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Sandbag House


Earthbag Construction. – Building Bag House Invention – found on @DSinventions Youtube channel. Well worth a look!


Building the sandbag house

Building a sandbag house in arid Southern Africa can be an innovative and sustainable solution to provide shelter. Here’s a step-by-step guide, explained in detail for a 12th grader:

Step 1: Gather Materials To build a sandbag house, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Sandbags: Durable, woven polypropylene sandbags are best.
  • Local Soil: Collect sandy soil from the construction site.
  • Barbed Wire: Used to secure the sandbags together.
  • Wooden Beams: For framing the door and window openings.
  • Roofing Materials: Sheets of corrugated metal or thatch for the roof.
  • Foundation Materials: Cement, gravel, or stones to level the ground.

Step 2: Prepare the Foundation Clear the construction site of any debris and level the ground. Lay a solid foundation by digging shallow trenches around the perimeter. Fill the trenches with cement, gravel, or stones to create a stable base.

Step 3: Fill the Sandbags Fill the sandbags with the sandy soil you collected. It’s crucial to pack the soil tightly to make sturdy sandbags. Avoid overfilling, so the bags are not too heavy to lift and handle.

Step 4: Start Building Lay the first layer of sandbags along the trenches, pressing them firmly into place. Slightly overlap the bags to create a strong bond between them. Use barbed wire between each layer to add stability. This technique is called “staggered” or “running bond.”

Step 5: Stack the Sandbags Continue stacking the sandbags on top of each other, making sure each row is level. As you progress, tamp down the bags gently with a rubber mallet or your hands to create a solid structure.

Step 6: Add Wooden Beams For door and window openings, frame them with wooden beams. Place the beams at the desired height and width of the openings and secure them to the sandbags using nails or screws.

Step 7: Complete the Walls Continue stacking sandbags until you reach the desired height for your walls. Be sure to keep the walls straight and even.

Step 8: Roofing Once the walls are complete, add the roofing materials. If using corrugated metal, secure it to the wooden beams with screws or nails. For a thatch roof, layer the thatch bundles over the wooden beams, securing them with twine.

Step 9: Door and Windows Cut out openings in the sandbag walls for the door and windows. Attach doors and window frames securely to the wooden beams.

Step 10: Finishing Touches To give the walls a smoother appearance, you can apply a layer of plaster or stucco to the exterior. Inside, you may paint the walls or apply a layer of clay or lime for a more finished look.

Step 11: Insulation and Comfort Sandbag houses offer excellent thermal insulation. However, you can enhance it by adding straw bales or clay inside the walls. This will help keep the house cool during the day and warm at night.

Remember, building a sandbag house requires teamwork, and it’s essential to work carefully and patiently. Seek guidance from experienced builders or volunteers who have worked on similar projects. The result will be a unique and environmentally friendly shelter suitable for the arid climate of Southern Africa.

Tips & tricks

Here are some important tips for keeping the sandbags together and guidelines for installing windows, doors, and roofs in a sandbag house:

Tips for Keeping Sandbags Together:

  1. Barbed Wire: Place barbed wire between each layer of sandbags to create a strong bond. This helps prevent the bags from slipping or shifting over time.
  2. Tamping: After stacking each sandbag layer, gently tamp down the bags using a rubber mallet or your hands. This compacts the soil inside the bags and creates a more stable structure.
  3. Moistening the Soil: In arid areas, the soil might be very dry, making it challenging to pack tightly. Moisten the soil slightly to improve its cohesion and make it easier to form sturdy sandbags.
  4. Staggered Bond: Stagger the placement of sandbags in each row, much like how bricks are laid in a wall. This “staggered bond” pattern adds strength and stability to the walls.
  5. Proper Alignment: Ensure the sandbags are properly aligned and leveled with each other. Straight and even walls will result in a more stable structure.

Installing Windows, Doors, and Roofs:

  1. Windows and Doors:
    • Measure and mark the desired locations for windows and doors on the sandbag walls before construction begins.
    • Construct wooden frames for the windows and doors, sized to fit the openings.
    • Once the sandbag walls have reached the appropriate height for the openings, place the wooden frames in position and secure them to the sandbags using nails or screws.
    • Make sure the frames are level and plumb for smooth operation of windows and doors.
  2. Roofs:
    • For a corrugated metal roof, place wooden beams across the top of the sandbag walls and secure them with nails or screws.
    • Lay corrugated metal sheets over the wooden beams, overlapping each sheet to prevent leaks. Fasten the metal sheets to the beams using screws with rubber washers to seal the holes.
    • For a thatch roof, create a wooden frame with rafters and secure it to the top of the sandbag walls.
    • Layer thatch bundles over the rafters, tying them down with twine for stability.
  3. Additional Roof Tips:
    • Overhangs: Consider adding roof overhangs to protect the walls from rainwater runoff and prevent erosion of the sandbags.
    • Gutter System: Install gutters along the roof’s edges to collect rainwater and direct it away from the foundation.

Remember that while sandbag construction is relatively simple, it requires careful attention to detail and proper execution. Seek guidance from experienced builders or consult instructional resources to ensure a safe and durable sandbag house. Also, be mindful of local building codes and regulations when constructing a sandbag house in your area.

Example of a sandbag house in Cape Town

Here is an example of Sandbag houses being built in Cape Town using a clay plaster. Well worth reading the article where we found these fotos.

Sandbag house being built in Cape Town – These images are copyright @ Heart Capital which we could not find the source for. If you’re Heart Capital please be in touch :). We’d like to learn and get official permission to use these images 🙂
A finished house with a clay plaster – These images are copyright @ Heart Capital which we could not find the source for. If you’re Heart Capital please be in touch :). We’d like to learn and get official permission to use these images 🙂

Sandbag Building in Namibia

Did you know that Gondwana’s latest lodgesThe Desert Grace and Etosha King Nehale, were built using this unique environmentally-friendly construction method. The main buildings were built with sandbags that were filled on site. The natural building material has excellent sound and thermal insulation qualities.

Gondwana’s Etosha King Nehale Lodge Reception built with Sandbags

Videos worth watching:

Here’s a great video on how to build a house from sandbags or bags with mud from India.

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