How To Build an Earth Block House

Compressed earth block homes are not new; earth architecture is the original method of constructing a building.  Approximately three million people the world over live and work in earth buildings. Earth buildings are not necessarily only for the poor; many museums, factories, and hospitals are made of earth. The advantages of compressed earth block buildings include:

  • ecological sustainability
  • walls that combine insulation and thermal mass
  • they do not require skilled masons to construct
  • they incorporate easily into other building systems
  • the walls go up faster than with conventional construction
  • the waste material is dirt.

Step 1

Getting started with your green or natural home involved several steps:

  • The best location is one that is takes advantage of the suns energy, for a source of natural light and cost effective heating and cooling.
  • The size of your new earth home will be decided by the resources you want to use to build it and the amount of area you want to heat.
  • Planning your new home is essentially the same as with a conventional building. Design, engineering and construction have the same degree of importance. Testing the soil to determine if it is suitable for block making is the only difference.
  • Deciding to go green depends on several conditions, the amount of energy needed to produce and transport the materials, where the materials will come from, and what they are made of. The life span of the materials, how they are made, and the affect they will have on the environment, and the ease of construction.

Step 2

Foundations for earth homes should be below the frost line, with a stem wall built to above grade. It should be 33 percent greater than the wall width, and the stem wall should be centered on the footing. The perimeter of the footing is insulated with rigid foam insulation.

Step 3

Wall stacking is constructed in typical masonry fashion. The blocks can be laid across the width of the wall or ran lengthwise parallel to the wall.

Step 4

Double wall construction is encouraged. This consists of two walls running parallel to each other with a space between them for the placement of insulation. The insulation can be sawdust/lime, perlite, or vegetable based foam. The interior wall provides thermal mass for the storage, and conservation of heat, while the outer wall and the insulated cavity prevent thermal bridging and the loss of heat to the outside.

Step 5

Mortar for the earth blocks consist of thin slurry made from the same material as the blocks.  The lack of thick mortar joints allows unskilled masonry workers to build the wall quickly.

Step 6

Window and door openings in your earth home or constructed similarly to conventional frame construction. Screws through the framing into the blocks will hold the windows and doors securely in place.

Step 7

Electric wiring can be completed in any of several methods. The wires can be run in the cavity between the two walls, notched into the walls after construction is finished and plastered over, or run through conduit. The electric switches and boxes are placed in the walls and built around.

Step 8

Plumbing can be run through an interior wall or installed and built around.

Step 9

A wood or concrete bond beam is installed at the top of the wall to tie all the walls together, and provide an anchor point for the roof.

Step 10

The interior finish is quite simple. Two coats of plaster, a base coat and a finish coat is sufficient, however a third coat with color added to the plaster can be applied. The blocks can also be left natural, with a coat of sealer to prevent dusting.
The exterior finish consists of plaster or stucco, sealing the outside is not recommended as it does not weather well.

The exterior finish consists of plaster or stucco, sealing the outside is not recommended as it does not weather well.

The compressed block home is unique, energy efficient and durable. It is completely natural; there are no potentially toxic or hazardous additives in the building materials. The earth block home showcases the simplicity and beauty of the most sophisticated and evolved construction methods.


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