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Tips for Building an Earth Berm House

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Joe in Virginia is looking for some help building a home from scratch. What can we do for you?

    JOE: I’m thinking of building an underground house into a hillside …


    JOE: … and I’d also like to make it a healthy house; you know, to keep it free of formaldehyde and mold.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    JOE: And I know very little about construction, so right now I’m just looking for references, recommendations, resources and then probably to buy a set of tested building plans.

    TOM: Well, certainly there are lots and lots of plans online for earth berm or earth-sheltered homes. Why is it that you’re interested in this particular technology?

    JOE: To keep down energy costs.

    TOM: OK, OK. A particular type of lot this home will work on is one that is sloped, so it’s sort of being built into the hillside. Did you have that kind of a lot in mind or do you just want to sort of start flat and build up from there?

    JOE: Oh, no. I live in an area with a lot of hills.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. Alright.

    JOE: (overlapping voices) So that’s not an issue.

    TOM: Well, maybe it’s a good opportunity for you. You know, the main concern that I would have would be water infiltration with these homes because if you do get water in there, obviously that’s the start of all sorts of evils. So you have to be very, very careful with that. Are you going to build this yourself or are you going to hire a contractor?

    JOE: I would probably hire a contractor because I know so little about construction.

    TOM: Yeah. And I think that if this was – if this was my house and I wanted to do that, I would do a lot of research to try to find a contractor that has experience building this…

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … kind of technology because, frankly, I used to see a lot of them in the 80s when energy cost was really high but we don’t see too many of these anymore. So I don’t know that you’re going to be able to find someone that is, you know, really experienced but I wouldn’t want to do it without that person.

    You know, the other consideration here too is if you’re going to build an earth berm home, remember that although you find this very attractive and interesting, if you have to sell that house you may have difficulty because you’re going to have to find someone who’s like-minded.

    JOE: OK. And then one other side question, unrelated.

    TOM: Right.

    JOE: On the Money Pit jingle, is that Leslie singing? (Tom laughs)

    LESLIE: No! (chuckles)

    JOE: OK.

    LESLIE: You wouldn’t want to hear me sing that.

    JOE: Oh, it sounds just like you. You see, a very nice voice. (Leslie chuckles) Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: That’s actually a woman named [Lu Legree] (ph) and she actually has a new CD coming out, called Shadows and thank you for asking because she is absolutely terrific.

    JOE: Alright. Thank you, Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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