In addition to many other uses, earthbags also make great privacy walls. Besides being beautiful, privacy walls help block wind and noise, and keep out stray dogs and prying eyes. You can greatly enhance your home using this dirt cheap building technique.

Privacy Wall

Privacy Wall

Protected from excess wind, plants can thrive even in harsh climates like New Mexico. In fact, you can create a mini oasis behind privacy walls with proper care and adequate watering. I refer you to a great little book called Behind Adobe Walls: The Hidden Homes and Gardens of Santa Fe and Taos, by Lisl and Landt Dennis. They document through beautiful photographs of luxurious homes how thick earth walls shade plants in heat of summer and retain heat for nurturing many types of flowers and other plants through cold spells.

Unlike straw bale privacy walls that are susceptible to moisture damage, earthbag privacy walls can withstand the elements much better. They take more time to build, but you can make earthbag walls as moisture resistant as you would like by stabilizing the soil fill material with lime. Alternatively, you could experiment with building privacy walls of scoria, which is highly resistant to moisture damage, and lightweight and easy to work with.

And because earthbags are so versatile, you can combine earthbag privacy walls with planters, benches, arbors, trellises and garden walkways to create magical spaces that are only limited by your imagination.


Comments

Earthbag Privacy Walls — 16 Comments

  1. Please how can I use Earth bag building technology to address the problem of water ingress into my pen from the foundation and surrounding walls. Presently both are not cemented . Just bare walls and bare floor. It’s a swampy area

    • Sounds like you need plastic sheeting to stop the leaks and a French drain to drain the water away. Also, grade the site to direct water away from the building.

  2. Can slag be used instead of scoria?
    It looks that these materials are somewhat similar: in Russian slag is “shlak” and scoria is “vulkanicheskij (voulcanic) shlak”.

    • The slag I’ve seen is similar to melted glass. It would have little or no R-value (same as stone or glass). You could use it for rubble trenches and filling lower courses of bags. Crushed material about 1/2″-3/4″ is best in bags. Large pieces tend to cut the bags. You could mix the slag with clay for building upper walls. Make sample bags to determine the best ratio of slag/clay. It’s best to build a small tool shed to test the process and develop skills.

    • In most cases, yes. You may not need a rubble trench if your soil is very rocky or well drained sandy soil, especially in non-freezing climates. Talk to stone wall builders in your area. Dig a trench about 12-18″ deep and start your gravel-filled bags in the trench. Provide drainage under the wall so you don’t create a dam. Curve or zigzag the walls, or add buttresses as necessary for stability. You can use regular soil-filled earthbags once you’re above the height where moisture could damage the wall (about 12-18″ above grade).

  3. I definitely think that you’ve done a good job with this website it looks really good and you have a ton of great information as well, I know I found what I was searching for anyway. Just thought I would take the time to comment, again keep up the great work

  4. Hi Owen,

    We’d like to do an earthbag security wall around our school property in Haiti. How high can we build it if we use sound buttressing techniques?

    • Good techniques include building curved designs, pinning, stepping the bags into the hillside, and using materials that hold up well in moisture (gravel, rubble, stabilized sandy soil). Allow for moisture to drain through weep holes in the wall.

  5. Owen,

    Thanks for your response. Would appreciate any suggestions on materials/procedures to use to protect the bags from UV rays.

    Thanks

    • Keeping walls tarped is the easiest way to protect bags. Some designs enable the roof to be constructed first. Apply plaster as soon as possible on exterior walls. Also, you can buy bags with enhanced UV protection.

  6. Great website! I like the look of the privacy walls above and wondering if earthbag construction could work as retaining walls? Our house is on a sloping site and we’d like to make terraces for planting fruit trees, vegetable garden, etc. Would rather not use poured concrete or concrete retaining wall blocks for a few reasons, including the cost and the difficulty getting materials down to the back yard. Would be a lot easier to carry empty bags down there! The heights of the retaining walls may vary, but estimate somewhere between 3′ and 5′.

    Would welcome any ideas or suggestions.

    Thank you

    • Yes, earthbags will make strong retaining walls if they are protected from UV rays. Sunlight breaks down the bags fairly quickly, otherwise they are very durable.

      You’ll want to step the bags back at an angle (versus making plumb walls), and add drains throughout so excess water can’t build up behind the wall.

      The living walls blog entry may be the best option. This system allows for drainage and uses plants to protect the bags.
      http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/living-walls/

  7. Hello Owen, I´m writing from Argentina. We are trying to design a privacy wall to enclose a whole neighbourhood. The place is an arid area, and the soil is mainly rocky. Can we use just that material to fill the bags (it´s a matter of economy, of course), or could that lessen the strength of the wall.

    I´ll appreciate any suggestions regarding this matter.

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    Martin Griffiths.

    • You can fill the bags with rocky soil. It’s helpful to have some clay in the mixture to act as a binder, but it’s not essential if you add buttresses or curves. Add in some benches and jogs (turns) and don’t build too high. You could pound some rebar down through the bags where the wall seems shaky.

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