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It’s actually pretty easy to add window and door frames into earthbag buildings. The most important thing, as always with earthbag, is anchoring things to the walls. But there are a couple of potential issues, so it pays to be aware of them.
1. Making a mould
The standard way to create space for your door or window is to make a mould. Some people use tyres, some use hay bales, most build a box out of wood or ply and insert it onto the wall where they want their window.
That said, I’ve never done it this way. I’ve always stuck the window or door frame straight into the wall, and built around it. There are pros and cons to both methods, as you’ll see in a bit.
As you lay earthbags up to the edges of the mould or frame, it’s crucial to add anchors between the bags that you will attach your frames to. What you don’t want in any kind of construction is the frames shifting or sliding about. They need to be securely nailed into the earthbag wall. How?
You can either make your own anchors from small planks of wood and slot them between the bags like this:
Or you can use metal brackets to do the same job (see Owen Geiger’s method).
3. Fixing anchors onto earthbags
Fix the anchor onto your earthbag by driving big fat nails (minimum 10 - 12cm) right through the anchor and into the earthbag.
I’ve found you want one anchor, every three or four rows of earth bags. Any less and things start wobbling.
4. Barbed wire
Once your anchors are secured, you lay the barbed wire over the top of the anchors, and nail it into place. This gives the upper row of bags something to grip onto. Once you tamp the lot down, that anchor is wedged. Now you have something to screw/nail your window or door frame into.
Issues to watch out for:
The snag with earthbag is this: The higher up you go and the more you tamp, the more pressure is exerted on the lower bags. So they will naturally squeeze inwards, pressing against your window or door frame, or indeed your mould. If you are using a mould this can make it difficult to yank out. The common recommendation is to stick wedges between the mould and the earthbag wall. Even so, most people still seem to find it hard to pull the mould out. A mould without rough edges will help your cause. Or perhaps a bit of plastic sheet between the wall and the mould would help it slide?
If you want to add window or door frames directly into the wall, your issue is this: Your frames must be tough or they will buckle under the pressure of the bags. This happened on my first house, where the window frames turned into trapeziums :)) You need to pay attention that your lower, upper and side lintels are heavy-duty, because they all bear the brunt of the pressure. We used 10 x 30 cm lintels on the build in Olympos, and they held up.
Good luck folks! And remember, everything has to be anchored together in earthbag building. If it's not anchored into your wall, it's not secure and may well wobble.
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