Rammed earth is an ancient technique for building walls that has been used for centuries, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions around the world. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in interest in this technique, particularly for sustainable and environmentally-friendly building projects.
One of the unique features of rammed earth construction is the use of natural materials, primarily soil, and other aggregates, to form the walls. Unlike other building techniques that rely on manufactured materials like concrete or bricks, rammed earth is more in tune with nature and the surrounding environment.
Another advantage of rammed earth construction is that it can be a low-cost, sustainable alternative to other building techniques. By using materials that are readily available in or around the site, rammed earth structures can be constructed with minimal transportation and material costs.
Additionally, rammed earth walls have excellent thermal mass, which helps to regulate the temperature inside the building and reduces the need for additional heating or cooling.
But what about the finishings of rammed earth walls? For our Hive earth rammed earth walls we add an admix to every wall we construct. The admix protects the walls from weathering and erosion. As well as our ad mix we also add a sealant to give it that extra level of protection. So if you wanted to have the rammed earth walls in their natural state, there will be no long-term damage.
While some people may prefer the raw, natural look of rammed earth, others may want to add a finishing layer to improve the aesthetics of the walls. Here are some common rammed earth finishing techniques:
Textured or smooth rammed earth walls
When we construct our rammed earth walls, depending on the client's specifications we can achieve either smooth or textured walls.
Textured rammed earth walls have a rough appearance where you can see the details of the aggregates in the walls. These walls tend to not go through a sieving process.
Smooth rammed earth walls give a more fine sandy texture to them and tend to go through a sieving process. There isn't any difference in compressive strength for either wall. However, the disadvantage of smooth rammed earth walls is that if your mix is not right then it's more prone to cracking as compared to a textured rammed earth wall.
2. Clay Plaster
Clay plaster is a popular choice for finishing rammed-earth walls. It is a natural, breathable material that is easy to apply and can be used to create a range of textures and finishes. Clay plaster is made by mixing clay, sand, and straw together with water to form a paste that can be applied to the walls using a trowel. Once dry, the plaster can be sanded and painted to create a smooth, polished finish.
3. Lime Wash
Limewash is another popular finishing technique for rammed earth walls. It is a simple way to add color and texture to the walls while still allowing the natural beauty of the rammed earth to shine through. Limewash is made by mixing hydrated lime with water and applying it to the walls using a brush or spray. Once dry, the lime wash creates a soft, matte finish that can be left as is or waxed to add shine.
4. Earthen Render
Earthen render is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw that can be used to create a textured, organic finish on rammed earth walls. The render is applied in multiple layers, with each layer being allowed to dry before the next is applied. Once the final layer is dry, the wall can be sanded and painted to create a smooth finish.
Tyrolean is a popular finishing technique for rammed earth walls in areas with high rainfall or humidity. It is a more durable option than clay plaster or lime wash and can help to protect the walls from moisture damage. Tyrolean is made by mixing cement, sand, and water together to form a paste that can be applied to the walls using a trowel.
6. Natural Stone or Tile
For a more dramatic, eye-catching look, some people choose to add natural stone or tile to their rammed earth walls. This technique can be particularly effective for feature walls or areas of the building that are intended to stand out. The stone or tile is attached to the wall using mortar or another adhesive, creating a stunning, layered effect.
7. White lime plaster
White Lime plaster can be used as a finish on rammed earth walls to provide a smooth, clean appearance and to protect the rammed earth from weathering and erosion.
Lime plaster is a suitable finish for rammed earth walls because it is breathable and allows moisture to evaporate, which is important for the long-term durability of the rammed earth. The lime plaster also provides a protective layer that helps to prevent moisture from penetrating the rammed earth.
When applying lime plaster to rammed earth walls, it is important to ensure that the surface is clean, dry, and free of any loose debris or dust. The lime plaster is typically applied in several layers, with each layer allowed to dry before the next layer is applied. The final layer can be burnished or polished to create a smooth, glossy finish.
Overall, white lime plaster can be a good choice for finishing rammed earth walls, as it provides both aesthetic and protective benefits while maintaining the breathability and durability of the rammed earth itself.
In conclusion, rammed earth walls offer a range of finishing options, from natural and raw to modern and sophisticated. Whether you're looking for an eco-friendly option, a durable finish, or something that can be customized to match your personal style, rammed earth walls are an excellent choice. With its natural beauty and sustainability, rammed earth is quickly becoming a popular choice for building projects around the world, and the versatility of its finishing options makes it a great choice for those looking to create a unique and personalized space. So, if you're looking to build a home that is beautiful, sustainable, and uniquely yours, consider rammed earth as your building material of choice.
Download our step by step guide to build a
rammed earth wall.