Saturday, March 1, 2008

The magic of mud

There could be perfectly earthy reasons for going the mud way in building houses, Renu Ramanath finds out. Love it or hate it, mud has endured through the centuries across the globe.

CHIC-LOOK: Houses constructed out of plain earth are favoured by some.

Barely a decade ago, the mere reference to a house made of plain earth would have raised quite a few brows in Kerala. "But, only poor people live in mud huts," would have been the stock response.

But times have changed. Mud is becoming hip. Chic houses constructed out of plain earth have started appearing amidst the concrete jungles sprouting all over Kerala, marking the quest for a new aesthetical experience. At least a small, but growing group of enthusiastic architects and homeowners are voting in favour of mud as a medium.

Their reasons are many, but all have something in common - a growing concern about the depleting natural resources and an urge to live in a house that remains as close to nature as possible.


Providing inspiration was the legendary Laurie Baker who at first had started talking of using mud for building houses. Though Mr. Baker himself did not build too many mud structures, his ideas inspired many young architects.

Building with mud is nothing new. "Almost 50 per cent of the people all over the world live in houses made out of mud," says architect Eugene Pandala, who has played a major role in popularising the concept of mud construction.

Half the world's population - that means approximately three billion people in six continents - live or work in buildings constructed of earth.

Mud as a medium

In Kerala, mud was the major construction material till the beginning of 20th Century. Even today, it is the most accessible material for a large section of society. Tile factories and brick kilns began to dot Kerala's landscape much later. Even the tenets of the age-old Thachu Sastra, followed by the traditional carpenters of Kerala, held that any `burnt' material was unsuitable for building human dwellings. Many ancient houses that still remain majestically upright have walls made of mud. "The agraharams in the East Fort area in Thiruvananthapuram have mud walls," says Mr. Eugene.

Mud as a medium of construction began to fascinate Mr. Eugene during his student days in New Delhi. The works of the Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy, who had authored the book, `Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt,' had greatly attracted him.

Traditional technology
The traditional technology of mud construction was also a big inspiration. And in 1996, he constructed his first mud house in Kollam.

Mr. Eugene is not alone in pursuing this muddy path. Srinivasan, of Vasthukam, in Thrissur and Sunilkumar, based at Nedumangad near Thiruvananthapuram are young architects enamoured of the splendour and strength of mud.

And the Habitat Technology Group, a Thiruvananthpuram-based NGO that is involved with housing and founded by G. Sankar, has a four-storied office built of mud bricks. Habitat has been working on mud construction for the past 15 years.


Mr. Eugene uses the cob technique, one of the many techniques of mud construction. Cobs, or globs of mud are used to craft the walls manually.

"Thiruvananthapuram district has a number of traditional workers who specialise in the local cob construction," says Mr. Sunilkumar. He had made use of the local know-how for constructing a house and hospital for M.R. Vijayan, an Ayurveda physician at Nedumangad in 1997.

"The traditional workers have a way with mud. They also have their own trade secrets in handling mud. People think that they do not know of any other construction method other than that of mud. But it is not true," says Mr. Sunilkumar.

The cob technique is one of the oldest methods of mud construction. Another common mud technique is that of adobe, or mud bricks. `Adobe' is the Arabic word brought by Spaniards to the Americas, where it became a part English vocabulary. It is the basic mud brick, made of a mixture of earth and water using moulds of metal or timber.

After moulding, it is allowed to dry in the open air, without direct sunlight. The earth should be made up of 80 per cent sand and 20 per cent clay. Too much of clay causes adobe to crack.

Setting example

The reluctance of people to adopt mud houses prompted Mr. Sreenivasan to build a house for himself, as an example. His new mud-home at Mulakunnathukavu near Thrissur, named `Anpu,' is an embodiment of Mr. Sreenivasan's ideas of mud construction.

He had also built a house of mud for Sreeja and Narayanan, a couple actively involved in theatre, at Arangottukara.

Mr. Sreenivasan uses the rammed earth technique in which the soil is rammed into wooden frames. This technique helps produce straight-lined walls while the cob technique helps to create flowing forms. If you want to have a sculptural home with the most unique shape, then this is your technique.

Mr. Eugene who prefers the cob technique says, "I do not prefer geometrical shapes." True, his buildings have flowing, curvaceous shapes that you will not find anywhere else.

The `wattle and daub' technique, though not commonly used in Kerala, is really suitable for earthquake prone areas. Habitat has been using this method for building thin walls in the quake-prone north-eastern States. Here, mud is spread over frames made of bamboo or reeds. This method is traditionally used by many tribal groups.


Mud construction is really cost-effective, but it depends on the finish you want to give. While the material cost is drastically low, labour cost increases proportionately. This is a labour intensive mode unless you opt for self-construction, which is rather unknown in India. But in the West where people are not averse to physical labour, most owners who prefer to build their own homes choose mud.

"Common people often build houses with mud and timber at about Rs.10,000 to Rs.25,000 using their own labour," says Mr. Sunilkumar. "They only have to buy the roof tiles." Mr. Eugene vows that the cost could be cut down to almost 40 percent of conventional construction. "All cost for bricks, riversand and cement could be done away with and the cost will further fall if you use the local earth, preferably from the site itself."

Mr. Sreenivasan says that his own house cost only about Rs.430 per sq. feet. However, he has been lavish with the interiors, abundantly using granite and wood. The mud walls, made with adobe, cob or wattle and daub methods, are given a plastering of mud. A rough texture of mud plastering is the most commonly used.

Smooth finish

Mr. Sreenivasan specialises in giving the walls a mirror-smooth finish. The walls, as smooth as a polished floor, need no painting. Fine soil is used for giving this velvety finish. There are different types of roofing for these mud structures.

While Mr. Sreenivasan uses the conventional concrete roofing with the bottom layer made of tiles, Mr. Eugene uses more varied methods. He prefers to have lighter roofs that will not be a burden for the walls. He also uses the ferro cement technique and the rib and skin roof.

Building with mud could be a great way to conserve natural resources. And if applied judiciously and imaginatively, it could also help you avoid burning a hole in your pocket.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Wall and floor sealers

Sealer for unstuccoed interior adobe walls.

1 part white glue such as Elmers
3 to 4 parts water

This prevents dusting, yet the wall can still breath and if it gets wet, the surface dries without leaving water marks. Must be applied to a complete wall at one time. If you stop in the middle and let it dry, there may be a line where you started up again. Apply with a wide brush and work into the joints as you go. This does darken the color of the wall about 10%; however, it also evens out the color between the mortar and the adobe block.

Paint the bond beam, if it is exposed, after the glue coat, so that the colors match. I used Behr Plus 10 Solid Color Stain, # 326 taupe, but this will vary depending on the color of your adobes. I like this stain, which is really a dilute acrylic, because it cleans up with water and soaks in, leaving a thin surface color coat which blends in well next to the adobe.

Finished arch and brick floor

Sealer for brick floors laid in sand
Hillyard CO341Hillyard36 S. 40th PlacePhoenix, AZ USATel: 1-520-884-7372
This is a commercial acrylic sealer. It's relatively expensive, but I recommend it for several reasons:

  1. It sets up the sand between the bricks, so that you can use a vacuum sweeper without sucking up the sand.

  2. It drys to a matte finish which wears well, doesn't need waxing and cleans easily for most spills. Our floors are four years old and I've never waxed or resealed them.

  3. It doesn't darken the bricks.

  4. It cleans up with water and is simple to apply.

The first coat uses a lot more per square foot than the second coat. How much partly depends on how porous your bricks are. We applied this on our hands and knees to get the most efficient coverage.

The bricks tend to chew up sponges and the like. I found some lamb's wool painter's mitts at Home Depot and cut them up into squares. Their texture is like the thick paint rollers. They held a lot of sealer and didn't wear down too fast. Cotton rags will also work.

At the edges of our floors, where the sand joints were wider, we squeezed sealer onto the joints without touching them on the first coat. This set up the sand, and on the second coat, we could go over them directly.

For our workrooms and garages we used cement pavers set in sand. These were much cheaper than brick, faster to lay and don't have to be sealed. I prefer brick and pavers to a cement slab, because if anything goes wrong, it's easy remove a section of the floor, fix the pipe or whatever and put the floor back down.

Sealer for unstuccoed exterior adobe walls

1 part boiled linseed oil
3 parts paint thinner

Our visiting Australian friend, Frank Faulkner, told me that they paint exterior mud brick walls in Australia with linseed oil. We have two walls which are exposed to driving rains during the summer. I've been painting them with dilute linseed oil every two years and it's solved the leaks.
The wall can still breath, so there isn't a problem with water getting behind the coating and causing the surface to spall off. A number of sealers which work on brick, cement stucco or burnt adobe, will cause spalling after a few years on unfired adobe surfaces.

The oil darkens the surface a lot, but it fades back to its normal color over a month or so. Neither of our walls can be seen, so it doesn't matter to us.

I've also read about a product called Bondcrete in the Australian books. I brought a tin home from Sydney, but haven't tried it. It sounds as if it's used as a dilute solution. Anyone with information? March 1998: Bondcrete is okay for interior walls with no water seepage, but not for exterior walls. It has the same problems with spalling off as other sealers.

The least experienced man on an adobe crew usually gets the job of mixing the mortar, including the asphalt. We had a 4-man crew and our 3 best men stayed the whole job, but the Number 4 guys came and went, and they were never as good. The first one didn't get the asphalt mixed in well and with the first heavy rain, I noticed little slumps in the mortar joints in a lot of places. After that, we kept telling whoever was mixing to do it thoroughly, but without complete success.

In a few places, I've had to go back and patch the mortar once the holes got big enough. I wedge small stones into the joints along with the mortar, like they do in Mexico, to help hold it in place and reduce shrink cracks when it dries.

If you don't stucco your exterior walls or protect them with a wide overhang, you may get spalling on any interior plaster from moisture wicking through the mortar joints. This can happen on any single masonry wall, including brick and burnt adobe. We left both our exterior and interior walls unstuccoed. If you do stucco, a plaster that can breath is better on an adobe wall. In Mexico, they use a soft lime

Stain for exterior wood that gets a lot of direct sun - good for large shed and garage doors

1 part linseed oil
2 parts used motor oil
1 part oil-based stain, redwood makes a good color blend

Earth Construction Housing

Which building material ...

1. Absorbs and desorbs humidity faster, and to a higher extent, than any other?

2. Produces hardly any environmental pollution and can be recycled any number of times?

3. Balances indoor climate and moisture thus creating an extremely healthy environment in which to live?

The answer is EARTH.

In nearly all hot-dry and moderate climates of the world earth has been the predominant building material. Earth construction techniques have been known for more than nine thousand years and, even today, one-third of mankind lives in earth houses.

ADOBEOne example of effective, time-tested earth construction in the Americas is ADOBE

Adobe is a term widely used in the southwestern United States and Spanish speaking countries. Although the word is often used to describe an architectural style, adobe is actually a building material which uses bricks made of tightly compacted earth, clay and straw.

Construction methods and the composition of the adobe will vary according to climate and local customs. Sometimes an asphalt emulsion is added to help waterproof the adobe bricks. A mixture of Portland cement and lime may also be added, but these materials will add to the cost. In parts of Latin America, fermented cactus juice is used for waterproofing.

Want more details? Here's a inside view of an adobe house: RIM JOURNAL: House made of mud
RAMMED EARTHRaw earth is commonly acknowledged as the world's most widely used building material. Throughout recorded history artisans and village builders have used it to create durable housing. Today, earth building is in resurgence, but modern applications demand higher standards and greater care in construction than in the past. Stanford-educated inventor, author, teacher, and builder David Easton is the preeminent advocate for building with earth. Rammed Earth Works has developed important new technologies for building with natural earth. From award winning homes and wineries in California to community projects in developing countries, David Easton and Rammed Earth Works have proven how functional, appropriate, and attractive earth structures can be.

ADDITIONAL EARTH TECHNIQUESThe Green Homebuilding website provides good overview of a wide variety of earth-building techniques including the following:

Adobe is one of the oldest building materials in use. It is basically just dirt that has been moistened with water, sometimes with chopped straw or other fibers added for strength, and then allowed to dry in the desired shape.

Cob is a very old method of building with earth and straw or other fibers. It is quite similar to adobe in that the basic mix of clay and sand is the same, but it usually has a higher percentage of long straw fibers mixed in.

Rammed Earth:
Ramming earth to create walls is at least as old as the Great Wall of China. It is really quite similar to adobe and cob techniques, in that the soil is mostly clay and sand. The difference is that the material is compressed or tamped into place.

Cast Earth:
Instead of making individual adobe blocks for building, or intensively ramming earth into forms little by little, you just pour the plastic earthen material into a form and have it set up very quickly.

Building with earthbags (sometimes called sandbags) is both old and new. Sandbags have long been used, particularly by the military for creating strong, protective barriers, or for flood control. The same reasons that make them useful for building homes.

There are two major categories of building with strawbales: load-bearing and non-load bearing. A post and beam framework that supports the basic structure of the building, with the bales of straw used as infill, is the most common non-load bearing approach.

Cordwood construction utilizes short, round pieces of wood, similar to what would normally be considered firewood. Recent experiments with the use of cob instead of cement mortar to join the logs have been encouraging and this method may provide a somewhat more ecological approach to cordwood building.

Bamboo is one of the most amazingly versatile and sustainable building materials available. One tricky aspect to the use of bamboo is in the joinery; since its strength comes from its integral structure, it cannot be joined with many of the traditional techniques used with wood.

The basic earthship design incorporates substantially bermed, passive solar architecture. The primary retaining walls are constructed with used tires, filled with earth and stacked up like bricks.

Papercrete: Papercrete is a fairly new ingredient in the natural building world. It is basically re-pulped paper fiber with portland cement or clay and/or other dirt added. Papercrete has been used as a plaster over straw bales, and it has worked out well.

Lightweight Concrete:
Lightweight concrete may be made by using lightweight aggregates, or by the use of foaming agents, such as aluminum powder, which generates gas while the concrete is still plastic. Natural lightweight aggregates include pumice, scoria, volcanic cinders, tuff, and diatomite.

Building with rock dates back to the beginning of human history. Many cultures have left durable evidence of their fine craftsmanship with stone masonry.

PSP stands for Post/Shoring/Polyethylene. The framework of the building is created with posts that are preserved in various ways and planted in the earth. These posts serve to support both the walls and the ceiling. The space between the posts is planked with used dimensional lumber, such as from wood pallets.

In a sense, virtually all buildings are hybrids of one sort or another. Most modern buildings employ a wide range of materials, some "natural" some not. Some books that tell us more about building with this earth -- and people -- friendly building material:

Earth Construction Handbook:
The Building Material Earth in Modern Architecture by Gernot Minke
Buildings of Earth and Straw: Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture by Bruce King

The Natural Plaster Book : Earth, Lime, and Gypsum Plasters for Natural Homes (Natural Building Series) by Cedar Rose Guelberth
Earthbag Building : The Tools, Tricks and Techniques (Natural Building Series) by Kaki Hunter
Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls by Nigel Dunnett

Earth Plasters and Aliz - Carol Crews

Plastering inside and/or outside walls of buildings made with alternative materials has become both science and art. Carol Crews offers some of her tips from personal experience:
Basics of plastering the wall with mud.

Clay is essential for stickiness. Do a shake test by placing your sifted earth in a jar of water with salt added and shaking it thoroughly. When it settles, the clay will be the top layer, the silt is in the middle, and the heavier particles of sand will have sunk to the bottom. Plaster dirt should be at least 20% clay. Even at this percentage, you may wish to add manure or flour paste to make it stickier.

When plastering straw bales, I find it easiest to first spread a thin layer of mud with a high clay content and no additional sand or straw on the bales, to lock into the straw and provide a surface upon which the next layer can adhere. If you use this technique on tight bales, you can avoid using stucco netting. Even when chicken wire or lath are used, the smooth mud will penetrate the metal and leave no air spaces to cause future cracks. You don't have to wait for this to dry before applying the thicker layer of plaster with straw added.

On rough cob or adobe and for the next layer on straw bales, I like to use a plaster with high clay content and lots of straw mixed to a slippery, easily spreadable consistency. This can be applied with the hands to a dampened wall and is very good for filling in depressions. (It gets rid of your own depression too because it feels so good to sling that mud around.) The condition of your walls and how much shaping they need will determine whether to use long straw, chopped straw or a combination. The thicker the layer needs to be, the more long straw it should have. Don't trowel this layer down smooth, but get it as flat as you can with your hands and let it dry out thoroughly. It will make lots of little cracks and provide a perfect surface for the next layer to adhere to.

Always try out an earth plaster you are not familiar with by making a test patch of several square feet. Clays differ in their shrinkage rates and if it cracks too much, you need to add sand and more straw. I've seen some plasters dry into the sort of cracks you find on the bottom of a dry lake bed, and fall off the wall. This happens more often to a trowelled surface because there is less surface area to release moisture than if it's left rough.
For more information: Network Earth

How to Texture Walls With Drywall Mud

Walls textured with drywall mud can add beauty to your home. Buy special texturing tools or use a broom, dry brush or round brush from an old vacuum cleaner. Armed with the right tools and the these steps, you can do it yourself.

Step 1:
Repair obvious flaws in the wall, such as wide cracks or nail heads that have popped out.

Step 2:
Buy a dry bag of drywall mud and mix according to the instructions, or buy a premixed container. Drywall mud is also known as joint compound.

Step 3:
Paint can be added to drywall mud, but the water used to mix it must be reduced. Don't add paint if you are texturing a ceiling because the paint takes longer to dry and could cause a thick texture to fall off.

Step 4:
Buy the large container of drywall mud if you are going to add paint and add enough paint to do the whole project. It would be difficult to match the shade exactly if you only mix a small batch.

Step 5:
Mix the drywall mud thoroughly using a long handled paddle or stick.

Step 6:
Practice the texture design you have chosen on a leftover piece of drywall until you are comfortable with it.

Step 7:
Apply the drywall mud to a small area of the wall at a time, and complete a section completely before moving to another area.

Step 8:
Let the textured wall dry completely before painting, if you have not added the paint to the compound.

Step 9:
Clean the tools promptly with warm soapy water.

Working your walls with earth plaster: play in the mud with earth building expert Mollie CurryMollie Curry

If you think smearing mud all over your living room walls is either an act of insanity or vandalism, think again! Without having to build a straw bale house or a mud hut, you can experience the beauties and benefits of earthen (clay-based) plasters by doing a bit of eco-remodeling in the house you live in right now. You can totally change the personality of a room that is tired or sterile with a coat of mud on the walls.

Many colors are possible, mostly in muted hues. Earthen plasters, with their slight--or major if you choose--variations in surface texture, reflectivity, and color bring a sense of life to a room or a whole house. They lend a handmade feel, often in a classic Old World sense. Some finishes look almost like leather or marble, but there is a lot of room for creativity. You can smooth and round corners and transform boring flat sheetrock by adding a bit of sensuous undulation or trowel or hand marks. Most people feel more comfortable in rooms that have some variation in wall surface, shape, texture, and color, perhaps because we humans have been housed for millennia in caves, and houses of wood, stone, mud and thatch--not in flat-planed boxes!

If you want to start with a small project, try accent touches around doorways or windows, over a brick fireplace, or in an alcove. You can even do relief sculptures on the wall, sometimes with the help of simple armature like screws. Mosaic with tile or mirror is another option, as well as a form of high-relief stenciling. With the addition of oil and wax, people have even made sinks and bathtubs out of mud! Plastering the exterior of an existing home is possible in some cases, but has different issues to address than interior work.


Clay-based plasters represent less environmental cost than cement or gypsum-based products because they are not heated to high temperatures, which take a huge amount of energy, with its resulting pollution and greenhouse gasses. They are not as resistant to impacts or abrasion as the other common stucco/plaster options, but with reasonable forethought about where to apply them, as well as attention to proper mixing and application, they should do fine in many situations.
Unless certain pigments are added for color, earthen plasters (and paints) are very low on the toxicity scale--they are the original "no VOC" (volatile organic compound) wall coatings. Iron oxides and ochres are the safest pigments. Do be careful not to breathe the dust of clay or sand (or anything) while mixing, as this can result in serious lung problems.


Earthen plasters can get wet on occasion, but repeated driving rains, constant wetness, or excessive humidity are likely to result in some degree of damage. Luckily, clay-based plasters are easier to fix than concrete stuccos. What about our famously humid climate? It's all about choosing where to put your plasters. They do best in places that receive light and air circulation, not in dark, damp places that already grow mildew. However, because of clay's ability to molecularly absorb water without getting wet (to a point, of course), then to let it evaporate easily when drier air wafts past, earthen plasters with the right ingredients can be surprisingly resistant to mold. Some museums have even earth-plastered their walls to help moderate swings in humidity, which can damage valuable works of art.
Mold doesn't actually grow on clay or sand, but the "organic matter" ingredients of plaster could feed it. However, experience has shown that it has to be a pretty bad situation for a mold problem to develop (little sun or air circulation). Clay has been found to protect straw used as insulation in Tudor-style timber frames in Germany for hundreds of years. Hydrated lime-based plasters (which can also have clay in them) are even more mold-resistant due to their alkalinity. Unlike garden lime, hydrated lime (builder's lime) is heated to a high temperature (similar to cement) to change its molecular structure. If treated correctly, it slowly turns back to limestone as it cures on your wall.


Plasters are usually made up of three main components: binder, aggregate, and fiber. In this case, clay is the binder, sand is the aggregate, and straw or manure from grass-eating animals serves as the fiber (the manure completely loses its odor when dry). There are also many potential additives that improve the workability, durability, or water-resistance of the finished product. I have found that ingredients that are sticky when wet generally become hard when dry, thus adding to the durability of this relatively "soft" coating. Some common additives include milk products, wheat paste (like old-fashioned wallpaper paste), oil, paper pulp, and cactus juice where lots of prickly pear cacti grow. Borax has sometimes been added to retard mold, especially in earthen paint, which is sometimes done over a plaster or "regular" wall for color or other decorative effect.

People hate to hear this, but there is literally millions of plaster "recipes." I once heard two of the most experienced earthen plasterers in the Southwest state that they had never made the same mix twice. So it's best to approach it with the attitude that it is all a big experiment, as is all of life! Of course, basic knowledge goes a long way in mixing up something that will work well. And it is good to remember that lots of things will work well--many ways exist to "do it right." There are no "mess ups," just interesting lessons to learn from. Always make test patches; it is just part of the process.


The plaster has to be able to grip the wall well enough so that it doesn't fall off. The thicker the coat, the heavier it is and the more likely not to stick. There are several potential solutions to this. Apply a primer coat of masonry adhesive or wheat paste with sand added, glue or staple up burlap, install stucco mesh, reed matting or jute, or rough up a smooth texture all present good possibilities. You may not need to modify the surface at all--do some large test patches and see how well they stick.

Plasters can he applied with hands or trowels, and are sometimes smoothed with trowels or sponges or wooden floats. Sometimes plasters are burnished or polished with a trowel or piece of plastic when they are partially dry to make them really smooth. It doesn't take most people long to get the hang of the basics, but it is definitely hard work if you are going to be doing a large area. Of course, having someone with experience to teach you the techniques (and help out!) is ideal.
If you don't want to try mixing your own, look into the ready-mixed earthen plasters that you could trowel on yourself or hire an experienced person to apply. You can also buy clay and fine sand from a ceramics supply company instead of digging it up yourself. If you want to make your own plasters from the soil instead of from a bag--and I highly recommend it for the fun and connectedness and pride you will feel--do some further reading and/or take a class. I, for one, am so happy to see the beautiful clay of this area grace more and more buildings--it's local, it's fun, and it works!



American Clay Finishes. Earth plaster from clays and minerals found in the US. 866-403-1634.

Pure Life. AFM sealers, adhesives and coatings. Atlanta GA. 800-510-8342.

Shelter Ecology. AFM sealers, adhesives and coatings. Asheville NC. 828-225-2829.

Med Imports. Distributor of Terramed earthen plasters from Europe. 866-363-6334.

Highwater Clays. Source of clays and fine sand in large quantities. 828-252-6033.

Earthaven Learning Center. This educational organization based at Earthaven EcoVillage offers a variety of natural building courses, including earthen plasters and paints. Other topics are offered as well. 828-664-9935.

Kleiwerks. Offers local as well as international natural building classes, many of them "start to finish," with a focus on adobe.
Cob Cottage Company. Started by Ianto Evans, Welsh cob revivalist. Located in Oregon. They mostly host classes on the West coast


The Natural Plaster Book by Cedar Rose Guelberth and Dan Chiras, 2003, New Society Publishers. This book mostly focuses on plastering strawbale buildings, but goes into plenty of detail about how to make your own earthen plasters from your local subsoil. It also covers hydrated-lime based plasters and gypsum plasters and other natural finishes.

The Hand-Sculpted House by Ianto Evans, Michael Smith, and Linda Smiley, 2002, Chelsea Green Publishers Mainly about building cob homes, lots of good basic information about plasters and other natural finishes is included. A refreshingly radical approach to the building process is presented.

The Cob Builders Handbook by Becky Bee. 1997. Groundworks. Simply and inspirationally written about how to build a cob house, including earth plasters and other natural finishes.

The Last Straw. This periodical covers all kinds of natural building. It is very informative--not a slick publication. Some back issues focus on plaster. Ph: 402-483-5135.

The Natural Home. A slick publication available on newsstands. Good for ideas, but does not include "how-to."


Peter Bane has written a variety of books on permaculture. Visit him at
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