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More Details About Eternally Solar’s / Earthbag Building System — 13 Comments

  1. Owen, can you comment about Basalt rebar’s use and corrosion. I saw some samples at eandhweek.org at SMU and was impressed with it.

    One of the things we used on our Ubuntu-Blox house was bale wrap. We used Patti Stouter and her clay formulas for the plaster. The big issue was the adhering to the plastic. We started off with hanging the bale wrap over the blocks each layer.

    Patti says we don’t need it. But after looking at the house after it has been transported a total of three hundred miles at speeds up to seventy miles per hour I believe it is a good addition to the design.

    We lost about a quarter of the plaster due to the move. Part of this was to the vibration of rough roads I’m sure. Keep in mind the house was secured to the trailer only by it’s foundation. We trusted the wall construction to take care of itself, even at speed. Then there was the speed of course.

    I found the bale wrap engaged the plaster very well. Well enough in fact that I’m going to recommend we individually wrap each block with bale wrap before installing it.

    Bale wrap is a nylon/propylene fabric used to secure round bales of hay and straw. These bales weigh up to fifteen hundred pounds. It cost less than $300.00 for a roll four feet wide and five thousand feet long.

    • Look for recycled mesh bags, the kind used for onions, oranges, etc. and wrap those around your blocks. That way you’d have 100% recycled plastic block. Maybe you could find a produce supplier who would donate used bags.

      Basalt rebar is new to me. I’m still reading about it. It seems comparable to steel rebar and superior in some ways (doesn’t rust or conduct electricity). I’ll have a post coming up very soon on basalt mesh, fibers and roving (twine).

  2. I hope people are taking notes or copying this info to a folder for later use. This info is pure gold. Imagine building a house that surpasses engineering requirements/tests using just sand and bags (and a tiny amount of concrete and rebar). You couldn’t do that with typical bags unless the sand was stabilized somehow.

    • yes, this inf is extremely useful!

      I wonder how long the plaster will last without metal mesh, though. I’ve seen adobe and block buildings with non-mesh stucco, and the plaster doesn’t last beyond a few years. Without something to grip and/or reinforce the skin, I would worry about its durability.

      Could the non-compacted, no barbed wire sand system work in a bermed or buried structure? There will be increased lateral loads on the walls, but it might still work.

      • This is typical. It seems most earthbag houses don’t have mesh. While mesh will add some strength, it’s not required in most cases. Mesh is strongly advised in seismic areas.

      • really? I had thought that most used stucco mesh. What sort of plasters do most use? If it is earth based, then mesh might not be necessary, but if it is cement based, I wouldn’t trust it. I’ve seen too many failed stuccos….

        • There hasn’t been any formal survey of what people are using, so what I’m saying is just an educated guess. Most people are using cement plaster without mesh on the exterior. Lime and earthen plaster are also very popular. Earthen plaster needs wide roof overhangs.

        • That’s the typical way on most conventional houses and so books and articles will naturally recommend the normal way, but we hear of lots of people not using mesh. Kelly and I don’t use mesh.

      • wow, that is good to hear. are you using concrete-based plaster (I know Kelly likes papercrete)?

        Any examples of long term durability without mesh (5-10 years)?

        • Kelly is no longer a big fan of papercrete. His house turned out fine, but there have been too many mold problems.

          There’s no centralized database of houses, how they were built, etc. You might be able to track down some homeowners and learn about their experiences.

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