This much I know, mud brick building is quite addictive. It can also be quite cheap, as most materials are virtually free. Using mud brick to build our house seemed a choice more in keeping with our rural location, I felt that this way we would leave behind less rubbish when we are gone.
From the start we were determined to use only local labour, but mud brick is not a familiar technique round here, luckily we found someone who was teaching an adobe workshop about three hours away from us and we took four of the local guys with us for three days. We learned how to make the right mix mortar, lay the bricks, set windows and doors, and were given some pointers about finishing plasters. The day after the end of the workshop we started work.
There were a number of delays and difficulties, but in a few months the house was kind of ready, we moved in last November and we are slowly taking care of a few details as and when we have time. The house is very comfortable and there is a level of satisfaction in having built it ourselves, the thermal properties of thick mud walls are very useful in this climate, they keep most of the heat out in the hot season and in the winter nights they give off some heat so inside it is never that cold.
The uneven surfaces look and feel very natural and with experience we are learning to be a bit more creative, our second mud house is ready to be painted and should be in use by Christmas. The new house looks better than our first, there are a few more details in the walls and we have used the flexible nature of the materials to build a more natural shape with less corners. Here are a few pictures of our house, they’re not the best…..
A few tips we learned on the job.
There’s no need for all the bricks to be perfect, bricks that crack can be used where all that matters is their mass, but it’s good to have some nice strong bricks to use when setting doors and windows or for making archways.
No two soils are the same, a process of trial and error is best to determine what is the right ratio of clay and sand, we also use rice husks in the mix.
It’s very helpful to let the soil,sand and water mix rest overnight, we ended up with a shallow pit where we could mix enough materials for one day’s work, approx 200 bricks, making sure that we had time to fill it with the mix again as the last job of the day.
When making mortar for plastering, letting the mix rest overnight and makes it easier to eliminate lumps, this is important as lumps in the mix make plastering more time consuming.
If a particular spot needs very thick plastering, rounding the inside of a corner for example, or a particular feature, it’s better to lay the plaster gradually over a few days, we have found that using chicken wire also helps avoiding cracks in the plaster, or barbed wire.