The Hardscaper Blog:

Rammed Earth Walls: What You Need to Know Before Installing

Storyrock Rammed Earth neighborhood sign walls in Arizona

Although evidence of Rammed Earth Walls has been found in archaeology as old as the 9th millennium BC, this construction style has seen a great, recent revival within luxury architecture. The name is now becoming mainstream in both the design and architecture industries. If you’ve seen photos of these beautiful walls, you know there’s something visually unique about them, but what about their construction makes them so hard to come by, and what should you know before choosing to install them?

What is Rammed Earth?

Without doing much research, you probably have a general understanding of what goes into Rammed Earth. In sum, it’s the process of taking a dirt-like aggregate mixture, and “ramming” it, or compressing it into the shape of its forms. In the past, this would have been done manually with a wooden pole, but today, we use a pneumatic rammer. The result is a wall with the beauty of sedimentary sandstone.

The mix is comprised of different sized aggregates all the way down to a bit of cement. If you were to hold some of the mix in your hand, you could squeeze it and have it hold together and then crumble it between your fingers again. Unlike concrete, Rammed Earth is, well, earth. Due to this texture, the construction process is very different from concrete and requires expert installers.

SIREWALL® Rammed Earth

Storyrock Rammed Earth wall in Arizona
Rammed Earth Wall at Private Residence in Arizona

SIREWALL® stands for, Structural Insulated Rammed Earth walls. This company has been refining its high-performance system for over 28 years. The experts behind SIREWALL® created a product with a high thermal mass to keep your home well insulated and a precise soil blend that will last you several lifetimes. Additionally, these walls require little to no maintenance. Due to the premium quality of SIREWALL®’s patented system, we at Colorado Hardscapes have chosen to team up with them to produce the most beautiful walls in Colorado.

Rammed Earth VS Sedimentary Walls

Though similar aesthetically, Sedimentary Walls and Rammed Earth Walls have very different construction processes.

Since Sedimentary Walls achieve their layers with concrete, the most difficult part of the construction is having a few different concrete trucks at the same site. Continuing, since the walls are made of concrete, they can have more vivid and customizable colors.

Outdoor walkway next to sedimentary wall with different colored concrete
Sedimentary Wall at Conservatory Green

In contrast, Rammed Earth Walls need a large space for a batch plant to create the mixtures and store material during the entire construction process. Moreover, the spectrum of colors for Rammed Earth walls is limited to natural pallets. One of the biggest benefits of Rammed Earth besides its beauty is its eco-friendliness. All aggregates for the mix are sourced locally and leave little to no waste. Based on that factor alone, we’ve seen a large spark of interest.

Rammed Earth Walls can easily cost double a Sedimentary Wall based on labor alone. If you are concerned about budget, there are ways to make sedimentary walls look similar to Rammed Earth. We would be more than happy to problem solve with you to find the best option for your project.

If Anything, Read This

Many try to create rammed earth, and while it may look beautiful initially, as soon as it experiences a little bit of weathering, it starts to break down. To get a wall without any bugholes, consistency in the forms, and a strong PSI, you need an installer who pays attention to the details. Similar to Sandscape®, the quality doesn’t come from the finish alone, but the steps it takes to get there. Most people don’t have the patience to go through as many steps as it takes, which results in either a poor quality product or them refusing to erect Rammed Earth Walls at all.

Storyrock Rammed Earth wall in Arizona
Storyrock in Scottsdale, AZ

Most people are happy with 500-700 PSI, but “good enough” is not the philosophy we stand by. Instead, we aim for a beautiful product as well as a strong and long-lasting one. With that in mind, our goal is to construct something with a PSI of at least 2500. We have spent a lot of time researching and creating mock-ups in order to find the best gradation for the mix. At Colorado Hardscapes, we know quality control is especially necessary for this type of work. This means having someone on site who knows how to read the dirt, as well as constant form checks.

Want More Info?

If you find yourself interested in Rammed Earth Walls, feel free to reach out. We would love to take you on a tour through our exterior design center. There, we have mock-ups of Rammed Earth walls, Sedimentary walls, Board Form walls, and more. Come talk to our experts so you know the best options for your project. Furthermore, check out our Storyrock project profile for another beautiful example of Rammed Earth. And as always, you can email us at [email protected] or call us at 303 750 8200.