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
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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