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The True Cost Of Our Earth-Sheltered Home

It’s been about a month since the burial of our earth-sheltered house was finally completed. So I thought I’d address the question on so many of your minds: How much does it cost to have an earth-sheltered home built? To build a modern-sized one yourself, according to a book I read, can cost as little as $10,000. But that’s mainly for materials. After you figure in all the time and muscle necessary to stack solid concrete blocks and mortar them together – ay, caramba!

As with the building of any new house, ours ending up costing more than we originally figured. Okay, let’s give Jerry a break. It ended up costing more than I originally figured – around $40,000. But I was going by what the builders had told us and what Troy had originally estimated the cost of burying the house would be.

So forgive me for being $20,000 off.

And since we have done nothing with the facing wall, that future cost is not included. Neither is the cost of our non-existent porch, which may or may not one day appear in the front of our house.

In the expense breakdown that follows, understand that we hired somebody to put in the concrete floor as well as to do the electrical hook-up. Other than that, we did all the finishing-out ourselves, including installing the exterior door and windows. (Doors are harder to hang that you might think! And window screens are a pain to put together. Just thought I’d throw that out there.)

For the expense breakdown, you may either watch the video or read the text below…or both!

The expense breakdown

The final total is going to be slightly inaccurate, say, by up to $400. That’s because I may have missed writing down some screws or lumber we bought at the hardware store during the finishing-out process, or some such thing. But for the most part, the following numbers are accurate. I am going to list the item, then the cost.

Soil test (to determine weight-bearing capacity) – $2,000

Excavation of site – $1,913

Hook up to water grid (required mainly for house burial) – $900

Shell construction (mostly labor and concrete/rebar) – $39,154

Doors, windows, bathroom ceiling, and interior walls – $2,218

Electrical connection (including outside cable to connect house with power line) – $1,103

Floor (including concrete floor, tile, grout, and misc. tiling accessories) – $3,230

Beds (loft and high platform) and kitchen cabinet (including cost of sink) – $500

Burial of house (includes labor; liquid rubber, 6-mil plastic, and Styrene for waterproofing; all the soil was either on-site or provided for free) – $11,005

Miscellaneous expenses (hardware store items) – $849

Total cost

I’m going to be lazy now and use a calculator to add this all up.

Okay, here we go. The cost of our very small (576 square feet) earth-sheltered house was (drum roll, please…)


The guy at Conrad’s Castles we talked to most estimated between $100-$120 per square foot, finished out. Then he came back and said it could be as little as $60 per square foot if we finished it out ourselves.

We finished it out ourselves, and the cost of our earth-sheltered house was over $109 per square foot. I don’t think he figured in the excavation and burial costs.

Still, we didn’t pay any more than the cost of your average custom home. It was worth the effort, although I would prefer to never repeat it again. One thing about it: I’ve heard that the ultimate test of a marriage relationship is the couple having a home built from scratch. Jerry and I passed. 🙂

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  • Carri Kemp May 2, 2016, 4:43 pm

    I was very excited to see you post about your earth sheltered home. My husband and I are going to be building an underground concrete dome roof home in southeast Kansas. We have been saving up for a few years so we didn’t have to get a loan and we finally hit a target savings this month. I have search the internet for home similar to our plans and couldn’t find any until I saw your youtube video. I was just wondering if you had any suggestions or things you would of done differently before you began. Thank you for posting, and I will be following your progress.

    • Emily May 2, 2016, 5:32 pm

      Hi, Carri, thanks for watching the vid/visiting! And congrats for saving all that money! Nothing like a mortgage-free home! 🙂

      I am not longer updating my YT channel (much) or this blog (at all). But I’ll answer your question: first, well, you read this post, so be sure to count all the extra costs. I am SO GLAD we went with a very small home (not just for financial reasons, but that was a biggy). Second, I wish we would have known how much we were going to have to run a dehumidifier b4 we signed the contract with the builders. We may have just had a wood cabin built instead if I had known. The average annual humidity here is over 70%, and I don’t like listening to machines run for half the day. Not to mention that it somewhat cancels out the heating/cooling savings. Buyer beware, but I believe Kansas is considerably drier than SE Oklahoma.