As time goes by and earthbag building becomes more practised, more and more earthbag filling techniques appear. Probably every team winds up creating their own earthbag filling system, though it will differ depending on whether you are using tubes or bags. For the record, here are a few tested ways to stuff dirt into your sacks.
1. The Classic Single-Sack-With-Bag-Stand Routine
The tried and true technique for filling earthbags, is to gusset the bottom of the bag by hand so that the corners are turned in. Then you fill the first 10-15 cm with damp earth, tamp it so that the bottom of the bag is nice and square, before filling the rest of the bag.
You would normally measure the amount of earth that goes in the bag (using pots of some description or shovel-loads), this way you can adjust the bag size, so that your earthbags sit staggered in the wall like bricks.
In truth, you don’t have to too neurotic about the exact amount of earth in the bag. But the amount does need to be fairly consistent, so that when you tamp the bags flat, they are squashed to roughly the same level.
Why gusset the sacks? Because if you don’t, the corners stick out in the wall creating a very bumpy finish. This isn’t the end of the world and certainly not a structural issue, but it’s a devil to plaster over. So you’ll save yourself a lot of effort in the long run by making sure your sack-ends sit nice and flush.
2. The Alternative Sack Fill
In our last workshop in Turkey, we invented another bag-laying technique which allowed us to pre-fill a lot of sacks with dry earth, and then wet them on the wall. Details of that method are outlined here.
3. The Six-at-a-Time Multi-Fill
Naturally, people get impatient with the one-at-a-time bag stand routine. So they invent other, faster ways of filling multiple bags at once. Sometimes they’ll even resort to child labour. :)
4. Industrial Speed Filling
For those who love machines, this tractor earthbag-filling system is going to be the clear winner. The sack tie-up at the end is the icing on the cake. Personally, I would hate the fumes and noise. For me, the whole point of building your own home is to enjoy the teamwork process. But I accept I’m in the minority there.
Filling tubes is a little different from individual sacks, as you inevitably have to fill on the wall. Here are a couple of options:
1. Nice and Leisurely
Jehane Rucquoi and friends take things in their stride with this relaxed technique.
2. The Earthbag Boa-Contraption
Here is another system using a nifty wooden frame that squashes the earthbag flat as it goes. It bears a passing resemblance to a massive earthbag snake, which is totally besides the point, but anyway.
THERE’S NO SINGLE RIGHT ANSWER
It really is pretty much down to you and your team as to which technique you prefer, and no doubt there are many others out there that I haven’t yet heard of. Feel free to tell us about, or add a link to, your own method in the comments. I always like to learn a new way.
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