Would you spend $300 or $4000 on a temporary or permanent Airstream, earthbag, or hobbit house?

Karen Madej

If you are thinking of building your own home, a good place to start is with a temporary place to live on site. Unless you are rich and paying professionals to build your mansion or a grand design, you will need a roof over your head.

Your temporary roof could take the form of many low-priced bargains, from an Airstream, also known as a land yacht, to a wooden hut. Of course, you could always camp out in a tent, but it could get pretty cold in the winter, depending on where you choose to build.

A yurt would give more protection, and you could have one with a hole in the roof to let out the smoke from your wood burner.

Unlike traditional house construction, unique self-build dream homes don’t happen quickly.

Airstream House

In the meantime, feast your eyes on some suggestions for abodes. The first; a 1979 Airstream, 29FT, Excella 500 complete with original manual. It currently resides in Phoenix, AZ, but soon, the owner will transport it to Navarre, Florida. The owner bought it, stripped it of its innards, intending to renovate it but no longer has the time to finish the task. Cost $4,000.

If you’d like and can afford to spend $12,499 for a recently renovated 1999, 34FT, Airstream Motorhome, you would save a lot of time and could focus on your main home while living comfortably. It has a low, 27,000 miles on the clock, and a lot of work has gone into this home on wheels.

Earthbag House

Are you planning on building an Earthship? Perhaps the thought of a full-scale model holds you back. You could try out an Earthbag tiny or starter house instead. For a 27.7 sq. meter interior, it’s a steal at $300. The self-builder will use all sorts of local free, low-cost reclaimed, and salvaged materials.

This home uses earth, it has a low carbon impact, there’s plenty of it, and it’s free. Dirt-free! Empty grain bags make perfect containers for your earth. You don’t need many tools, and it’s easy for the owner/builder to learn how to build their own simple home.

The thermal mass of the earthbags will keep the interior cool in hot weather and warm in the cold. Earthbags are resistant to earthquakes and winds, fire and pests, stop bullets and repel floods. Windows are protected with steel rebars.

The architect explains that you can double its size with additional rooms once you’ve built your first earthbag home. You could add a second story.

To furnish the living and patio area, you can stack earthbags to make benches. Built-in earthbags can also serve as a bed in the ventilated sleeping loft.

Other features of the house include a roof that catches rainwater with a gravity flow from the rain barrel to the sink, and the plumbing will use it elsewhere in the structure. A south-facing roof with optional solar panels can capture and convert the sun’s energy to power traditionally wired earthbag homes.

The Earthbag Building website offers books and guides, and workshops from various providers in the US and worldwide. CalEarth, for example, have courses starting at $40 for an introduction to SuperAdobe up to $350 for the entire online curriculum.

Hobbit House

Simon Dale says he built his mortgage and rent-free hobbit home in four months with help from his father-in-law, passersby, and friends. His small collection of tools — a hammer, a 1-inch chisel, a chainsaw, and £3,000 were all he needed.

A hobbit house could qualify as a temporary place to live because it is cheap, or you might decide it’s the home you want to live in forever.

Besides a trial run a few years earlier and playing around with ideas in between, Simon had no special skills other than his strength of body and mind.

After the men dug into the hillside, chosen for low visual impact and protection from the elements, they had soil and stones to build retaining walls foundations. The oak thinnings (spare wood) he used for the frame came from the woodland on their doorstep.

The reciprocal roof — each wood beam relies on its neighbor — was easy to make and, as you can see above, rather pleasing to the eye. The less wood is chopped, the lower its impact on the environment, so Simon used round wood timber for the frame, which he believes is aesthetically pleasing.

Straw bale and cob houses usually have walls made from straw bales, but this house also has underfloor and roof straw bale insulation. The ecological equivalent (natural thermal mass) of underfloor heating and loft insulation at a fraction of the cost.

Over the insulation resting on the roof, Simon used a plastic sheet for ease and to protect the inside from rain trickling through the mud/turf of the green/living roof. Instead, rainwater drains off the roof and into the pond.

Lime plaster, a naturally breathable material, makes beautiful smooth walls. Inside and out. Simon built a flue through big stones and plaster. Again creating thermal mass to slowly release heat from the stones and plaster when the temperature in the house drops. This heat would keep the family warm through the night after the log burner had burnt through its fuel.

Interestingly, the family bought little. A local and abundant supply of wood to feed the log burner; free. Someone gave Simon the wood burner. Other items like windows, plumbing, and wiring he found in various rubbish piles.

The kitchen has a fridge cooled by air coming through the foundations. My educated guess is that it uses far less electricity because it remains cool most of the time. A fridge would usually leap into action in a hot kitchen and use more electricity to remain cool. When your electricity comes from solar panels, you have to watch how much you use.

The family has water from a nearby stream, but the one thing we all need — a toilet — turns their waste into compost rather than using water to flush it away.

You now have three bargain self-renovate or self-build house options. Which would you choose, Airstream, earthbag, or hobbit?

You could also tell me why, if you like, in the comments. Feel free to share this article if you think your friends and family should read it.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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