Update 5: Rough-in Plumbing, French Drain Rubble Trench, & Camper

Last month we finished leveling the land, digging new trenches, and buying a bunch of supplies. Our next step was a big one: the rough-in plumbing. It was a HUGE task, especially since Neal and I had zero plumbing experience previously and he had to do most of the work by himself. Luckily we had plenty of time to study!


There were several options including copper, PVC, CPVC, and PEX. We ended up choosing PEX because it is freeze resistant, quick to install, won’t corrode over time and is relatively easy to work with. The tubing is fairly cheap so we did several long runs, bypassing as many of the expensive joints and connections as possible. Since there are no spaces in the walls like a normal home, we had to run everything underground. To keep the water lines easy to maintain we positioned the supply lines inside some PVC conduits; if a line breaks, we can run a new line without having to tear up the floor.

The rainwater we catch off our roof will be stored in a giant cistern, which enters into the home from the green water supply line. It connects to our water organizing module where it’s filtered. From there, the hot water line runs outside to a solar water heater then back inside to a distribution manifold. The cold water lines have their own manifold as well which connect to the water organizing module. From there everything runs directly to their respective areas – sinks, shower, toilet, hoses, washing machine, dishwasher, etc. We plan to recycle our gray water (everything that goes down our sinks and drains) which will empty into some of our exterior gardens. The black water (toilet) will connect to the septic tank.




Since our original trenches caved in over the summer after a heavy storm, we’ve been extra careful to plan around the weather. After finishing about 80% of the plumbing, it looked like some intense rainstorms were heading our way. Not wanting to have our drainage pipes and trenches fill with mud, we decided to pull an ‘all nighter’. The car’s headlights provided enough lighting for us to finish, just in time!


The storm wasn’t too bad and, fortunately, did minimal damage to the trenches. Our wonderful neighbors came over with their tractor and we got to work filling the trenches! Thank you Coondaddy and Jim!!




The French drain rubble trench is slightly sloped for proper drainage. It is lined with geotextile fabric, which allows  groundwater runoff to flow through while keeping out dirt and debris so the gravel doesn’t get clogged. After leveling the trenches and lining them with fabric, we piled in 30 cubic yards of 2 inch gravel. The French drain rubble trench is used in place of a traditional cement foundation. Earthbag structures are monolithic and extremely versatile, making this kind of foundation an affordable and eco-friendly alternative.




In other news, we moved a camper onto the land! Since this is our first building adventure we have no idea how long it’s going to take to complete. Hopefully we can finish before the winter in 2017. Every day we work on the land we lose 2 hours of drive time in the commute. Plus, the distance just isn’t feasible for me to drive up during the work-week. We expect moving into the camper next spring will net us at least 10 hours of building time every week, probably a lot more. I am really excited to finally use our solar panel system, off-the-grid water filtration system, and the biggest bonus – no more paying rent!



We’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of the neighbors recently! Everyone has been incredibly kind, interested in “what the heck” we’re building, and been overly generous and helpful. We’ve had everything from tools, building supplies, and even fresh garden vegetables gifted to us! Our newly acquainted neighbors (who quickly became good friends) said they could tell we were newbies since our chains and tools are still shiny and new – and they refer to us as “babes in the woods”. LOL!!

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better we met an amazing couple, Laura and Bobby, who live nearby and are also working on getting sustainable! They’re also from a big city, Laura is a marketer (like me), Bobby is a software engineer (like Neal), and Laura has a blog too! Visit www.girlvsgrid.com to get inspired on living sustainably or to learn some amazing vegan recipes! I’ve already made her Fall Favorite Shepherd’s Pie and Crockpot Chickpea & Sweet Potato Curry – I highly recommend both. 🙂


It’s definitely starting to get really cold for our Texas bones here in Missouri, so I imagine our progress will slow down a bit over the coming months. Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date!


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