I'm on clay - Can I use for building decorative wall?

The town that I live in is on clay. I was going to put a fence up this summer. When I was in Mexico, they built walls with construction blocks then mortared or plastered over them then painted them.

So I was thinking about building a wall instead of a fence out of the native clay, perhaps mixed with something else to give me a free form, Arizona/Mexico looking wall. Is this possible with our weather?

What do I use as a base?

Adobe has obvious problems in a rainy climate. However, you can make Earth Concrete. Use the native clay instead of sand or fine gravel, and mix it with Portland cement and water (using a ratio that I don’t have handy.)

The article I read about Earth Concrete (probably in an old Mother Earth magazine) spoke of making walks and patios in place. They’d use a rototiller to chop up the soil, then use it again to mix in the cement and water. Then they’d smooth it out with a float, just like a conventional concrete walk.

In your case, you could build a gaggle of block forms and pour the stuff into those. Pull off the form when the stuff begins to set up, just as regular block makers do.

At camp once, I did a little sculpting in clay I had found “wild” by a riverside. It took over a month to dry completely, and that was just for a small piece smaller than my fist. Of course, I kept it indoors during that time, but you won’t have that luxury for a fencewall. So unless your local clay has exceptional drying properties, or Ontario is a lot more arid than I thought, it probably won’t work well.

I think you’d need to dig down to the frost line, about 3 or 4 feet, before you even start, or else the freeze/thaw cycles will crumble your wall in no time. Of course, clay might crumble in no time anyway due to the extremes.

If you don’t want it to end up as ugly as a mud fence…oh wait, it IS a mud fence… anyway, you need to at least cap the top of the adobe, and protect the base from splashing. In arid climes stone or brick can work as a top cap, but it really needs stucco over the whole works, and you have to keep the stucco in good repair. Note, I’m posting this from inside a real (as opposed to just in the style of) adobe building.

How to Build an Adobe Wall

CMC fnord!