If it building an adobe house isn't a feasible option in your life, why not cover your walls in mud instead? No joke, it's possible, and is a great opportunity to unleash your creativity and artistic skills. Mud covered walls, or rather, earthen plaster, is an earth-friendly and inventive way to bring life to plain, whitewashed walls. Helping to shape spaces with light, shadows and texture, earthen walls certainly bring life to a room. It's no wonder they are also called living walls!
Creating an earthen wall or room is actually quite simple. You could even create earthen accents and decorative art pieces to be mounted on your walls. To get started, you will first need some mud, which is basically clay-like subsoil, sand, fiber and water. Clay is the binder, while sand and fiber limit cracking. In fact, if you would like more of a hard and tough earthen wall - one that can be cleaned easily without rubbing away any plaster - it is better to use a more finer clay soil and sharp quartz sand.
Here's a standard earthen plaster recipe (courtesy of Mother Earth News):
One part clay soil
Three to four parts sand
One-half part fine fiber
Enough water to make the plaster into a consistency slightly wetter than peanut butter.
If you would like to add colored earth pigments, you can do so in the mix or can later paint it over the wall.
For making earthen art, add lime putty or wheat paste to help bind the plaster even more.
Depending on the surface of the wall that you will be covering with mud, applications vary. For very smooth walls, a fine mud works best. (The finer your materials, the finer the plaster). After mixing all of the ingredients in a large bucket or wheelbarrow, sift it with a window screen to remove pebbles, impurities etc. Now you are ready to apply the mud to your wall. You can do it either directly by hand or with a masonry cloth. For those of you with sensitive skin, a masonry towel is highly recommended because plaster can severely dry out your skin.
You probably will not be able to get the wall more than two inches thick before it starts to crack and clump. Let your first application dry, then you can make another coat if needed. If you decide to add more, it is recommended to use a longer fiber to give the mud more to grab onto. Before the mud dries all the way, consider giving it texture with a small stick. Experiment away, as the number of designs you can come up with is infinite. Draw something out on paper ahead of time. Better yet, buy a sheet of drywall and do a practice application first. If you plan to incorporate earthen accessories and artwork, make a separate batch of plaster (remember to add your wheat paste or lime putty) and design away. For example, you can make candle holders or mantles that are blended with and extend directly from the wall.
If you need some help attaching your accessories to the earthen wall, try painting sodium silicate or casein over the plaster first.
Ready to get dirty! We hope so. Making an earthen wall is a very affordable way to bring new life and Mother Nature into your home, and is a creative, fun and easy project to share with a loved one.
Author: Ryan Jones