Free Economizer house design shown with optional log siding.

Free Economizer house design shown with optional log siding.


Our Children’s House Design Contest is over and I’m sad to say we didn’t receive any entries. The contest idea was sparked by Jay, a frequent commenter here on our blog, who pointed out how housing styles can be dramatically altered with just a few changes. I agree and decided to show how the free Economizer House plan could look with log siding. The same basic concept can be applied to most any house – a house can look dramatically different with just a few changes.


Comments

Economizer House Plan with Log Siding — 13 Comments

  1. Not quite sure if Pepe the Coral Polyp gave you a compliment while insulting you at the same time?????? Here’s one for you not related to this but,in your PDF I recently purchased, you go on to say what to do to protect your earthbag home from rain and snow BUT, I’m in the NorthWest where it’s intense rains with wind and snow that might drift up to 10 feet up to the roof. WHAT IS THE BEST PROTECTION for this, We’re talking in the ski country and it’s a whole lot of snow with drifts? I didn’t seem to get a clear enough answer from the PDF for THIS kind of weather. Thanks again.

    • That’s really extreme. I’ll think it over and respond when I have more time. One good option is scoria filled earthbags. Scoria is rot proof and has good insulation value. Our blog is loaded with info on building with scoria. Use the built-in search engine.

    • The absolute BEST protection for any wall structure is what is called a “rainscreen.”

      A rainscreen is a weather protective layer attached to a wall with an air gap between that protective layer and the wall itself. This has the huge advantage that if any moisture does happen to get past the exterior cladding, the moisture will use the air gap between the cladding and the wall to trickle harmlessly down and out of the wall before it can damage the primary structure of the wall.

      Rainscreens are probably most commonly used in large office buildings. However, the technology can be applied to most any structure.

      A rainscreen is particularly effective in areas where snow drifts up against the walls of a structure.

      DO NOT BE MISLED. Rainscreens need not be the extremely expensive systems that are typically sold commercially. A DIY rainscreen is very easy and practical to build. It need not add much to the cost of the structure.

      Using Owen’s Economizer plan referenced in this blog post as an example. This structure could be protected with a rainscreen for very low cost.

      One method I would suggest for putting a rain screen on this earthbag structure would be to lay bailing twine or wire between rows of earthbags running across the bag rows from inside to outside as the structure is getting built. Wrap each length of twine around the interior side of the next row of bags and out over the top of the next row such that both ends of the twine are now external to the structure, but wrapped around a row of bags. Keep these twines aligned in vertical columns. Space them 1 to 2 feet apart along the length of the wall. Once the wall is completely built and compacted, go ahead and apply a rough coat of earthen plaster as secondary protective layer as well as a UV protection. Be careful to not embed the loose twine ends into the external layers of plaster.

      Those loose twines will be used to tie on vertical furring strips tightly to the entire height of the wall. I suggest using saplings, or pallet wood, either of which can be gathered for free or extremely low cost. Once those furring strips are firmly attached to the wall, any desired siding can be attached to those strips.

      As Owen pictured in this blog post, slab offcuts from log milling operations can make excellent siding. Apply them pretty much like clapboards. Those log slabs can be nailed to the sapling/pallet wood furring strips.

      Want a plaster/stucco look instead of log slabs or clapboards? Wire mesh can be stretched across the furring strips and plastered or stuccoed.

      Horizontal strapping can be nailed across the furring strips made from more saplings or pallet wood so that shingles can be nailed to the horizontal strapping.

      Ferrocement shingles could also be attached to the horizontal strapping.

      The possibilities are nearly endless.

      The important details to watch in building a rainscreen are to make certain that some window screen is used at the very bottom and very top of the airgap at the bottom and top of each furring strip. This will prevent most insects, rodents, and birds from nesting inside the wall airgap.

      Another important detail is to flash windows properly. Do not allow water to migrate into the structure around window openings. (The proper way to install a window and install flashing is probably an entire blog post by itself.) The key is to flash between the exterior cladding and the window, not flash to the secondary earthen plaster layer inside the airgap.

      In any high precipitation environment, a rainscreen is the Gold Standard of wall protection. It need not be expensive to create one. Just educate yourself about how they are built and then adapt the materials you have available to serve accordingly.

      There are other methods and materials that can be used to build a rainscreen. The method I have mentioned is just one way of doing it.

      • Excellent advice. There you go Carroll. Jay just outlined how to protect your house. Search our blog for more details on exterior siding on earthbag walls.

        Perhaps the most common mistake of novices is not learning fundamental carpentry skills. Earthbag houses, adobe, etc. all require a certain amount of carpentry work. These skills can be learned for free by studying books in the library and/or watching free videos.

        • Thanks for the kind words Owen. Does this mean I’m forgiven for suggesting the coloring contest that received no entries? :(

          Owen’s advice about basic carpentry is very solid. Books are a great resource. I highly recommend them.

          However, nothing beats hands on experience.

          Another great way to learn carpentry skills is to help someone else build their house.

          Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity?
          Volunteer to help another Natural Builder?

          Also, deconstructing an existing structure to collect salvaged materials can also be educational in learning how many things were built in the past.

          There are very few tasks in life where you cannot find an opportunity to learn new skills. Those skills are better than buying an insurance policy. The more skills you have, and the better you master those skills, the better anyone is able to handle unexpected situations.

          I pray that the day I stop learning is the day I drop dead.

          • No big deal on the coloring contest. It’s hard to know what reader’s will be interested in.

            Yes, experience is the best teacher. Get out there and help other people build their houses. Few if any natural builders would turn down volunteers.

        • Just for fun, I did a quick search of the Internet.

          I know many in the construction business think of rainscreens as a new modern technology, but I had vague recollections of some extremely old examples of the system.

          Lo and Behold, I found a rather impressive example of an extremely old Church in Norway that reportedly used a rainscreen system.

          The Urnes Stave Church in Norway, built by the Vikings.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We6aFOp4zsw

          A wooden church built in the 12th Century and it’s still standing today.

          The video doesn’t talk about the church’s rainscreen, which I found referenced on various sites around the internet, but it seems clear that the old church was built to last.

          I don’t know how much maintenance the exterior cladding on the church has required over the years, but even considering regular maintenance, it’s impressive that the primary wooden structure has lasted as long as it has. I’d call that a pretty good case study of the viability of a rainscreen to protect a structure.

          Norway gets some nasty winter weather too.

    • I’ll also mention the obvious.

      The best protection from slow piling up against a wall is to not allow the snow to pile up against the wall in the first place.

      Good roof overhangs are important.

      Also… landscaping can be critical. Planting evergreens as a “snow fence” can be extremely effective. The principle is to break up the wind before it drives the snow against the wall, and allow the snow to pile up around the snow fence.

  2. I was hoping you’d get a nice response.

    Do kids not use crayons anymore? What is wrong with this planet?

    Sigh…

    What am I saying? How pathetic of me to blame all the kids when it was my idea that was a loser.

    It’s all my fault.
    Blame me.
    Don’t blame the kids.
    I still have faith in children. They are more honest than adults anyway.

    Color me heartbroken.

    (sniffle)

      • I’m not taking the blame for that one.

        If your blog readers are too tired after a day of construction to … well… uh… recreate … in the evenings so that they can have children, it’s NOT MY FAULT.

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