Building with earthbags is essentially building with adobe bricks without going through the lengthy process of making them. You take polypropylene sandbags, fill them with a moist mix of sand and clay, tamp them down hard and connect the layers with 4 point barbed wire. Then, you cover them over with an earthen plaster.

In reality, I didn't use polypropylene bags. Some Brasilians started a type of construction they call hyperadobe which uses mesh bags, or continuous tubing, made from the same material as the onion or potato bags in the grocery store. They don't require barbed wire, though otherwise the process is just about the same.

As I talk about in the blog posts, my design has been guided by simplicity and efficiency. More than anything, what's been most important to me is to live in a house that I myself, with no building experience whatsoever, can design, build and maintain. A natural extension of that has been the desire to live in a peaceful space. For me that means a home that's in tune with nature, thus limiting the use of imported materials for construction, in addition to those that will be needed later on, such as for heating. Please enjoy reading, ask me any questions, get inspired, and come help and learn!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bag Filling

I've begun to lay down bags! I am a few bags short of the first course, which I will finish up tomorrow morning. I had a morning in town doing errands followed by a two hour tractor appointment with my neighbor (two tractor hours moving dirt=three days and a broken back of me doing it) so only got a couple hours in today before I had to flee the approaching rain and thunder storms.

I was happy to discover that you learn very quickly doing bags. My first two were pathetic and then they started to look quite good. They seem to be tamping out to 5-6" high x 24" long x 16" wide which is perfect. Bag filling is also quite easy. Tamping is hard but it's dirt moving that is so awful and time consuming. I think having the ring of dirt around my pit will help speed things along but I have to come up with an efficient wetting system. Mixing the dirt in with water also takes up a good chunk of time, though not nearly as much now that I don't have to shovel it into a wheelbarrow and move it first. My water pressure isn't good enough for a sprinkler and honestly in this dry weather I don't think it would do much good. I have had some success with soaking it pit-style and leaving it so will try that again beginning tomorrow.

I have been covering the bags with the plastic to keep the moisture in and prevent them from cracking. Has been working beautifully. It also protects the bags from the uv rays until they're plastered.

Yesterday was the one full day of bag filling that I did. I was able to do half a course including moving and wetting the dirt. I imagine I will come up with much more efficient ways and think that I could reasonably do one course a day if the soil was prepared beforehand. Like I said, filling the bags just isn't that hard. It will get easier once I am closer to grade level too. Though, if I worked every day, even if I never did more than half a course a day, and no one ever came to help me, my walls would be done the first week of July. That works for me.


  1. Do you have a plan for getting the bags up when you start getting to 5 and 6 feet - are you going to use a ladder? And how many feet is your perimeter? (Just curious... I'll be doing it eventually. Not in TX, not in NM, nope. But in Missouri. Can you believe that?) And YAY for progress!!

  2. I think I'll start using straw bales. Luckily, the wall on the north side will be done at 5 feet above grade and the south will only be at 8 feet above grade so there won't be much high stuff to do. I should start using straw bales to get DOWN into the pit for now. My perimeter is about 100 feet, just over. Progress sure does feel good!

  3. So, I am assuming that by this time, you have already had your water cistern delivered. Did you have the water delivered, too?

    1. Yeah, I had water delivered a couple times before my roof went on and I was able to catch it myself. There are a number of people in the area who deliver.