Earthbag Questions and Answers

Kelly Hart is your host at greenhomebuilding.com, and has built his own home using the earthbag technique. He has adapted the concepts popularized by Nadir Khalili and his "superadobe" building, by filling the bags primarily with crushed volcanic rock. This creates insulated walls that are similar to strawbale, except that they are completely impervious to damage from moisture, insects or rodents. Earthbags can be used to fashion either flat walls, curved walls, or can be assembled in the shape of domes that require very little wood or steel. Kelly has produced a video, titled Building with Bags: How We Made Our Experimental Earthbag/Papercrete House, which chronicles the adventure of building this house, and shows other earthbag houses as well. Kelly wrote Earthbag Architecture: Build Your Dream with Bags Kelly is available to answer questions about what he has done, or consult about other earthbag projects.

Earthbag Building in General

What are the advantages of earthbag building?
What costs can you expect?

Shape and Support

What shapes are possible with earthbags?
What special considerations are there in building domes?
Can you make vaults with earthbags?
What should I knows about building vertical walls?
When is it necessary to make buttresses?
What are bond beams and how do you make them?
Can you make a building of many stories?
Can you build underground with earthbags?
How do you make ponds, pools or cisterns with earthbags?

Site Work and Foundations

How should I prepare the site?
What kind of foundations work for earthbag buildings?
What about drainage around the finished building?
Can you make earthbag foundations for other types of building?

Insulation and Mass

Balancing insulation and mass.
What insulating materials can you fill earthbags with?
What advantages are there for using thermal mass materials?

Fill Material for Earthbags

What requirements are there for using soil to fill the bags?
How do you do a jar test with soil to find out the ratio of clay to larger aggregate?
What about stabilizing the soil?
Why use scoria as fill material?
When do you use gravel in the bags?
Can I fill the bags with sand?
Tell me about using rice hulls in the bags.
What other materials can be used to fill the bags?

Filling and Laying the Bags

What type of bags can be used?
How many bags does it take?
How do you fill the bags
What methods are there for closing the bags?
How do you lay the bags on a wall?
What recommendations do you have for using barbed wire or twine?
What about tamping the bags?
When should you use rebar stakes?
What about curing the fill material?
How do you go about building columns and arches?
How much labor does it take to build with earthbags?
Tell me about wall failures.


What is hyperadobe and what issues relate to it?

Doors, Windows and Vents

What considerations are there in placing windows?
How do you make arches with earthbags?
What do I need to know about placing doors?
How and why do you put vents in earthbag buildings?
How do you add an extra room onto an existing earthbag building?
What about putting in chimneys or stove pipes?

Plastering the Bags

Tell me about earthen plasters.
What can you tell me about lime plaster?
What are the pros and cons of cement stucco?
What about using papercrete as a plaster?
Should I burn the bag material before plastering?
When should I use mesh with plaster?
What do I need to know about UV protection?
How do you plaster sloping interior walls?

Moisture Proofing

Issues related to moisture proofing are explored.

Permits and Codes

Are there any specific problems with building codes or permits?

Specific Building Components

How do you make interior walls?
How do you handle plumbing?
What about electrical installations?
Tell me about floors.
What kind of roofs are possible?
How do you attach a roof to an earthbag structure?
What about making stairs or ramps?
How do you hang cabinets or pictures?

Structural Concerns

Some specific structural concerns are addressed here.
How do you go about retrofitting earthbag buildings?

Possible Hazards

How do you deal with varmints?
What about radon?
How do you provide security?


How do you make retaining walls?
How do you make garden walls?
Can you make planter beds?
How can you do rainwater catchment on a dome?

Questions about Kelly Hart's Earthbag/Papercrete House

Misc. questions about Kelly Hart's earthbag/papercrete house.

Miscellaneous Question

How would you make emergency or temporary structures with earthbags?
How can you make miniature bags to experiment with?
How long does it take to build with earthbags?
Has the earthbag system been patented?


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Established in 2001, GreenHomeBuilding.com is primarily a labor of love. Kelly, and the GreenHomeBuilding team of experts, have answered thousands of questions for readers over the years, and we continue to publish up-to-date information about increasingly important sustainable architecture. If you feel moved to assist us in this work, your kind donation would be much appreciated; this can be easily done through our PayPal account:
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I specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. Neither I nor any of the advisor/consultants associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this, or any other page at this site. Kelly Hart, Hartworks LLC.