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Adobe Brick Building And Energy Efficiency

Updated on January 17, 2016

Adobe Building

One of the oldest forms of shelter created by humans is the Straw Brick or Adobe building. Adobe buildings have provided shelter for centuries and are know to exist in the Middle East since 700BC and earlier. Adobe is one of the strongest and most durable materials for home building.

In the U.S. the Pueblo Indians built complex structures out of adobe brick. The wall of an adobe structure are thick and act as theramal insulation and supply heat at night as well as keep the home cooler in the summer.

The weight of the structure makes it highly stable and not as subject to damage from the environment. The only thing that is essential is that it is not exposed to water for long periods of time.Standing in water will cause the brick to weaken and disentegrate. Additives such as Portland cement and liquid asphalt added to the material for the bricks helps protect the brick from this kind of damage.

You Can Build An Adobe Shelter

Building an Adobe home is possible for the average person with a little research. If you search online you will find a wealth of information on the "How To" of building an adobe home. Anything from how to make the bricks to how to design the right home for your needs is available with a little time and effort.

It is first essential to know how to properly make the bricks and every batch of bricks should be put to a number of tests before building begins. This will insure that what you build will withstand the years and keep you and your family safe and comfortable.

There are a number of options when looking to build a "Green Home". Adobe is one of the choices also Rammed Earth, Earth Bag, Earth Sheltered and Straw Built homes are environmentally friendly and energy efficient.


A good design is the next most important thing. You will want your home to comfortably accommodate your family and at the same time be structurally sound.

Zoning for you area building requirements must be cleared with your local government.

It is essential that your home have good drainage and runnoff and that the base is never left with accumulated water standing. Roofing with a good overhang can protect your home from potential damage from storms and heavy continuous rain. Adding Portland Cement to your mixture will also prevent this problem and make your brick more durable.

It Starts With The Right Recipe

The bricks you make must pass a number of tests to assure strength and durability. First you need a good recipe.

Brick Recipe

Total Preparation time to finished product

about 1 month.


  • one 5 gal bucket
  • one mixing tool
  • 1/2 bucket filled with clay
  • 1/4 bucket sand
  • 1/8 bucket straw cut into 3" pieces
  • water enough to make a dough like consistency, not as thin as pancake batter but not as thick as cookie dough; somewhere in the middle is ideal.

Brick mold: can be made of wood or use 1/2 gal cartons from milk or juice with 1 side cut away and taped with waterproof tape to prevent leaking. These will take a little longer drying time. Wood molds can be made from 2"x6"x12ft beams, with 12" cross beam. Good size for bricks is 4"x12"x22".

Spray water in mold to moisten sides. Fill 2/3 full, Fill each individual mold with mixed and tested material. Allow to dry till the bricks hold their form and then remove from molds and lay out in open sunny area on tarp to dry or drying rack. Turn bricks regularly till uniform in color. Drying will take about a month more or less according to time of year and amount of daily sun.

Good Brick Tests

 Test for soil mixture: fill quart jar 2/3 full soil, 1 tsp salt, & remaining water. Shake till well mixed. Let settle for 1hour. Clay will be top layer next will be silt then sand, the bottom will be small pebbles. Clay should equal 20%, 10% silt, 60% sand 10% small pebbles.

Test for durabiity: after 2-3 weeks drying time brick should show cracks no longer than 3".  Longer cracks indicate too much clay in mixture.

Pocket Knife Test (drying): insert pocket knife into the brick. If knife sinks in more than 1/8" the bricks need more drying.

Once a good mixture is established a few 5 gal buckets for reserve patch material should be put aside and saved. Patch should be same material as bricks for best results.

Experienced helper

This information is in no way complete instructions for building an adobe structure. You will want to do thorough research and might want to find someone familiar with this Type of building to assist you or give advise.

It is important before you do anything be sure that the zoning in your area will allow the adobe Brick structure you are planning.


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    • slock62 profile image

      slock62 3 years ago from Florida

      Thank You for your comment. I have removed the section about the safety of this type of building regarding it's safety in an earthquake. I am not an expert on earthquakes and the damage they cause but I think it would be safe to say that there are few structures that could hope to withstand the force of the one you mentioned or any earthquake. I don't wish to mislead anyone and have therefore corrected my statement. This article is meant only to point out an alternative and green method of building your own home

    • profile image

      Paisano 5 years ago

      The following statement does not appear to be borne out by recent empirical experience: "Adobe buildings are one of the safest structures in an earthquake." Of the large number of residences seriously damaged or destroyed during the last serious earthquake in Chile, about two-thirds were built of adobe. Adobe structures in this country are considered so susceptible to serious earthquake damage (including roof collapse) that they are uninsurable in this country.