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Why I Wish We’d Never Ordered An Earth-Sheltered House

In a week, the builders for our earth-sheltered house will be coming.

And I am not happy.

But it’s what my husband thinks we need to “be more comfortable.” (He is a heat-humidity phobe.) And I only began to have second thoughts about what was actually my brilliant idea a few months ago.

Why I wanted it in the first place

Not planning to live in the Tuff Shed for more than a few months, I unwisely chose the cheaper side-opening windows when I ordered it. Therefore, we could not put in a window A/C unit, but had to buy a noisy, energy-hogging portable one. When the heat hit us last May, I was not used to the constant humidity of the area, nor the sound of that stupid machine.

Moreover, B’s bedroom, which is the loft above the Great Room, became stifling at night.

And then there was the fact that we were not used to having our kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom and closet all in under 200 square feet.

The answer to the first dilemma would have been to spend a few hundred dollars to take out the existing window and put in a vertically opening one. Then we could have installed a Frigidaire A/C unit that uses only 500 watts. Upstairs, we could have installed a vent fan to pull the heat out. That would have kept both the upstairs and downstairs cooler before we even turned on the A/C unit.

And during the summer, B could have slept in a tent, as he is doing now with all the enthusiasm any boy has ever had about being able to sleep outside in a tent.

As for the size of the place, I grew to love it over the winter, and now we have an outhouse so that no one needs to smell – well, you know.

Why I changed my mind

**1. I don’t believe in spending money unnecessarily.

Yes, an earth-sheltered house can keep you cooler/warmer with less energy usage. But the $40,000 we’re going to end up paying for it when all is said and done will take decades to recuperate in energy costs.

**2. We don’t need more space to be happy.

And now that I’ve cleaned up the storage shed, there is room in there for J to go paint if he wants.

**3. The longer I’m here, the more I want to live as naturally as possible.

The natural way to live is to spend most of one’s time outdoors. One can get used to any kind of weather…unless one holes oneself up inside and sits in front of an A/C unit or heater to keep the ambient air temperature between 70 and 80 degrees 365/24/7.

**4. Concrete is not a sustainable material.

I feel like I’ve settled, compromised my values by allowing someone to come build me a concrete house. Since we already have a perfectly functional abode make out of non-sustainable materials, it doesn’t make sense to me to have someone come and build us a much more expensive one with a much greater quantity of a non-sustainable material.

**5. J’s stress levels are sky-high.

He might as well be working his former job for all the stress he’s been experiencing the past few months. And it will go on, as he struggles to make the doorway and window openings perfect after the house is built.

Why we are going on with an earth-sheltered house

A Tuff Shed is, after all, just a shed. Even with the insulation, it is not the best at insulating or providing thermal mass.

Also, the floor is weak compared to that of a conventional house, let alone the cabin or earthbag house I wish we’d built at the outset. Even though the builders leveled the shed when they built it, the floor slopes down from the middle on all sides. So I wonder how long this place can last with three people constantly walking around in it?

Finally: now, it’s too late. Last fall, even this winter, we could have changed our minds and decided to build a better small structure to shelter us. But now?

When we paid Ralph’s airfare to come and see the land a year ago, we thought it was too late to back down, even though both of us were dismayed and depressed to discover that they would not put in the floor or bury the structure, just put up the walls and dome roof.

Of course, then we gave him over $2,000 for the design. Then it was really too late, right?

Another $2,000 to pay for a soil test to get its weight-bearing capacity. GULP. Well, we couldn’t cancel the contract after that expense.

Then our digger guy came and excavated the area. Over $4,000 in the hole (literally) and a big gaping space in what used to be the hill to the west of the garden. This is when I really began to have my doubts, but J clearly disagreed with me.

By now, they have custom-ordered the rebar as well as the concrete. They may have even rented the concrete boom pump by now. Really too late.

So instead of sucking up a $4500 loss and counting it as what Dave Ramsey refers to as “stupid tax”, we are going ahead and paying ten times that for a house we don’t really need.

I hope, as Ralph and my husband insist, it will prove to be worth it in the long run. Right now, I’m just not seeing it.

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