Monday, October 29, 2012

Adobe House

Today we show one of my favorite Indigenous construction methods . . . Adobe Bricks. Adobe bricks are made from mud and are dried in the sun. This was a popular building style in New Mexico. Often times the Adobe walls are up to two feet thick, and so the houses are very well insulated. If you visit New Mexico today, many of the homes have that Adobe Style, but in fact are standard frame houses covered in stucco, made to look like Adobe Homes. I guess Adobe construction techniques are not suited for today's build-em-fast-and-cheap construction methods.


  1. reminds me of the Children of Israel making bricks for the Egyptians.

  2. I have traveled NM quite a bit as well as the other SW states and have always wondered about adobe dwellings. The ones I've seen have been rather small and not really what we, today consider adequate shelter. I don't know where we got that idea. It is also very durable and easily fixed when it does fail AND the materials are all around you, not at the local building center, but right in your back yard.

    I've never had the opportunity to actually live in an adobe dwelling, so maybe I need lessons in comfort or the lack there of.

    MT C

  3. Adobe doesn't do so well here in earthquake country. California missions are one example or 21 examples.

  4. Adobe houses have been romanticized by the "back to mother earth" crowd -- like the people who popularized Sante Fe in recent decades. Adobe is very practical and makes a lot of sense on one level -- but -- my aunt lived south of Albuquerque on a dairy farm. The farm house was adobe. She liked to laugh at the "swells" who bragged about being "back to mother earth." "Just wait until the centipedes come through the wall into the house!"

    Personally, I wish my house walls were three feet thick -- such nice insulation from the heat here in the desert.

    However, here locally, an old house had a water leak in the walls and the adobe became a mud slurry and the wall of the kitchen just melted down -- into the kitchen -- and with old adobe construction there is no framing! Had to jack up the roof and frame in a wall -- etc.

  5. please don't stop posting! I find your photos fascinating and look at them everyday at work. Don't tell the boss-man...

  6. Carpenters DaughterOctober 30, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    That is a piss-poor job he's doing. Won't stand up to the weather.

    1. and then it gets plastered on both sides

  7. I actually was going to post yesterday, but as it was sort of negative didn't.
    Adobe does poorly in earthquake country. You can reinforce with steel post and lintel, but that adds to the cost.
    And insect life, well adapted to living in/on earth, is a problem.
    There's a local museum with adobe/straw construction, it's really neat, but for $/sf it's hard to beat stucco over 2x4's.

  8. I had some experience with adobe building in Afghanistan. The big problem is meeting building codes now a days.

  9. Joints are on top of each other, he didnt use a frame, just poured some water onto the ground and then dug out the resulting slurry now dried.

    Today off grid people use sand bag, made from nylon mesh bags, same as used for floods. bags are dirt cheap. Use a home made barrel stand to fill them, tuck under the ends, lay them in a stagger position, with two rows of 4 point barb wire between rows to anchor them from sliding. When done they cover them with mud applied by hand over metal chicken wire for grip to keep the plastic bag from breaking down by UV light. They are excellent solar mass, need some heat to warm them in winter. A home 20 feet by 30 feet would take about 2500 bags. Build muscles for sure.

  10. I, too, prefer stucco as a building material because, being a concrete derivative, it is strong and relatively light. It it possible to place insulation between the chicken wire and over the ceiling. The wood needs to be treated for bugs and termites, but it sure does last through rain storms and is impervious to weathering with a little paint.

  11. What's the longevity of an adobe building? I.e., what are the oldest common examples in the country still in use?

  12. In the early 1960's adobe was not allowed as a structural part of a building in Arizona. Found this out while a friend had a 8 inch thick adobe facade placed on the front of his home. Adobe does not have the structural strength or resistance to weather that is required. Agree or disagree this was a building code in Yuma, Arizona 50 years ago. To me Adobe was beautiful and had I stayed in the South West I would have used it extensively. Saw plenty of old adobe homes in Mexico, they were mostly falling down and eroded.


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