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Build an Earth Bermed Home: Planning Tips

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Clyde in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    CLYDE: Trying to find some information on – and house plans for building an earth bermed home.

    TOM: Earth …?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    CLYDE: Which I want to be able to build it myself so earth shelter is out.

    TOM: So you want to – when you say “earth bermed” you essentially want the house to be surrounded by earth like on three sides?

    CLYDE: Yeah, three sides but a conventional roof system.

    TOM: Right, conventional roof. You don’t want to have a – you don’t want to have to mow your roof. (Leslie chuckled)

    CLYDE: No, no.

    TOM: OK. Well, you know, that’s not really that much different than a traditional house and, in fact, typically that would be done, of course, in the right lot where you can sort of nestle the house into sort of the hillside. The difference is the kind of foundation would be a little bit thicker, a little bit stronger because the foundation both supports the home vertically and also acts as a retaining wall at the same time. And of course the moisture-proofing on that is really a critical point as well. But it’s not all that more complicated than building a traditional house. If you’re not finding the plans that you want off the shelf, this is a situation where we would highly recommend that you engage the services of an architect.

    I presume you have a house lot in mind or, if not, once you choose that lot it would be a great idea for you to hire the architect to do what architects do and that is to give you planning and structural advice so the home can be constructed correctly. Once you have that set of plans, if you want to execute on the build yourself that’s fine; if you want to subcontract out parts of it you’ll have the plans to do that. But this is not the kind of thing that I would recommend you buy off the shelf. I would suggest that you hire an architect to design the structure for you; make sure it’s sturdy and safe, meets all the building codes; and then, if you want to build it yourself, you’ll save a lot of money there. But the thing that you should not be looking to save money on is the good, professional advice that you’re going to need to make sure that you have a design for a building that’s going to work for you.

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