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Building earthbags in the winter

 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada
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Can construction take place in the freezing winter with earthbags if cement is used as a stabilizer in the bags?
 
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If we are speaking of adding any water, and OPC to the matrix, and temperatures consistently below freezing...the short answer is No, but...

The "but" comes in as OPC projects are poured year round with additives of all manner, which moves us into the world of... "making something work"...which is often driven by a "profit motive" and not a "good practice" motivation.

Yes...EB probably can be...made to work... in extreme cold...I am relatively certain it's logistically, fiscally, and ergonomically not viable and/or would not render the best outcomes for the project goals...
 
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Location: North Carolina
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Commercial firms use hot water to pour concrete during cold weather. This allows the concrete to stay liquid without the water freezing until the concrete has an opportunity to set; however, I would not recommend it as a good practice. Here's why.

Many people have a mistaken understanding of how concrete and other silicates cure. Silicate products cure through a chemical process rather than drying through evaporation. A good, hard concrete surface cures slowly. The conscientious caretaker keeps the surface wet by covering it with plastic or thoroughly re-wetting the surface periodically so the chemical reaction has enough water available to create a nice, hard concrete through its entire depth. Water penetrates concrete like Swiss cheese.

So, if it's below freezing, all of your precious water is locked up in ice molecules. That water isn't available to your concrete through your curing process, resulting in a flaky, brittle end result.

 
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So you can't build an earthbag home in winter? Do you have to use concrete? Thanks
 
Jennifer Meyer
Posts: 24
Location: North Carolina
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Actually, Sarah, I am planning to build my earth bag home in winter. As long as temperatures remain above freezing consistently so the earth can cure, you should be OK. If temperatures are below freezing, I would worry that ice frozen in the bags would thaw at a later point and cause the walls to slump if they are set imperfectly.

Also, consider that most earth bag homes do not use concrete as part of the walls. They just use dirt. "Dirtbag" home doesn't have a nice ring to it, though. In this case, the earth really is drying, as opposed to curing.
 
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