Many readers are looking for inexpensive land where they can build their earthbag home. Unfortunately, building codes are often overly restrictive and make it difficult to build with alternative materials such as earthbags, straw bales, etc. But the good news is some counties have very few code barriers. As explained in previous posts, these counties are typically in remote, rural areas.

While responding to a reader’s inquiry about this subject, I realized it wouldn’t be very difficult to locate these lenient areas if several volunteers worked together. One possibility is for each person to take one state, contact the regional building authority in each county and then compile a list of counties with few or no building codes.

I’m guessing each state could be canvassed in about eight hours or less by using the Internet to locate the phone numbers. This is made easy because most counties now have their own websites. You could probably ignore highly developed counties to save time. Some counties post their building codes and related information on their websites, although it may be faster to call each county building department and ask a few questions about their policies on alternative building: What building code do they use? Do they require a building permit? What are their policies on building with straw bales, earthbags and other similar materials? Do you need special approval (engineer’s stamp) to build with alternative building materials? What’s the minimum house size allowed by code?

Once you locate one county that’s open to alternative building you might ask them if they know of other counties with similar policies. I would also do some background research. For instance, you may find a site like Sustainable Building Codes Blog by Tom Meyers. Mr. Meyers posts about this very issue and offers lots of good advice. One post says “Our current area of preference lies in the heart of Delta County, Colorado. This is one of 11 or so counties in the state with no adopted building code.” There you go! Send him an email and maybe he will tell you which counties in Colorado are code-free.

Out of curiosity I searched the Delta County website, clicked on Departments, then Planning and Community Development, then Building Information. Sure enough, it clearly states “No building permit is required for the construction and placement of any structures in the unincorporated area of Delta County.”

Post your comments below to help spread the word.


Counties with Few or No Building Codes — 570 Comments

    • You can build earthbag homes in most states, but some may require state-licensed architects or engineers to stamp the plan. There are a few places that still don’t enforce building codes, as mentioned in this article and some of the comments here. One I know about is Saguache County, Colorado.

  1. I found out that Johnson County doesn’t mind if you use alternative building methods as long as you have it sealed by a designed registered by the state.

  2. I just discovered that Montezuma County, CO has no requirement for permits for residential buildings. Link;

    Quote; “Montezuma County has not adopted building codes for the unincorporated areas of Montezuma County and therefore does not have building permit requirements for residential development; however, all new construction and remodeling of commercial or industrial use building and structures must be built according to the UniformBuilding Code, 1997 Edition.”

  3. Appanoose County, IA outside of limits of city, no codes besides needing a septic. We live in a storage container home RV combo with many other buildings for storage. Brown County, IL is nearby, and also has seemingly no codes and only 6k total residents in the county. Low population counties are the ones with no codes usually, since there are not officials there to enforce them.

  4. Some locations mentioned here carry fracking-related risks now. In 2010 there was hardly any of it going… and now there’s entire fracking boom, wells are all over most of less-expensive and rural areas in the East (and some in the West, like CO, WY, MT especially). WV had been taken over almost completely. And if they’re not fracking there, they’re disposing toxic fluids there. Look it up, start with fractracker maps. Anything that is not fracked yet is at risk, if it’s sitting in the shale basin (look up US shale map). And if it’s in a neighboring state: risk of disposal injection wells. And yes, they dispose right into acquifiers. Local aquifier geology must be checked to make sure it does not extend into either shale basin zone or waste disposal areas. Fracking, one of the most disgusting practices they do is freely allowed anywhere, by any greedy oil company — I’ve learned that local governments are 100% helpless against them, because they lack financial resources to conduct legal actions to enforce any ordinance that would hinder fracking. Once states had issued drilling permits: this is it. There’s forced mineral rights pooling everywhere, so it won’t matter if you own yours, they’ll force you to have your property fracked, this is the state of law. This is happening while these criminals go after home builders/owners, for violations of ridiculous construction rules (down to house color) or septic rules. Drilling, mining, Big Ag, industrial plants, cars pollute a lot more than any “composting toilets”. Check pollution, mining/resources, pesticide application and industry maps before selecting a parcel.

  5. has anyone compiled a list of counties and states with no/few building codes? I whas hoping to see a list when I clicked on this link. I do not see any except delta county CO. looking more in AR TN and other south eastern states. thank you

        • With a bit of research I noticed that Mississippi has enacted a state-wide building codes. This law requires cities and counties to adopt as a minimum standard any of the last three editions of the International Building Code and any additional codes as adopted by the Mississippi Building Code Council. The local governments would also have to enforce other Mississippi Building Code Council requirements addressing electrical, plumbing, fuel gas and other systems.

          So it sounds like you will need to get permits from your local jurisdiction and any deviation from the basic code will likely need the blessing of a state-licensed architect or engineer.

    • Talk to local builders, architects, etc. There’s usually a government office that gives out building permits.

  6. Does anyone know how difficult it would be to build an earthbag home in Valencia county New Mexico? Specifically Belen, New Mexico. We just bought 23 acres near a beautiful mountain range there and are totally confused about how to start the paperwork for a permit and how difficult it is to build alternative housing. Any info would be appreciated.

    • Search online for a green architect in NM. They will guide you through the process. Or you can do it all yourself by spending days of research. Just my opinion, but I think it’s well worth hiring professionals for certain things. Of course, always check references, etc.

    • Concerning NM why not contacting Michael Reynolds, the architect who builds earthship houses, he organizes workshops to learn how to build such houses, for sure he knows about the codes.

  7. Arizona government has the Satanic building code!
    They will harass you and make it as Ugly as possible.
    Please report this government Tyranny & harassment to

      • Cochise county east of Tucson allows one to opt-out of building inspections on lots zoned RU-4, RU-8, RU-16, and RU-32. Build what you want. They also allow you to live up to 4 years in an RV or tiny house until you build your home. These kids on YouTube documented their journey in YouTube. Handeeman is their YouTube profile channel. Aka DIY homestead projects. Love watching them.

  8. Hi, everyone, I am in process of buying land in Chambers, Az. One is 2 acres at the Bell Brande Ranch and 5 acres on Cherrys Rd in Chambers, Az. I bought one property outright in Union, S.C. .78 acres.

  9. Unfortunately your right, the difficulties faced by the private land owner-builder in the US will only increase as we go forward into the age of authoritarian control that looms on the horizon. Mexico is a good option. Costa Rica another. No military in Costa Rica has a ripple affect through the population, which in general is very non-aggressive and tolerant. Fantastic geography and climate, and you can own land without restrictions (full title). Panama is similar, as is Belize. The bottom line is that for anyone looking to escape the machine the only optipns are places like these, and there arent many of them.

  10. Hi,
    I am looking for shared land in Arizona, or southern California to build a dome home. Does anyone know which counties in Az. and so. ca. may have little or no building codes?


    • I live in AZ and there are no real get away from codes kind of places.Some will disagree but just read different counties building codes. I can only imagine Ca. would be worse.Do your own research and you will find very few places where you can be left alone.Consider water and power and health care. Just because you own the property doesn’t mean you can do what you want.I know because I have done my research.Do some yourself.

    • I currently live in Az and aah fork and williams az have very little codes. Look tbose up first. You will have to haul water or have it delivered.

      • Why would you have to haul water into Williams? Why would there be no ground water available through a well in those mountains? Doesnt add up

        • Locals living out of town haul water.Wells run Thousands of feet deep.You can’t drill your own either.An approved company with an engineer has to do it with the required permits of course.Figure 30 grand for a well. We get around 9 inches of rain a year.Last year was the best in years and filled up local small lakes that supply the area.

          • Northeast of Arizona you have to haul water or have to water harvest because some parts are contaminated.

      • Your kidding?right? Just look up Coconino county.the inspections and fees are like you are building in New York City or something.Friends had a guy build a nice A-frame down the road and the poor guy got daily fines until they came out and bulldozed his perfectly good home.They did come up with a tiny home kind of program.But if you read the requirements it isn’t very is almost exactly like building a regular home.Multiple inspections and the like.The fees alone could pay for the materials to build your home.People out here are just getting away with stuff until they get caught.Sorry you just struck a nerve, I live up here and would like to build but it ain’t easy.Just look it up for yourself.

        • Guess I’m not buying property in Valle!! Thought about buying a Graceland cabin and doing the smallest septic system available for it but the requirements are ridiculous!!! Sad!!!

          • Stay out of Valle, it is getting over populated as it is. But coconino county will clean you out with all it’s new codes and fees and fines. Use to be a decent place to get your own land and put a mobile home on it. As long as you don’t mind hauling your own water and living off-grid. Both are easy to get use to. But now with more ppl it’s a pain. I’m grandfathered in on my standard perk septic system. Today’s new comers have to get an above ground septic field with a pump from your waste tank and it has to have its own power supply separate of your homes. It’s all BS, 24yrs here and I’m moving…

    • In the mojave, east of Joshua Tree in an area called Wonder Valley, there are lots of abandoned properties with small cabins built during the homestead act and movement in the early 20th century. Always on at least five acres, these cabins, often well made of concrete block, can be rebuilt and expanded to make quite a compound. Depending upon how far out you go there are fewer and fewer eyes upon ypu. Water is scarce but a local water delivery truck can fill your tanks. Many people have created some pretty interesting places out here.

    • What about Nevada county CA? I heard that that place has little or no codes, real friendly to non traditional building. For example they let you put a trailer on your lot and live in it for 6 months out of the year i guess…thats a trailer with no other permitted, habitable dwelling, which is unheard of in any place near anyplace worth living. And Nevada county is a bona fide paradise, hour from tahoe and sacramento

      • Here is the link to the Nevada County Code.

        F. Seasonal Use. Seasonal stays in a recreational vehicle are permitted for the owners of any parcel with no permanent dwelling thereon, not to exceed a total of 90 days between April 15th and October 15th of any one calendar year. Seasonal use is not subject to a Temporary Residence Permit, provided that:

        1. The recreational vehicle must be currently licensed.

        2. Siting of the recreational vehicle must satisfy Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 4291 for vegetation clearance around the recreational vehicle.

        3. The property owner is required to notify his/her Fire District, or the California Department of Forestry where there is no local Fire District, of the location of, and access to, the recreational vehicle, and to obtain PRC section 4291 regulations.

        • Geez, you need to get special permission just to park your RV on your own land for a short period of time. Very strange. Lots of areas in Nevada, AZ, etc. are wide open deserts/prairies with almost nothing around. Even if the RV burned down in many cases it wouldn’t hurt much of anything. So this sounds like another way to extract more permits and fees from citizens.

          • If you go to Nevada County youll see why the fire dept wants to keep tabs on stuff…the place is a powder keg, one spark and the whole place would burn up and blow away

        • I have friends with a property in Nevada county. Last year one got busted by code enforcement for adding a 12×12 prefab storage shed from Home Depot on his semi-remote five acre property. How did they find out? Drone surveillance.

    • Hi I want to buy cheap land in the desert in California by death valley and Nevada border its like like a thousand a acres but I need to build a small shelter

    • In CA, way out in the Mojave desert, I mean WAY out, you might have some luck going unoticed but as for no codes forget it. Up until 2010 one could build a “shed” up to 120 square feet on remote desert parcels without a permit. I did this, and in 2013 when I went to add a patio roof they told me that new regulations stated that no building on remote parcels, even a tiny storage shed, is allowed without a permit. And to get a permit one must first connect to public utilities (in my case over a mile away and would cost more to hook up than the property was worth). That’s the hidden hand of Agenda 21 at work when counties begin adopting the UN guidelines, then its all over for the remote owner builder. Sorry, but your better off south of the border if you still want to build freely.

      • Why do you have to go so [bleep] far out that you cant get utilities? Search Zillow for Joshua Tree for gods sake….tons of cheapo plots right in and around town with utilities, and San Bernardino county seems to be pretty cool with permits and stuff. If you absolutely have to be a big apocalypse prepper and live out in a Unabomber shack, plenty of freedom and like minds in Idaho and Alaska…or just forget about the whole [bleep] thing and go to Mexico where you’re really free.

        • You would think Joshua Tree or vicinity but it was on a remote five acre parcel in Joshua Tree where I was told no building at all without permit. And in Wonder Valley, east of 29 Palms, I had a roving code enforcement officer for San Bernardino county stop my remodeling of an old homestead shack, I’ve done several projects in the JT area and I’m telling you its getting tighter and tighter. And this lady wants to build a dome home. If you have an existing (permitted) structure and want to add on and its private enough to let you do so its one thing, but building a new structure from ground up is another, and without a permit?

          • You missed it….im saying why not just build WITH a permit in Joshua Tree. Just get the permits, do it by the book for christs sake, quit fighting it. Last time i called SB county the fees and minimum sizes were totally reasonable, seemed to me they were enthusiastic about new construction. This is America man, no place halfway worth living is going to let people build whatever they want with no codes. Much less SoCal. Ridiculous to fight it. Im telling you, go check out mexico…you can build a castle out of compressed horse manure and paint it pink if you want, no questions asked

        • Nice to have some friendly debate on this blog…I got ypur point and agreed, it’s always easier to do things by the book, but the whole purpose for this blog is for owner-builders interested in working outside of the normal parameters. Anyone can just call Century 21 and find a parcel with all the hook ups, file the paperwork, pay the fees, etc. I don’t know how much building you’ve done in these areas but though their website looks nice and accomodating they aren’t as friendly as you seem to assume. And the fact that new laws dictate that no remote camp cabin or even a storage shed can be permitted without utility hook ups is a crock of sh-t, and aimed at nothing other than control. Want ypur own solar power? Fine, as long as it’s connected to the grid, at your cost. You see, it’s not about having no permits and letting people just go wild, it’s about sensible permits that aren’t designed to discourage the independant builder from even starting. And thats why this blog exists.

          • Dont remember if i replied to this or not…..

            I actually talked to the lady at SB county planning and she was great. Super nice, actually seemed excited that i wanted to build. Plus totally reasonable permit costs (like 6 grand for everything in Crestline) and super reasonable minimum Sq footage, maybe it was 600? I dont know how anyone can complain about that.

            This whole thing about off grid living is a crock anymore in the US, its just a long dead dream. Its not frontier america anymore….you guys have had too damned many kids, population pressure is too intense.

            Plus municipalities love their money coming in through permits and utilities. Its less about control than it is about money. Its waaaay more about money. Unless youre talking about control in the form of controlling people so they dont build shanties with raw sewage running all over the place. That kind of control they are definitely into.

            Quit beating your heads against the wall and either play ball with City Hall in the US, or move to Mexico. US is done done done as far as frontier freedom….

    • I’m looking to partner for buying land in California as well, deals are much better if people split land purchase. Agree before buying how to split up and institute mutually agreeable covenants… I for one don’t want any meth , a lot of slaughtering, etc on any property I’ve partnered on.

  11. Hello,
    Me and my husband are looking to move out of NC to somewhere that is off-grid friendly. Are current requirements are: Near if not in the mountains, earth bag friendly, as few zoning and regulations as possible, and fairly inexpensive land. We would need to live within 45 to 60 min. to a decent size town so that I can work (I am a private practicing psychotherapist). We would like to be able to build our home with as little input from the state and local governments as possible. We are currently looking at Vermont, Arkansas, Wyoming and Idaho, but are open to some suggestions. Would love some input from you if possible.

    • Lately I’m liking the Ozarks. Lots of natural resources like timber, water and soil and good climate for gardening. Search this blog for a recent article.

      • Owen,
        We would really welcome like minded people to rural Missouri. Cheap tillable land, woods, clear rivers and no building codes.

          • Owen, After last nights severe weather here, makes me want to start the earthbag storm shelter/root cellar. Been wanting to do it the last couple years but so many projects. It’s happening his year. Tornado prone areas are the PERFECT location for passive annual heat storage earthbag homes. You come to MO, we will hold a workshop. I have a dirt trommel sifter, skidsteer, sand bag machine and lots of past students that would be interested.

          • Thanks for the invite but I’m too busy these days. There are more and more people doing this sort of work so there’s a good chance to can find people to work with you. In the old days almost every farm or homestead had a rootcellar. Very practical and not too difficult. Most often it’s easiest to fill the bags in place versus using a machine.

          • Thanks Owen, Yes, I grew up on a MO farm, everyone had a root cellar. It is a very practical build.

          • Nope, I like gangsta rap, smoke weed like a bad diesel truck, walk with a jiggy, have dreadlocks to my waist, carry a pistol, wear my pants around my buttcheeks, with big oversized t-shirts, and throw my gang signs out, bringing all my homies and hoes with me and building me a shack! ROTFL! Just kidding! Yes, I am a permie, a builder, aquaponics type of guy, with a mobile composting toilet. I just bought land in Az, but, I am second guessing my decision, so I am reconsidering if I should sell that land and move north a bit.

      • It depends where you are. Some people say the Ozarks are quite safe. The Ozarks is on a giant mass of rock that’s separate from New Madrid geologically.

        • Owen,I used to drive for a company out of Joplin and kind of liked Missouri.I was telling the wife about how i wanted to move into that area.Then that massive tornado kind of leveled the place.My wife was left wondering about my thinking on moving! Lookup future map of the U.S. Also there’s a big fault line that runs along I-55. MO. thinking on pot laws is kind of scary also.It is hard to find places that let people live free.This site points this out.

          • Keep researching. Relocating is a big decision and it takes time to figure things out. But I wouldn’t take too long. Current events point toward future problems (ex: militarizing local police, massive US and personal debt, etc.).

          • Disasters can happen anywhere. I don’t hear about too many tornados in southern Mo. It seems like most of the ones I hear about are on the hwy 44 corridor. We have a cabin that we stay in part time in Iron county MO. The land is beautiful but the people are kind of Weird. Otherwise, it’s wonderful. We can build whatever we want in our land.

    • Regarding Vermont…one has to keep taxes in mind, they’re staggeringly high, a rural, small 100K-valued home can easily carry 4.5-5K yearly tax there. This part alone had put Vermont off my list. Home/land price/building cost there looks more like a downpayment for a big mortgage. Arkansas at least has low property tax. They try to make up for it through other taxation, but one can at least control this part through low key living/low spending…and shopping over the state’s border, when it’s possible. I’d personally avoid WY because almost all of it is on shale open to fracking, then there’s a lot of existing air pollution from gas exploration. Clean areas near National Park will be $$$. And near the res…I think property crime will be a concern.

  12. I don’t think anything is written here about the northern 3 New England states: VT, NH, ME. As I’ve been doing research lately to decide where to live amongst said 3 states, I’ve info to add:

    The New England states are governed at the state level for some things, at the municipal level for others. Not much is done at the county level (prisons, courthouses, transit, [I don’t know much about county level stuff]). Nearly everywhere is a town, a.k.a. an incorporated municipality (except about half of Maine).

    -In much or the majority of VT, owner-built-occupied homes are exempt from building codes.
    -In NH, the building code applies statewide to everything (meaning commercial, residential, etc), but there are some small towns that don’t enforce it (I’ve heard that that may be going away / the state is ‘catching up to’ Massachusetts).
    -In Maine, about half the state is unorganized townships (governed at the state level) and of the organized towns, those under 4,000 people do not have to adopt/enforce the state building code (and only about 1 dozen have chosen to adopt/enforce). Statewide, the state laws state that the following are exempt: manufactured houses, log cabins, post & beam and timber frame construction, some agricultural buildings; however, I’ve spoken with code enforcement officers who do not honor these exemptions (I would have to bring the issue to the state building code board for a binding decision).

    Zoning, certificates of occupancy, etc add more layers that vary from own town to the neighboring town, if they are present in the town at all.

    Codes about life safety (egress, smoke detectors, etc), solid fuel burning appliances, internal plumbing, and electrical are additional layers that I won’t delve into now.

    Regarding septic, etc:
    -VT: The law is strict – all dwellings mandated to have a septic system and “approved water supply”. Enforcement is a different matter. Camps don’t need it if occupied <61 days/year.
    -NH: There are allowances in the laws of the state Environmental Services Division for situations without pressurized water supply such that outhouses, etc and a small drywell for greywater are allowed. However, it will vary by town / who you speak with if this is allowed for a dwelling as, for example, some officials interpret the plumbing code's mandates for a dwelling as overriding this.
    -Maine: similar to NH, but more spelled out: allowances for "primitive" and "limited supply" systems in which, respectively, water is hand carried and water is supplied by a <1001 gallon cistern. In those systems, outhouses, etc are allowed and a small drainfield/leachfield is all that's mandated for greywater. However, also like NH, who you speak with may interpret the internal plumbing code to have mandates for dwellings that override and negate those low-impact systems.

    In summary, build whatever you want (more or less) in much of VT, some towns in NH, almost all of Maine towns and townships under 4,000 population.

    I'm looking for the nearly impossible: low regulated acreage within a long walk or several mile bike ride to a decently lively town center. Let me know if you've any leads, thanks.

    • Thanks for the update. Which state is your top choice at this stage? VT?

      Vibrant communities: Very important. My first choice would be college towns such as communities with state colleges. Also, some tourist towns may meet your needs. Real remote places get lonely. Humans are social creatures.

      • It’s true that we are social creatures, however the longer I live the less I want to socialize with most humans, and the more inclined I am towards socializing with animals in nature. The human race is becoming more violent and controlling, not to mention an unfortunate lack of consideration for others in general.Now back on topic, There seems to be growing evidence that more and more people are waking up to the enslavement practices of the “Authoritarians”of this world, and are beginning to question and challenge their political posturing in terms of just who in the hell gave them the right to dictate how others should live their lives. I myself have recently been researching our constitutional rights, and I have yet to come across a constitutional law giving any level of government the right to penalize or otherwise harass the peoples of this country concerning our rights to “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, which is exactly what is being stripped away by the unnecessary regulatory arm of the governments.”When the government fears the people,there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny”. ~Thomas Jefferson~ Hopefully we are rising up against the latter!

        • See today’s blog post about a guy in Colorado who has been harassed big time. He got some documents that may expose the abusers. He’s running for sheriff to try and turn things around. Constitutionally, the sheriff is supposed to protect the citizens. But in today’s upside down crazy world the sheriffs have been usurped for the most part by the feds. From what I can see this fed power grab is unconstitutional.

          In the meantime, seek out good, like-minded people that you can relate to. There are good people out there.

    • This information is false, I was born and raised in NH, went to school in VT, and spent much time in ME, all, have town or county laws for zoning. There is a list online somewhere for NH, that actually gives you a list of the towns that are zoning free, and what county they are in!!!

      • Teila, did you mean to respond to my comment? I didn’t write much at all about the topic, zoning, that you brought up. You realize that zoning and building codes are different things? (I realize though that they sometimes interact with each other.) What about my posting is false in your opinion?

    • I want to add a discovery I made in the state laws of VT. This is for the Residential Building Energy Standards – “The following residential construction shall not be subject to the requirements of this subchapter: … (D) The owner discloses in writing to a prospective buyer, before entering into a binding purchase and sales agreement, with respect to the nature and extent of any noncompliance with RBES. …” This exemption also requires the owner to be the builder plus occupier of the residence. This can be read here:

      This is a sensical and fair “opt out clause” for laws that restrict a person on their own property, especially when they may be living in a way that does no harm to anyone. As other people whom I have read have stated (Joel Salatin being the first who comes to mind), these building code laws and related should have opt out clauses in many cases.

      Note, the RBES is separate and additional to the state’s “Fire & Building Safety Code”, which states: “Note that most owner-occupied single family residences are exempt from the definition of public buildings and are thus not included in the scope of this code; see definition of “public buildings” for exceptions).” This can be read here:

      I’ll add in that that agricultural buildings are often not “public buildings” and the state laws state that agricultural buildings and uses are exempt from town zoning by-laws.

      The state law requiring a specific water supply and septic system is, however, repressive.

        • I have read a lot about people being afraid of owner-built homes not being able to be resold.Questions about the quality of the build. I figured a statement about the property/buuilding and a waiver of liability would be enough.In my common sense world anyways.

          • It would help to carefully study the local housing market. Is the area desirable for newcomers, and will it likely remain so in the foreseeable future? Consider getting a private home inspection to provide a report on your home when it was built. Each company is different. Find out what their reports cover. For instance, you could get them to inspect the electrical and plumbing before it’s covered over to certify these things were done to a certain code. You could buy certified trusses from a local truss manufacturer, etc. etc. And, of course, study up on good building techniques with books from a good library.

        • That’d be great! Let me know if rewriting or elaborating would be helpful.

          If anyone else knows of legal opt out options (like what I read here for parts of Arizona) in other states or counties, please post here!

          • Feel free to elaborate on today’s blog post where I published your comment. Thanks again for contributing.

  13. So I see lots of talk about specific states/counties, etc. Was wondering if there is a good synopsis of the questions one needs to investigate. I’ll start
    -what building code is in force for owner build residences?
    -questions about the specific building method being considered??
    -is septic required? (greywater, composting toilets)
    -what separate permits are required?


  14. My wife and I are looking to move to the Blue Ridge Mountains, possibly near Roanoke, VA. Does anyone know of any counties near Roanoke that we should look into for buying some land (2-10 acres) and putting a Tiny house on wheels on it?

    Tiny house will be just under 300 square feet.

    Thanks in advance!

    • In counties that look desirable to you, check county building codes online. County websites now post rules and regulations for the public. This saves lots of time and effort.

      • Can you please send me a link to one such website? I have spent hours looking for these and have only come up with laws/codes from 2003-2011. I have found nothing current.

        Thank you for your help!


        • Type in the name of your county and the words building codes. Almost every county is now online. Codes are usually not updated every year because frequent changes lead to confusion It’s much easier to a code for 5-10 years or whatever. They’re mostly the same now. So a 2011 code may very well be the code they currently use. Give them a call to check for sure.

  15. Hello world. Am preparing to build 2 120 sq ft. earthbag rooms on the sides of a portable cabin I own. Bedroom/saferoom for storms, here in the midwest (Illinois). I am going to remodel the cabin and cut holes in the sides for a small hallway to each one. And redo the roof to tie it all in as one roof. The gaps between the walls of the earthbag and cabin will be covered therefore going to make outdoor storage closets in those. Possibly make one with a composting toilet. I plan on using a gravel trench foundation for the rooms. Any suggestions or advice on anything before I get started?? Thanks for any

    • Sounds like a great project that shows how almost anything is possible. For some reason few people build projects like this.

      Tips: Do one room at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Dig the rubble trench down to frostline or use a shallow trench and Frost Protected Foundation with rigid foam on the outside (easier, faster, free instructions online). Use gravel bags for the first few courses above grade because of the snow and rain. Keep the walls protected from rain as you build so the earthbags don’t turn to mud. Add some vertical rebar down through the bags every 3-4′ apart for stability. Follow the other tips in my earthbag ebook. Document and share your project please.

      • Thank you for the feedback. I have had your dvd for a couple years now. I have watched it several times. Are you saying add the rebar to the foundation bags or through all the bags? I have bought your ebook also in the past, but it was lost on an old laptop that died. Is there any way to retrieve that information? I really appreciate the response. The project will probably start, in the spring of 2018. Thanks again.

        • Yes, you can pound the rebar down through the gravel bags. Send me an email. See About Us at top of page for my address.

    • Fri i found a nice 1.25 acre lot in washington county mo the county said no problem no building rest. The enviro ental health officer in county seat was state insp. He said no county restrictions but the state says you have to to have a septic system state supercedes county

  16. I sent the message below to PayLoadz and they said I should talk to you.

    “I was about to order your earthbag book but then at the top it says: XXXXXXXXX What is this about? Who is this? I don’t want my $20 to end up in Nigeria. I want to pay via debit card. I need a little reassurance that I was on the right track with this transaction. Thanks.”

    • That’s my girlfriend. It’s fine. Hundreds of people have bought the book through this site and it’s perfectly safe.

  17. Living in rural NY is the worst place to build… need building permit to replace existing water heater, extend an electrical circuit, other upgrades and repairs…the list goes on! Very high property taxes where we live too…almost $7,000 annual property taxes on home assessed at $155,000!!!! Guess we must live in a sophisticated county! Gotta move and open to suggestions.

  18. Just wanted to add my experience as an example if it helps someone (not selling anything). I bought 75 acres in Blaine, Tennessee (20 minutes east of Knoxville) back in 2014 for $146K. Rural, forest and hills, 4 seasons, but close enough to bigger cities. No building codes. TN has no state income tax. I pay around $100.00 a year for property tax because it is designated as “greenbelt.” The surrounding counties are the same and are very open to alternative building. I found it because my mom lives in next-door Rutledge county and she contacted a local real estate agent who knew the area–it wasn’t advertised because it was already under contract with a commercial buyer that backed out. I plan to build when I retire from the Air Force in 2 years so I will update then on any other costs I encounter, such as property tax after a house is built. Lessons learned thus far: local knowledge helps find land, try to get “greenbelt” designation for property tax purposes, east TN counties with no building codes.

    • Hi there, I’m looking to move somewhere that has none to very few building codes myself. I would love to go tiny can you tell me a bit more about this area?

      • Going tiny on wheels makes everything easier! Most of these rural areas people are talking about don’t give a whit about a little house on wheels. Their concern is usually about septic systems and buildings with permanent foundations. The first step is to explore the most promising areas in regions where you’d prefer to live. I’ve been publishing a whole series of possible places to consider in recent blog posts. Most are based on reader’s suggestions. So check those out. More articles are planned. One key point is rural areas are best but don’t choose an area that’s extremely isolated or too harsh. Find an agricultural area with small towns that have the amenities and services you need. Also consider soil quality, climate, outdoor reaction, friendliness to outsiders, etc. Follow your instincts. Ex: you don’t want to live where they have massive feedlots or lots of prisons.

      • Linda: I can tell you a little about Blaine and some surrounding cities (the one in East TN with no codes). The only thing they care about as far as building is the septic. Blaine itself is just a tiny blip on the map, mostly fields and woods. Turn right (from my land) on the main road (11W) and Rutledge is right next door by a few miles–that’s where the county government is located (city hall, post office, a little jail, car tags, etc). Turn left on 11W and there is a Food City grocery, pharmacy, small medical clinic–then in about 20 minutes you’ll hit the large city of Knoxville which has everything (one straight road to everything–11W). Turn parallel for maybe 15 minutes and you’ll reach Morristown (small-medium town with most everything), and Jefferson City (about the same as Morristown) and a cute little town called New Market. I bought a 109-year-old country church with amazing stained glass windows in New Market–and my mom (a retired art teacher) has turned it into a gallery, a place for musicians, and any sort of event center (Gray Dove Gallery/New Market). I have found the people around that area to be very nice, but I haven’t actually moved there yet (just visits with my mom). Everywhere in between these cities is pretty much just land/trees, so I think there are likely many opportunities to buy. If you have any questions, maybe we can find a way to connect via email.

      • There is so much on The Internet but of course it can be tricky and some articles can be outdated or in error. I happened to be talking to my insurance agent the other day and we got into some facts that may effect areas that are less restricted as far as building codes… there is no insurance available in some places do to potential fire, flooding, mudslides, earthquakes… something to consider if one is going to wrap up a great deal of ones money in a home. I am a fan of insurance, or at least reasonable partial coverage anyway. Tally Ho! On with the search.

      • So what state seems best to you? I’m planning some articles on the best places for natural builders and homesteaders to live and would like to get some feedback.

        • Hello: Unfortunately, I see more negative information against free building of tiny homes, or parking trailers on property than anything else. Though I wish to stay in Northern California I recently looked online in Montana to see property actually described as “no restrictions” land… this has me curious so I will look some more. There may be serious downsides to this such as flooding, freezing, being many miles from utilities, food, gas, etc…. but it is worth exploring more I think.

          • Take a look at Idaho County (8500 square miles), Idaho which is not far from Montana. No building codes, just septic and electric permits needed. I live 20 minutes from the nearest town. Bare land is about $10,000/acre. And its only cold in the winter. :) Plus, we have four seasons.

          • Looks really nice. I’m really glad to hear there are no codes. I think I’ll feature Idaho County in a new series called Best Places to Live.

  19. They should just have an *Ultimate Permit* that covers all the areas where it costs more but saves you the hassle of having every little permit.

    One permit to rule them all! MWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

    Screw the 100 permits and the permit just to have a permit!

  20. There should be no property tax of any kind on a primary
    residence, I’ve been saying this for years, and it may
    be mentioned here already as well.
    Taxes should be levied on secondary and income properties
    as well as commercial, but never your ‘castle’ .
    When the gov takes money for your property they are renting
    to you in fact, not figuratively but fact, if anyone challenges
    that fact they will take your home from you , put you in the
    street and sell your home out from under you.
    As Americans the shame is on us for ever allowing this to get
    a foothold , we ‘let the camel get its head into the tent’ .

    • Wow I’m surprised that anybody knows about that. Good to know someone is awake out there still. All my surrounding people are dead asleep.

      • a LOT of people are dead asleep/blindly unaware of so many things such as what’s going on with the US election. I’ve never seen anything like it in history. This is record breaking corruption with tons of physical evidence — hacked emails that reveal what people were up to (nearly 1 million!), undercover video by Project Veritas, election rigging, proof of collusion, cover up and on and on. But 99% isn’t on TV so most people are unaware of what’s going on.

        The main reason I mention this is these same corrupt people and their cronies create legal obstacles to natural building, tiny houses, off grid living and all the other things that make it possible for average people to live a decent life.

          • To anyone reading this and wondering just how draconian the situation will soon become in the US let me offer this advice: get out while you still can. Get your money and assets out of the US or you are at risk of losing them. I made the move to Costa Rica two years ago and at the time I thought things were headed inthe wrong direction in the US but never imagined how crazy it would get. If anyone wants info or looking for land in Costa Rica I can help. Im currently building three houses for American expats and am very knowledgable about relocation and property here. For those of you that cant get out (i know its not easy, i left with little money and three small kids in tow) best of luck to you and remmember there are places that arent affected by the cultural-political-fianacial aflictions the US is experiencing.

    • I think also, that in some counties such as in Wyoming and Colorado, some or enough of the locals who already own rental properties and apartment building conspire to keep others from building more of the same. Rent prices are ridiculous, yet everywhere you look is open space. If you want to build a house out in the country in Lincoln County, Colorado, you have to have a minimum 80 acres, last I checked. Sweetwater County, Wyoming might as well have a communist commissar, for all its requirements. There are vast areas where the federal government and Congress are the culprit, and its almost all BLM or Forest Service land retained by Congress even though it was supposed to be turned over to the states.

      • That’s true. It takes a lot of research to find areas that are practical and affordable for those who aren’t wealthy. That’s why we created this blog post.

    • Canada has as many building codes, rules and inspections as anywhere in the developed world. In fact, many of our quite rural municipalities have adopted codes (inspected) from the urban centers.

        • I agree, Owen. I would love to have a tiny house, preferably on wheels, on my own land. Even bought the trailer, but just couldn’t find anywhere it could be legally parked.

          • Where did you check? Big cities, small cities, small towns, rural areas?

          • And guess what, they’re going to keep changing the laws until you can’t fart on your property without a permit (natural gas emissions, serious stuff). Even here in costa rica the good ol days of lax permitting are on the wane. And they (the local municipalities) boast that they’re “modernizing along US standards”. Still better here than the US, but one can see the days are numbered. I still stick with my earlier advice to move out now, as the US will become intolerable before the rest of the world follows suit. The times we live in…sigh….

          • The US is now signing laws agreeing to follow UN laws. Things could get worse in the future in terms of increased regulations, more restrictions, global taxes, etc.

  21. sorry for the duplication. I forgot to check the box for notifications of comments… I have thought about developing a community in a county without building codes somewhere in the southeast. I have found a few counties, would like to know a few more. I would like to know a few things from people subscribed to this list. Would you move anywhere if there was a community designed for you to live how you would like with restrictions only to keep things from looking like a trash pile? Would you be more interested if I financed you the land? What would you like to see in a development like this? My idea is to allow any type structure with an emphasis on tiny homes and other usually not allowed structures.

    • I lot of readers have expressed interest in building community. The problem is finding a group of like minded people who get along. I think that’s been the number one problem with eco communities.

    • I once bought 5 acres on the Haw River near Chapel Hill NC. It was one of several developments by a professor who had inherited some money. He would buy parcels of about 200 acres, subdivide them into 5-10 acre parts and finance them. You can read about one of them in a book called, “Twelve By Twelve”by William Powers. Very readable. I recently ran a Google Maps scan of the area and it looks like it turned into large very expensive homes. I now live in a desert community in Southern New Mexico. We have homes of papercrete, filled tires, adobe, and stressed concrete. The best advice I can give anyone is go slow, do your homework, and be skeptical.

    • As much as i dont see eye to eye with the mentality of the south nor the heat..(hell,being a woman with a brain is hard enough, with that being said and u want southern living,Texas has 5 or six tiny house communities already functioning….spur..willis, luling Austin, and more coming im told…and many unrestricted land, like Seguin , Texas. I reside between Austin n San Antonio…and in process of building my tiny dream is getting to New Mexico..but they have not embraced tiny house culture as of yet,like other states have..i love Colorado but too ill take my chances on rural land and hope i wont have bad neighbors..the reason why most tiny land owners get caught are from A-holes that have nothing better to do than complain. Especially when u have a beautiful structure but its just small.

      • Thanks for pointing out that list of tiny house communities. I’ve been told there are also some old rural communities where hippies used to build for cheap.

        There are areas in southern CO that are warmer. Try down by Walsenburg where they get lots of sunshine days per year, and have some beautiful canyonlands. There are also some fruit growing regions on the western slope like Delta and Fruita. There are also protected pockets like Canyon City that are warm enough for fruit trees (but the prison mentality is a big turn off for me).

    • Cottonwood,AZ is getting a lot of pressure to change the codes. It takes time. Spurs,TX is letting anyone build tiny homes, and land prices are good.

        • It’s Spur, Texas.

          From Wikipedia “Tiny Houses
          Spur’s regulations are friendly to tiny houses, so long as they have an adequate foundation and proper plumbing and electrical wiring installed. House plans must be approved. flush toilets are required as well as a wood or metal frame. In general, experimental strawbale houses, yurts, or underground houses are not permitted.”

    • Last I checked, Cochise county, AZ has minimal codes for Owner builders that opt out. You still need to get a permit but can opt out of inspections.

    • No codes? That is what you get with your permit,restricted. As you get your permit you’ll file a plan for the home. It is not likely it can be held to no standards.

  22. Holy crap. Delta County doesn’t require a building permit!? I live nearby-ish and always dreamed of living in a yurt. I know Weatherport is also in Delta so now I should contact them haha. I’ve stayed in yurts before when I went camping. Once in Washington state and another in Oregon. Man, I loved it. Thanks for the site and the info!

  23. I have not read all the responses here on this subject, but want to add another county with no required building permits.

    That is Idaho County, Idaho.

    8,503 square miles (its big)

    • (2010) 16,267
    • Density 1.9/sq mi (not many people)

  24. Superb website you have here but I was wondering if you
    knew of any community forums that cover the same topics talked about in this
    article? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get feedback from other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let
    me know. Thanks a lot!

  25. We have a sectarian community in Southern New Mexico that is almost 40 years old. We were instrumental in developing the modern use of papercrete (Mike McCain is a member) and there are several examples of earthbag construction. The county has building codes but has yet to enforce any of them on us. Our lots vary in size but most are around 50′ X 75/90′. We have a one time development fee that is currently at $1,500. which grants use of land for the balance of your lifetime. The current monthly maintenance fee is $25. includes trash, wifi, community building, laundry, bathhouse and storage facility. Water is by individual meter and electricity runs to about half the lots. We are located 35 miles S of Deming, about 5 miles from the Mexican border. Email me for further information.

  26. Phew..that was a lot of reading. Thankyou so much for this forum.I have learned a lot from it, and now feel much more knowledgable and confident with my plans. It is September 2015, and i have located a 2 acre parcel of land near Ash Fork Az. in Coconino county that i am going to buy. At first i felt a bit deterred by all of the news of the zoning madness in Coconino county. But lucky for me..(lucky?)..i don’t have the capital to build big anyway. LOL. I’m building a 200 sq ft. tiny home with solar power, and a composting toilet. NO PERMIT REQUIRED! Yaaaaay! I may need a permit for an eventual water well, but thats it. Oh yeah, and yes..the current maximum allowable sq footage without requiring a permit is 200 sq ft. Up from the 120 ft. it used to be. seems that nowadays, Coconino county is actually encouraging, and awarding builders of sustainable homes. Not exactly sure yet what that entails..i have to read more, but thats the best news of all!

    • Thanks for the update. Tiny homes are getting more accepted, especially mobile tiny homes without a foundation. If there’s ever a problem you can just tow it away. This seems like one of the easiest, simplest approaches for many people. Our blog has quite a few articles on tiny homes and mobile homes.

    • You may have to have an occupancy permit/certificate. If you are fairly far out you may not get noticed, but in most places the building needs to be approved for occupancy. Hopefully this won’t be an issue for you but better if you find out ahead of time and are prepared should it be a problem.
      Best of luck!!!

    • I would make sure to read the Coconino county building codes. I think you are wrong about what you believe. I have found that CC is picky and have heard horror stories about whole small cabins being destroyed. They are also big on large daily fines for anything that isn’t approved.
      Saying that the building is a shed can get it approved. You will find water to be hard to find and pricey to drill for,Most folks in that area haul water.

  27. Hey everybody. I live in Raymond, MS and my husband and I very much want to build an earth bag home here. Raymond is about 30 minutes from Jackson, MS. It is out in the country so I hope that means less strict building codes. I’m also hoping that Mississippi is as lax on building codes and permits as it is on dieting and education. From what I can tell so far, a permit will be needed, however, hopefully it won’t be an impossible task. I was wondering if anyone had any experience or info regarding building in this state? Thanks.

    • Some states have more enlightened folks than others… Low education, poor health often translates into low awareness of alternative ways of doing things.

      • I can fully empathize with everyone having to deal with difficult building inspectors and codes but having said that it might help to keep in mind that building codes represent the very bottom of what is generally accepted as safe building practices. Yes, some rules are some times placed by greedy building material manufacturers, but most result when a particular practice has proven dangerous to someone. For many years I read and re-read the “Bible” of home building, “The Owner Built Home” by Ken Kern, who sadly was killed while sleeping during a heavy rainstorm in a straw/clay dome he was building. It finally soaked up enough moisture and caved in on him. When choosing your materials, or nailing up a beam, do it the very best you can and live a long life in the house of your dreams.

        • I recommend using common sense and learning as much as possible about construction rather than taking the approach of modern codes.

        • Factually inaccurate. Building codes used to represent “minimum safe standards” based on experience. That hasn’t been the case for over 30 years. Bureaucrats promulgate codes now, not carpenters or engineers.

          • You’re probably right. They are just fooling with you. If joists spacing says “2 X 10s on 16inch”, pay no attention – 2X4’s will probably work just fine. The fellow that wrote that’s brother-in-law bought a whole bunch of 2 X 10’s and needs to move them out.

          • That’s probably not what he means. He’s criticizing unnecessary codes by bureaucrats. If the codes were pared down to the essentials and based only on common sense and important rules of thumb like span tables then most people would likely be understanding.

    • Hey Shawna, Raymond is in hinds county so they would be able to give you details about that. I have land in leake county, just north of jackson and they have no building codes outside the city limits, although if you want electricity or water, you have have some hoops to jump through…

  28. Has anyone ever been to Fujian Province, China, to visit the Tulou buildings? I would like to build one but on a much smaller scale (maybe 2000 sq. ft. or smaller.)

    I live near Denver, Colorado and I have been wanting to build my own home for several years now. I don’t need that much land to live on but I would like at least .5 to 1 acre. Flat property for miles doesn’t bother me (like the sunflower fields of SD) and lot’s of trees would be nice but forested property does seem to be more expensive (though not always).

    I looked up the 11 counties in Colorado with few to no restrictions by Tom Meyers and I’m not having any luck. It seems that the counties are out in the boonies, which is “ok” but I was hoping to find something within a 2 hour drive from Denver. Any advice?

    • Someone tried to build an earthbag roundhouse similar to the Tulou buildings in the same province and they ran up against a wall. He discovered a lot of resistance for cultural reasons (he was an outsider) and because it would take away jobs from local bricklayers, etc. Last I heard he abandoned the idea.

      • Owen, I would like to talk to this “outsider” if possible. Can you give him my email address and tell him that I too am interested in the Tulou idea? I would like to discuss ideas with him/her.


        • Sorry, we’re no longer in contact. This happened several years ago. The whole experience was extremely unpleasant for him. I’m barely touching on what all happened, so I’m sure he’d rather forget about this.

  29. Shelter could not be more synonymous with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As an inalienable right, could we not simply create a petition having neighbor signatures showing acceptance of our home or home idea agreement, thus demonstrating that there are no injured parties, and then sue the government for the decision to allow it? If enough of us do it and win, would it not become very costly for the government to continue this outdated dogmatic Ponzi scheme or regulations?

    • Trouble is the courts, local governments for the most part, and on and on are part of the current system. Suing the government is like asking the right arm to cut off the left arm. It doesn’t usually work. Thankfully there are still some remote areas left where people are largely left alone. Not sure how long that will last…

      • I read about Navajo County, Az since I am currently an owner builder. Apache County, Az next door has few regulations on natural building. Structures under 200sq ft. need no permit. Almost all manner of earthship, adobe, strawbale, natural materials, bottles, etc. is being done there. Land is inexpensive and you are pretty well left alone. Even shipping containers are being converted and used now. However, on the website for zoning and planning meeting minutes, there are discussions of limiting these practices. Too many owner builders are having accidents, injuries and even death realted to faulty engineering with those materials. I found a local architect who will work with super adobe and draw plans to satisify if Apache county ever needed to see “Code” work. Our biggest conversion in Apache County, Az, storage sheds being finished as tiny homes. It’s a really awesome sight when driving just to see how many people are living in now.

        • Can you tell me if outhouses are legal in Apache county …I live off grid in Witch Well on 40 acres, and was thinking of putting in an outhouse and getting rid of the septic which has been nothing but problems.

          • Outhouses are almost never legal. Use a Jenkin’s sawdust bucket toilet (free plans on the Internet) and don’t tell anyone and you should be okay because done correctly they’re non-polluting.

          • Yes,I would think it isn’t legal. Look up Watson wick. Also i would consider putting waste into a chamber to get gas for a cooker.There are articles online,Many from India where they show plans and ideas.There is always the idea of digging a large hole to dump into,Later to have a tree planted in,One that you would not eat from. The Humanure handbook has good info.

          • Just for clarity:
            Digging a large hole to dump into,Later to have a tree planted in: is the same as an outhouse/pit toilet that is not legal most places.

            Putting waste (human or animal) into a chamber to get gas for a cooker: lookup Biogas. Millions of these biogas plants have been built in developing countries, and they’re very efficient if built correctly and if you have a large enough volume to make it worth your while.

            Watson wick: this can work if you can find the infiltrator and are willing to put in the work.

            Simplest solution for most people: sawdust toilet. Jenkin’s Humanure book is free online and highly recommended.

          • Owen,What do you do with the saw dust toilet?When it gets full? That idea about planting a tree in it,Was given to me by a guy from Jamaica,He said many people did this for years.
            I couldnt remember the biogas word,You still have to get rid of what is in the biogas chamber eventually.
            I thought the Watson wick seemed easy enough.

          • You can plant trees in the saw dust waste or break it down in compost piles.

            Watson wicks are pretty good, but take special know how and attention and somewhat hard to find plastic filters.

          • Just because you HAVE a septic tank doesn’t mean you have to USE it! ;)

          • Laurie you need to look up the building codes for Apache. Maybe compost toilets are ok.

          • Apache county bans outhouses. The county only aproves composting toilets as part of a building permit. They really want you to have a septic system , so they state that kitchen sink water is “black water”. We dont shit in the sink, but thats the way they’re extorting you. THE LOOPHOLE….. IT’s only a sink. Make an evaporator area. A mini wetland WITH NO OUTLET.
            In Apache County you must prove you reside on the property to obtain a P.O. Box. To get a closer hihgway mailbox, or to get any road maintenence on off grid properties you must purchase a septic tank permit. Then they -MAY- grade your road.

            They will “recommend” a certain firm to test, or to engineer your septic. They will “recommend” a contractor for your septic. I was told they were the most “trouble free”. The septic permit is $1200.

            If you do build off grid here be prepared to shut up, and just bandit it. The tax base is too low. Theres no manpower to chase people. But, the county refuses to change all this, due to the lucrative aspects of this. Short sighted. There are many 100’s of homes taxed at raw land prices.

            That could change in the county’s favor if they started permitting.

            But people that use oppression of the poor seldom see the big picture.

          • It sounds like they’re getting a kickback on those septic designs. The company no doubt just makes a few edits to their standard plans and bingo they’re done with plenty of cash for payoffs.

  30. I was looking at Navaho county,AZ. The web site had changed.They have a small section about when permits are not needed. They say if the cost of the building is under 500.00 dollars. I was more impressed with idea of how many different structures i could build for under 500.00 bucks.

    • EXCELLENT find! Thanks you. Thank you. This is news to me. The norm is 120 sq. ft. which is rather limiting. Use local natural materials such as poles, earth, etc. and you have far more options.

    • Look into Adams County WI, which is located in central WI near Lake pentenwell(the second largest freshwater inland lake in the state). There are many unincorporated townships and building codes may vary but most have little to NO codes. Our friend has 3 acres in the Big Flats township and there are no codes. We are in the process of buying acres in the same area through landman.Com. ATV and snowmobile trails, within an hour commute to various larger Towns (wisconsin Dells!!) Great area for families.

      • Sounds good enough for a blog post. Thanks for sharing.

        I’m searching for info about the area now. There’s a won’t load.

      • Hello Hunter Rose :)
        how did you find out there’s no codes in Big Flats WI?
        Please let me know, I would appreciate it very much!
        Thank you!

        • Most counties now have websites with information on their building codes and the permit process. Often you can order an owner/builder info packet. Maybe there are some codes there. Maybe she was going by word of mouth. Many times codes are not enforced in sparsely populated counties.

        • Hi Anna,

          It seems it has changed or is now written on the Town of Big Flats website there are permits required. We are now headed to Northern Idaho to buy land and build an off grid compound. Even though it is regulated by permits and codes etc, we find it to be an area where our desired lifestyle is accepted and esteemed by like-minded friendly people. Being raised in WI, I need the seasons. Currently in FL for work and I can’t stand it here! WI is one of the highly regulated land states, and the noose keeps getting tighter. One option would be to look in the U.P. of Michigan. You can buy a pre existing house with land for under $50,000. It is remote, and be prepared for literal mountains of snow!

          • Regarding Michigan UP….my understanding is that most of it is heavily regulated. It looks all rustic but the off grid properties for sale, with small homes, outhouses, etc are considered recreational — living there full time is not allowed, and some outhouses are grandfathered in, but won’t be allowed once, it’s outhouse time to be relocated. Septic will be required. Minimum sq. footages exist too, all over. Zoning is set by a million of townships that exist there…and oh my, some of them regulate down to “asethetic appearance”….to be in-line with existing style of homes there…minimum square footages, like 850 sq feet (I need only half this) for non-recreational….and I mean in rural areas. Livestock restrictions. If you stealth live in “recreational” cabin there, you’ll be taxed very heavily, as “2nd homes” got much higher taxes there. It’d bad from my standpoint. I’ve read a few zoning ordinances from UP, from Western townships, like Iron River and around, towards Marquette: completely unreasonable. Not to mention there’s mining, including upcoming big mines (toxic pollution, existing and possible future) in the Western UP and Eastern UP is sitting on top of the shale….would not want to wake up in the middle of fracking country, nope! There’re only a couple of townships there without zoning ordinances. Ewing and Turin townships are supposedly 2 without zoning, only, but they’re in more industrialized Marquette county, near area where at least one refinery is proposed, and polluting military base, I’d skip this whole county as no telling what mining/refinery/powerplant or fracking may come next.

  31. It’s a cold wind that allows no codes. I think I’ll do those places in the summer. In a 22′ Itasca that’ll drag a forty foot enclosed car hauler,(The BLM is a gracious host, that asks little but that you scoot along, every couple of weeks). At least twenty five miles, as the crow flys. A small wood cook stove will heat, and feed me. A wood fired tank will circulate to the Jacuzzi and the beds. Solar, when I can get my hands on a plug-in car battery. I’m hunting hard, for all of the irrigated pasture that I can get my hands on. With a good home. Built to code. I’ll rent the structure, and live by the salmon and the huckleberries. “In God’s fat little pocket”

  32. Crawford County, Indiana has no building permits. It’d be great to have more earth conscious, self reliant types move there. The climate is temperate, water is plentiful, and you can grow just about anything.
    It’s about a 45 minute drive to Louisville KY, which has great hospitals, museums and the like. The county schools are good if you have kids and don’t want to homeschool. Land is relatively cheap, ranging from about $700 to about $2000 an acre depending on where it is and whatnot.
    Now, humidity is pretty high, and the county is pretty poor, so roads aren’t always the best, but it’s a pretty nice place. If anyone has any questions, feel free to reply here and I’ll try and answer.

      • im from south indy area.. im trying to find on the gov site about no building codes and i did not see anything cut and dry about no codes.. but im very curious ive been looking at places in the west for no building codes areas, 2 hour drive from me would be the spot.. im wanting to build a total self sufficent off grid earthship style home.. Is there any others around there that you have seen if you are from the area?

    • Prices on Kentucky land listed here for sale subject to change. I have given a price which was not accurate as I am doing this for someone else. If you are looking or know someone looking near Nashville any size acreage from few acres to approximately 100. Secluded 60% wooded some hay meadows hills too. Room for private city such as Ava Maria you can build it here or build a Frontier city. Lots of fruit nuts and a pond. We have allowed NO hunting on property. No trespassing. Protected by mr smith. If you have money we will sell. 239 290,8306

  33. For those of you not put off by the bleak winters of Ohio, nearly all of the southeastern counties have no rural zoning enforcement. This means that one is free to live off grid and build whatever one wants without needing a building permit. There is plenty of cheap land down there too, and it’s actually very pretty country spring, summer, and autumn. The only thing you’ll have to mess with is the county health department, as you’ll need a permit to put in an outhouse. I built a 16X24 cabin on 5 acres in Highland county, completely off the grid with no hassle.

    • Thanks for the input. I get a little tired of hearing from armchair experts who say “this can’t be done” even though thousands of people are obviously doing it. Just like anything in life, you have to seek out the details.

      • I should’ve mentioned that zoning in rural Ohio is done at the township, and not at the county level. So I should’ve said that most TOWNSHIPS in southeastern Ohio have no zoning enforcement, not counties. There’s a large Amish and Mennonite community where I live too, and that sure helps as well.

    • Do you have any idea about the Muskingum county area? We’re wanting to to do the exact same thing off-grid and seems a bit of a lockdown so far on my research. They want their money for permits, sewage according to their codes, etc…

      I only know of family friends in Perry county area and they are pretty much left to do what they want. But I’d prefer not to go that far south since I’m trying to keep my job to pay off the future loan for land quickly. After that, then it all won’t matter where we are hopefully since the only payments will be basic things and not utilities and rent etc…

      • Not sure about Muskingum county. But if you want to know whether or not any part of any county in Ohio is zoned or has code enforcement (as this is usually done on a township by township basis and not at the countywide level), all you have to do is call a township trustee or county commissioner, or you can call the local planning commission in the couny seat. The director of the planning commission in Muskingum county is Andrew Roberts and his number is 740-455-7925. Good luck with your search!

        • Sean,
          I know your post was nearly a year ago but I wondered if you had any luck getting info about Muskingum county. I bought some property there hoping to build sustainable in a couple years and have found it very difficult to week through what I can and can’t do. Blue Rock Station is very close to where I am and they have an earthship there. They were able to tell me a few things. Even with composting toilets and a grey water system they had to put in a septic tank. They do water harvesting also and are on an electric co-op where they add their solar power to the grid and only get charged for what they use over their contribution.

  34. I know that what I’m about to write sounds unpatriotic, but its not intended that way. Its just the fact of the matter as it stands today; If you want a chance at “unsupervised” living, or being able to build and develop yur own home and land in the way you see fit, then you will HAVE TO LEAVE the U.S. at some point. You may indeed find some enclave in Alaska or Oregon or some other beutiful spot that for now lets you build and live in the manner you want, but in the end it will all come down to the same restrictive, opressive place that you seek to escape from, and now matter how remote it will eventually fall under the domain of THE STATE. My advice; sell out now, cash out from every corner you can, and go somwhere that hasn’t been tainted. Costa RIca still has options, as does Panama, Belize and a host of other stable democratic countries. Get out now, and in 2020 when the U.S. is completely entrenched in war internatinally and complete government control domestically you will wipe your brow and say “whew, escaped just in time”…

      • Sad indeed. This dystopian nightmare could become reality unless something changes soon. Living and traveling abroad I see lots of people who have abandoned the West for greener pastures. That’s what I did 10 years ago and have never regretted the decision for one second. Be sure to plan very carefully so you don’t end up jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

        • You can go to a Latin American Country and live. However you are an outstanding target there due to your USA ethos. When the economy crashes the 1st guy to blame is the gringo in his big dream house. You would be better off a average fellow in New York in a economic riot meltdown.

          • Thats just not true…as an American who has lived in Latin America for many years, I can tell you that (with notable exceptions)you, the “gringo”, will not be harrassed or held accountable. People generally are savvy enough to understand that the economic inequalities and (eventual) collapse is caused by governments, industry,and the whole power/control conglomerate, not you as an individual. In fact, I’ve found just the opposite; an attitude of “your safe here, lucky you got out” is much moe prevalent than any negative sentiment expressed towards you, the ex-pat.

          • This is a very valid concern. I grew up outside the States, moved here decades ago… I thought of moving back lately: there’re no building codes there, no septic requirements – outhouses are used if out of town, a lot of cheap ag land, plenty of water, a lot of cheap older log cabins for sale (even vacant, to take over), almost no property taxes, free medical care ….but the risk of crime, violent crime (theft is just so bad there, it’s considered the norm), will surely make up for the “amenities”. Outside the “1st world” even groups of people aren’t safe out rural (farm invasions, van hijackings, sometimes a gang approaches new property owner from overseas and tells “give us 100K USD if you want to live here” — any American, even US immigrant like myself, is perceived as “Rich” there). So, I’d be very careful about offers of land for sale outside the states. Crime is on the rise in most cheaper-living countries now.

    • I’ve got 225 acres of secluded cloud forest in Ecuador with drinkable spring water. Elevation is about 2200 meters. No road, and the trail involves a climb, but there is no interference from the government because no one wants to climb the 1000′ cliff to get there. I’d be willing to sell a bit here and there cheap ($500 to 1500 per acre depending on exact location) but the costs of surveying and subdividing would be the buyer’s responsibility. It’s pretty hilly, but it’s farmable when terraced. Previous owner used the land for cattle. It’s also a great spot for small scale trout farming. Power is about 1/2 mile away. There is no cell service or internet now or in the foreseeable future.

      • Thanks but I already took my own advice earlier this year and moved out of the US permanenty. I sold my property, car , etc and moved to a beautiful little spot on the coast in Costa Rica. Bought two pieces of land, built rental cabins on the first and starting a house for me on the second. Nothing is easy and anywhere you go you will have to work hard to make it, but at least here one can make their own decisions and cut their own path without big brother breathing get down your neck. And from what I’ve seen in the news since I left, conditions in the US have only worsened since. To all of you considering such a move in advise you do it and do it now while you still can. Don’t wait for things to be perfect or you’ll wait forever. Make a plan, do your research, get your affairs in order and get out of dodge while your still “allowed”. Once the collapse begins the gate will be slammed shut.

      • Hey..I’m planning a trip to equador in the fall and was looking at buying property somewhere or renting for a far is your property from Cuenca or vilcabamba?

        • Hi Donna. Yes, I still have the property. It’s two legal parcels of roughly equal size. I’ll be back in Ecuador in mid March if you want to go on a hike up there and see it. I’m working at McMurdo Station, Antarctica at the moment, so I can’t be reached by phone, but I check my email daily. You can reach me at jesse.falloffthemap @ gmail… you know the rest. There are some photos of the property and surrounding area at

          The info is a few years old and dates back to when I was thinking I might build some sort of camp up there.

  35. Hello – I’m glad to see this important post because code and zoning regulations are my main hesitation in getting involved with natural building or tiny homes. Has there been any effort to consolidate this info into one quick-reference page (ideal with a map)? International listings would be very appreciated too. Also, must mention that some of the zoning info regarding tiny homes seems to conflict with what I read here (haven’t read the book though):

  36. Update on Texas building codes: codes are set by the state, and as of 2010 counties can require you to get a building permit (and many of them do). All the counties directly around Austin require permits now. Bell county doesn’t require them but most of the county is inside of city ETJ’s.

    • What about the remote, rural counties? If they get too strict, they’ll slow the pace of new construction. I suspect there will be some areas that will continue to attract artisans, natural builders, etc. Please keep us posted. Texas is very popular among natural builders and our readership.

  37. Hi Robert- Owen gave me the thumbs up to post our website on his blog. If you are looking for land, we have a site that is dedicated to land-only. Please check out and search whichever areas you want. We have listings nationwide. A land specialist in that area might be able to help you decipher the building codes situation, or even help with your wish list.
    Good luck!
    Jeff Smith, Director,

  38. Here in Kentucky, if you’re within nearly any city limits, even a small one, there is a very good chance some small town bureaucrat makes his/her living off of building permits and watching over your shoulder. But if you’re outside of city limits, you have a much better chance of building freedom. There are many Kentucky counties, even those that have adopted building codes county-wide, that exempt any structure built on a “farm”. Most of those counties define “farm” as 10 acres or more. In general, the closer to a big city you are, the more building code bureacracy you can expect. For instance, Lexington KY is Fayette KY, which has county wide building code regardless of acreage size. So does adjoining Clark county. But moving to the east just 1 more county to Montgomery county, “farms” of 10 acres or more have no building code required/no building permit required. As this board points out, there is no single source of info for what counties/places around the USA have no building permits required. First step is to find a general area you’d like to live in, then start calling the counties in that area and see what they tell you. And again, stay away from land inside any city limits, in general. The more rural you’re willing to go, the higher your probabilities of finding no building permit area. Out in the “sticks” of Kentucky (way far away from even WalMart or other big box retailers), there is still land that’s very cheap at size of about 10 acres. In just a few years, when inflation kicks in and self-suffiency becomes even more important, I expect prices we see for land today will seem rather incredibly cheap. Land has nowhere to go from here but up in my opinion, nearly everywhere. Real assets are king in an inflationary economy, which is where we’re headed in the future in my view. Maybe not next year or even the year after, but someday… The high debt has been taken on, the dollar money has been printed, and the global economy’s piper must someday be paid.

  39. I am interested in finding some land in Kentucky, My primary concern is being able to build a large 10 to 12 ft stone privacy wall surrounding the property, I look at all kinds of rural areas and farm lands for sale on the internet and one thing I have notice is you never see any place that has a large privacy wall surrounding the property any more and that is something that is very important to me any help would be appreciate…

    • Privacy walls are not so common any more because they’re very labor and time intensive. You could spend years building a wall around a small farm or homestead. If you really want one then figure out a way to mechanize it. We have two articles on our blog that discuss ways of using bobcats to speed the work. The best system is the Earth Home Builder machine. You could use the same machine to build structures on your land. You could even use your experience to launch a construction business using the technique.

    • Have approximate 100 acres in Kentucky about one hour from Nashville. You won’t need privacy walls totally high and secluded. Not advertised so won’t find on internet. Will sell all or prefer part. Has 2 septic systems rural water on paved road. Approximately half mile on corner two roads. You need cash to buy, no games. Anything you want here can build your own city no permits low taxes. Has nice large home and barns.all kinds fruit trees and pond. Buy all for 599,999.00 or sell part
      Build a city keep your family or friends protected from what obama has created in our America. Will issue as many deeds as you need, you plat. Any size Guns permitted. We have never allowed hunting here. Room for air strip. Phone 239,290,8306

      • I agree. I voted for Obama years ago, simply because I hated Bush. But look what the cat dragged in. Obama turned out to be far worse in a much different way. We are now seeing more regulations. More government. More bureaucracy. And even less transparency in government. The only real way out of this mess is to fight like the settlers did. There are alot of cowards in this world that would rather run. They are selfish and will betray you. The government can be stopped. All people have to do is overwhelm the government. Stand together. If millions of people took it upon themselves to go off the grid, nobody could do anything about it. Its like 100 people all speeding past a cop. Who’s he gonna pull over? Everyone? Evil thrives on fear. We can beat these people. The new wave of self made technology is here in the people’s hands. We can live on our own. We dont need stinking governments any more. They are threatened by it. It is high time we stomp them into the ground.

        • Furthermore. Look at the situation with the power company at Jamestown. That should be a major symbol for us all. The very place where the settlers came in for a better life, we are now seeing a power company about to collapse, needing ignorance of regulations to continue operating temporarily. Wanting to build towers across the river, which will of course destroy something important. All for a technology nobody really needs.

        • Okay, but just to be clear we’re not condoning violence.

          And moving elsewhere is not necessarily cowardly. Were the Jews who fled Nazi Germany cowards or people that were smart enough to get out in time? When the odds are 10,000 to 1 then maybe it’s time to move.

          [Humor: maybe the answer is to vote for another Bush or another Clinton or another…] I’m saying the system is broken.

  40. This is a great idea, where it’s possible. But please keep in mind that in many cities or counties where there’s a building code, the law also prohibits you from living in any kind of trailer.

    • Well, actually the tiny houses on wheels (no foundation) are allowed in many or most places from what I hear because they fall under a different category of non-permanent houses because there’s no foundation. Also, some are below the minimum square footage.

  41. Hey All! I just came across this blog, as sustainable living is something that I’ve always been super interested in, and while I don’t have any updates on building codes, our website is a “land only” listing site…kind of like Zillow, or Trulia, but we feature acreage/tracts, etc nationwide. I figured I’d post about it here, because it could be used as a good resource for people looking to buy land to build on. Also, there is a social media aspect that allows you to create a profile, and invite others to join…so you might be able to keep in touch with/find similar community members that way. Check it out, and if you like the concept, please register. Also, Owen if it is okay with you, I’d like to offer an opportunity for individuals to post in our forums as well. Any land related topic is welcome! As it grows, it could be a good way to find local land agents too who might be knowledgeable about local building requirements, etc. My name is Jeff Smith, I’m the Director Of Operations for the site, and you can reach me at if you have any questions. Thanks for reading, and let me know if I can help spread the message in any way! Thanks Owen!

  42. Howdy Owen, Our site provides details how to transition off the grid and build free housing. We simply use volunteers and natural materials that are from landfills, re-purposed and donated materials.

    We are also working on expanding the Pockets of Freedom.

    Keep up the good work!

    • You’ll have to send me more specifics before publishing this on our blog. There are few or no details on your website that I could find that explain exactly how to do this.

  43. I’ve heard of people building a small house on a trailer with wheels to avoid building regulations. You could use a solar panel and composting toilet so you can be off grid. You would have to have the trailer licensed but what you put on the trailer is your business and no one else’s. This would be great if you had a some land in the country to park it on.

  44. When a county has no code, the state agency, such as a plumbing and electrical board may have jurisdiction, as in the case of Delta County, Colorado

    • Eureka county is awsome I lived there once the only thing I needed to worry about was septic and health dept in Elko worked with me on that and hped me through it until,you build on a foundation no worry at all it simple and awsome starry nites

  45. I guess I dont follow; Mexico is the “real deal” because you know someone from there, and that person says drugs and crime are a problem there? I like to think of smaller, non-industrialized/military countries as providing the best haven. Belize and Costa Rica come to mind…

  46. To Realdeal-best place for living in Mexico. Have a friend who works for me at a restaurant-she is from a small town in Southern Mexico and her father who still lives there, said even there, it is bad as to drugs and crimes.

  47. Unfortunatley, fees, regulations and fines are only a preview of the coming decades. Regarding property rights, this country will be under complete lockdown, and soon. This isn’t meant to be “anti-America” in the least, but the sad fact is that the powers that be and those that influence/control them do not have what you might call a “Jeffersonion” perspective about what individual freedoms we the people should enjoy. Hard as it is to move, your (our) best bet will be to emmigrate. Many places still offer the freedom to live and develop the life you as an individual choose. Dont let the already brain-dead mainstream confuse you; quality of life is not measured by how many big screens per capita the population enjoys. Its how they spend (or have to spend) their time that counts. And in many places around the world that time can still be spent in a way you choose as oppossed to the way you must.

    • This might be a good time to mention the Trans-Pacific Partnership that’s being rolled out by the world’s largest corporations. Their aim is to make even more money by these agreements, and that includes crushing the little guy along the way. They plan to control virtually every aspect of business — the Internet, medical care, banking, etc. A whistleblower leaked the secret documents to WikiLeaks. From the little bit of research I’ve done, this looks like the worst thing to come along in a long time. Some would interpret this as a big step toward world government. It will impact people worldwide, and that’s why I mention it here.

  48. I mean every single thing you do. It is a bit going over board for me. Five hundred dollar a day fines for not having your solar set up approved. Two battery’s and a panel. Sorry im just into the whole being free thing.

  49. You better have your ducks in a row. Septic approved before you do anything. Some friends told me of a whole cabin that was taken down over codes. Theres multiple inspections needed. One for each separate thing done. If your anywhere near Valle, beware!

    • Yes, there are inspections after each main step of construction. You can’t just build something and then have it inspected when finished.

  50. Mohave county seems to have some common sense. Yavapi county went to the 2005? codes, I was reading where they thought the new international codes were tough to meet and would put many contractors out of business. The R rating for walls, it was stated that it couldn’t be done with two by fours for the wall studs, the insulation needed would mean thicker studs. Coconino codes are like something out of a place where only the wealthy could afford to meet all the requirements and inspections. For readers this is all in Arizona. I find this info by just using a search engine and ask about building codes for various county’s. A desirable place with a lack of code cops, seems to be the Ozarks. A place with water and decent scenery. Right now im considering eastern Texas. Many of the places mentioned in Colorado are pretty bleak.(windy) I look at water and the ability to grow food, southern parts of the country make this easier. The wife isn’t into the snow much either. Of course whatever works for each person…

  51. Iv’e heard that Coconino has adopted many of the insane regulatory codes found in CA and elswhere. “International Building Code” and “New Urbanism” at work. Yavapai county still allows some freedom to the owner builder and as a result the process is much cheaper and hassle-free. Probably won’t be long until “they” put a stop to it and force them to comply with the new world vision of ultimate state control.

  52. I’m in Coconino county and I’m building a 1000sf pole barn as an accessory structure, using plans/materials from The permitting process has been an ordeal. As a primary residence it’s probably a lot worse. One thing for certain is you will probably need to have engineer stamped plans as the building department doesn’t have much experience with pole buildings. Another consideration is that it’s most likely you will require an alternative septic system which is probably about $25,000 minimum. If you’re in Baderville or any high water table area it will be closer to $40,000. There are a few limited areas in the county that could get by with a traditional septic (closer to $5k), so you might luck out but that will be the big question. Also, it must stand up to 105mph wind gusts for a lot of the areas east of Flagstaff. See page 15 here for geographic specific requirements:
    I know it’s a late reply but answer back if you still have questions.

    • I certainly wouldn’t pay $25,000 or $40,000 for a crapper. Time to look elsewhere.

      Pole barns are extremely common. Many companies sell engineered kits. They should breeze through the planning department process if they have half a clue.

    • I certainly wouldn’t pay $25,000 or $40,000 for a crapper. Time to look elsewhere.

      Pole barns are extremely common. Many companies sell engineered kits. They should breeze through the planning department process if they have half a clue.

  53. I was trying to see how the person building in Coconino county(valle area) did with permits and such. I tend to look for az posts.
    So far I did figure out that Mohave county seems reasonable about building. Its a dry hot area though.
    Golden Valley does have a large aquafier running under it though. Lots of washes from when it rains, lots of flood zone. I figure the ability to dig a well or even catch rain run off in a tank would be good there.


  54. I read where a man was told he needed a sewage treatment plant on his remote property in Valle. He was quoted forty thousand for such a system.(He wrote this, just repeating what he said) Im still considering a lot. But im going to run my alternative ideas past Coconino county first. Watson wick or a holding tank that can be pumped out. I get the vibe that building anything in the area is discouraged.

  55. One word to solve all your code problems: M E X I C O.
    The US is finished, you think youre free but you are taxed and restricted to death. Ive lived in Mexico for 10 years, you can build whatever you want, where you want. The only limitation is the size of your wallet.

  56. Hi Everyone,

    Finally, finally, I got some land, 22.65 acres, in the Okanogan Highlands, near Chesaw, Washington!!! I would love to meet my natural building/permaculture Cascadian neighbors! Is there anybody reading this who lives in Okanogan County or nearby across the border in Canada?

    First steps:

    1. As soon as possible I’m going to get myself a biodiesel pickup truck. Then rent some place near my land and move there from Portland, Oregon, to my new digs in the Chesaw/Oroville area.

    2. My land has been surveyed previously but three of the four corner pins are yet to be found. Anyone know of a good place in the area where I could rent a good metal detector?

    3. I’d like to discuss with experienced persons: septic system, composting toilets(I know the county has a short list of approved composting toilets.), and your dealings with the county officials concerning these things. I’ve talked with many of them many times in my preparing to make my land purchase and on the whole they seemed quite reasonable. It would be good to hear other peoples experiences with them though.



    • Congratulations.

      I’m not from there, but I have visited before. It’s some amazingly beautiful country. I can easily see why you have chosen to buy land there.

      The weather can have extremes of hot and cold, but it also can have stretches of sublime serenity.

      You’re in the heart of volcano country, so you should be able to easily find pumice or scoria to assist your building efforts. That will greatly help in protecting yourself from the extremes in weather.

      I wish you the best. Enjoy not only your land, but I hope you enjoy the process of building as well.

        • Put the words scoria or lava rock plus the name of your state in a search engine and you’ll soon know where to get it.

        • I’m not a geological expert on the Okanogan Highlands.

          Don’t take my comment as a claim that scoria and pumice are abundant in that general area. That I’m not certain about.

          I do know that the Highlands have a very volcanic history, and where there are volcanos, there usually is an abundant supply of scoria and pumice. Whether that general concept applies to the specific case of the Okanogan Highlands, or to your land in particular I cannot say. Not every volcanic area will be abundant in scoria or pumice.

          However, if I were in your place, the first thing I would do would be to conduct a much more detailed survey of my land. I would find an opportunity to visit my land and hike every square meter. I would take a shovel, or possibly a post hole digger, and dig core samples at a large variety of locations. I suggest taking samples of the various soil types that exist in various areas on the land. I suggest printing off a satellite photo of the property and using it as a map, and plotting the locations of various sites where you dig holes. Learn what you already have under your feet. One might go by a dumpster somewhere and get a hundred clear plastic drink bottles, and conduct a hundred or more shake tests of all the various locations you plot on your satellite photo map of your land.

          What types of soils and rock exist in the low lying areas near the surface? 1 foot down? 2 feet down? etc?

          What types of soils exist in the higher up areas of the land near the surface? 1 foot down? 2 feed down? etc?

          Same on the slopes?

          In wooded areas?

          What kinds of rocks exist in all these areas, and are any useful for construction?

          What kinds of clays? Are they useful for construction?
          Don’t be afraid of investigating the clays further to see which ones might make good plasters or other useful building materials.

          What areas of the land have very strong solid bedrock that would make a fantastic already constructed foundation for a home?

          Is their scoria or pumice on the land just waiting for the new owner to dig it up?

          Keep detailed records for future reference. You may discover all kinds of things about your land that may not seem very important right now, but later on, you’ll be glad you kept the records so that you can go back and find something later on.

          Make it a fun activity. Enjoy it. Make a camping trip out of it. Spend time on your land.

          Spend time on your land when it is raining, and watch how the water flows, where water might tend to gather or collect, what areas get muddy, and what areas stay high and dry.

          Get close to the plant life too. Map out exactly what types of plants are growing in every area on the satellite photo map. Do you have wooded underbrush areas that have lots of saplings that can be useful for construction? Do you have recently fallen trees that could be milled for lumber?

          Conduct your own Lewis and Clark expedition onto your own land. Lewis and Clark were not the first humans on any portion of the land they traveled, but they were the first ones to keep detailed records of the lands they traveled. Those records are what made their journey legendary because those records informed everyone what was out there.

          For what it’s worth, that’s one of the first things I suggest doing. I also suggest that it may be one of the most enjoyable and useful things you may ever do on your land.

          • Hi Jay,

            I must say that I thoroughly enjoy your replies.

            Right now, I’m living in Portland Oregon; with breaks, a nine hour drive to my land As soon as possible I intend to move right on up there. Then I’ll be able to visit my land most every day. I will hike every square meter. You betcha!

            Shake tests? What are they for and how do you do them? Please explain. Thanks.

            What kinds of clays? Being an old ceramics major I am particularly interested in whether or not there is clay there.

            “Spend time on your land.” Hey don’t worry. I am on my spiritual path and it leads to my land.

            Next year I plan to build a combination Earthbag/Strawbale Earthship. I will be posting updates regularly, right here. :-)

          • Hey Ken,

            I provided a link in my previous comment. Here it is again.


            The document is written by Patti Stouter, and that link is from one of Owen’s and Kelly’s websites. It describes the detailed procedures for soil testing. I recommend reading the entire document and implementing what it teaches as you deem appropriate.

            The shake test is but only one of the many tests that document describes.

            Obviously, you can and should do what you think is best. For what it’s worth, I think I would create a notebook that includes a page or two of notes about each borehole site one gets earth samples from and tests. Plot each site on a satellite photo map of the property. (If you have a GPS make sure to record the GPS coordinates of each location too.)

            While conducting this expedition survey of your own land, don’t be afraid to take photos, collect plant specimines, note any springs or other water sources, and pretty much anything of significance that you discover. The Lewis and Clark analogy was not made entirely in jest. It’s an apt metaphor.

            I would want to know every plant and animal species on my land. I would want to know what is edible and what is not edible. I would want to learn about the life cycle of each plant and animal life form. I would want to know and understand as many details about the ground itself. I would want to know where the clay soils are, where gravels, stones, and large rock formations exist. Do you have any running springs or streams that could be candidates for micro-hydro power? Are there natural land formations that tend to funnel the wind into one specific area making it a prime location for wind power? I’d try to plot all that information on a map, and place numbered pointers all over that map that cross reference each site to a page in my notebook where test results and detailed information can be recorded.

            You can get as detailed as you wish.

            That satellite map with all the coordinates… that map eventually can become the basis of a permaculture plan… if you so choose to move in that direction.

            That map can be your guide to all the building materials already available on your land.

            That map can be important in selecting building sites that are close to the available building materials already available on the land, minimizing hauling.

            That map can be your guide to wild harvesting of edible food that is already growing on your land.

            That map and notebook can also help guide you in years to come as you make changes to your land. You’ll have a record of how things were before you arrive, and be able to objectively compare the impacts of your activities.

            This process can be as detailed or as simple as you choose to make it. Clearly you don’t want to get so caught up in collecting data that you don’t get your construction work done. Yet it is wise to have a baseline of data to help you do that construction work and build your life on your new land. Somewhere there is a happy zone in the middle that is best for you and your lifestyle. Nature tends to like equilibriums. I wish you the best in finding yours.

            Have fun!

          • Jay,

            Yeah, I forgot to click on the link. But I have now skimmed through it and now have a copy of SOIL TESTS FOR EARTHBAGS on my desktop, to be referred to in detail at the appropriate time. Thanks for the info!

  57. Hi everyone,
    I have been building earthbag dome greenhouses in Montana, and have discovered that Stillwater County does not have building codes! They warn to follow state guidelines, but it seems that they don’t care what you build out there.

    Can someone verify this beyond the county website? Does anyone live in Montana? I am not there anymore, but would definitely consider buying some land in Stillwater County if the no codes thing turns out to be real. Real, as in, they don’t come knocking it down because they have ‘permit regulations’ or something, like Klamath County, Oregon.

    Still hunting. Still looking to build. Too bad America isn’t really free. Getting a passport next week, so maybe I will post soon from a country that has more building liberty.

    Take care all

    • If you can tolerate the cold weather then Montana is one of the freest, least restrictive states for building. Superinsulated buildings are recommended.

  58. As of 2013 (I see that there are questions about this from other years), do you know what the basic requirements for Coconino County, AZ are? My husband and I were thinking about buying land there and building a small 1,000 sq. ft. pole barn home (which I would assume would be in the $50,000 to $60,000 price range for someone to help us build) until which time that we could afford to build our “dream home.”

    Also, were could I find such basic info? Without large pdf files, that don’t really answer my question? Thanks!!

      • some codes make sense i do not think many people will built truly unsafe homes but the international code . is promulgated by 100% government employees there is no participation of trades, builders,property owners, developers or even consumer groups and at the last meeting the consensus was to reject fire sprinklers but som fire marshals or chiefs burst in with a stacked batch of votes to ram the measure through they did not participate in any other aspect of the meeting and for the added thousands in cost and in some places it raises your water bill hundreds a yr because it requires a larger water service it gives .20% that’s 2 tenths % of Survivability in a fire over working smoke detectors. stopping smoking in bed wold be a higher Survivability this was rejected by most states and local gov. but other localities add to code as a reward for there local unions Phila forbids plastic pipe and water less urinals to be plumed etc etc/

  59. From Jay:
    I wouldn’t recommend anyone move to anywhere in Michigan.

    Their government is simply too oppressive. The Governor has the right to declare an “emergency” and override locally elected government authority. The takeovers have consistently resulted in local citizens’ rights getting trampled, and the civic debt ballooning further out of control than it has ever been.

    Local citizens have no rights.

    The citizens of the State of Michigan voted to repeal the law that granted these dictatorial powers to take over local governments,

    but the State dictators passed a new dictatorship law to replace it. This time they used loopholes to pass a law that cannot be repealed by the voters.

    Michigan is not a place I would recommend anyone move to or start a business.

  60. its one thing to have standardized building dont want people living in unsafe structures (though fact is that the few counties without that do permit alternative or non-permitted construction are known for unique custom homes and tasteful design), but the real racket is requiring hook up to public water and electricity for a permit to be issued. Off-grid development should be allowed as long as the structure is sound and to code, having to connect to the grid is pure politics and money and a very real erosion on our civil liberties.

    • Good point. Thanks for sharing. We can add this point to the list of unfair housing practices. There are so many important angles to this topic, any one of which is enough to make you shake your head in disgust and look elsewhere for a more citizen friendly environment. This blog post has always been our #1 most popular one because this topic is so important. For sure, building codes and all the associated housing regulations are the main determining factor in housing costs. So look hard for areas with minimal codes or be prepared to pay several times more for a home.

      Update: Communities should be encouraging off-grid, self-reliant living, not forcing people into dependency on fragile, expensive grids. But we all know why they do it. The rich who are in power create rules like this to make themselves richer.

  61. Well you can scratch Oklahoma off the list of alternative building friendly states. As of November 2012 all sorts of international codes are to be enforced state wide even in rural areas see emphasis to this in the email sent out by the state to all counties. and this link for email
    I moved to Oklahoma from California to build what I want and how I want it and now that is taken away by a signature on a governmental decree….

    where has our freedom gone… our countries founders are rolling over in their graves… perhaps it will be time to start looking for areas outside the USA….

    • Thanks for the update. You’re right, our freedoms and constitutional rights are gradually eroding away. It’s a real shame. About the only thing you can do is vote with your feet — move to another area where there are still no or few codes. Even if the next place adopts the ICC, your place would be grandfathered in if the permit is taken out beforehand. Research each state for any pending legislation on building codes. Also, choose a low population state where they’re unlikely to change the code any time soon. States with strong traditional values and liberty loving citizens would be a good choice.

      Sort of off-topic, but closely related: Sedgwick, Maine is first town to declare total food sovereignty, opposing state and federal laws
      (These sort of people would probably make good neighbors.)

      • I disagree with this statement somewhat. People are running back and forth, chasing zone free areas. It’s like a pinball bouncing around until it finally lands in the hole. Game over. Seriously. People need to be more encouraged to take the time to pull together a very large revolt against the tyrannical governments. It worked in the old days when entire towns refused to adopt new laws. They would even wait with their guns. Ready to blow away whoever they had to in order to protect their interests. People today are more worried about personal freedom over protecting the principles that ultimately protect us.

        • Unfortunately we’re only talking about a small percentage of the population who are seriously interested in alternative/natural building. The vast majority (over 95%) go along with the current system.

          • This information about Oklahoma is wholly inaccurate. That legislation you sited only applies to commercial building code and is a matter of deepest routine. Whenever a new version of the international code comes out for commercial building every state in the union adopts it as a matter of course. Had you read the link you sited you would have seen the language change in the bill was only to strike the number 2009 and replace it with the number 2015. Please read information thoroughly before using it incite panic from those who, like myself, are in the midst of a build.

          • No one is trying to “incite panic”. Relax. No one has time to vet every comment.

          • Yes, I read and manage the tens of thousands of comments on this blog. That includes deleting trollish comments like yours that contain abusive language. Chill out or you will be banned.

  62. Recently a friend mentioned to me the idea of leasing Indian land as a way to avoid paying any county building permit fees, etc., and even taxes too. I wonder what all the pros and cons would be? Does anyone know the details for this possible way to go?

    • You’ll want to research this carefully. Two things I know from experience: 1. Some Native American communities have building codes (often fairly lax, but there are codes you’ll have to follow). 2. Many of these areas are very dangerous and have some of the highest crime rates in the US. Imagine what would happen if the economy continued to decline and government assistance was cut off at some point (a real possibility).

      • I can speak to both sides of that…I grew up in South Dakota, where the reservations are dangerous, heartbreakingly desolate places with unemployment rates of about 95% and epidemics of substance addiction and violent crime, where many residents live in appalling conditions. I now live in Arizona, and the reservation a few blocks away is just a neighborhood much like any other. Definitely visit in person before you consider a land lease…

  63. The following link on the Energy Star page there is a link trail head of all the states codes. This initial page has the current definition of International Residential Code, then the link to Energy Codes Ocean with various interactive US maps showing which states have codes, what kinds and if they are mandatory. What a boondoggle!
    Thank you for all the posts and info so far! I too am trying to find the right place to build and how. Starting to think that maybe making adobe bricks may make the grade for a lot of these obstacles that are in the way. So finding land with good soil and enough sun to dry the bricks could be a factor…

    Here;s the direct link to Energy Codes Ocean:

  64. HEY OWEN

    I am 23 and looking at land in southern Colorado to build my earthbag off grid freedom palace.

    However, I am well aware of the esoteric occult like darkness our country is headed (hah). I have much concern for my sustainable future and the future of my home. Like in 20-30 years when things are really screwed and the world loses most of its population as the new order emerges…

    Lets all pray it does not.

    • We are looking into building a couple Cob houses in Colorado and are looking for the 11 counties that don’t require building permits. Has anyone looked them up yet?

          • Colorado: County Contacts

            ADAMS COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Adams County, Building Department
            4955 East 74th Avenue
            Commerce City, Colorado 80022
            (303) 853-7156

            ALAMOSA COUNTY

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Arapahoe County Building Department
            5334 S. Prince Street
            Littleton, CO 80166-0001

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Archuleta County Building Department County Offices
            449 San Juan Street
            Pagosa Springs, Colorado 81147
            (970) 264-4785

            BACA COUNTY

            BENT COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building

            Technical Assistance:
            Bent County
            P.O. Box 350
            Las Animas, Colorado 81054-0350
            (719) 456-1600

            BOULDER COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Boulder County Building Division, Land Use Department
            P.O. Box 471
            Boulder, Colorado 80306
            (303) 441-3925

            CHAFFEE COUNTY
            Access Code:; 1991 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:;
            Chaffee County Government
            P.O. Box 699
            Salida, Colorado 81201
            (719) 539-2218

            Access Code: No Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Cheyenne County Offices
            51 South 1st Street
            Cheyenne Wells, Colorado 80810-0567
            (719) 767-5872

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Clear Creek County
            P.O. Box 2000
            Georgetown, Colorado 80444
            (303) 679-2428

            CONEJOS COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Conejos County Land Use
            P.O. Box 197
            Conejos, Colorado 81129
            (719) 376-2014


            CROWLEY COUNTY
            [No building code or contact information]

            CUSTER COUNTY

            DELTA COUNTY
            Access Code: No Building Code/City has not adopted a building code.

            Technical Assistance:
            Delta County
            501 Palmer, Suite 227
            Delta, Colorado 81416-1764
            (970) 874-2106

            DENVER COUNTY

            DOLORES COUNTY
            Access Code:1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Dolores County
            P.O. Box 608
            Dove Creek, Colorado 81324-0608
            (970) 677-2383

            DOUGLAS COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Douglas County, Building Division
            100 Third Street
            Castle Rock, Colorado 80104
            (303) 660-7497
            email: or

            EAGLE COUNTY
            Access Code:; 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Eagle County Community Development, Building Division
            P.O. Box 179
            Eagle, Colorado 81631
            (970) 328-8735

            EL PASO COUNTY

            ELBERT COUNTY

            FREMONT COUNTY
            Access Code: 1994 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Fremont County, Building Department
            615 Macon Ave., Rm B-5
            Canon City, Colorado 81212
            (719) 276-7460


            GILPIN COUNTY

            GRAND COUNTY

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Gunnison County Building Office
            221 N. Wisconsin Street, Suite D
            Gunnison, Colorado 81230
            (970) 641-1011

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Hinsdale County
            P.O. Box 277
            Lake City, Colorado 81235-0277
            (970) 944-2225
            (877) 944-7575 toll free

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Huerfano County, Planning and Zoning
            401 Main Street
            Walsenburg, Colorado 81089
            (719) 738-2370

            JACKSON COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Jackson County Building Division
            396 La Fever Street
            Walden, Colorado 80480-0337
            (970) 723-4660

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Jefferson County Building Department
            100 Jefferson County Parkway
            Golden, Colorado 80419-3540
            (303) 271-8260

            KIOWA COUNTY


            LA PLATA COUNTY

            LAKE COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Lake County
            P.O. Box 964
            Leadville, Colorado 80461-0964
            (719) 486-2875 or (719) 486-1790

            LARIMER COUNTY

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code;

            Technical Assistance:
            Las Animas County Building Department
            200 E. 1st Street, Rm. 104
            Trinidad, Colorado 81082-3047
            (719) 846-4486

            LINCOLN COUNTY
            Access Code:1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Lincoln County Building Department
            P.O. Box 39
            Hugo, Colorado 80821-0039
            (719) 743-2337

            LOGAN COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Logan County Planning and Zoning
            315 Main Street
            Sterling, Colorado 80751
            (970) 522-0888

            MESA COUNTY
            Access Code: 2000 International Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Mesa County Building Department
            750 Main Street
            Grand Junction, Colorado 81502-5005
            (970) 244-1631

            MINERAL COUNTY

            MOFFAT COUNTY
            Access Code: 1994 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Moffat County Building Department
            200 West Victory Way
            Craig, Colorado 81625
            (970) 824-9161

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Montezuma County Building Department
            109 West Main, Rm. 302
            Cortez, Colorado 81321-3142
            (970) 565-8317

            Access Code:1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Montrose County Land Use Department
            317 South Second Street
            Montrose, Colorado 81401
            (970) 249-6688

            MORGAN COUNTY
            Access Code: No Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Morgan County Planning Department
            P.O. Box 596
            Fort Morgan, Colorado 80701-0596
            (970) 542-3526

            OTERO COUNTY

            OURAY COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Ouray County Building Department
            P.O. Box 28
            Ridgway, Colorado 81432
            (970) 626-9775

            PARK COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Park County Building Department
            1246 Cr 16
            P.O. Box 517
            Fairplay, Colorado 80440
            (719) 836-4255


            PITKIN COUNTY
            Access Code:1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Pitkin County Community Development
            130 S. Galena Street, 3rd floor
            Aspen, Colorado 81611
            (970) 920-5090

            PROWERS COUNTY
            Access Code:1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Prowers County Environmental Health Dept.
            301 S. Main St., Suite 215
            Lamar, Colorado 81052
            (719) 336-8988

            PUEBLO COUNTY

            Access Code:1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Rio Blanco County Building Department
            P.O. Box 599
            Meeker, Colorado 81641-0235
            (970) 878-0235


            ROUTT COUNTY
            Access Code:1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Routt County Regional Building Department
            136 6th Street
            Steamboat Springs, Colorado 80477
            (970) 879-2704


            SAN JUAN COUNTY
            Access Code:1994 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            San Juan County Building Department
            P.O Box 466
            Silverton, Colorado 81433-0466
            (970) 387-5766

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            San Miguel County Building Department
            333 W. Colorado Avenue
            Telluride, Colorado 81435
            (970) 728-3923

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Sedgwick County Building Department
            315 Cedar Street
            Julesburg, Colorado 80737-0050
            (970) 474-2531

            SUMMIT COUNTY

            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Washington County Building Department
            150 Ash Avenue
            Akron, Colorado 80720-1510
            (970) 345-2701 or (970) 345-6565

            WELD COUNTY
            Access Code: 1997 Uniform Building Code

            Technical Assistance:
            Weld County Building Department
            1555 N. 17th Avenue
            Greeley, Colorado 80631
            (970) 353-6100 ext. 3540

            YUMA COUNTY

          • Thanks for the input! Does this list cover every county in CO with no codes? All it would take is 49 more people to do this and we’d have a list for the entire US.

            Update: On closer examination this is just a contact list of Colorado counties. While still helpful, we’re mostly looking for counties with codes.

          • Clear Creek County Colorado falsifies land descriptions, Land Use expertly auctions land with the guidance of the counties lawyer, the ladies noted as building department heads couldn’t build a barn, the health department hasn’t had an engineer in years, the school loses a good teacher every year. The roads are a joke, the Hospital is microscopic. There’s a nice new jail though.

  65. We own land in Lincoln County KY, currently an old trailor home is on the property but really is un-livable even though my brother does live there, it is covered in black mold. We are interested in building an Earth bag home there but are not sure about the buliding codes. We need to build on the cheep as money is a major factor. Any ideas or anyone who could help show us the technique and lives near by would be greatly appreciated.

  66. Update:

    I am still searching for the right property for what I want to do.

    I would like to establish a small business, specifically a commercial camp with the unique feature of the campers building their own permanent seasonal shelters.  It would be a matter of multiple structures on one property, made primarily from natural materials and recycled materials.  They would be built using green building methods such as earthbag, strawbale, cob, etc.  It would be a very affordable place where people who like building things could come and learn about natural building methods as they make their own shelter, that they would be able to come back to and camp out inside of repeatedly into the future.

    Starting in 2010 I began researching Klamath County, Oregon. In August of 2011 I found out that the Klamath County building code would not allow my project.

    Then I looked at several states and counties finally focusing on Saguache County, Colorado. But I was unable to connect with a sympathetic realtor, and being that I want to plant trees I decided that the land is too dry (high desert) anyway.

    Then I turned my attention back to Oregon and I have recently found out that Oregon State land use law will not allow my project.

    I have now begun looking at Washington State and British Columbia.

    So the journey continues….

    • I live in Saguache County and I am surprised you couldn’t find a realtor to work with, but I don’t have specific suggestions as I’m not up on who is doing real estate now.

      We ARE in a serious drought and that is a good reason to think of other places, as any trees planted would likely need regular water. We water our fruit trees, planted in the past couple of years, and even most of the trees planted before we bought this place.

  67. Owen – great link – thanks for bringing that up.

    This trend is something I’ve been telling people about for years. I have worked with these “well intentioned” fools. The high priests of hyper-urbanization who would gleefully herd people into fashionable ghetto’s and strip them of choice and thereby freedom – all in the name of protecting the global climate.

    Most people don’t or won’t believe it because it sounds too ridiculous and Orwellian. But it is TRUE and it is happening. California is in the midst
    of a “planned” collective suicide….not the conventional suicide. But the death of freedom in California – the death of CHOICE. In the future their will be very little choice remaining in California. To me that is a good definition
    of tyranny.

    I’m so glad we escaped that evolving nightmare…

    • I shudder to think I almost moved to California at one time.

      California is sort of at the forefront of what’s happening all across the country (and world) in terms of adopting ‘green standards’ or UN Agenda 21 standards (agenda for the 21st century). They’re using the green agenda and sustainable development as buzzwords and cover to pass highly restrictive regulations as you say. See the book “Behind the Green Mask”.

      • Thanks Owen…I look forward to it. The cover graphic is certainly compelling and, I believe….appropriate. I hope we can all manage to somehow evade this tide.

    • What? California has been like that for years.In Arizona we get folks from California that bring their crazy thinking with them.

  68. From: mysoulawakening

    Hi Joshua, Owen, and All,

    I hope my little bit of info here helps you. I’m in the process of buying land here in Texas, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned during the process.

    1.) Texas Building Codes: In Texas the cities govern the building codes, so if you live “Outside of City Limits”, you do not have to worry about building codes.

    2) “Outside of City Limits”: To buy outside city limits, you are “confined” to rural areas. Most all of the cities have a website, on their site you can typically view a PDF showing a map of their city limits. In Texas, cities are also allowed to extend their reach to an “ETJ”, ie “Extra Territorial Jurisdiction”. Living within an ETJ means you must still abide by their building codes, not all cities have an ETJ. HOWEVER, an adjacent cities ETJ may extend out into what you might perceive as a separate city, so make sure you check their City Limits/ETJ maps as well! (If you can’t find a website for the city, google often has a map showing their city limits, although you should call the city directly to determine accuracy.)

    3) FINANCING: If you plan on financing through a bank, be ready to be very patient…very very patient. Otherwise, I HIGHLY recommend buying only what you can afford OR owner financing! Be prepared to put 25-50% down when Owner Financing. Also, owners generally wish to get loan paid off in shorter term, mine requested 1-2 years, settled on 18 months.

    4) CRAIGSLIST!! After a lot of hunting else where, I found my property there. *Remember that Craigslist’s search engine isn’t as “smart” as Google’s, so change wording to get best results, ie: search “owner financing”, then “owner financed”, etc.

    5) DRIVE AROUND: This is VERY helpful. Drive around the areas you love that you know are out of city limits, you would be surprised how many properties are “For Sale By Owner”, but owners don’t advertise other than a homemade sign on the lawn.

    6) RESTRICTIONS! It’s not just building codes you have to worry about. Don’t forget that properties may carry restrictions, even if these restrictions are 30 years old from the original owner, it’s still something you must be weary of. I came across several properties that I loved, only to find out they had tough restrictions. Read the wording carefully, and make sure your home wouldn’t violate restrictions. Best yet, get one with no restrictions

    7) Flood Plain: This bit also applies to anyone anywhere, but do check FEMA website to make sure you aren’t in any flood plain.

    8) Deed Records and Appraisal Districts (taxes): Once you see a property you like, find your counties “Appraisal District”. Each county has one, most counties have websites where you can do this all online. If the county is small, call them up, Texas has the sweetest people just waiting for something to do in these little counties! ;) My county and most neighboring counties had a website, there I could find their appraised value, yearly taxes, exact property line info, etc. ALSO, once here you can find a number that corresponds to the records at the County Clerk’s office. Again, in larger counties, all this info was available online. Off of the County Clerk’s website you could go to “Public Records” and look up Deed information. Here you can find a complete description of the property, any restrictions on the property, important easement information, AND how much the current owner paid for the property. That last bit of info is invaluable when it comes to the negotiating table!

    7) TAX SALES! Did you know that when a property owner doesn’t pay their taxes, the county will sell their property at auction for only the cost of the unpaid taxes and fees?! I didn’t know that. This was something I wish I would have known sooner, and will definitely keep my eye on from now on for future real estate investments. Each county has their own way of doing it. Most commission a lawyer and the lawyer posts the available listings on their website. In any case, they are required by law to put a notice in a local newspaper publication (they will be found in the “legal” section of the paper. Search for “_____ County Tax sale”. Do your research! Make sure there aren’t any liens on the property. The owner of the property I am purchasing bought the land at auction, it is appraised at $21,000, I am buying it for $13,000, he paid ONLY $1,500 for it at auction!!! Buying someone elses property at auction because they couldn’t afford it seems cold, I know, but in honest, most of the properties I’ve come across are being sold because the owner departed from this earth.

    I hope this helps you and/or anyone else out there who are looking for a piece of the LoneStar state!

    • Owen,

      Craigslist search alternative – Here is the syntax to use for most search engines. I avoid google because of their ‘spying’ etc.

      “owner financing texas” using for the search turned up three (3) properties in Texas. Following’s suggestion of removing the ” before and after the search text turned up a very long list.

      This is an excellent way to search almost any site.

      Hope this helps.

      • Ha! I tried it on a whim and instantly turned up a great project that I didn’t see on google. Thanks. See today’s post about The Island Earthbag Project.

        The lesson here is no single source is perfect for everything. It pays to be diligent and seek out other options, resources, etc.

        Update: I found two more topics for future blog posts.

  69. A funny thing ive run into is laws about poultry.So many! Many places you cant have them,others only hens and no roosters.And some places you cant slaughter any chickens on your own property.
    My latest thoughts lean to multiple buildings under 120 square feet to avoid permits.In az they are thought of as accesory buildings,so in reality your suppose to have an main building that has a permit.Also if they are not permanant structures and i can move if needed.sunrise domes is a site ive looked at for small domes,twelve foot is under 120 sq.foot.Right now i found
    there are a lot of propertys on ebay for sale east of holbrook.And ive been looking at golden valley.

  70. Here’s a comment from
    “If you can purchase land in agricultural zoning, check the codes for building barns. Usually you can have an “office” in a barn, plus a bathroom. In my area, you can have a bathroom and office area, but not a full kitchen. Of course, once the permits are pulled, the structure built and signed off on, who’s going to know what modifications you make?”

  71. has any one every built or know of anyone building a earthbag, straw-bale or earth ship in switzerland. As I would like to do so in the next couple of years and was wondering about building codes and restrictions etc

  72. Okay, I have read through this thread and understand that my particular county (Apache County, Arizona) where we own land and are wanting to build our earth bag home charges an arm and a leg for permits, but will they issue a permit for these types of homes? I did find where New Mexico has added code for earthen buildings due to the popularity of adobe in their state, but did not see anything via Google on Arizona and specifically, Apache County. I would much rather go the earthbag route, and will have to budget extra for permits, but am curious if they are progressive at all in these types of building materials like sand bags, straw bales, etc. Any idea? Thanks!

  73. Hi WestcliffDan. That property I’m looking at in the Centennial Ranch area is about 35 acres and within it there’s a little valley with a stream running through the bottom of it. You say there’s high wind. I wonder if there would be less wind down in that little valley? Where ever I end up, I plan on planting trees. I know that there are at least a couple species of trees that can serve as wind breaks. I wonder if planting a whole mess of such trees all around the ridges overlooking this little valley would eventually solve the high winds problem?

    • Ken, planting trees is a solution for the Centennial Ranch area but one we did not want to wait on while enduring the winds coming off the sangre di cristo mountains. Young trees here need a deer fence so they get a chance to grow. Most trees would need watering as well. Folks do place structures in a valley and avoid the ridges when they can so that is a proven concept for the area.

  74. I’m looking at some property in southern Custer County, Colorado, via the Internet. I know that there’s almost no codes in the unincorporated part of the county. Martin and Tope is the real estate company listing the property. The property is located in the Centennial Ranch area. Can anyone tell me what the pros and cons are of the Centennial Ranch area in terms of buying property there? Any tips?

    • Hey Ken, I am in Rosita, which is just north of centennial ranch, temporarily while my earthbag house remains a work in progress. My perc test failed – not enough soil over bedrock – so looking at septic alternatives here before proceeding with the build.

      I looked at the Centennial Ranch properties too and unless you like high winds I cannot recommend it. The major cons for these properties: there are no trees on 99 percent of the lots, the roads are private and not maintained by the county. Those acreages are like “loss leaders”. The pros are lot size, low cost and the view. I ended up buying ten acres off grid east of Westcliff.

      You will want to download the homeowners packet from custer county planning and zoning. The most important things to work out are septic, well/rain harvesting/water hauling and handling your trash(…we have bears here).

      Have fun researching and planning! I really must start documenting progress in my blog… :)

    • Well id make dam sure your earth bag building is legal before id do all the labor to build one.Many of the posts seem to be of foreign countrys where things are a lot more lax. Ive been told mexico is good for this,they really dont care what you build.

  75. I would also counsel you all to be careful of any property that has ANY easements on it. The government (local, state, and Feds) have the right to enter ANY property WITHOUT your permission if they have a utility easement. This means they can come onto YOUR property to “look around” anytime they choose if they have an easement. Once on the property – they can then note and report any “unusual” or illegal structures or activities. This is yet another way they can violate your private property.

  76. Pulaski County in Kentucky only applies a building code to commercial buildings, as is stated on their county web site – I was interested because I became aware of some land for sale there.

    I also hear that even though Tennessee is subject to a statewide building code, it’s not enforced equally. Many of the smaller/poorer counties don’t enforce the state codes, unless I assume, you happen to annoy them.

    Although tedious, a person could search each county of the state they’re interested in, during the course of 3 or 4 hour internet search of county web sites.

    • It takes longer than that, most rural areas don’t have complete information published. Calling them doesn’t help either, because they don’t know and want you to feel their authority to make up whatever sounds right. I look for land advertised as having no building codes, to help me narrow the search. Otherwise, you’ll waste your whole life at it and still have no certainty that the data is accurate.

  77. Austin, Texas: criminal offense for building codes

    Here’s another similar article. I thought code violations were a civil matter. This may be true in some areas, but not all. This is crazy. Every house has some defects. This means you could be jailed or lose your property if you can’t afford to pay for one of these fines. This has a lot of potential for abuse!

    “Failure to comply with City codes may result in criminal charges being filed against you, a lien being placed on your property for the cost of clearance or repair, and/or demolition of dangerous structures. “

  78. They want to put liens against your property for code violations in New York

    Counties and municipalities are having difficulty collecting fines from code violations. I think will pass.

    “The Solution: Permit municipalities to convert unpaid building code, property maintenance and nuisance criminal fines (after adjudication) to liens on real property and to include them on municipal tax bills. This will give municipalities a more viable and effective method of collecting these outstanding fines.”

    • Owen, I have been researching a move to the big island for a couple of years now.

      From how I understand it, the law being considered in Hawaii is actually the new International building code. [probably just American pushing their international standards]

      Apparently they have the choice to amend it, which is what the people are trying to get the guys in Puna to do… whether they do or not will be interesting as most folks live in un-permitted structures.

      Seeing this is a new “International building” law, I would suppose all states are looking at this… you should check it out to see if this is the case. It does not seem like this is something they advertise.

      • I’ve known about the international code for about 10 years. It sounds like you’re saying all states may eventually adopt the international code? Maybe, but so far there’s a lot of resistance. It drives up the cost of construction, makes code enforcement more difficult, etc. And with the bursting of the housing bubble… I don’t see how some communities can afford it.

    • p.s.

      I would add, what gets me about the permits in America is they are basically useless.
      – Hurricane Florida
      – Fire California
      – Cold as siberia Upper P. Michigan.

      The above 2x4s and drywall just dont hold up well to.
      People slave their whole life just to not be able to pass something on to their kids. Their kids too must slave, etc. and are not allowed to freely create and innovate.

      Take the way walls are built in the country I live.
      Many of the houses, not all, are built with bricks from this Austrian company.
      [The first pic of the four is typical for wall structures here. – Im in Hungary by the way.]

      Not suggesting this over earthbag, but what I am suggesting is that Americans have been and are continuing to be ripped off in quality and in price.

      What may have been necessary many moons ago, building with stick, [actually log cabins are better than the 2x4s they use now with their “hurricane clips”], has turned into an industry of greed that would break down if quality homes, [structurally], were made available for the same, if not lower prices.

      Where would the dear insurance companies be? God forbid. ;)

      Anyway… land of the free. Man Thomas J. wouldn’t recognize the country. ;)

      • I agree 100%. I think I’ll turn this idea into a blog post. Americans are being conned big time. I’ve known this for years, of course. That’s why I got into natural building. I was absolutely disgusted with the con artist mentality, rip off materials and unhealthy nature of it all. Thanks for sharing.

    • Another area people are being ripped off is with the prices of ‘green energy’.
      Green energy is fine, its the artificially inflated prices that get me.

      i.e. apparently on solar panel company in Puna of Big Island, [not confirmed], used to be part of Helco [perhaps one of the highest cost of electricity stateside per Kw], and later became ‘independent.’

      They only sell grid-tied systems.

      The point is Helco also uses windfarms to help give the island electricity and passes off insane cost to the locals…

      At any rate I believe you and I both agree about the rip off… and I believe its because people dont really realize what kind of alternatives are there.

      Take the solar powered heater made out of beer/soda cans.
      [first heard about some Hungarian doing it here, as our heating can be around $400 a month in gas prices for a double story house… not really efficient build in this cold climate], anyway – incase you havent seen, though I bet you have, here is a link:

      Yes, do make a blog post about the rip off… the more people that realize it, the better. [Just as long as good examples are shown as alternatives, which I know you are doing.]

      The people I tell about how houses are here are typically surprised and then find some excuse as to why they have to pay the prices – understandable after generations having to slave for something that is a basic human right… a place to sleep.

      • Green energy is great on its own, it’s when it’s state controlled and operated by mega industrial energy plants that make it expensive. The massive solar plants popping up in the southwestern deserts are monsters, requiring millions or billions of dollars in infrastructure and space. Small, home or community based projects would be less invasive, less expensive and more efficient. So why are only giant industrial size projects getting approved?

        • Big projects = big kickbacks to politicians.

          Small projects at home eliminate line losses since the power doesn’t have to travel long distances.

  79. justinslick,

    My desire for my idea of an alternative campground has not diminished. The quest for the right place to do it continues.

    One possibility for frugal travel could be to get in touch with counter culture intentional communities of which there are many around the country. You might be able to stay at these places each for a couple days in return for a little sweat equity. They are interesting places to visit and would certainly add to the enjoyment of your travels. Go to:

    Re: Establishing a low-cost campground
    A bare-bones campground would still require some type of toilet facility. Maybe an off the grid area of some county somewhere might allow an outhouse.

    It’s a neat idea worth pursuing. As you dig into it you’ll find out more about the costs involved. For instance, charging $5 per customer might cover the yearly taxes but may leave little left for anything else.

    But where there’s a will there’s a way!
    Good luck in your endeavor.

  80. Here’s the latest food gestapo news. (It’s sort of off topic, but not really. It’s part of a larger plan to take away our rights.) A picnic at Quail Hollow Farm, an organic community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in southern Nevada got raided and the food was ordered destroyed. They had to pour bleach over organic potatoes, etc. to be sure no one would eat them. This is very similar to the Rawesome Food raid reported earlier.

    Update: They should have called their lawyer immediately. It later became apparent the out of control health dept. worker didn’t have a court order or arrest warrant. There was no legal authority! She was eventually escorted off the premises by the police, but not before hundreds of pounds of food was destroyed.

  81. I looking at land in Yavapai county, Arizona.

    I’ve spoken to the county and they have said alternative building techniques (including but not limited to earth Bag) are fine, but they require an engineer’s stamp of approval on the plans and materials.

    I’m really new to all of this, and only began looking into earth bag building a few weeks ago, and now it seems like everything.. information, opportunity, etc… is coming at me so fast, haha

    On the one hand, that’s good, on the other, it’s pretty overwhelming.

    Thanks for making this site, and for being so responsive to everyone who has questions and comments for you.

  82. Wow, has anyone heard of the federal gov land grab along the northern border? Homeland Security is preparing to take complete control over land within 100 miles of the Canadian border. The public will no longer have access to the area. It’s not clear if this will be only in Montana or not. About 1/3 of Montana is planned to be seized. Homeland Security will be erecting fences and “forward operating bases”. [Shaking my head in disbelief.]

    Update: This Facebook page says “The White House is planning to lock up more than 13 million acres of land in 11 western states, including more than 2.5 million in Montana alone — much of which is privately owned. Some of that land belongs to private citizens who have no idea that the federal government is planning to kick them off their ranches.”

    • Rats!
      The US Government has discovered our Canadian plan to invade Montana!
      Now our entire invasion force of 3 DH Beavers, a pick-up truck loaded with decent beer and 4 lumberjacks armed with hockey sticks will have to find another route.
      Don’t laugh – that’s all it took to burn down The White House the last time!

      There’s no way we can use the BC border crossing – the queues are horrendous.

    • Unfortunately this applies nationwide and includes the coasts as well. The larger effect here is the waiver of dozens of environmental and health laws during the inititial period of this proposed bill. There is a 5 year sunset in place which might let it expire but I doubt the bureaucrats and politicians would let that happen.

      I am already putting together my response and will forward to the senators and reps here in Colorado and hope everyone else that cares about thier own health, welfare and free access to our national parks and monuments does the same quickly. See what happens when there is any kind of distraction provided by the mainstream media……it is sickening really…

    • Yes we need to protect you from those violent Canadian terrorist.
      Or to keep you from escapeing our beloved motherland.(say this with a russian accent)

    • Re: Homeland Security Land Grab

      I can’t believe it! Just the other day I was talking by phone to a planner in Flathead County, Montana, up by the Canadian border. The conversation went very well and the best news was that Flathead County has no building codes. So at first glance it looks like Flathead County is right up there with Delta County, Colorado, as a place with significantly less regulation.

        • We can only hope that enough people will complain to their “congress critters” and that abomination of a bill will be defeated. (I’d write to mine except at the moment I don’t have one. Wu resigned. Special election for my Oregon congressional district is coming up in January.)

          • The militarization of borders like this reminds me of the Soviet Union. And to do this next to Canada, one of the best countries in the world, is just ludicrous.

    • After reviewing this post, Ive decided that it’s just based on Teabagger paranoia. Homeland Security preparing to take complete control over land within 100 miles of the Canadian border, including private property, is never going to happen. If Glen Beck says it, you know it’s not true.

      • I don’t listen to people like Glen Beck, and I’m not a Teabagger, repub or dem. Just reporting on bits and pieces of news that I come across. Draw your own conclusions.

        • I didn’t think that you listen to people like Glen Beck, or that you’re a Teabagger, or repub. I now see that my last post wasn’t worded right. I should have wrote: “After reviewing the Facebook page …” That’s what I meant. Nothing wrong with your post. It was the Facebook page from which I drew my conclusion. My screw-up. Sorry if I ruffled any feathers.

          O by the way, I’m still not getting any follow-up comments by email.

          • Sorry, I totally misunderstood. Email glitch: leave a comment on the post about “Are you having trouble with this site?” and hopefully Kelly’s wife will see it. She’s the webmaster for the site. If that doesn’t work, write Kelly. His address is under About Us at the top of the page.

  83. Hello Set Go,
    Well the way I see it, there are “campgrounds”, there are “not campgrounds”, and then there’s a gray area in between. Maybe the word “camp” would fit best for what I’d like to do. But at any rate, with all kinds of building restrictions it makes it difficult to be creative or innovative and turn a new idea into a reality.

    That property I talked about was zoned Non Resource. An earlier property I looked at was in a pocket inside a national forest and its zoning prohibited any kind of building.

  84. PS: Also, the person who wanted to put a campground in Southern OR–well if people put permanent dwellings on land, this is not really a campground. It wasn’t clear from your post what kind of land location was it–you had mentioned National Forest. If it was a pocket inside National forest, they might have limitations on density on the land.

    I’m not a structural engineer (the other kind)–why is it not possible to have alternative buildings approved and stamped by the engineer, if they do meet standards and code, load, etc? I was thinking of buying a yurt and my understanding is that they do get stamped by CA engineer and do get approved by counties, as soon as they’re stamped and proper foundation is built (yurts turned out to be not a cost-effective option though, but that’s another topic)

  85. Owen Geiger, in reply–I don’t think it’s OK to let people build whatever they want, as this will lead to unqualified people building dangerous housing. You never experienced a major earthquake–but I remember how people were buried alive under the buildings and died slow death there. I’m never going to forget this.

    Also, in the event of a disaster (earthquake, hurricane, flood, etc)–guess who’s going to pick the tab for rescue? The fire department of the county is going to be pulling the bodies out of rubbish and the state hospitals, etc. Don’t tell me that people can just waive their rescue when they buy a property… they will not want that. A person may learn how to build a safe building–how does the county know if their building is safe, though, without inspection and that it’s not some wacko who puts kids or renters, or employees in unsafe housing, or that future buyers will not be endangered possibly?

    What kind of tens of thousands in permits are you talking about?–may be for a huge structure? Then, may be people shouldn’t build huge structures and oversized homes; also they should consider curbing the breeding, as the world is overpopulated/resources destroyed, and if one wants to have a bunch of kids and put them in a big house, they better be prepared to pay for a permit for a safe building. I know of one person who put up some illegal shack and had kids living in it… that while he had more than enough money for permitted stuff–well luckily the Big One didn’t hit California, because his shack was located close to…San Andreas fault, in SF Bay area. There’s no way around building permits in zones prone to disasters, plus they don’t want people burning in their houses due to faulty electric. Someone hires shady contractor who puts up a crappy building… then they burn–the whole point of a permit/inspection to protect from this situation, whether we like it or not.

    Who wants lakes, streams polluted by faulty septics? That’s a point of permitting. Who wants septic stuff to be on neighbor’s property? Or, some fuming enterprise polluting the air next to the house of neighbors.. so zoning makes sense. It all makes sense. As to depriving people from the chance to build a house.. well Montana has no codes, so people can build there, or they can buy a foreclosed existing low-end house. Or, they can put a mobile home on land–cheaper permits, pre-done inspections at factor. Or, they can buy a condo–no permits.

    Everyone wants a piece of prime land… nice climate, beautiful scenery. Well, the country is over populated and everyone just can’t have that perfect location or situation, unfortunately. Building permits are not that expensive, compared to actual cost of construction–even though they are too pricey. As to building alternative kinds of housing in seismic zones etc.. I can see the point, think of it, if it is generally not known how strong the structure is, the potential ramifications are great. If the state engineer approved the plans… they should allow it, if not, it may be unsafe. I’m a potential home buyer, I do not want to deal with something that may kill me–just today I got shaken by the quake.

    • Just a few things to think about…
      – I live in an area with no codes and things are just fine, thanks. Some make it sound like the sky will fall if we don’t have thousands of codes.
      – I’ve heard and seen fire trucks here only three times in six years. (One was for a small grass fire.) People are smart enough to build sensibly if the gov would get out of the way. I used to hear and see fire trucks frequently in the US. So it’s obvious to me that all those codes aren’t as effective as some claim.
      – Earthbag houses can easily be made fire resistant and earthquake resistant. Why isn’t the government promoting this method and encouraging all the other sustainable building methods? (Hint: they don’t care because no one is making lots of money and paying them off.)
      – I’m not against all building codes. I can see some guidelines for urban areas and commercial structures. A small guidebook of practical construction techniques that make sense for the area would be way better than the current bloated bureaucracy (Note my video listed here on Sackett Vs. EPA for how ridiculous things can get.)
      – At least give people the right to opt out. This may very well make selling the home more difficult in the future when they’re required to disclose this fact to prospective home buyers, but at least people have a choice.
      – You say permits are not that expensive, but fail to mention that codes often increase the cost of construction by tens of thousands of dollars.
      – People shouldn’t have to move to Montana or other ‘middle of nowhere’ place so they can build their own home without excessive gov intrusion.
      – Take a tour of new low end modular houses for sale. Absolute rubbish. They reek with formaldehyde and other chemicals. They would burn like crazy in a fire. They’ll fall apart in a few years… and yet they meet code. See how ridiculous things are? A crap trailer house gets permitted while a rock solid earthbag house probably wouldn’t get accepted without months of haggling and thousands in fees.
      – Septic tanks: I lived in an area of Colorado that had polluted ground water from septic tanks! So obviously the existing codes there failed to prevent the problem. More proof that the current system doesn’t work correctly. Maybe they should have been promoting composting toilets.
      – The US has lots of regulatory agencies — EPA, FDA… yet look at all the cancer causing unhealthy junk food, GMOs, polluted rivers, oil in the Gulf, fluoride in the drinking water, unsafe pharmaceuticals, pollution from gas drilling (see Gas Land movie), etc. etc. etc. Why are these things “approved”? What did the SEC do to curb corruption on Wall Street? Virtually nothing, even after being warned repeatedly with specific information from whistleblowers. It’s obvious to me that these agencies are in the pocket of big corporations and not looking out for the interests of the American people.
      – The US is going broke. The states, counties and cities are going broke or are in poor financial shape. Who’s going to pay for all these gov agencies? Where will the money come from? (Hint: get ready for higher taxes.) Now that things are ripping apart at the seams, maybe people will step back and look for better solutions.

  86. Here’s a video that shows how the current system is running out of control. This couple in Idaho got all the necessary permits and now the EPA is taking them to court to block the construction of their home. They might be fined $32,000/day for resisting the EPA decision.

  87. I have mixed feelings about permit issues… (I’m a to-be homewoner, and yes permits are extremely overpriced). HOWEVER, I’m in California, which is mostly erarthquake zone (and a few flood zones too). So, if the quake hits… you’re gonna WISH and be thankful you’re in a structure engineered to standards. So permits make sense to me. I remember piles of coffins on the streets in a country where I grew up (poorly engineered buildings + big quake = a lot of victims). An earthquake causing the roof to fall down on you or you being trapped because doors jammed and you burning alive… not fun. This is what can happen. Or, a sudden flood and your house not being on proper foundation… not a fun scenario. Sliding land (here, lots of land has slope), etc.


    Tom Meyers posted a list of Colorado counties that currently have no adopted building code:

    Kit Carson

    Be aware that many of these counties have cities or towns located within them that do adopt codes. You will need to be in an unincorporated portion to avoid municipal jurisdiction oversight. Of all the counties, Delta will be the most receptive to alternative construction techniques and lifestyles. We own land in Hotchkiss that is a bit more conservative with libertarian leanings. Paonia is more liberal with less of the statist attitude that seems to be pervasive in that realm. Land in the unincorporated county surrounding these spaces is your best bet for freedom from regulatory oversight.

    The other counties mentioned above on the eastern plains are mostly rural agriculture land. They are self sufficient, but pretty conservative. Might not be your cup of tea. The counties in the south are more free spirited.

    Also consider New Mexico around the Taos area. Kingston is another good choice. Also Mimbres outside of Silver City. Lots of off grid and alternative construction in those places. The state has a comprehensive building code but is largely unenforced outside of the major cities. Lots of political shenanigans in the CID department (the one responsible for code enforcement) extending back to the Richardson days. That may be changing as the old machine is cleaned out. Ultimately that may lead to more uniform enforcement of their laws in the rural areas.

    All this said, I still suggest considering locations where alternative construction HAS been approved under an adopted code. These locations have building officials that “get it”. They will likely be very helpful and assist rather than hinder the process. Best of luck!

  89. Hey guys new to your post I am interested in finding a place where I can build my own place without a lot of restrictions. I have been in the construction field for over 33 years as an electrician. As far as running your wire between the bags any inspector worth his salt will not let that fly due to the requirements for securing the wire. I assume you are taking about Romex however anything that would be in contact with earth filled bag you should consider running UF Cable which is a direct burial Romex but either way it still would need to meet the requirements for securing it not just layed in between bags. Anyhow just my 2 cents if anyone knows of any locations close to northern New Mexico that would fit the minimum code requirements of building would love to hear from you.

    • Northern NM / southern CO is a great spot for earthbag. The scoria mine is nearby (search our blog for lots of ways to use it), it’s super beautiful, lots of affordable rural land. Building supply centers are within a reasonable drive (plan ahead to reduce trips). I think you could find out of the way places where codes are not rigorously enforced. They may only check your septic and electrical. One guy said they only check the septic, and all you have to do is send them a photo! Home building is in a slump. Counties are eager for revenue. So I think the scales are tipping in favor of more lenient code enforcement. Remember, it’s up to the local building department how strictly they want to enforce the codes. Just because it’s on the books doesn’t mean everything is rigorously enforced. I’ve even heard of a county in Nebraska who voted to close their building department to save money. Who knows, this could catch on.

      We usually recommend running electrical wire in the recesses between bags. This makes the wire easy to get to. I use nails pounded in at an angle to hold the wire in place and then cover with 2″-3″ of plaster. This may not pass code in all areas, so check what local code officials want. UF cable would be a step up in quality without getting into the work and expense of running conduit. If you have any details to add, feel free to share.

  90. I have just finished reading with great interest this entire blog article including the accompanying comments. I have recently and painfully become aware of the problem of overly restrictive county building codes.

    I have been tying to find and buy in Klamath County, Oregon, the right property for the creation of a unique type of commercial campsite, for about the past year and a half. I focused my search in Klamath County because it seems to have the largest selection of low priced property in Oregon. I have encountered various problems on this journey that can be summed up by the following:

    If the price was right, then the zoning was wrong. If the price and zoning were right, then it lacked mineral rights. If the property had the right price, the right zoning, and mineral rights were included in the deal, then it lacked legal access. And finally, with the last property I looked at (with great interest – 41 acres at $14,000) all of the above details were in order, but then the Klamath County Building and Planning Departments informed me that I wouldn’t be allowed to do what I want to do.

    My dream is to establish a camp with the unique feature of the campers building their own basic semi-permanent to permanent shelters, made primarily from the natural materials on the property; a kind of architectural art project. It would be their creation to come back to again and again to camp out in and continue building it or improve it further. I envision a lot of green building of all sorts. Only green building would be allowed. It would be a low cost way for people to experience green building in a small scale sort of way. It could be an introduction to green building for some and perhaps eventually many folks.

    Here is the email they sent me:

    A number of County staff persons have been in discussions with you about your idea for a campground in the Non-Resource Zone.  The various discussions have been regarding the laws and regulations that apply.  While we endeavor to be helpful to applicants, we cannot spend so much time on any one project as to be acting as a consultant.  Our role is primarily to review completed proposals and determine if they meet the planning and building codes.  If you need clarification as to what the regulations allow, you will need to seek professional help from qualified individuals.  They can also help in being sure any submittals to the County for permits are complete.

    There are also some basic code requirements that need to be clear.  The Non-Resource Zone only allows campgrounds as a conditional use because it allows “All conditional uses in the Exclusive Farm Use, Forestry, and Forestry/Range Zones.”  Both of the campgrounds allowed as conditional uses in the EFU and Forestry Zones state that camping sites may be occupied by a tent, travel trailer or recreational vehicle.  The spaces cannot be occupied by a permanent structure. 
    The Non-Resource Zone does allow a single-family dwelling on each parcel, so one dwelling would be allowed, but not considered part of the campground.

    I hope this clarifies the County’s position in providing limited help to applicants.  When you have specific plans for the County to review, you will need to start with the Planning Division and the conditional use permit review.  A pre-application conference is available for a fee of $300.”

    Boy O boy, doesn’t that suck!

    Where, specifically, in Oregon or in any western state would be the best place to look for land, to do what I want to do?

    • The bottom line is there’s a growing population that’s competing for limited resources such as land. At some point there are too many people competing for too few resources. Choosing a highly desirable area such as you have makes the process even more difficult. On top of everything you have endless building codes and restrictions of all sort. You’ve only scratched the surface and will likely encounter endless codes for public restrooms, campfire restrictions, parking regulations, access for fire fighting equipment, setbacks from lot lines, creating fire breaks around the buildings, rules for how big the roads have to be, etc. etc. etc. I think you get my point. Eventually it’s almost impossible to do what you want in certain areas. You need to look elsewhere where there’s more space and fewer people. That typically means fewer restrictions and lower cost land, but it also means the area is more remote and may no longer be practical for what you want to do. I know eastern Oregon is much more sparsely populated than western Oregon, so I would be inclined to look farther east. Look for a resort type area near national parks, big lakes, etc. that will draw vacationers.

    • Ken,

      I know it’s been a few months since you posted this, but I’m wondering if you’re still looking into the possibilities of an alternative campground?

      I’m very, very interested in frugal travel, but the infrastructure for it in this country is fairly awful. For the past nine weeks, I’ve been traveling around the United States very cheaply, and I’ve gradually been able to get myself down around the $10/day mark.

      But I’ve done this by sleeping in my vehicle and seeking out BLM & National Forest land to camp on.

      Travel infrastructure in this country is (almost) as frustrating as building code, and there’s nothing more disheartening to a frugal traveler than seeing a 95% empty campground that still wants to charge $21 to throw down a tent for the night.

      During the past few weeks, I’ve been tossing around the idea of trying to establish a low-cost campground, although I definitely hadn’t gotten as far into the planning as you had.

      My idea was to try and find cheap enough land to establish a bare-bones campground, similar to what you’d find in a National Forest. None of the typical amenities (like electric hook-ups, dump stations, showers, laundry, wifi) that make your typical “RV Park” so expensive.

      Basically just a place to pitch a tent for a night or two with a really low fee like 5 or 6 bucks. I’m thinking five dollars might be low enough to be affordable for folks who able to pay $15 or $20 dollars for a place to stay for the night. (The reason I say that is because in my current situation, I could probably budget for a $5 tent site, but absolutely cannot afford to camp for $20 bucks a night).

      Because there are no amenities, I’m hoping it’d be possible to cut the overhead enough to charge very little and still be profitable…

      Then (and the reason I’m posting this here), I was hoping to use the revenue from the tent sites to fund low-cost alternative building projects on the land, either for use as cheap housing or maybe even studio space for artists.

      I’m young and naive and still in the honeymoon phase with this idea, but I was thinking how great it would be for there to be a whole bunch of places like this scattered along established travel routes that could serve as an affordable travel option for people who don’t need luxury, but just want to get out and see the country.

      The way I see it if KOA Campgrounds were like Blockbuster Stores, these campgrounds would be like Redbox–low cost, bare bones, etc.

      Anyway, I was thinking about maybe using a campaign at one of the community/crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to raise funding. I don’t know if this could ever work, but I saw your post and thought it might be nice to get my thoughts out there. Feel free to bring me back to earth!

      • This might work in the right location where there are lots of tourists near a major attraction. But I have my doubts about other areas. It seems to me that most people would stay on BLM or forest service land instead of paying $5 if there are no services. Maybe there’s a middle ground where you offer showers, toilets and camping in a well traveled area. It wouldn’t have to be way out in the wilderness. Many people are looking for places like this near big cities to beat the high cost of rent. They have jobs but don’t want to spend all their money on rent.

        Have you seen this site? Mobile Kodgers

  91. “and because earthships are practical and beautiful”

    And earthbag homes aren’t? Earthbag buildings can be made to resemble the conventional, domes, roundhouses, etc. You could build an Earthship-type home that looks just like one made of tires… Of course, I’m preaching to the Pope here. ;-)

  92. Did Michael Reynolds give up so easily? Earthships are a drastically overpriced lie of homebuilding, but he made it happen. If we can accomplish that with earthbags…

    • We can definitely accomplish at least the same level of success, because earthbags are faster and easier to build with. He’s successful because he has been promoting the same thing for 35 years or so (and because earthships are practical and beautiful).

  93. A couple of things – those of you planning to challenge the authority of the bureaucrats – good luck with that. You play their game or they put you in jail or take away all that you own.

    And those thinking of hiding in the trees – there is this neat website called Google Maps – go click on the satellite view for your location – it’s really cool guess what, ALL THE COUNTY GOVTS USE IT TO LOOK FOR UNPERMITTED BUILDINGS.

    IMO – there are two ways to do this – look for counties that EXPLICITY do not require building permits – or at least minimal ones. People with anecdotes about recent builds and easy processes are probably the best way to do this. The second option is to wait for these counties to go broke (just like Hall County in NE did) and lay off all their building ‘officials’. This is inevitable as the economy spirals into the toilet. In that vein you should look for counties that are having big money problems.

    The bright side of the econ crash is that land prices should crater over the next few years and with them many counties should be forced to lay of bureaucrats. That’s my dream and I’m sticking to it LOL

  94. Here are some finds that should help you build structures in Colorado. This is for those counties that do not do permit inspections themselves. After spending too much time searching through the maze of web portals that is Colorados’ web presence I finally produced something of value. These provide an abstract of the code/practice expected when seeking a permit.

    The electrical permit is the more valuable of the two. I now know that running wire between bags themselves will, legally, not be possible. The first, “rough in”, inspection requires everything to be in sight. I will surface mount on interior walls.

    I am finding the more time I spend now finding answers the fewer suprises I will encounter during the actual build.

    • Just for clarification, we recommend running electrical wire in the recess between bags. This means it’s accessible for inspection, but yet the finished wiring will be fairly well protected with 2″-3″ of plaster. Put stakes between bags for attaching electrical boxes.

  95. Coconino county,AZ Ive heard some horror storys about daily fines for not having permits,the area ive been interested is close to the grand canyon.Im not sure if I’ll have problems with an Icosa dome,small solar setup and outside watson wick setup or storage tank for sewage.Anyone who lives in the area of us-64 and us 180 id like to hear from you.

    • hey i have land in coconino in valle. az like you were asking… are you still following these dreams from 2011? 1. A detached structure shall meet the setback requirements of the main building for the front and
      street side yard areas.
      2. A detached accessory structure which does not exceed 15 feet in height and 600 sq. ft. in area, may
      be located within an interior side yard or rear yard; provided, however, that such structure shall not
      be located closer than five feet to an interior side or rear lot line.
      3. A detached accessory structure which exceeds 15 feet, or 600 square feet in area, in height shall
      maintain the same minimum side and rear setbacks as required for the main dwelling.
      4. A detached structure shall maintain a minimum 10 feet separation from the main structure.

      this is the good one for your sheds and etc….as long as you arent living in it…
      6. Although not requiring a building permit, accessory structures with less than 120 square feet of
      roof area must meet the above minimum setbacks.

        • You’ll need to go and suss out the situation firsthand by talking to locals, particularly those who have recently built homes. The building department publishes a list of new homes and their addresses. You could find some that were built with sustainable materials and then talk to the homeowners to see how they were treated. The bottom line is some departments are friendly and open minded to these sorts of things (alternative building materials) and some aren’t. Don’t skimp on the research phase. If you don’t see any homes being built with sustainable materials (adobe, straw bale, earthbags, earthships, etc.) then that’s a huge red flag.

  96. From Nicholas:
    My mother owns land in Mason County West Virginia and Pulaski County Kentucky neither of those require a building permit for residential structures built in rural areas… as a matter of fact most counties in rural West Virginia don’t require building permits unless the structure is intended for commercial or public use.

  97. Yes, you could canvass them in 8 hours or less. But getting a straight, informed, honest answer… Well… Good luck.

    Government is as dishonest and uneducated as it is bloated.

    I was trying to do my part and contribute here, but I can’t figure a way to get accurate information out of these people. I think they just make it up as they go…

  98. Hi all. Thought you might want a couple more counties that permits are not required in. Red River county in Texas is one, (look up Clarksville Texas) and the other is Pike County in Missouri, (look up Bowling Green, Missouri). I live in Bowling Green, only 75 miles from St Louis, and it is a very beautiful place, with a heavy Amish population.

  99. Here’s a cool little fact found in Article XX, section 6 of Colorado’s Constitution.

    “Section 6. Home rule for cities and towns.

    The people of each city or town of this state, having a population of two thousand inhabitants as determined by the last preceding census taken under the authority of the United States, the state of Colorado or said city or town, are hereby vested with, and they shall always have, power to make, amend, add to or replace the charter of said city or town, which shall be its organic law and extend to all its local and municipal matters.

    Such charter and the ordinances made pursuant thereto in such matters shall supersede within the territorial limits and other jurisdiction of said city or town any law of the state in conflict therewith”


    Seems as if the people of each town/city that have elected Home Rule have the freedom to create their own “rules”.

  100. A reader who is going to build an earthbag house in Westcliffe, Colorado sent me the following message. I was very surprised to hear there are almost no codes in the unincorporated part of the county (outside of town). Westcliffe is one of my all time favorite places for hiking, camping and hunting. Lots of great memories up there.

    “The town of Westcliffe is small and it feels like the county is even smaller. Custer county population is smaller than the town of Frederick where I currently reside! The town itself has building codes so folks going with alternative building methods should avoid it and consider unincorporated Custer county.

    Custer county has a website with all permits and forms online. I recommend the Homeowners packet that has everything needed before deciding to relocate:

    We were initially considering a yurt. That caused our realtor to raise an eyebrow. We finally reconsidered due to fire danger and bears. Lots of bears…

    We worked with the local realtors, Martin and Tope,

    Land is costly +/- 2000 per acre. We had wanted to get at least 35 acres for a resonable amount. There is a lot of land that is reasonable but, there is always a “but” isn’t there? Most parcels that size have no trees and lots of wind. This is why we settled for ~10 acres, to get the trees and the cost was less than 2k per acre. We were lucky to get a parcel that was not listed yet. Of couse there is another “but”. A parcel that is less than 35 acres is now limited to in-house use only for any well water. My plan is to capture rainwater for use outside the house.”

  101. From Elizabeth, the main contact, at the Custer County Planning and Zoning:

    “Good Morning Hayes,

    It is true that Custer County has not adopted a building code. We have adopted Zoning Regulations, however. Permits must be obtained for structures and septic systems through this office, electric, plumbing and well permits are obtained through the state.

    If you wish, you can visit our web page at Click on Planning and Zoning for information about this office, the Homeowners’ Packet is particularly helpful.

    The both of the incorporated towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe have adopted building codes.

    I hope this is helpful.


  102. North of the border, Prince Edward Island has no code or building inspections outside the 2 cities. A permit ($200), septic permit; and final inspections of electric and plumbing are all that’s required. Time taken was 34 minutes for the whole permit business,and they fill the blanks in for you. I’m currently building my own house, conventional structure but very energy efficient. Land $10,000 for an acre.
    I would welcome a summary by somebody of which US counties require what, as I fancy building down in the southwest.

  103. Jim: I am interested in and have started some preliminary work towards building an Earth Bag home in Delaware or Essex County NY. If you have any updates about areas with minimal codes (the thought of finding zero codes in NY is an idea that sounds D.O.A.) in NY or in the region that you want to share I’d appreciate it. Thank you !!

  104. I just had a somewhat lengthy phone conversation with the planning and zoning department of Pershing County, NV and the codes there are very strict… and costly. They even limit which brand of bags you can use and what type of filler for the bags (for earthbag homes). They also come out and inspect every little detail before you move forward in any phase. The total estimated cost rapidly exceeded $10,000 in permits and stamps before I stopped counting.

    It’s too bad, Pershing County has several 40 acre lots between $3000-$7000.

    • That’s outrageous. Sometimes it’s not worth struggling against the system. Move on to greener pastures. There are lots of places begging for newcomers and their business. Even building a low cost home with earthbags, you’ll be a positive boost to the economy with buying all sorts of things (food, gas, tools, hardware to name a few).

    • If I may chime in about Pershing County (this is the only website I’ve found on this subject) my experiences there have been thus: It is more conservative in its building codes than you’d expect from Nevada, but nowhere near as much as California or even around Tahoe in Nevada. I’d consider it a progressive county (for Nevada) in regards to solar and other mainstream alternative energy. But here’s the real crux: You’re dealing with a system with a face. You know who the inspector is going to be (there’s only one) and you can go down and ask him up front if he’s going to have a problem with something. This has its advantages and disadvantages, but I find it less frustrating than the faceless guesswork of a big city buildings department.

  105. Hi Owen, can you elaborate or link to a source on the lack of building codes in rural New Mexico? For instance, is it the entire state, certain counties, areas with a minimum distance from cities, etc. I’m purchasing land very soon now, and definitely want a spot without building codes.

    • I used to live in New Mexico so I know they have a state wide code. There’s no such thing as areas without codes in NM. But the codes are not equally enforced. There are remote areas where all you have to do is submit a photo of your septic system. Inspectors don’t even bother to come out to the site. I think something like this is similar in many remote areas. The cost of driving to some remote areas means inspections are scarce or non-existent.

  106. Does anyone know someone who got busted for not complying? Id love to hear about their experience. Even if you havent got busted, id love to hear you experience
    Im strongly considering this and want to weigh pros and cons

    • We owned 70 acres in Lake County CO, surrounded by national forest with the exception of one small strip privately owned. The only access was a seasonal forest service road. Once the snow fell, the only way to get up there was snowmobile, snowshoeing, ultimately a snowcat. It was a very isolated chunk of land. After living up there in a 100 sq. ft cabin with loft for about a year, we came into a small inheritance and decided to build on. The window of warm weather at 11,000 + feet is about 4 months so we made the decision to build without getting proper permits, etc. telling ourselves it would be easier to get forgiveness than permission.
      The additional structure was still rather small, 16 x 30 feet with loft space.
      Amazingly, with the help of a couple friends, we finished, at least got it dried in, that summer. We lived up there through the next winter, working on the interior.
      Long story short, someone turned us in. I don’t even want to elaborate on that part of our lives, but in spite of all our efforts, the county would not approve the structure, and 2 years after completing our dream home, we were forced to tear it down.
      We left Lake County and never looked back.
      I only write about it now because I want you to think real hard before you act. It is insane on so many levels that they denied us, but we had challenged their authority, and apparently nothing else mattered.
      We are now searching for land on which to build an earthbag house, and intend to find a place where a landowner has the right to build as they choose. It probably will not be in Colorado. Water is, of course, the other issue here.
      At any rate, good luck in whatever you ultimately decide to do.

  107. My latest blog post is on Passive Houses that use 90% less energy:

    Even though mechanical heating and cooling systems (HVAC) are typically not required on Passive Houses, building inspectors will likely require you to install them. So you can do all the research, design an incredibly efficient home and still have to buy unnecessary or over-sized heating and cooling systems. Is this fair?

    This is not a personal attack against building officials, who have always been very nice to me. All I’m saying here is to vote with your wallet, vote with your feet and move to areas that don’t have ridiculous building requirements.

  108. I’m surprised no one has asked the question of, “What happens when I build an Earthbag home with no permits and no permission at all?”.

    In a few months, I plan on doing just this (a 2160 sqft home), most likely in NV. I’m going to hire a well driller and a septic installer, then do the rest myself. The very thought of having to pay the county in order to improve their area, or moreover, MY land, sends my blood pressure through the roof.

    So back to the question, what are the legal ramifications if one day some fat cat official comes by and sees a full blown home sitting on the land. Do they take the land from me and tear it down?

    • They typically have legal ability to red tag it (halt construction) and demolish the structure as a risk to public safety.

      Edited to add: All this is done at your expense, of course. They’ll charge you for demolition, fines, etc. Ask your local code enforcement agents and they will verify this is true.

        • It’s a crazy situation. People have been able to build their own homes as they choose since the beginning of time. This can still be done in many places, and so I’ve chosen to live in areas with lenient or non-existing codes for the last 10 years or so. That is, Crestone Colorado, rural New Mexico, and now Thailand.

      • Ive actually just asked owen that and he forwarded me here. Thanks owen. I heard that northern nv actually has few or no codes… I live in vegas and was looking at doing the same in utah. I want that area, close enough so i can work on it on my weekends., so im going to go for low profile, hidden by trees. I dont want anyone knowing its there anyway, might as well keep the agents out too. I guess i gotta do my research on undergroynd houses again.

    • I’m with you man. The system is set up to provide these small governments with no real plausible reason to extort money from you, other than some vague notion of “protecting” other people…what a laugh. Building codes and permits in general suck hard and are designed to provide income for the local government and kickback type money for their friends in the local trade unions. The funny thing is I secure permits for my clients for a living.

      To answer your question – they cannot take the land from you except through lien as a result of a judgement and default by you. Yes they can order you to tear down the house; but what is more likely is that they would order you to expose the electrical wiring, the plumbing, and some of the structural infrastructure of the house – the roof and foundation structure. Then they would fine you heavily – and not even have the decency to give you a reach-around.

  109. Thanks! I will keep you posted, i put a blog on that site and I make entries when I have something to share.

    I thought about making a workshop after the first dome is up, would anyone be interested? I just don’t want to post on CL and attract the bad freaks…I only want good freaks. ;) It would be free, and I could make a bunch of chili. You would have to have an RV with a bathroom.

    I don’t know where that guy got 120 square feet from…I suppose that is what I get for listening to a county official. I have planned the domes to be 16 feet in diameter, to make best use of the electrical conduit pipe (comes in 10′ sticks). The math works out to almost no waste. A 13 foot dome was right at 120, so I suppose the 16 will be about 170.

    From what I have discovered, if you don’t install a septic then the county usually could not care less. In the West Coconino county area, at least. They make a lot of huff about building permits and occupancy statues, but the people west of Williams just put up any old thing and nobody says squat.

    I guess I will find out! I will be the guinea pig. If it came down to it, I would claim that the local statues cannot trump the state constitution (take land, remove buildings, etc..).

    And yeah, Colorado is not only expensive land, but you better make a lot of bread to just live there, too. Gas is 20% higher, food, too. Up in the hills, that is, where building codes won’t matter.

    • Keep us posted on your project. We will promote your workshop for free. Send the announcement when ready to Kelly Hart (he does the workshop announcements).

      I’ll check out your blog when I have a chance.

      And that’s a good point about living costs in remote areas. They’re probably higher most of the time unless you’re in a great agricultural area where everyone is growing lots of food. And even then there’s gas, propane and things you can’t grow. It all adds up. Those little grocery stories often charge way more.

    • Well, I guess I can add growing at least some food and keeping chickens to somewhat offset the higher costs… maybe getting a steam powered car? Why is this so complicated? Some areas I’ve explored even have regulations on what color your house is and what kind of roof, etc…. and it depends upon who belongs to the Home Owners Association… discrimination? Is it really my land if I pay for it? Lots to consider here.

  110. Oregon county missouri and some other areas of Missouri have no building codes. They also have some nice inexpensive land. Unfortunately I am scared of the local politics there. I did some traveling when I was younger, not that long ago, and Missouri was not a good place to be if you stand out. If I could figure out a way around those potential problems, I would buy there. I would also check Tennessee as I know there are four or five counties that did not adopt minimum standards when the rest of the state did just last year.

    • The Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) found that out the hard way in the 1830’s. The extermination order, allowing anyone to kill any Mormon on sight, was not rescinded until 1976.

      I am interested in knowing whether you “stand out” by building a hobbit hole on your 8.7 acre lot in the middle of nowhere (Pike county between Farber and Vandaila).

      • I didn’t know about the Mormon extermination issue. How terrible.

        Who are you referring to when you say “I am interested in knowing whether you “stand out” by building a hobbit hole…”

  111. The map idea is a good one, we need more input to make a really accurate map. I am finding that some counties that appear ‘green’ are actually average, and the ‘red’ ones are about average. Average being a planned permit with codes and inspections. I know of no place where you can build what you want, without some level of codes or inspections…they just don’t enforce them because they are too rural.

    You should find a place with affordable land that you can live in comfortably, and spread the light of sustainable building, I suppose. I am building in Coconino county in Arizona, and they are (so far) polite and accommodating. I figure two permits, one set of plans, and a couple of inspections for the electrical/water and I can build whatever. The IBC lists what we do as ‘earth berm’ or concrete work, and Coconino is beginning a sustainable housing program (focusing mainly on strawbale).

    This is how I feel now, however, and I reserve the right to complain when they get less than accommodating. It is, after all, MY land.

    I am building a 120 square foot cabin with the ebag technique and we will see how it goes. The guy I was talking to at the county was saying I would get an award if I built it…I guess now there is a question as to whether or not he was being funny about the codes…

    • Hi Professor Rico, I just bought 2 acres with my husband in Coconino county, AZ. 20 miles from Willams, Az. My husband and I are interested in building an EarthBag retreat from the city. I called the Coconino city planner and he said if it’s under 170 square feet, no permit required. Why do you need two permits for 120 square feet? The award is real =) It’s here.

      Good luck. My husband is an electrical engineer and I am an artist so will keep you posted on what we decide to do. Should be interesting. =)

    • Hello:

      We are looking into northern Arizona as a possible building place. Do you know what the status is of building codes in the other counties besides Coconino County? thanks

      • You’ll have to search county by county. Most counties now have websites with the basic info. But like another reader said, you need to contact them directly for the details after you’ve narrowed down your choices.

  112. hi, does anyone know about rensselaer county, ny and how the building codes for earthship-like homes might be enforced in areas such as schodack/nassau/sand lake?

  113. Great article about building codes in Nebraska (where I grew up, by the way). Only 20 cities have building inspections. Electrical wiring is inspected on a state level. Partly due to budgetary constraints, Hall County is going to abolish all county building codes and the county building inspector position. All you need in most parts of Nebraska is a zoning permit that controls safe distances between houses.

    Omaha World Herald
    Hall County to end building codes

  114. From Nancy:

    I searched further and found two very helpful sites with alot of information on which counties have no building codes. I thought I’d share the info with you.
    This site has a list of many Colorado Counties that do and do not have codes, as well as about 20 with no information.

    This next link gives information for all the counties I checked except Phillips and Yuma counties. (just replace Saguache with another county name to get general building and energy code information and contact information. Note: leave a space between words of 2 word counties)

    From these two sites it appears that these are the counties in Colorado with no building codes.
    Kit Carson

    Unable to determine: Phillips, Yuma

  115. Also, many of the smaller counties in West Virginia require only a small fee for the initial structure and improvements assessment. (That’s an assessment, for tax purposes, not an inspection for code adherence.) My brother built a home in 2006 in Braxton County, WV and was not required to have permits or inspections. The electric company did require a private third-party inspection before the turned on the power, and the natural gas company performed their own inspection before hooking up the gas.

  116. Virginia has adopted a statewide building code, but does make accomodations for alternative building methods. In September, I helped my in-laws finish their rural straw bale home. The building inspectors will require evidence that the construction method meets a minimum standard for strength, safety, etc. Our “evidence” was a signed statement from an mechanical engineering professor at our local university and some sketches and load charts. An hour later, we had a building permit in hand and had to pay a few hundred bucks for the inspection at the end of the month.

    All in all, not a terrible experience. I had expected much worse.

    • I actually live in Saguache county, and can say that they definitely do not have or enforce building codes as such. Yes, you do need to get a building permit to proceed with building in the county, but they do not have a structural code, such as the International Residential Code, nor do they have inspections. The permit is really just to make sure that they get any new buildings on the rolls for tax assessment.

      Colorado does have mandatory codes for plumbing and electrical work, though, so it is necessary to get these permits and have these utilities inspected by state inspectors.

    • This is a good example of what I just said above about the pockets of freedom map. Good idea, but it may not be at all accurate. It all depends on people’s interpretation of what’s going on. In this case, someone thinks Saguache County is too restrictive (yes, there is paperwork involved), but actually Saguache County is one of the most lenient areas in the country, which has helped it become a hotbed of natural building innovation. There’s over 100 alternative structures in this tiny village!

    • Please help me to understand why it is all of my personal information is required for me to add to the map of pockets of “freedom”. Are you sure these are the “right” people putting together this info? Hmmm…………….. I’ll pass.

  117. Hello, I was wondering if there are any counties in Montana with no building codes. I would like to build one of these small houses shown on your site. Any info would be really appreciated. Thank you.

  118. i took naders course about 8 yrs ago and finally got my land and ducks in a row to start building.i live 60 miles outside tucson az,at 4400ft elevation.they just changed the building codes here where now you can do an opt out(if your on 4 acres)that lets you build anything with no inspections except for septic.hope to start building in sept
    anyone interested in helping please contact me

  119. Hi! Building codes are a big problem. This is something I have discovered in my area of Western Kentucky: While checking county building codes, you will find that while the big city (or cities) of a given county may have restrictive codes, but if you go into a rural area of that same county, there may be little to no restrictions at all. In Calloway County, Kentucky, for example, in Murray, the county seat, full-fledged ICC building codes are enforced, but if you move out into the rural part of the county, the only building codes pertain to how far away from the property line you have to build, sign placements, fencing, and very rudimentary things.

    Just a thought… Even if you research the counties, be sure to also research the small towns and rural areas in the county, because their codes will be different.

  120. Awesome, thanks, Owen!

    You can add Saguache county, CO, also…but local subs will have really weird HOA’s.

    Jim, I have to agree with the others…compromising with building codes and the people that enforce them is not liberty. I have personally seen a county fine someone tens of thousands of dollars for an ‘improper septic system’ (along with other violations), and levied against the property (which was only worth about $15k). They had to sell it, and the geodesic house they built was destroyed.

    We are trying to find the few liberated counties left…we don’t want to pay $1300 for a permit, $300 for an inspection, electrical, plumbing, blueprints and professional plans…and then they can just say ‘nope’ and make you rip it all apart.

    That kind of environment is not where I want to build my self-sustaining home. A place where people, as earnest as they may be, that you don’t know can drive up to your house one day and tell you to tear it down…because you didn’t pay them.


    Mesa County, Costilla County, Park County, Fremont County (irony), and Lake County all have building codes, and Park is absolutely insane.

    • Anything is possible. Who knows what will happen in 20 years. But I know and have seen tons of people living in non-code structures in many parts of Colorado, where I lived for about 30 years. Places like Saguache and Delta county are good examples. Also, many other places don’t enforce the rules if you’re way out of sight and don’t cause problems. Remote areas are really desperate for business. Almost no one would move there if if things were too strict.

  121. Hi Jim. What you say may work in a few instances, but in most cases it just won’t work. We’re warning people in advance to try and save people hundreds of hours of frustration and thousands of dollars in fees.

  122. Here’s my still-uninformed opinion from what I’ve been able to learn up here in the northeast (upstate NY).
    I hope to be working with Iliona Khalili, wife of the late Nader Khalili, who coincidentally has an adobe dome building project in nearby Nassau, NY. She hopes to build a large community dome and is or will be working with building code people to grow acceptance in this rural but still populated area of the country.
    My opinion is that we should not be seeking to avoid bureaucracy but engage in relationship with local code people. Up here that translates to researching who’s built alternative structures so far (there are a few geodesic domes and some straw bale houses locally) and finding out how they interfaced with the “authorities”, then look toward working with those most flexible and willing to learn along with us.
    I share what I believe is a broad hope that we will discover and develop the human side of the equation, to find ways to spread and grow this style of low-cost, enduring architecture into the cultural awareness.
    I will pass on what I learn from our association with Iliona and our own journey to building adobe domes on a few acres of land here in the rolling hill farm country of upstate NY or western Mass, which is where we prefer to live.
    I’ve already worked a bit with a local solar power company with progressive ideas – SolAqua – and they’re interested in a sustainable community right next to Chatham, NY, about 10 minutes from me in the other direction from Nassau.
    I believe we will find ways to work in relationship with the code people rather than feel we must run away from the bureaucracy. Compromises will no doubt be required…but we will find ways to build what we want, where we want (within reason in these “pioneer” days) and that’s how we’ll be moving forward.
    Building code people are just people. If we seek out the ones with a more open heart, I bet we can get them excited too, even as we learn what we need to learn to educate them, and ourselves.
    That’s my dream anyway.

    • Why should I have to appeal to a bureaucrat to perform private work on private land, especially land far away from other structures and people? Wouldn’t it be highly objectionable if the government required a license to get a tattoo, wear provocative clothing, or advocate unpopular beliefs? What’s the diff? My body, my choice; my land, my choice. Shouldn’t we pioneers be activists for fewer restrictions on human freedom rather than accepting their seeming inevitability?

      • They’re supposedly concerned about the safety of future inhabitants if you ever sell the land. Trouble is, they take this to absurd levels that prevent millions of people from affording their own homes. There needs to be some sort of opt-out clause, where if you don’t build to code then you must disclose this fact if you ever sell. Potential buyers could inspect the home (or hire a private home inspector) and decide for themselves if it’s safe or not.

      • There needs to be a balance between individual rights and common good. Yes, codes can be burdensome but they can also protect the health and safety of citizens. I live in an area of the country (Eastern Kentucky) that has either recently adopted building codes or has very lax building codes. (Look at Kentucky counties south of I-64 and east of I-75) Developers build crappy houses and scam people who don’t have the money or knowledge to get the houses inspected properly and thus don’t know what they are getting into. They leave once wild areas slashed and trashed. Also,we have houses upstream from us that straight pipe raw sewage into creeks as well as industry that dumps nasty stuff into our waterways. We have few creeks that are swimmable and a sketchy groundwater supply. (thus we a cistern)

        I prefer having codes that allow for experimental building that balances owner-builders rights to live in a structure of their choosing without threatening the health and safety of their neighbors or people who may live in the home after the builder sells. Taos, New Mexico has an experimental building code that appear to release the municipality for liability to allow for alternative building.
        Humboldt County, California has a pretty liberal owner-builder code as well.

        I’m a part of a group working for green building codes for our fast growing county. We’ve done straw bale, cob and earthbag in the county with the blessing of the planning administrator but he’s getting overburdened with requests. He has asked us to come up with some kind of green building code to stop the piecemeal approval process. There are some who want to stay under the radar with alternative building and I’m fine with that because, for the most part, they do care about others and the health of the environment. But there are others who don’t live in the homes they build nor even in the state, who are just looking for loophole to make a quick profit. That is when building codes are needed.

      • I’m with you Nate – those fatass bureaucrats are nothing more than mafia that just want to get “a taste” screw that. They can f-off. I am not going to ask “permission” to build a house on my own land, nor am I going to bow and scrape, or doff my hat to the local lord. Luckily we still have some places where we can turn around and breathe without having to ask a “by your leave” from some self-important petty bureaucrat.

      • This man has the right idea. The “state” is out of control and needs to be reigned in. We should be working to get codes rolled back in non-urban areas.

        • As an environmental scientist my primary focus over many years has been to help my clients permit their projects. Over the years the amount of regulation has grown to unbelievable levels. To the extent that, in a representative republic, we create our own reality – it would appear we Americans have allowed others to create a monster that is choking us all on our “collective” need for order and control. As a long-time devotee of Ayn Rand – I detest the amount of regulation and permitting our “system” requires from people just to do basic things like start a business. My Canadian clients say they prefer to start their businesses almost anywhere else but America. How sad and ironic.

          For myself, I find great comfort in helping entrepreneurs get through the “system” – so they can get on to producing wealth and building things of value. Government, as such, is a destroyer; and is at this point in our history the only real limit to our freedom to express ourselves as individuals. My wife and I have been planning our “free” place in Idaho. We plan to buy (cash down) maybe 10 acres and build an earth bag home. My chief concern is living in an area where we have total privacy, good constitutional gun laws, minimal government intrusion into our lives, and low taxes. Looks like it is getting much harder to find what our fore-fathers took for granted….to simply be left alone.

          • “As an environmental scientist my primary focus over many years has been to help my clients permit their projects. Over the years the amount of regulation has grown to unbelievable levels. To the extent that, in a representative republic, we create our own reality – it would appear we Americans have allowed others to create a monster that is choking us all on our “collective” need for order and control. As a long-time devotee of Ayn Rand – I detest the amount of regulation and permitting our “system” requires from people just to do basic things like start a business. My Canadian clients say they prefer to start their businesses almost anywhere else but America. How sad and ironic.

            For myself, I find great comfort in helping entrepreneurs get through the “system” – so they can get on to producing wealth and building things of value. Government, as such, is a destroyer; and is at this point in our history the only real limit to our freedom to express ourselves as individuals. My wife and I have been planning our “free” place in Idaho. We plan to buy (cash down) maybe 10 acres and build an earth bag home. My chief concern is living in an area where we have total privacy, good constitutional gun laws, minimal government intrusion into our lives, and low taxes. Looks like it is getting much harder to find what our fore-fathers took for granted….to simply be left alone.”

            ^^^ THIS! THIS! THIS! ^^^

            America is a Dead Lie. South-east coast of TX, maybe… But I’m leaning more towards leaving the country altogether. Still working on that stuff you pointed me towards, Dr. Geiger! I really appreciate your help!

          • Things keep getting worse with no end in sight. Soon gov regulators will be on your property to enforce the National Animal ID System (NAIS), which will reclassify land as “premises” (a synonym for the word tenement). This puts land in a different legal category than property, and this will likely change or nullify your constitutional rights.

            And then there’s the new FDA Food Safety Bill (note the Orwellian titles they come up with = War is Peace, etc.) that prohibits selling of produce without 20 pages or so of paperwork, intrusive gov inspections of your farm, farm equipment, fees for testing, etc. It’s just being rolled out, but that’s what is behind the raids on raw milk, lemonade stands, raw cheese, etc. like at Rawesome Foods in LA and Amish dairies (watch the YouTube videos). They’re even starting to harass people for growing a home garden (only selectively as they roll things out). So this isn’t conspiracy, the regulations are passed and starting to be enforced. Soon they’ll be able to come to your farm and inspect the gas mileage and emissions of your tractor, maintenance logs of all equipment, test groundwater runoff, examine use of all fertilizers and chemicals, make sure you’re only using Monsanto seeds (just kidding, but that’s probably next). And then they’re going to ban all health supplements, including natural vitamin C, etc. under Codex Alimentarius. The Health Ranger does a good job of covering these topics. See also

    • Im curious to how the Upstate Ny build went? I too am from Upstate and am trying to figure out if my town is lax enough! My husband wont build without a permit (Im ready to just go ahead and do it). I can only find a application for a permit, but no real info as to what the codes are! Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

      • You can usually get the codes and building regs online on the county website. Sometimes you have to go to their office and ask for a packet of info for new owner builders. It’s also helpful making friends in the building industry who know the codes.

    • I think this post hits the nail on the head.

      It is not enough to go off and hide in the woods. Yes, it’s nice to have some privacy and occasionally some solitude. (I would love it. My wife would go berserk.) But if we want our grandchildren to enjoy that too, we need to learn to live with others who may not share our beliefs or values. We cannot change the world by running away from it.

      The key to changing the world is community — people working together to achieve a common purpose. It is relatively easy for *them* to overwhelm a guy hiding in the woods, even if he has a shotgun. It is slightly more difficult to overwhelm a large, highly-visible intentional community.

      • Let’s not forget that many times you don’t have to go way off in the woods. Sometimes you can find places that are 25 minutes to an hour away with far fewer building regulations. Large cities are the worst. Lower populated areas typically have fewer regulations.

  123. Well…still no luck with building codes and counties. It seems that the last few places left without building codes are adopting them. I searched Arizona, New Mexico (statewide, and even Taos has them, but they are ‘not enforced’), and Colorado.

    With the ‘no enforcement’ going on…what is to stop the county from coming in at any time and just laying you out with a whopping fine? Or even worse, tearing the house down? No enforcement means they have something if they want it.

    Delta county it is, then.

    If anyone finds any more, please post them!

  124. Hello Owen
    Do you know of any earthbag builders or just folks knowledgeable in this art in Panama? It seems most of the people building with earthbags and those who contract their services for such are in midwest/west coast states of the U.S., not to mention Europe, Africa and Asia.
    Thanks in advance.
    Dr. PJ

    P.S. is the jury still out on whether tropical, rainy climates like Florida’s or central America’s are conducive to earthbag buildings? I’d like to know what solutions have been made.

    • I don’t know of any projects in Panama. There’s been a fair amount of interest in Mexico.

      Earthbag is very good for tropical countries. That’s really how I got into this. I started by looking for viable solutions to rebuilding after the 2004 Asian tsunami.

  125. I can add a county that is definitely off of the list for low or no codes…

    Apache county, Arizona wants $1300 for a permit to build anything on any piece of land, with three inspections (before, during, and after, I suppose), and you have to submit professional plans with a “stamp”.

    Might as well build in the city.

    Arizona counties vary greatly by codes, so I will post my findings as I research land in each county.

    • Richard, I can tell you this about Apache County Building codes. They just became somewhat legal in the last couple years. As they had failed to ever follow the ARS when adopting the former building codes and or building ordinances.

      I and some other property owners are filing a complaint with the Justice department for violation of our civil rights by the county denying our due process rights.
      Of all the code violations ever sent and or recorded as a guilty finding against their property was ever allowed to defend the alleged violation at any type of hearing. Niether a criminal nor a civil hearing.

  126. Yeah, it’s easy to get old tires. Most businesses have to pay a dump fee and are very happy to give them away.

    I love all the sustainable features in Earthships, but have come to realize you can have all these things in an earthbag or strawbale house at a fraction of the labor.

    Many places out west without codes are not the greatest places to live: hot in the summer (desert-like conditions), cold in the winter, remote (high cost of commuting), lack of community and so on.

    I would look for a place with community, such as Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri, Crestone, Colorado, Ashville, NC (see, Berea and other areas in Kentucky. Google ecovillage plus the state you are interested in.

  127. I am also very interested in the counties with few to no BC’s, and Delta is the only one I knew about before coming here.

    What about Nevada, or Arizona?

    I am building a similar structure, and cannot stand the condescension I am getting from these old farts who think I am just trying to get out of paying fees.

    I will move anywhere in the west without building codes…even Kansas!

    I just cannot comprehend why people have to make this so difficult. What is the point of trying to build an Earthship for next to nothing when they gouge you on fees and fines for stuff we are trying to get away from?

    Check out my page and tell me how easy it would be to build my house…I mean, the codes situation is retarded. This dome would be 10x stronger than any wood box.

    • Fantastic idea, Richard. I’m behind you all the way. This can definitely work. One challenge is preventing water from entering the home when it’s recessed in the ground. You’ll need covered entries and good detailing.

      And it looks like you’ve noticed our approach is vastly different than rammed tires — no high fees, no penalties, etc. Our goal is to provide basic information and plans so people can build affordably.

      Also note, earthbags are way, way faster than building with rammed tires. I tell people to ram one tire and a couple of earthbags and compare it for themselves. (One rammed tire can take around 30 minutes versus around 5 minutes per earthbag.)

    • Hi –

      I have given alot of thought to the legal arguments that could be used to challenge some of these building codes, the basis for which is presumably the health and safety of residents of the county/state. You could challenge the constitutionality of some building codes by saying their rigourous enforcement lacks a “rational basis”….won’t get into the Supreme Court jurisprudence but you basically point out the hypocrisy by showing that the state allows polluters to dump crap in the rivers (harmful to ppl) and pollute the air or as in WV, blow the tops off of mountains, the list goes on…..just a thought.

      • Hi Erin: With all respect – I must politely disagree with you on the issue of environmental regulation. As an environmental scientist for 20 years – and someone who makes my living helping my clients secure environmental permits for their projects, including extensive work as an adviser to public agencies – I cannot think of any state which “allows” people to dump pollutants in rivers, or pollute the air.

        In fact the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, the Endangered Species Act, the Oil Pollution Prevention Act, the Coastal Zone Protection Act, and a thousand others strictly regulate what constituents, and in what concentrations any material may be put into the environment. The list of regulated chemicals in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is staggering, the database lists many thousands of chemicals and their various compounds and isotopes.

        Naturally there is some difference of opinion as to what constitutes a pollutant. Some compounds are easily identified as a pollutant due to their extreme toxicity (e.g.. benzene’s, VOC’s, certain pesticides…etc..), others are less easily discernible – often the difference between “harmless” and toxic is merely the dosage. Dosage is confusing and can be strongly influenced by medium (air, water, groundwater), dispersal methods, time, environmental persistence, half-life, degradation, reaction to other environmental factors like UV light degradation…etc… The list goes on. But if your argument is that the “government” should regulate EVERYTHING. (Please forgive me if I have overstated your belief) Then you would degrade and eliminate our freedom entirely. The environments ability to mend itself is amazing and only now becoming more understood. If you remember the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico – a few years ago – it was said (by some) that the oil would persist for generations; and yet to some people’s amazement – it was found that a huge bloom of micro-algae was quickly consuming most of the petroleum. To us in the industry this was no surprise but actually predicted.

        Obviously I am not arguing that pollution is okay – what I am arguing is that the environmental laws we have are very capable of limiting and stopping the majority of pollution contributing causes and that we should all be VERY careful when we attempt to argue that more laws are needed. I personally believe we all live under a crushing blanket of over regulation….and in many discrete and overt ways they limit and diminish our freedom.

      • I meant that the environmental laws are not being enforced; we do have dirty air, dirty rivers etc…..that is the hypocrisy…if building codes are strictly enforced against a few people who want to build safe, organic homes but the laws are not enforced against polluters then you have at least an argument for challenging the current building codes. I am talking about a strictly legal technical position that, ideally, would allow people to build earthbag (or other “alternative” building material) homes in areas where you would have a hard time getting a building permit currently.

        • Yeah, I see your point, but the system is so broken and corrupt that you’re probably better off 1. moving to rural areas with few codes, 2. hiring an engineer to gain code approval if you want to live closer to civilization. Trying to ‘fight’ or sue the system would likely be a long, costly and futile process. So you’re probably right in a technical sense, but for me life is too short to buck the system too much. Maybe what you say would work if you have lots of time, enjoy politics and live in an area with a lot of progressive thinkers.

        • The problem is everything is tilted towards A stick house with an septic system.
          How many cant perk after buying property.thats why i liked the watson wick idea.Or seperating the grey n black water and holding waste to be pumped off or finding a way to use it,(biogas?) Ive also considered the wisdom of snowbirds.Have two places to set up camp for the weather and migrate.A yurt or portable dome house would work for this.The ability to move could be a big and strife,politics.stay mobile.

      • Yes the codes are decidedly slanted towards the construction industry…..but after I read on this very site that earthbags have been given building permits in my native Kentucky (in Berea) I thought “hot damn!” now I can build a house in my old Kentucky home hee hee. I work in Manhattan in the rat race but want to be able to have a place to always come back to at a low cost and do consulting jobs up here for a few months or longer. I don’t want to be in the position of many forclosure victims have been in ….at an old age…still paying a mortgage…don’t want to have to worry about that at retirement. I think, what with the widespread education on “green building codes”, there are probably many more code enforcement people who would be open-minded on this than one might initially think. As far as the dreaded perc test….ugh…don’t wanna think about that,

  128. Owen, given the repressive, construction-industry supporting nature of building code authorities nationwide, is there any hope of even considering building an earthbag home in a state like Mass. that has a state building code?

    Can these entities be sued? Or do we all have to move to a state with minimal/no codes to be free (in America!) to build our dream homes using alternatives to fire-prone, inefficent, ridiculously expensive rectilinear structures?

    • The easiest way is to live in remote, rural areas where codes are few and far between (or not rigorously enforced). But things are looking brighter if you live in more densely populated areas. Two engineers have recently volunteered to work with us. It’s too early to say what will happen, but getting engineering approval for earthbag building in the near future looks promising. A county could be sued for refusing stamped plans.

  129. Owen, I am very excited that I found this site, I’ve read this articles over and over again, plus many others on earthbag dwellings…what I want to know is, has anyone approached ..people in Haiti about building more of these homes,shelters there? I would think that with all the rubble combined with other material these would make better shelters than the tents? Plus, it would give the Haitians the opportunity to build their own homes and rebuild their lives. I would love to attend one of your would have to be in the future, so I will stay posted on your future workshops. I’m from SD. and we have some earth-dwelling homes around here and I’ve always wanted one..thanks again for all your work and information that you provide..take care.

  130. We are working with a gentleman in Panama who uses a simialr but slightly different technique. They use one continuous, long bag like a snake and just keep coiling it around and around and up and over framed cutouts (for windows and doors). It seems that this may be slightly stronger that stacking individual bags. Barbed wire running longitudinally (buried between) along each layer make it very stable and shake proof.

    Good luck with the good earth!

    • Long tubes are very strong, however they have to be special ordered and are more difficult to find. They’re also more difficult to fill. The extra time and trouble may only be worthwhile for seismic areas or other special applications.

  131. Earthbag structures or buildings remind me of igloos in a dessert or a countryside.
    Great idea by the way of gathering all interested parties, it is never impossible to locate all counties with no or limited building codes but then again, seeking for “volunteers” would prove hard to do if i may say,
    not unless the volunteer too is interested to build a structure for himself.

  132. Pingback: Tweets that mention Counties with Few or No Building Codes « Earthbag Building Blog --

    • Hi Owen,

      Just wanted to chime in by saying that the county around Cody, Wyoming has no building codes. My brother lives there and built his own home with only a septic permit needed. He is not prove to new ideas and went with a log home. I told him he should appreciate the idea of a dirtbag home since it has been around a long time and, well, with the brotherly love I have for him, I had to mention something about being a dirtbag himself.


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