How to Make Compressed Earth Bricks

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Much of the world's population live and work in buildings constructed from compressed earth bricks, or blocks (CEB). The use of natural, local materials keeps the cost down. The earth used is generally subsoil, leaving the topsoil intact for agricultural purposes. Generally, soil that resists erosion is a good choice for the building material. Compressed earth bricks are entirely natural and are excellent thermal insulators, reducing heating and cooling costs. Making your own compressed earth bricks can be completed with materials that are readily available.

Things You'll Need

  • 3/8-inch wire mesh
  • Compressed earth brick press
  • Clay soil
  • Sand
  • Lime
  • Water
  • Trough
  • Shovel
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Sift the soil through a 3/8-inch wire mesh to remove larger rocks and debris.

  • Combine a mixture comprising of 65 percent clay, 30 percent sand and 5 percent lime in a large trough with a shovel. Blend the ingredients thoroughly with water until it is just workable, not too watery and not dry and crumbly.

  • Fill a brick press with the mixture and compact the soil, following the brick press manufacturer's directions. Remove the brick from the press and set it aside to cure. Repeat the process until you have obtained the desired amount of earth bricks.

  • Cover freshly made bricks with plastic sheeting to keep moisture in, allowing the brick to slowly dry. Let the bricks to cure for two weeks to completely dry and strengthen the blocks. They are now ready to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • All items necessary for your project are available at home improvement centers and online.
  • A compressed earth brick is 14 inches long, 4 inches thick, 10 inches wide and weighs approximately 40 pounds.
  • Lime is added to the soil and sand to give added strength. Portland cement may be used as a substitute for the lime.
  • Compressed earth bricks, or blocks, are stronger than concrete mason's blocks. They are thicker and heavier. Once the earth blocks have been put in place, the walls may be 16-inches thick, depending on whether plaster has been applied to the bricks.
  • Plaster-coated earth bricks may be colored with a lime-based finish that is not toxic and does not fade.
  • There are many reasons for choosing compressed earth brick when building a structure. These structures are not only pleasing to look at, but they are fire and pest resistant, virtually soundproof, cost effective, energy efficient, non-toxic, durable, environmentally friendly, can be made on site and reduce reliance on forest-based materials.
  • Blocks containing too much clay may crack.

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References

  • Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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