American Clay

American Clay is a great company that is reviving a millenia old building technique of applying clay to building walls.

They have a strong local culture and associate themselves strongly with their Santa Fe roots. But to grow as a company they also ship anywhere.

They are very helpful with advice too. Shaylor at American Clay knows a lot and is genuinely there to help.

Clay is a great wall application with all sorts of benefits. For example it is one of the ingredients in backerboard that is used in wet areas like bathrooms. Clay is a natural sealant because the molecules expand when wet and seal themselves. Then when they dry they breathe again.

In terms of clay applications American Clay are the best on the market bar none. But that also has its disadvantages because clay is still in the boutique realm of green building. And that includes the prices.

$50 for a small sack of dirt is expensive. And trucking it all the way from New Mexico is a little silly.

I’m looking into local sources of raw clay to mix myself. After all, the local hardware store has ten brands of concrete mix. It is not rocket science to mix a couple ingredients together. In fact the ratios of how to mix a good clay application should be common knowledge just like concrete mixing ratios are today.

Shaylor says that Ohio has a good kind of clay and I’m looking into that. But I also know NY has a lot of clay. I’ll be doing a test so keep a look out for that. Having clay in the Brooklyn Green Show house is a must. I’d really like if I could find a local raw source for clay and get a good mix going.

For those of us who like to bring back the crafts to building that is the way to go. Build It Forward baby!

Of course if you want it off the shelf in New York you can buy American Clay at Bettencourt Green Building Supplies. Ask for Michael. He knows a lot about the clay and how to apply it. It does take a little getting used to in the application but it is easy if you know how to stucco or work with plaster.

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

2 comments to “American Clay”

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  1. Gennaro Brooks-Church - July 5, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I’ve learned a lot since I posted this. I had a job where the client wanted American Clay. We decided to outsource it to an American Clay certified installer.
    What a nightmare! The installer was good but the clay had major defects. It kept cracking off the sheet rock. The subcontractor lost their shirt, the client was totally pissed.
    I’ve not gone near American Clay ever since.
    It prompted me to research and mix my own clay and I am satisfied with the results.
    Firstly, I don’t think clay should be put on sheet rock. Period.
    But for those Brooklyn brownstone brick walls it is wonderful. I installed it in one place where the bed heads up against the wall. The wall is constantly having heads rub against it, kids bang against it etc and it has held up without any problem.
    The trick was in our mix and application. We mixed in some oil to harden it a little and then really troweled it on with pressure to compact the clay to the right hardness.
    I’m doing a brownstone next month where the ENTIRE interior brick walls will get clay. That is the front, back and each side wall from cellar floor to roof.
    I am using it to control moisture, add beauty and seal the brick for air so that the house can be built to Passive House standards. It is really exciting stuff because it hasn’t been done before and has so many synergies.

  2. John - July 5, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    It is very pretty to look at but impossible to live with. I bought a house with American Clay finish on the walls. These walls are SOFT. The slightest touch leaves a gouge as I found out moving in. And the walls are not washable – a problem if you have kids. Even washable markers are not on this surface. You have to remove a layer of clay to remove a mark and good luck finding a match if you want to patch the clay since the colors fade in the sun.

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