud is hosting two natural building workshops in 2012 -- check out their Timber Frame Workshop and Straw Bale Workshops!

    • profile image

      valiapegli 5 years ago

      I would love to live in a building like that. I don't think i can manage but i will give a try. I would be very glad if you visited my lens about green energy sources and left your comment

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I haven't seen them in France, but know of the Earthships in Taos, New Mexico. How awesome that that design has hopped the pond and is finding its way to Europe!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      natural building is great - have you seen the house they built in france with old tyres rammed with earth.Best of both worlds.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      Really enjoyed the natural techniques you shared. Thanks a lot for including the earthship.

    • adamfrench profile image

      adamfrench 5 years ago

      Impressive lens, thumbs up

    • SilmarwenLinwelin profile image

      SilmarwenLinwelin 5 years ago

      Great lens! I didn't know this was possible. Thanks for sharing!

    • Katemcm profile image

      Katemcm 5 years ago

      I love this site! This will keep me busy for a bit! My son wants to build a cobb house so I will pass this on. Thank-you

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 5 years ago from Missouri

      This is more and more interesting to me. Thanks for teaching us about this.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Wow, the pallet house looks like an awesome project. I look forward to seeing what it looks like once it's infilled and plastered. Good luck! (And good luck on your upcoming cordwood workshop. I spent some time on a cordwood build and really enjoyed the building style.)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You should see the home we at Texas Natural Builders are putting up made from pallets on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota!!

      We are looking for volunteers to come learn light straw clay insulation and earthen plasters!!!

      http://nbnetwork.org/events/active/pine-ridge-rese...

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 6 years ago

      @Lee Hansen: Aw, gosh, thanks. :)

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      Just came back by to bless this favorite alt-building green construction lens ...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I so love your lens,Do you know if any of these companys would be able to make sothing as in wheelchair friedly,

      thanks

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 6 years ago

      @anonymous: That's great! If you take pics, or keep a blog please feel free to let me know. I'd love to see what you do. :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      im going to do this! not sure which one yet, im thinking cob, but im diong!!!!

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 6 years ago

      @LensSeller: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 6 years ago

      @itsmuzza2011: That's ok. Concrete may be more energy intensive in comparison, but many natural builders use it judiciously. It works nicely for radiant floor heating, from what I understand.

    • profile image

      LensSeller 6 years ago

      A very interesting lens that contains some excellent information.

    • itsmuzza2011 profile image

      itsmuzza2011 6 years ago

      great lens, sorry but i work in concrete its so versatile and manageable

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 6 years ago from Michigan

      Hey, Merry! Nice to meet you! You're a terrific writer...and you've picked a very interesting subject about which to write. I was surprised to learn that straw bale structures are so fire-resistant because the first thing I thought of when heard the phrase was, "Who wants to live in a firetrap made of straw?" Thumbs up for this very well-constructed lens. I'm headed over to another of your lenses to read more about those straw bale houses.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      We're building with cob at the moment, but it's only to construct a rocket mass heater. I'd love to move onto a larger project one day.

      Our heater will be posted here New Self Sufficient Living.com when it's all done and hopefully giving us plenty of heat!

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 6 years ago from US/TN

      What an interesting topic! I'd never heard of most of these techniques. Blessed!

    • Joe McGuire profile image

      Joe McGuire 6 years ago

      Nice lens, I'm planning either a log or cordwood home in the near future. Leaning towards cordwood right now

    • profile image

      AmbrosiaPopsicle 6 years ago

      This is just amazing, I would love to make a hobbit house!

    • Violin-Student profile image

      Violin-Student 6 years ago

      Great information. While I've never done it myself, I have a friend who has constructed a straw bale structure. He's thrilled about it! Very interesting. Thanks for putting this together.

      Art Haule

    • Judy Goldsberry profile image

      Judy Goldsberry 6 years ago

      Very interesting I didn't know there were so many different types of green houses. I would like to try building a small one.

    • Asinka profile image

      Asinka Fields 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      This opened my eyes to so many new ways of building a house.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I had no idea there were so many options for natual building.

    • profile image

      cainersbliss99 6 years ago

      Great lens..i'm building a house in thailand at the moment and you have given me loads of new ideas..thanks!

    • callinsky lm profile image

      callinsky lm 6 years ago

      I just LOVE these. It is my dream to have a home like this someday. I love it. Thank you for sharing.

    • renee7 profile image

      renee7 7 years ago

      I don't know that I will ever build my own house, though I haven't dismissed the idea entirely! But if I were to give it a try, I would love to create something really different with the COBB building material. Crazy versatile. Great lens.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 7 years ago

      @ElectricityElf: Thanks. :) Ya, cob makes for a beautiful structure, doesn't it?

    • profile image

      ElectricityElf 7 years ago

      Love the Cobb house.

      Great lens.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 7 years ago

      @harmonyforlife: Neat. I don't have any first hand experience in earthbag (yet), though I've seen buildings that use is as awall foundation. I hope you build a lens about it. I'd love to see how it turns out.

    • profile image

      harmonyforlife 7 years ago

      Hi Merry, After I get my bottle green house done, I plan on doing a earthbag building by my garden for tornado shelter, and storage, I like the design and eco friendlyness.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 7 years ago

      @Home Interior D: Thanks, glad you liked the lens. :)

      Oh my, yes, I'm in love with the "chocolate box" houses...the white plastered ones with the thatched roofs. (Did I get that term right?) One of these days I'll make it over to the UK to see them in person.

    • Home Interior D profile image

      Home Interior D 7 years ago

      Great lens. I have a particular affection for cob and thatched roofs. Perhaps that's not surprising as I come from the British Isles.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 7 years ago

      @kerbev: That's a good question. Here are a couple of answers:

      http://www.strawbalehomes.com/Strawbale%20FAQ.html

      http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/articles/insuranc...

      Really I think it boils down to how you approach your insurance company, and if the agent has had experience or education about alternative homes. Hope those links help!sni

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 7 years ago from Upstate, NY

      Do you find it difficult to insure these types of dwellings?

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks, Halley!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thanks for this great lens.

      Really enjoyed the read 5***** and favorited!

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 7 years ago

      Thanks for all the wonderful comments, everyone! I'm having such an amazing time on this whole "green living" journey and am very glad to have a way to share it with others. :)

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

      What a great idea! It's economical, environment-friendly, and best of all fun to do. (: *blessed by an angel*

    • Kimsworld LM profile image

      Kimsworld LM 7 years ago

      Great lens. Having built my own little house I found it very informative. I used conventional materials, but used as much recycled material as was available. I love the rammed earth method. Looked at it years ago, but was unable to utilize where I live.

    • profile image

      davenlaura2 7 years ago

      Terrific site - hadn't seen these types of buildings before. Our experience has been mostly with more traditional building styles, but we've been pursuing self sufficient living for quite some time now. Left the city behind in the spring of 2001 and moved into an unfinished home in the mountains. Have been learning to grow our own food, heat with sustainable resources, etc.. We've got a blog going - please visit and share your thoughts at http://www.selfsufficientlivingblog.com

    • profile image

      palaceofglass 7 years ago

      Great lens! Very informative with lots of great material. Highly recommended!

      Check out Art Glass and Shower Doors

    • brutus1 lm profile image

      brutus1 lm 7 years ago

      wow- really excellent information. Very informative. I'm just beginning to learn about straw bale construction - so thanks for the help there.

      https://hubpages.com/education/Mistake-In-Disignin...

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Sure, this is great. Nothing like our own two hands. They are here for us, and give us the best.

    • profile image

      rajatgarg 7 years ago

      Great stuff! Check out http://www.comparefurnishings.com for products to help you with it

    • profile image

      Earth_Friend 7 years ago

      Great lens!! Have you considered a Geothermal Heat Pump when building new homes? There are many benefits check out this lens to see them! It is great for the environment and will save you money!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 7 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      You must be related to my son-in-law. He comes up with all of these ideas to use natural materials. I'm going to show this lens to him .... he'll love it. 5*s

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Fun! I'm lensrolling it to my wattle-and-daub lens. Good work.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Fun! I'm lensrolling it to my wattle-and-daub lens. Good work.

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 8 years ago from Montana

      Beautiful lens, great ideas. Angel blessings...

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 8 years ago

      Interesting and informative lens. Great job! Been finding unique lenses and this one is definitely a winner. Mind if you could check my lens about Toner Refill Kits and tell me what you think about it.

    • rubyandmahoney profile image

      rubyandmahoney 8 years ago

      Informative lens. I love the concept of building with natural materials. I first heard about rammed earth when I was living in Arizona..it is a great insulator with the heat there. But, until we move to place where land is affordable, house building is just a dream for now.

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 8 years ago

      [in reply to Pastiche] Thanks, Pastiche. Love the tiny house lens! The more I learn about building, the more I like the idea of living in a small house. 5*s right back at ya. :)

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 8 years ago from Vermont

      It's cool to see all the different materials nature provides for us to create our own shelter. This lens is featured at Eco-Friendly Tiny Houses. 5*

    • sjgriffith profile image

      sjgriffith 8 years ago

      Super lens, great stuff

    • profile image

      geothermalminnie 8 years ago

      Super lens! One day I may feel the urge to build my own house! :-)

    • inforganics profile image

      inforganics 8 years ago

      Great lens. This might be the 'biggest' concept of Green Living :) Awesome stuff you have here. A well deserved 5*****

    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      I can see that you did a lot of research for this lens.

      A very well deserved 5

    • mrvardeman profile image

      mrvardeman 8 years ago

      Very cool lens. I'd love to build a house.

    • profile image

      rodssquidoolenses 8 years ago

      Hey,

      great lens. I was not aware that people were actually starting to build green houses. You have obviously researched this subject very well. most interesting Well done!

      Rod Warnock

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Excellent. Everything I wanted to say has already been said in your reader feedback so I will just repeat - excellent

    • BlueMtnWildlife profile image

      BlueMtnWildlife 8 years ago

      Great info. We are looking to build a new clinic for our rehab center, and want to make it a "green building". We'll have to look into all of these.

    • profile image

      totalhealth 8 years ago

      thanks for promoting green living and using natural materials in building homes. great lens and ideas.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Merry this is fantastic. I lensrolled it to about 8 of my lenses, and will feature it on two. A very nice job, and I will return to watch some videos. Super! :))

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 8 years ago

      [in reply to Oliver] That is an awesome site, Oliver! I'll add it to this lens. Thanks for telling me about it. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Maybe you will like this map of natural homes around the World. Each home on the map leads to the owner's website and displays a picture of the home

      http://naturalhomes.org/ecohousemap.htm

      Regards, Oliver

    • MerryChicky profile image
      Author

      MerryChicky 8 years ago

      Wow, I'm honored. Tell your son that he's the one that rocks![in reply to Rondanella]

    • slcalvin profile image

      Sharron Calvin 8 years ago from San Luis Valley, Colorado

      Great Lens. Hadn't seen the earth bag design yet. I also am passionate about building my own sustainable home sometime soon with papercrete. I lensrolled your article over onto my papercrete story.

    • profile image

      LinaRose 8 years ago

      This is a great lens, ecobuilding is not a way back to the past it is a way to the future

    • profile image

      Rondanella 8 years ago

      My son thinks your sight rocks. He used it at show and tell. It was a great hit. Thank you.

    • profile image

      foreverme 8 years ago

      I love this info! You make me want to go totally back to nature.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thanks for some great hands-on info,will try it when we move out of town,next year.

    • profile image

      Rgrewell99 8 years ago

      Interesting concepts. I'll have to read more. Nicely done.

    • profile image

      geminiwoman50 8 years ago

      Ithink this is a really practical ideal.I also think I will visit again to learn more .

    • profile image

      geminiwoman50 8 years ago

      Ithink this is a really practical ideal.I also think I will visit again to learn more .

    • profile image

      Belindance 8 years ago

      Really interesting lens, maybe this will become more accepted in the near future. To give everyone a chance to live in their own home.

    • mistyblue75605 lm profile image

      mistyblue75605 lm 8 years ago

      Great lens!! 5*'s