How to Build a Rammed Earth House

Rammed earth homes are cost efficient and environmentally friendly. Living in a rammed earth house allows natural temperature regulation during the change of seasons, and will consequently save you money on energy bills. The most advantageous factor about rammed earth houses however, is the strength of the structure once it is erected; rammed earth homes will last through many generations without fail.

Materials

  • Low-grade brick-layering loam
  • Plywood
  • Shoot steel
  • Angle iron
  • Wooden planks
  • Building paper
  • Reinforcing rods
  • Rebar
  • Cement
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Water
  • Baling wire

Tools

  • Hand-pounder or appropriately sized mechanical vibrator
  • Big hand saw
  • Drill with bolt-removing bit
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil and paper
  • Tarpaulin
  • Slanted screen of 1” mesh hardware cloth
  • Chalk line
  • Level

Instructions

Preparing the foundation

  1. Create a concrete slab foundation by first digging out an area that is two time as deep as the area of the intended slab. After digging, ensure the ground is cleared of large stones, metal pieces, plastic and other debris.
  2. Over the excavated area, spread a loose layer of sand and gravel then cover it with polyethylene membrane to keep out moisture.
  3. Construct a wooden frame around the area’s perimeter and install screened rails on opposite sides of your frame’s exterior.
  4. Pour a level cement mixture; ensure it is level by using trowels to smooth and even the concrete. Let the cement cure for about 24 hours or until completely dry.

Framing walls

  1. Build corner and skeleton wall frames to accommodate walls with a width of about 450 mm for optimum insulation.
  2. Using rammed earth, fill the wall forms to approximately elbow deep. Using a hand hammer or similar device, ram the earth and as you are near the top, begin removing the wall forms.
  3. Once the wall frames are full, remove the bolts from the door forms and fill in the gaps; this must be done in a timely fashion as rammed earth dries quickly. Ensure that the forms are protected from rain at night or whenever they are not being worked on.

Doors and windows

  1. A variety of doors and windows can be used with rammed earth houses, as in any other type of house. When constructing the wall structure, place a rail tie or rebar to hold the positions of the doors and windows that will be installed later.
  2. Use standard window and door installation procedures when installing the doors and windows. Keep in mind that concrete frames are usually better suited than wood frames for windows as they are weather resistant. Also, for drainage purposes slant the outside sill of your window frame when constructing it.

Roofing

  1. Hire a roofing company or employ standard roofing techniques to build a roof for your rammed earth house.

Interior

  1. Apply plaster over metal lathe attached to the walls, to finish the interior. Hire a plumber and electrician to sort out plumbing and electrical fixtures.

Tip

  • Before building a rammed earth house, track down your region’s current earthen building codes and practices.
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