Carolyn: I am interested in both straw bale and earth bag building. My priority is an eco-friendly home that is airy and natural, but while cost is important, we are building a home not an emergency shelter and want something that helps people to see that you don’t need to be a “hippie” to have an eco house, they can be elegant and beautiful too. Most of the earthbag houses I can find photos of have very rough finishes, can they be finished to give smooth, rounded curves the same way straw bale can? I particularly like the floor plans of your Triple Dome Survival Shelter [Ed. which is not recommended as a first time project], and also the Spiral Dome Magic 2, but again, I am not building an emergency shelter, I am building a home which needs to be one I want to come home to every night – natural, eco friendly, off-beat is fine but not so far from mainstream that it cannot be re-sold if we do decide to relocate. Does that make sense?
Owen: You can get earthbag walls as smooth and flat as you want. I don’t like lumpy, bumpy walls either. This can happen with bales or bags, although it happens more with bags. They require extra care to align evenly. You also can create rounded edges around doors and windows as shown in the photo of our earthbag roundhouse.
My Earthbag Building Guide explains how to get smooth/flat walls with rounded corners, and I demonstrate the process in my new earthbag video. The video is ‘finished’ but we’re experiencing technical difficulties. All I can say is it should be available soon on Amazon — one month max — after we do one more round of editing. (Same thing happened with my earthbag book. The last 1% takes 2-3 months to get things just right.)
Our Picasa earthbag roundhouse gallery shows more quality detailing like you describe.