Adobe is one of the oldest building materials still currently in use. While it might seem like something you’ll only encounter in historical landmarks, adobe has come back into popularity for new construction, particularly in the American Southwest and other areas with similar climates. It’s also become popular with homeowners and builders seeking both a low-cost and environmentally friendly material that will stand the test of time as well as protect against the extremes of desert climates.
What Is Adobe?
Adobe is a substance that forms out of sun-dried mud. Imagine working with pottery clay but on a much larger scale: builders mold adobe into the desired shapes and then harden them with heat. The color can vary depending on the location of the dirt and clay used to make the bricks, but adobe is known for its reddish-brown color.
How Do You Build With Adobe?
We build with Adobe similarly to how our ancestors used it as long ago as the 9th century B.C. Modern adobe construction usually uses artificial heat to dry and set the bricks rather than wait for the sun to dry it naturally. This obviously speeds up construction and makes the process more efficient. Some builders also add additional substances to the mix in order to strengthen bricks. Pre-made Adobe bricks are also easy to buy if you want to build something yourself.
The Basic Process for Building With Adobe is
Create a mixture of clay, sand, and water and mold it into wooden frames.
Once the bricks are dry and ready, you can start building walls by stacking the bricks side by side and sealing them together with mortar or mud.
Leave empty spaces for doors and windows and use additional wooden supports if needed.
Add a roof in your choice of style or material—commonly thatched roofs are made of timber and terra cotta tile.
To protect the walls, apply a coat of mud plaster, cement stucco, or another type of seal.
As a building material, adobe has some significant benefits. One thing that makes it popular with contemporary builders is that it’s made with easily renewable resources ad therefore eco-friendly. Because it’s made of dirt and water, you can usually source it locally rather than pay for it to be transported from far away. It’s very easy to build with, which gives you the freedom to DIY and also keeps your labor costs down. Adobe walls are thick, which gives them high thermal mass. This means they can easily trap and absorb heat without letting it transfer indoors. An adobe structure can help keep you cool during the day and warm at night—not to mention keep your utility costs low.
Building with Adobe comes with the unique benefit of partaking in a tradition that predates our modern civilizations. Even though it has a long history, it’s still popular in many areas today, and a viable option if you’re looking to build a home in a desert climate.