Rammed earth (pise de terre) is an ancient building technique that uses heavily reinforced wooden forms to construct massive earthen walls. Parts of the Great Wall of China, thousands of years old, were constructed using this system. Though an extremely labor intensive method of construction, the end result can be a beautifully layered and multi-hued wall that can endure well over a lifetime.
Personally, if I was given the choice of owning and living in any home of my choosing, it would be rammed earth. These modern earthen structures are not only solidly constructed, but their thick walls are energy efficient. Some people are surprised when I say this, believing that I would choose to live in an adobe home.
Though adobe homes are beautiful in their own right, the massive nature of rammed earth walls impart a unique feeling of strength and security that other building choices cannot measure up to.
But rammed earth, like adobe, is susceptible to water damage and needs to be protected the same as adobe. One of the issues with rammed earth is “shedding,” discussed below and shown in the pictures above.
My professional interest in rammed earth homes is not from a restoration perspective; I cannot remember a single instance when I worked on a rammed earth structure due to the walls suffering from any type of deterioration. This is not to suggest that rammed earth walls do not deteriorate, and the same enemy of adobe is the same for rammed earth: water.
I have applied a water repellent to the interior walls of two rammed earth homes. One of these homes where this was done was on a home that was under construction. The walls were up, but the roof had not yet been installed. As explained below, one of the problems with rammed earth walls is their issue with shedding: small particles of dirt sloughing off from the walls.
Rammed earth walls “shed” if they are not properly treated with a specialty product designed to halt this process. The small pebbles, rocks and other granular matter that make up these walls will, over time and even as soon as the forms are stripped from the constructing of the walls, detach from the walls and land on the exterior ground, concrete, or inside of the home.
This shedding can become a problem for rammed earth homeowners; the small particles continually falling from the walls can wreak havoc on expensive flooring, particularly wood floors if the rammed earth particles are unintentionally ground underfoot.
To solve this problem, Adobe Masters uses a product from the “Silox” family of water repellents designed just for this issue, called “Silox Anti-Dust.” Please follow this link for additional information on this product: “Silox Anti-Dust.”
Applied correctly on the interior rammed earth walls, this will solve 95%-98% of the shedding problem, saving you labor from constantly having to vacuum and sweep up the grains of sand and also potentially saving your expensive flooring from being permanently damaged.
The “Silox Anti-Dust” is also easy to apply, particularly if your walls have recently gone up and no windows or doors have been installed. Here is a video of one piece of equipment we use to apply it, which is the same equipment we use when applying the Silox Adobe Water Repellent to customer’s exterior adobe walls:
This is what I did to both of the houses mentioned above. On the one house that was still under construction and did not yet have the roof, windows or doors installed, this was a relatively simple process. I came to the job site with my spray equipment and was able to complete the entire job in one day. There was no need for any elaborate and time consuming masking needed to protect windows and flooring, so this was considered a “dream job.”
The other rammed earth house was on the opposite end of the scale. It had already been completed, the owners were moved in, and they hired me to solve the problem of the annoying and damaging shedding of their walls. Unlike the other house, virtually everything in the interior needed to be protected and required extensive masking…not your definition of a “dream job” by any stretch of the imagination.
Rammed earth homes will have this shedding problem unless the walls are treated in some fashion. If the home has carpeting, this shedding, though annoying, is not nearly as damaging to the carpet as it is to wood flooring, as explained above.
Rammed earth homeowners, in seeking to solve this problem, use a variety of products in their search of a solution. As we know, the Internet offers a plethora of remedies, with some being better than others. One has to be careful what method they ultimately choose because some of the remedies will cause the walls to be considerably darkened and appear grungy and dirty looking.
The Silox “Anti-Dust” formulation will not alter the color of the interior rammed earth walls, depending on what strength of the Silox you wish to use. It comes in at least two formulations, and each of them has their strengths and weaknesses.
The two formulations are either a 10% or 5% acrylic solids. The 10% will offer a better binding up of the dirt particles, but this will also leave a slight sheen on your walls.
Call Roy Spears at (520) 331-4004 or email him at:
firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering and product information.