Mud Brick Construction

Course CodeASS103
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn Earth Building with Mud Brick (Adobe), Wattle and Daub or Rammed Earth

Earth building is an ancient art, which still has lots of applications in the modern world:
  • It is inexpensive (You can create a building for less than a week's wages!)
  • It is natural, environmentally friendly and looks great
  • You can build garden walls, sheds, cubbies, gazebos, or even entire houses. People have even made paving slabs with mud.

ACS built it's first office from Mud brick in 1982. It was around 5 metres wide and 10 metres long and cost less about two days wages to build -and most of that was spent on buying second hand roofing materials).

This course was developed not long after and we have revised and added to it routinely ever since.
You can enrol and learn from our experience; then apply that knowledge to your own earth building projects: small or large.
 
Mud Brick Construction aims to develop an understanding of how to approach building with mud bricks. Mud brick building is also known by the alternative name 'adobe'. There are other ways of building with mud brick apart from 'adobe'. These will be covered briefly in this course. For the novice, there is not a lot which can go wrong if you choose to build with mud brick.

Why Choose Mud Construction?  

  • For some it is to Save Money for others it may be
  • Self Satisfaction, Aesthetic reasons,
  • Environmental Friendliness or Health benefits.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope of Mud Brick
    • Covers history and types of earth building and construction. Also involves analysis of your soil with respect to suitability for mud bricks.
  2. How to make a Mud Brick
    • You will get to make a mud brick mould; test your soil, classify it, and check it for ability to withstand compression. You will also be expected to assess other soil types and their suitability for mud bricks.
  3. Planning and Site Works
    • Selecting a home site, designing a house to maximise energy efficiency.
    • Introduction to building biology (ie. healthy buildings).
  4. Legal Considerations
    • Permits, specifications etc
  5. Foundations
    • Strip foundations, slabs, earth floors.
  6. Laying Bricks
    • Step by step procedure, strengthening/reinforcing walls, load bearing compared with non load bearing walls, rendering finished surfaces.
  7. Doors, Windows, and Roofs
    • Roofing methods, fixing doors & windows, general fixing, joinery, plugs etc.
  8. Finishes
    • Alternative wall and floor finishes.
  9. Services
    • Electricity, gas, water etc. Designing & costing a small building (eg. store or workshop).
  10. Other types of Earth Building
    • Wattle & daub, rammed earth, cob.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Discuss the nature and scope of Mud Brick construction
  • Identify the legal considerations which need to be met when building in mud.
  • Determine the requirement for foundations for a mud construction.
  • Determine options for building doors, windows and roofs into a mud building
  • Analyze options for coating or finishing the surface of a mud wall or other mud construction.
  • Compare options for providing water, electricity or any other required services in a mud building.
  • Describe a variety of mud construction techniques other than mud brick.

 

EXAMPLES OF WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THIS COURSE

  • Get together a sample of earth which you might like to use to make mud bricks.  This earth might be on a property where you wish to build a mud brick house, or it might be from a friend's property. Collect earth from at least a few inches below the soil.
  • Find different types of soil.  Give your assessment on the suitability of each for making mud bricks. Send a sample of each soil type along with your assessment of it's suitability for making mud bricks
  • Using different types of soil make test mud bricks. One mud brick should be made with each type of soil plus straw. Make another brick out of each type of soil without straw.
  • Visit or contact your local council's building department. Find out from them where you can obtain a copy of `Standard Specifications' from
  • Explain step by step how you would go about putting down a concrete strip foundation for a small single storey mud brick workshop

 

What Type of Soil Do You Need for Mud Bricks?

The best soils for mud bricks would be 'clays', 'clay loams', 'silty clay loams', or 'silty clays'.

Sandy clay loam would require additional clay and or organic matter added (eg. straw) to make an effective brick mixture.

One way of determining the type of soil you are dealing with is to ask someone who knows about soils.

Anyone who has studied soils should be able to tell you what type of soil you have.

You may need to consult someone such as a Soil scientist, Engineer, Surveyor, Irrigation Expert, Horticulturist, Agriculture teacher, Geologist or Mining Engineer. Soil testing laboratories that exist in most large cities, could be useful for getting a more precise and detailed description of a soil: and these are sometimes used as a matter of course by engineers and even builders, in order to understand what is required for a building’s foundation (apart from whether the soil is appropriate for use in making mud bricks). 

Here is a simple way you can go about determining what a particular type of soil is: 

 

  1. Place a small quantity of soil in the palm of your hand and add just enough water to make it plastic.  If it doesn't stain the fingers, doesn't bind together and is gritty to feel, it is a sand.
  2. If it doesn't stain the fingers but can be rolled into a ball which barely adheres together, then it is a loamy sand.
  3. If it forms a more solid ball which can be rolled into a cylinder, but breaks when the cylinder is bent, and if it still feels gritty; it is a sandy loam.
  4. If when the cylinder is bent gently, it doesn't break and if there is no feeling of grittiness, silkiness or
  5. stickiness; then it is a loam.
  6. If it is similar to a loam but there is a silky feeling, and if it cannot be polished by rubbing; then it is a silty loam.
  7. If the silky feeling is very strong, but otherwise it is like a silty loam, it is a silt.
  8. If it is like a loam, but is sticky and can be polished, it is a clay loam.
  9. If it shows the characteristics of a clay loam, but when squeezed, also has a gritty feeling, it is a sandy clay loam.
  10. If instead of being gritty, it is silky but otherwise like a clay loam, it's a silty clay loam.
  11. If the characteristic of stickiness is stronger than anything else, then it is a clay.
  12. Organic soils are ones which have a large proportion of organic matter (25% or more). These are usually black or brown in colour and feel silky. It is possible to get organic types of all of the above soils.

 

 

Why Mud Construction?

There are several major attractions associated with earth buildings:

 

Cost Savings

Earth building can be a very cheap way of building. This is not necessarily always the case however.  If you become too ambitious in your plans and design a building full of cathedral ceilings and stained glass, you are likely to find that any savings you might make by using mud are offset in the added expense of these features).

 

Self Satisfaction

Earth building can be so very simple that (with adobe at least) a beginner can attempt and successfully build his own home. The self satisfaction to be obtained from building your own home should not be underrated.

 

Aesthetics

Earth buildings have an appearance which is very unique. Many people build out of mud simply because they like the look of it.

 

ECO Friendliness

Earth is a natural material that can create a more environmentally friendly building. If done properly it can place less demand on planetary resources than other types of construction both in the actual building and in the running costs (eg. You are not chopping down trees to build, or burning fuel to create bricks. Thick earth walls are great for insulation, reducing heating and cooling costs).

 

Human Health

If done properly an earth building can be constructed with less use of toxins. You may not need pesticides to control termites. You may not need so many plastics, adhesives and other building materials that emit toxins into the air. An earth building can however be dusty if not constructed properly; and that can lead to problems with dust mites, allergies etc.

When it comes to making an earth building people friendly, you do need to pay attention to how things are constructed. Just because it’s an earth building does not mean it is automatically going to be a healthier place for you to live in.

 

More from ACS