Straw-bale, Cordwood, and Earthbag Homes

Well, as my readers know, our plan is to find a piece of land somewhere, in a like-minded community, where we can live simply, peacefully, and close to nature– so, I’ve been looking at home options. We’ll have a low-budget, at least to begin with(we’d love for this to happen within the next few years), so we’re looking for structure styles that are not only green and eco-friendly, but affordable as well. We’d also like to be able to (in part) build our home ourselves, or at least have that option. We’ll surely have the supervision and help from my dad (a master carpenter), who did mention a few glasses in–and I’ll hold him to it–that he’d build each of his daughters a house one day.

What I’ve come across so far are four great possibilities that can be done cheaply, and with found, re-claimed and natural materials. I’m going to save the fourth one– one that just may be our answer but certainly is a little different and doesn’t quite fit in with the following–for my next post.

Straw-bale Construction:

Straw-bale construction is a building method that uses bales of straw (commonly wheat, rice, rye and oats straw) as structural elements, building insulation, or both. This construction method is commonly used in natural building or “brown” construction projects.

Advantages of straw-bale construction over conventional building systems include the renewable nature of straw, cost, easy availability, naturally fire-retardant and high insulation value. Disadvantages include susceptibility to rot and high space requirements for the straw itself.


I love the versatility of this construction type. It seems possible to build a wide range of homes, from small, Southwestern-style adobes to huge villas with round towers. They can also either look incredibly unique, or else fit-in with more traditional style homes. My favorite aspects of straw-bale structures are the deep window sills(resulting from the thickness of the walls) and the clean and simple interiors it seems possible to achieve.

Straw-bale residence in NY with a living roof via

Straw-bale home in Scotland that cost 4,000 pounds to make via

Woodland straw-bale home interior of a more whimsical home in Wales via

Unique straw-bale home in Taos, NM via

Cordwood Construction:

Cordwood construction (also called “cordwood masonry,” “stackwall construction” or “stackwood construction”) is a term used for a natural building method in which “cordwood” or short pieces of debarked tree are laid up crosswise with masonry or cob mixtures to build a wall.


This type of construction looks beautiful in wooded areas, a type of landscape that isn’t what my husband and I picture for our home. (We love the forest, its lore, its critters, we just don’t plan to live in it, not a dense New England one anyway). My favorite cordwood home option is the inclusion of glass bottles in the cob mixture to let in the light–or to let it out at night. It can be so beautiful. Also, straw-bale and cordwood seem to blend well together in construction.

Cordwood roundhouse with a living roof via

Cordwood wall with glass bottles via

Earthbag Construction:

You can build a magnificent shelter with a couple of rolls of barbed wire, a  bale of bags, a shovel and nothing more than the earth beneath your feet.

Mother Earth News

Earthbag Construction uses bags of dirt, sand, soil, gravel, even crushed volcanic rock, to build the structure. The bags (which vary in dimensions) can be stacked like bricks, or coiled. Barbed wire is often placed between the bags to keep them secure. The structure is then coated with stucco, plaster, or adobe. This is one of the most inexpensive methods to build a home, and it’s practiced worldwide.

People can achieve some wild and strange looks with Earthbag construction. I like the smooth exterior Earthbag homes the most, mainly because they don’t look as heavy. I also love the high vaulted ceilings, and–again, similar to the straw-bale homes–find the clean look of the interior very tranquil.

CalEarth earthbag home via

CalEarth earthbag home interior via

Earthbag home via

I’m inspired and so excited about how possible it is to live the lifestyle we imagine– and without having to spend our lives paying off a huge mortgage. I understand that there can be obstacles, mainly having to do with building codes or whatnot, but my husband and I are open-minded–I’m sure that when we find what we love in land and community a home will be possible.

Fae just got dressed by Daddy into an adorable blue dress that my mom saved from when my sisters and I were young. She’s distracted by the kitty, and saying “kitty,” and probably thinking about playing with her like she did two nights ago, on her own.


3 responses to “Straw-bale, Cordwood, and Earthbag Homes

  1. Pingback: Container Homes | Going Coverless·

  2. I love these homes. they are just so unique and once inside its even better! want to build a earthship when i move to Hawaii.

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