Picture of Insulated Bamboo Walls

This Instructable describes an innovative way to build walls using bamboo or wood saplings and bags of insulation. We’ll be using bamboo for this Instructable since it is rapidly renewable, low cost and readily available in many parts of the world. Let’s start with some background information to better understand what is involved.

People often wonder how to build interior walls on earthbag and strawbale homes, which are about 18” wide once plastered. These building methods create strong, stable walls that are ideal for exterior walls, but they take up too much space for interior walls. Thinner walls are preferred.

There are numerous ways to build interior walls. The most common method -- wood framed walls -- has numerous drawbacks. Lumber is expensive and, at least in the U.S., is often harvested from unsustainable sources that devastate forests and then shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles. Awareness of this issue is creating a growing demand for more sustainable and lower cost alternatives. (Plus, a lot of the wood being sold nowadays warps and twists badly.)

The following suggestions may not meet building codes where you live. Always check with local building authorities before you begin any building project. There are still quite a few areas with minimal codes, and this article is written for those who are free to build as they please. Join the discussion on Counties with Few or No Building Codes.

Here’s a short list of low cost, sustainable interior wall options:
- wood pallets or recycled wood: they can be filled with straw/clay (straw mixed with a slurry of clay) or other types of insulation for soundproofing
- locally sourced peeled wood poles milled on one side, possibly using a chain saw milling guide or power jointer
- wattle and daub: mud-covered woven branches is one of the oldest building methods known to man. Straw can be added between the branches for soundproofing.
- insulated bamboo walls (the method discussed in this Instructable)

Insulated bamboo wall summary: The general process involves tying or lashing bamboo frames together – one frame for each side. Burlap or poly bags with insulation are sandwiched between the frames and tied together. The finished wall is plastered with earthen plaster or lime plaster. Here's a short YouTube video that shows the main steps.

Primary benefits: Extremely low cost (could be built almost for free if you have a source of bamboo and free or recycled bags); simplicity of construction (only a few tools are required, and the process is simple enough that anyone can do it); soundproofing between walls using rice hulls or other types of insulation in the bags; non-toxic (no offgassing of toxic fumes); finished interior walls match plastered earthbag walls; you can run electrical wiring through the wall and attach electrical boxes to the sides of bamboo poles.

Tools and supplies: Saw, tape measure, level, galvanized wire or baling twine, wire cutter pliers if you use wire, knife if you use baling twine, insulation, polypropylene or burlap bags, 1”-2” diameter bamboo or saplings, deck screws and drill

The photo shows a small prototype.

milesnorth8 months ago

cool, hadn't seen this idea before. Food for thought.

cemyap2 years ago
the limk above changed to the following: http://naturalbuildingblog.com/counties-with-few-or-no-building-codes/
AntonioMDC4 years ago
several random observations:

would plastic bags or shredded plastic be a good filler in bathroom, kitchen, kitchen, and basement walls? not that natural isn't nicer, but it just seems like a reasonable use for any such junk that isn't recyclable. if it wouldn't off gas--I don't know. the bags especially would be light and a good shape.

also rags might be good--though not in a wet area of course. the entire structure rather seems like a quilt so I guess fabric comes to mind. if one happened to have large pieced to reuse, an actual quilt might be a good option for the yurt or other curved walls. piece together two sheets that match your wall's elevation, spread out the insulation on one, cover and then tack them together with stitches or staples. when finished wrap it around the lattice then tie on an external set of poles/slats.

wouldn't this be good for ceilings also?

could you fireproof it enough to not need plaster? burlap and natural twine could be a good look if done as neatly as your picture. or painted. perhaps not right for every room, but an option.

what about building an open plan house, then once it has passed inspection construct these as freestanding room dividers--furniture, not architecture. also a flexible floor plan. ; )

this is very exciting idea I hope some day to be able to use.
Owen Geiger (author)  AntonioMDC4 years ago
You've brought up some interesting possibilities:
- incorporate certain aspects of quilting (sure, why not)
- insulated ceilings (yes, but fire resistance is very important)
- combine aspects of yurt lattice with insulated walls
- build interior walls later after the inspectors are gone

But I wouldn't want much plastic in the house. As far as I know, all plastic offgasses at least a little. You can buy cotton insulation made from recycled jeans, so why not make your own?
What are your thoughts on the safety of domestic -or imported- cotton? How could one know if it was originally sprayed w/pesticide, bleached, etc? Also, what about repurposing clothing that is past its prime and unrecyclable? thanks
habeeba4 years ago
great Idea, I am unable to make out how to anchor the door frame into these walls. Can you guide me
Owen Geiger (author)  habeeba4 years ago
Predrill and screw the rough buck to the bamboo. Then hang the door as usual.
Ben Mighall4 years ago
Hey, is there a way that I can get bamboo in La Crosse, WI?
Also what kind of insulation do you suggest?
Owen Geiger (author)  Ben Mighall4 years ago
It's best to use what is locally available. In your case, you could probably find saplings, lodge poles, 'rippers' (ex: 1"x1" wood strips) from mills, etc.
mrguy191874 years ago
This seems like it would be a great Idea for insulating a permanent or semipermanent Yurt, although one would have to alter the design to allow it to curve. You could probably just make a lattice out of the bamboo in the same way as the yurt's walls are made. Thanks for being an innovator!
Owen Geiger (author)  mrguy191874 years ago
Good idea. Use smaller bamboo and curve it to fit, and/or make it in sections.
pahadeketa4 years ago
Owen, thank you for posting this. We have several upcoming earthbag building works in Nepal and this is exactly what we have been thinking for our inside walls. If I am correct, the best is to have dried bamboo instead of the green one you are showing on the picture. For tying, we will go with bamoo fiber (called Choya in Nepal), that is very strong and stays pretty intact on surface of bamboo that is normally smooth. rice hulls are available aplenty here.

Thank you once again!
Owen Geiger (author)  pahadeketa4 years ago
Good comments, thanks. Keep us posted and take lots of pics.
gserrano7014 years ago
Agree, great.
scoochmaroo4 years ago
Another great one!
Owen Geiger (author)  scoochmaroo4 years ago