Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Buy New
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 14 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Living Homes: Stone Mason... has been added to your Cart
Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $14.24
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction Paperback – May 15, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
$30.00 $29.94

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
$30.00 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 14 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

  • Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
  • +
  • The Stonebuilder's Primer: A Step-By-Step Guide for Owner-Builders
  • +
  • The Art of the Stonemason
Total price: $61.85
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews


This highly creative guide helps the non-builder become conversant with terms, materials, and techniques necessary to build one's dream home. -- The Islands' Weekly Newspaper. Lopez Island, Washington.
June 15, 2004. (Review of the 4th Edition.)

This isn't mere theory but is firmly grounded in Elpel's hands-on experience creating durable, energy-efficient buildings on a shoestring. --Fine Homebuilding. February/March 2003. (Review of the 4th Edition.)

This hefty book (250 pages, 8.5" X 11") is chock full of detailed information, personal musings, photos and diagrams, and practical tips. Thomas Elpel is a do-it-yourselfer after my own heart, and what he has compiled here chronicles his adventures of building his own home in rural Montana as well as experiences with other building projects. He and his wife were forced by circumstances to find inexpensive solutions for all of the challenges of building their home, and they managed to do this without sacrificing their commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability.

Their home is a true hybrid, with the first floor being slip-formed stone masonry and the second story of logs, all sourced locally and ecologically. Thomas explains in great detail exactly how he put together this house, sufficiently for others to follow his lead without much more need for instruction.

In addition, the book is liberally dosed with Thomas's philosophy of how to homestead ecologically in the 21st Century. He starts with how to choose an appropriate location, then proceeds to describe strategies for disaster-proofing your home. He emphasizes how important it is to define the goals you have for your home before even coming up with a design.

Part Two of the book explores principles of energy efficiency, delving into a discussion of the need for excellent insulation, coupled with thermal mass and solar gain for a truly ecological house. The pros and cons of various insulation systems are defined, with charts of R-values. etc. There is a chapter devoted to interior air quality.

Part Three launches into the nitty gritty of exactly how to build using the methods that the author is familiar with. There is a thorough review of various strategies for creating footings, foundations and floors. This leads to a primer about the properties of concrete and how to mix and pour it. The instructions for building stone walls are specific to slip-forming, which tends to be fairly straight forward and simpler for folks who are not skilled in the art of free-form stone masonry.

The log-building technique that Thomas chose to use for his house is one of the simpler approaches, where little notching and careful fitting and trimming is required. Round logs are just stacked one on top of the other, using rebar pins to hold them in place. It is possible to build entire walls this way, and then cut out doors and windows later. The spaces between the logs are eventually insulated and chinked to make the wall air tight.

The basics of strawbale building are presented in one chapter, detailing how a large load-bearing strawbale shop was built. The information about strawbale is not as thorough as it is with the previous chapters on stone and log building, but there is enough of an overview to give the reader an idea of what is involved.

All of the wall-building techniques described so far require a framed roof of some sort, and the author goes into some detail about the possibilities for doing this. One method shown is fairly simple and straight forward, where a log ridge pole is placed first, and then rafters are bolted together on top of this, supported at the other end with another log. This can then support a variety of roofing materials, such as metal sheets or shingles.

In order to present a thorough overview of all of the basics of house building, the author also has surprisingly comprehensive chapters on plumbing and electrical wiring. Strategies for solar water and space heating are discussed.

All-in-all I give this book very high marks for providing useful information compiled in a logical and detailed manner. A person really could attempt to build their own house using nothing but this book as a guide, which is more than can be said for most building how-to guides. --Kelly Hart, GreenHomeBuilding.com

From the Publisher

A Positive Relationship with Nature

Our culture teaches us that we are separate from nature. We spend most of our lives in houses surrounded by manicured lawns, living in towns or cities where recrecational activies are based on human-centered sports. Nature is something we go to a park to see, or we watch a show about it on TV.

Those of us in the field of environmental education try to preach a different message, telling people that "all life is interconnected" and that "we really are part of nature". But in the next breath we tell them to stay on the trails and to practice "no-trace" camping. We tell them to look at nature and photograph it, but not to touch it. We tell them our modern way of life is destroying nature, and that we need to stop mucking up the planet. In other words, we tell them we are part of nature--the bad part!

Here at HOPS Press, LLC we advocate a positive interactive relationship with the natural world. We want people to get involved in nature, to be a part of the process on many levels:

Through Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills and the Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series, you can experience an intimate connection with nature as you rediscover the skills our ancestors used to survive for tens of thousands of years. Instead of merely camping in the wilderness or passing through it, you will become part of the process as you learn about nature by using it to meet your needs for shelter, fire, water and food. Learn to set aside the trappings of modern culture and step directly into nature with little or nothing, to experience nature on its own terms.

With Tom's book Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, you can connect with the wonderful diversity of plants and flowers all around you in a way that you may have never imagined. Instead of seeing the green world as little more than pretty wallpaper, you will learn to know the individual plants, wildflowers and weeds as if they have been your life-long friends. Our book Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9-99 utilizes the same patterns method of identifying plants as Botany in a Day, but in a metaphorical story form where children of all ages can join young Shanleya on her journey to learn the plant traditions of her people.

In Living Homes: Integrated Design & Construction you will learn how to make your home part of nature, as well as how to make nature part of your home. Learn the secrets to building low-cost, high-efficiency homes with stone masonry, log-building and strawbale construction methods. With this book and Tom's Slipform Stone Masonry DVD/VHS Video you will be able to build your quality, earth-friendly Dream home on a budget, even while the "experts" say it isn't cost effective.

Finally, in Direct Pointing to Real Wealth: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Money, you will learn to see the economy as an ecosystem where money is a token that represents calories of energy. Learn the basic rules of this economic ecosystem and you will be empowered to use your resources to more effectively achieve your desired quality of life, while making the world a better place to be. You will be able help convert an economy that harms planetary biodiversity into an economy that helps restore it. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Engineering & Transportation Books
Discover books for all types of engineers, auto enthusiasts, and much more. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HOPS Press, LLC; Sixth edition (May 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892784327
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892784322
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.7 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas J. Elpel had the rare opportunity as a child to spend hundreds of hours with his grandmother Josie Jewett. Together they explored the hills and meadows near Virginia City, Montana, collecting herbs, looking for arrowheads and watching wildlife. Grandma Josie helped Tom to learn about native plants and their uses, igniting a passion for nature that has inspired him ever since. She also sparked his interest in survival skills.

"All I ever wanted to do as a kid was to go to Grandma's house," Tom said. "When she moved from Virginia City to Pony, I followed her. I eventually bought land just a couple blocks from her place."

Tom's first serious exposure to wilderness survival skills began at the age of 16, when he went on a 26-day, 250-mile walkabout in the desert canyons of southern Utah with Boulder Outdoor Survival School. The following year he and Grandma Josie went together to Tom Brown's Tracker School in New Jersey. From there Tom spent thousands of hours practicing and developing survival skills in his "backyard" in the Rocky Mountains.

Tom's desire to make a positive difference in the world started early, partly the result from watching too much news with Walter Chronkite as a child. By the time he entered junior high he was on a mission to change the world. Friends in high school said he would grow out of his idealism and learn to accept the world as it was, but so far that hasn't happened. (He hasn't exactly changed the world either, but he insists he is still working on it.)

Tom married his girlfriend from high school, and the couple bought a five-acre parcel in Pony, just two blocks distance from Grandma Josie's house. They moved into a tent and started building their dream home of stone and log. They both worked with troubled teens in wilderness therapy programs, so they commuted to Idaho, Utah, or Arizona for three-week trips, then came home to spend their money on building materials.

The Elpel's built a passive solar stone and log home for approximately what most people spend on a new car. They successfully avoided the need for a mortgage, a regular job, or an expensive college education. Instead, Tom pursued his interests - learning, practicing, teaching, and writing about botany, wilderness survival, consciousness, and sustainable living. He is the author of numerous books, and the director of Outdoor Wilderness Living School (OWLS) and Green University®, LLC in Pony, Montana.

Tom's basic philosophy is that the wilderness survival skills are useful to connect with nature, but we shouldn't run away from the problems of modern society. Instead, we need to apply the lessons and spirit of living close to nature towards the quest to solve our worldly problems.

"Experts and lay persons alike bemoan the difficulty of creating a sustainable lifestyle, but it really isn't that hard." Tom said. "We had less money and less skills than a lot of people, but we built an energy-efficient passive solar home, and we now generate our own electricity with solar panels. Sustainability isn't that difficult, you just have to stay focused on the goal."

Tom's grandmother died in 2004 at the age of 89. Her love for nature continues to inspire Tom every day. Although he is crazy busy, getting out into nature remains a high priority, and he continues to hone his wilderness survival and awareness skills.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
While the author is a knowledgeable on the subject, if you are looking for a book that covers the topic in greater detail then check out Tomm Stanley's book "Stone House: A Guide to Self-Building With Slipforms". The material is covered in greater detail and in a well thought out manner.
Comment 29 of 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Touches on a variety of "green" living homes. Not too many specifics on each type of construction. Good for an overview of options available. Not for the builder who has a particular form of construction already in mind.Good for starting the research process of green living.
Comment 34 of 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
The house of your dreams needn't be unaffordable: integrated design and construction methods can help in the planning process and can result in much savings, and LIVING HOMES: INTEGRATED DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION is the perfect guide to that process. Chapters cover everything from calculating energy usage and efficiency to considering water supply and waste system options, bonding walls, and more. Black and white photos throughout reinforce instructions on how to cut construction costs along the way. LIVING HOMES deserves ongoing recommendation as an excellent choice for any who would pay attention to cost-efficient design.
Comment 19 of 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
I have pored through many, any books on design, and I have spent the past seven years or so researching and planning the home that I will one day build in Alaska. This home will be mostly made of earth, will stay warm 11 months of the year without any sort of exogenous heating source, will grow massive amounts of food indoors, will be very very inexpensive to build, and will just generally be pretty awesome.

This book is one of the best and most useful titles on home design that I have ever come across. It deals with a huge variety of topics, and is packed full of wisdom and intelligent building concepts. I ordered it specifically because it has a step-by-step on how to build a Russian stove, but there are many, many more topics contained within.

My favorite books on design include The One Straw Revolution, Permaculture: A Designer's Manual, Passive Solar Homes, How to Grow More Vegetables, A Pattern Language, Natural Capitalism, Shelter, Earthships, Cradle to Cradle, and now this. It has been a gem of a discovery. If you are interested in design and in building your own incredible home, this book would be a fantastic investment.
1 Comment 11 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most of the housing being built today is shoddy. Volume homebuilding corporations breeze into town, rape the land, slap up substandard cardboard-quality "houses" on postage stamp-sized lots and charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit. Many of these contractors get run out of the state, change their corporate name and then move on the next urban sprawl boom.

If you're sick and tired of seeing beehive neighborhoods spring up in your town with siding walls you can put your fist through, do yourself a favor and take this crash course on alternative homebuilding. This book will give you an excellent starting place to learn about how you can build your own high quality, inexpensive home with low environmental impact.

There is a lot of detail in this book on the methods presented. The "butt and pass" log home building chapter alone is worth 20 times the cost of the book. You won't easily find that information anywhere else outside of taking a log home building class from the Log Home Builders Association in Monroe, Washington, which is the only place I know of that teaches that method.
Comment 15 of 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Most would-be home builders believe a dream house would cost a fortune to construct from scratch: that isn't true, maintains author Elpel, who built his dream house with his wife. The planning of such a home is the key - and is the key to Living Homes: Integrated Design & Construction. Chapters cover energy efficiency concerns, home construction basics, and water supply and management with an eye to revealing how design and construction can work together to fit into both a budget and a dream plan. From strawbale walls to interior finishing, Living Homes provides a gold mine of construction specifics for any neophyte builder.
Comment 12 of 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the few books that I've come across about alternative building methods that is truly catered towards how to build it yourself on a budget. He doesn't cover every possible green building technology, but he covers the ones he knows and has worked with in great detail, including step by step instructions, pictures, a recount of which methods and materials have worked well and which haven't, and ideas about what he would consider doing differently in the future. I've read it cover to cover and will certainly use it as a reference during the planning and building phases of our future home.
Comment 3 of 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Living Homes has provided me with entertainment and information I was seeking. I am planning on building a new house and this book gave me a lot of information to think about. I like the energy efficiency that the book promotes and it gives a lot of ideas to think about when planning an energy efficient home. Stone masonry fireplaces for heat was a subject that I wanted to explore and the book has some information on it. It also describes many different types of heating systems involving heating water in a floor and solar heaters.
Comment 2 of 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
This item: Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Price: $30.00
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: wall stone veneer, masonry construction book, no solder copper pipe fittings