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If you are considering building a sustainable and eco-friendly home, your search may have led you to earthbag building.
However, we all know that building a home is a significant investment that costs many thousands of dollars.
Therefore, before embarking on your earthbag home project, you’ll be battling with questions like, “How much does an earthbag home cost? Is it cheap to build?”
On average, building an earthbag home costs between $7 and $16 per square foot. This is cheaper than building a bamboo home that costs between $203 and more than $378 per square foot. However, the cost of building an earthbag home varies based on location, the type of finish, labor, and materials.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the factors that affect the cost of an earthbag home and how to minimize that cost.
Stay tuned to learn how to use this inexpensive and renewable building method.
Before proceeding, I want to ensure we are on the same page concerning earthbag houses. So, what exactly are they?
An earthbag home is a home built with soil-filled bags or tubes of various shapes and sizes. It’s a low-cost building method for those looking to save some money. Moreover, it’s a sustainable and green building method that reduces the use of wood, concrete, and energy.
You can use earthbags to build structures such as:
- Retaining walls
Earthbag building remains the cheapest among the common sustainable building methods, typically costing around $7 to $16 per square foot.
Compare that to bamboo construction costs which are often between $203 and more than $378 per square foot, and rammed earth construction costs between $50 and $225 per square foot.
Let’s be realistic here; building an earthbag house can cost you a thousand or a hundred thousand dollars.
You may want to know why there is such an enormous price difference. Well, it comes down to the following factors:
Generally, building a bigger home requires more materials and labor, increasing its cost. Therefore, you should settle for a smaller earthbag house if you want to save some cash.
A point worth clarifying on the cost of the home per square foot is that it encompasses only the hard construction costs. These costs account for 75-85 percent of the project’s cost.
Let’s see how the size of the home affects its cost:
Assuming you build a 500-square-foot earthbag home while your neighbor builds an 800-square-foot home, who will spend more?
As I already mentioned, earthbag houses cost between $7 and $16 – let’s use an average of $11.5 for this calculation.
Building a 500 square-foot earthbag home will cost (500✕11.5) = $5,750.
Building an 800-square-foot earthbag home will cost (800✕11.5) = $9,200.
Therefore, because your neighbor’s house is bigger, they will spend more than you by (9,200-5,750) = $3,450.
Besides the hard construction costs, you’ll also incur soft construction costs that make the project more costly. These include:
- Land Acquisition
- Site planning
- Professional fees
- Fixture and furnishings
- Impact and permit fees
Like conventional construction methods, finishing is one of the most expensive parts of building an earthbag house. Since finishing a building requires a considerable amount of refined materials and experts, you should expect to spend quite a wedge of cash on this.
The finishing cost can range between 40% and 55% of the project’s cost.
It’s worth noting that the finishing cost also depends on the type of finish. For instance, if you use wood paneling or stucco on your earthbag house, expect to spend more money than a simple clay finish.
Depending on the complexity of your project and the expertise needed, you may be required to hire specialized labor. Specialized labor will cost you much more than an average laborer.
The availability of labor is also another factor to keep in mind.
If you’re building your earthbag home in an area with a high concentration of skilled labor, you can expect labor costs to be lower than when the labor is scarce. The forces of supply and demand come into play here.
Like any other construction project, the materials you use will significantly affect the cost of your earthbag building.
More often than not, importing your construction materials increases costs tremendously because you’ll incur transportation costs.
The table below shows some of the materials you need for your earthbag home and their approximate prices:
|Approximate Costs (USD)
|$0.50 (per piece)
|Free if using on-site soil
|$3-$4 per foot
In addition to the materials listed in the table, there will be costs for other materials depending on the design of your house. These could include wood, nails, screws and concrete and you need to cost these for the requirements of your particular project.
Building an earthbag home in an area with high land prices and taxes increases its overall cost.
Furthermore, some areas require permits or additional costs due to local building codes.
Building in such places means spending more than in rural areas that tend to have more lenient building codes.
The cost of living is at an all-time high. As a result, we all want to find ways to save a few bucks, especially on cost-intensive projects like building.
For your earthbag construction project, here are some ways to minimize the cost:
You can import the fill material, wood, and other materials for your earthbag building. However, this move increases the project’s cost due to transportation. Thus, it’s always advisable to use whatever is locally available.
Moreover, using the fill material at the building site means not spending a dime to acquire the material. This makes your project much more affordable.
The cost of freight and taxes also reduces significantly when you buy from local suppliers.
Reusing and recycling materials will help you save a lot on the project.
You can reuse the wood, windows, doors, and other materials from previous projects or demolitions in your project. This reduces the cost of purchasing new materials.
Alternatively, you can use sustainable materials like bamboo for framing and other parts of construction. Bamboo is more durable than wood but cheaper to purchase.
Are you a DIY enthusiast? If so, here is an opportunity to display your skills while saving money.
Unlike conventional construction, earthbag construction involves fewer processes, mainly filling the sandbags. Thus, it is well suited to a DIY builder, so you can easily build an earthbag home yourself.
Doing the project yourself means reducing the cost of labor you would have paid others for their services.
However, it’s worth mentioning that if you take up the project yourself, you must ensure you know what you’re doing. It’s wise to consult with a professional builder or engineer before attempting to do it yourself.
Final Thoughts On Earthbag Home Cost
How much does an earthbag home cost?
The cost of earthbag houses comes down to the type of material used, the availability of labor, and the location of construction.
Using locally available materials, reusing, and recycling materials from a previous earthbag project, and doing it yourself where possible will help you reduce the cost of earthbag homes.
Sustainable building materials have been evolving with time. Check out this article for the best sustainable building materials today.