My Earthbag Building Guide covers all the basics of building with bags. In addition to the basic techniques, here are a few more small suggestions that didn’t make it into the book. I say small, but little improvements like these can save a lot of work over the course of building a home.
– Cover the piles of soil to retain moisture and/or prevent getting soaked in heavy rain. This step can cut the time spent mixing and filling buckets in half. Tarping the piles has additional advantages: prevents dogs and kids from scattering the soil; prevents cats from using the pile as a litter box (eew!); keeps leaves out. If the tarps are large enough, they can be pulled over a makeshift frame so the bucket filler can work in the shade and/or out of the rain. (Oh yeah, thank you Owen.)
– Filling buckets: Place the bucket at the base of the pile and use a digging tool (grape hoe, etc.) to pull the soil into the bucket. Done correctly, the soil falls into the bucket with minimal effort. This takes far less effort than shoveling, because you’re dealing with moist, clayey/aggregate soil.
– Filling bags: Don’t pick up the bucket until you’re sure the other person holding the bag is ready.
– Filling bags: Quickly dump or ‘shoot’ the bucket of soil into the bag versus gradually pouring it in. Not only does this speed the process, it means you don’t have to hold a bucket of heavy soil as long. (Multiply the savings of several seconds per bucket times thousands and it adds up.)
– Filling bags: After dumping the soil into the bag, place the empty bucket in the direction of the pile to save steps. You might want to stack the buckets so you can more easily carry them back to the pile.
– Check each others work as you go to prevent errors or break the work flow: Are the necessary tools in position for the next bag? Are you maintaining a running bond? Are the filled bags all the same height? Is the correct number of buckets filled and stacked nearby? (Prevents losing count.) Are the buckets uniformly filled? Is the soil the right moisture content?
– If the worker who’s filling buckets gets ahead of the other worker(s), they can clean up/condense the pile while waiting.
– If the worker who’s filling and placing bags gets ahead of the other worker(s), they can pin the corners of some bags, etc.
– Don’t build too close to trees or you might have problems with tree roots. Tree roots can bust up concrete (and anything else), so be sure they’re not running under your earthbag walls.