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Is there a way to use clay soil as building material?  RSS feed

 
Nathan King
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I can't really grow anything on it, and it takes lots of compost to make it aerable. It has really no silt or sand to speak of, and its kind of a light brown color. Because of this, I can't make a traditional adobe as it stands. Is there anything I can add to it? I head somewhere in India they add cow manure to their dirt as a building material. Could I make a building material by amending the clay with some sand, straw, and manure or something like that? Any information would be helpful, because I'm completely lost. Thank you.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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earthbags or gabions

you could add 70% sand to 30% clay to do adobe or cob, but that'd be a lot of sand hauling.  I'd just use the earth bags.

Also, check out alker, it is basically clay with a bit of gypsum and lime, and makes a really hard substance:
http://web.itu.edu.tr/~isikb/Tech1.htm
 
Nathan King
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With the earth bag design, I just read up on that a bit. It says you cover it with cement or adobe. Can you add emulsified asphalt to it to make it more weather proof as you would to adobe bricks?
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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I guess you could, but earthbags are waterproof already (sandbags are used for flood control).  You are not waterproofing by coating with concrete or plaster, you are protecting the bags from UV.

do check out the gypsum adobe (alker) stuff as well, it might be a good solution for you, too.  You can use that to make bricks or slipform right in place.
 
                                  
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If you can find clean clay, and if it fires well, there have been several ceramic houses built out of local clay and then wood fired from the inside. Requires a good, low firing clay with little thermal expansion, though.
 
Roger Merry
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Really interested in Alker - does it work as a weather resistant outdoor coat (England) or would it need a plaster coat as well - thinking animal housing and possibly as a insulating / protective layer on a steel container store .

All thoughts/ experiences welcome 
 
                      
Posts: 76
Location: Austin,TX
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Have you looked at slip straw?

As to your clay soil just keep putting biomass on top and the worms should tunnel up and do the aeration job for you.
One of the worst (at the start) swales was heavy with clay and performed poorly. Now (3 years later) it's one of the best spots for plants.

ape99
 
                    
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Location: Maryland
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Look up Natural Building techniques. There are endless combinations of clay, sand and straw (or other fiber) that could work. Cob may be the simplest.
 
                                            
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that would be a whole lot of sand to truck in...

I like the ceramic house idea, try to fire a brick using your clay and see how it fairs. if it turns out good you could either fire up a bunch of bricks [or sun bake them] or build your house out of clay then fire it from the inside out.

give it a try!
 
Peter DeJay
Posts: 104
Location: Southern Oregon
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Clay slip/straw would be my suggestion as well, not to discount earth bags (heard good things about them, just no personal experience) There is a couple from New Mexico that has pioneered a rediscovering of an old method of cavity insulation.  They take loose straw, coat it with a clay slip mix (dry clay mixed with water to make a creamy "slip" , and then pack it into a 12" wall cavity between temporary forms. Once it dried out you have a solid, super dense, insulated mass wall that retains the hygroscopic propreties of all good natural building techniques. I think of it as the perfect combination of straw bale construction and cob. check out their website: www.econesthomes.com 
 
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