How sod houses were built
The following description of sod house construction is from a 1916 journal for geography teachers. It includes some interesting details about how sod houses were made.
How is a sod house constructed? Nature furnishes the material at first hand. She also deals kindly with man's handiwork. The house is put together most simply. Sometimes, as in the case of a school house, all the neighborhood families gather and build it in one day.Related website: How to Build a Sod House
No framework need be erected before the sod is laid. Any tough sod convenient to the building is used, such as blue-stem grass or hay meadow grass cut from a moist, compact land, a mile or less away. Autumn is the preferred time, when the roots are tougher and thicker.
A dry time is best for laying the sod, as the building settles less. The sod is cut in blocks two feet or more in length, a foot or more wide and two to four inches thick. It is laid block upon block like brick, with the grass side down. The length of the block determines the thickness of the wall.
It can easily be seen that window and door casings will be wide when set in a wall that is several feet thick. The frames for these are of lumber,and are in place when the walls are being built up.
The roof of the early sod house was of sod, where now shingles are often used. It is able to withstand the showers. From the "draws" or "canyons" the homesteader secures the long pine and the saplings...
The ridge-pole for the roof of the "soddy" is usually the long pine. Along the middle of each side of the roof a second long pole extends parallel to the ridge-pole. Rough slabs are laid across the poles. These may be covered with tar paper or straw before the sod is laid for the roof, grass side down.
The sod may be laid double, the second layer covering the openings in the first. The pitch, or slant, of the roof is slight. And invariably the stove pipe extends through the roof. The American homesteader seems not to have made a success of roof thatching...
A well-build sod house may be occupied for ten, twenty or thirty years, with the sod roof renewed occasionally. Cool in summer and warm in winter,it furnishes secure shelter when the winds howl over the plains bearing the blinding blizzard or the grating sand. Flowers bloom in the deep window recesses the year around.
Today many a family lives in the sod house as a matter of preference. In modified form, it is likely to remain in use for some time to come in the western counties of the Great Plains, where timber is scarce and transportation poor and towns are far apart.
Source: The Journal of Geography 1915-1916, Volume XIV, June 1916, pp. 387-388. Edited by Ray Hughes Whitbeck, and published by the Post Publishing Company of Appleton, Wisconsin. Digitized by Google Books.
Also on Prairie Bluestem: Sod House Stigma