Adobe Homes


My friend and I were discussing building adobe home in areas where adobe would not normally be used, Like here in North Carolina. We are aware of its shortcomings for doing this but was trying to come up with practical ways of overcoming them. Basically it gets down to are their ways to make adobe hold up in wet climates short of mixing concrete and calling it adobe.
Jimmie
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On 3/4/2010 9:30 AM JIMMIE spake thus:

Big subject. Interesting one, too. I flirted awhile with adobes back in my 20s in Arizona, which of course is much more amenable to that kind of construction.
Couple of things:
Adobe should be possible to build almost anywhere, even in places like NC. The key, no matter where you build, is a good roof to shed water away from the walls. If you do that, adobes can last centuries. (If you don't, they can melt away faster than a snow fort.)
One thing adobe isn't particularly well suited for is anything over one story in height.
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One of the things we were considering was applying stucco to protect it. Are there any additives besides Portland cement that would make it more weather resistant.
Jimmie
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It may not be an acceptable building practice, design method or construction material in your state so you should look into it and research this and see if anyone has ever proposed building a habitable adobe structure in North Carolina...
If they have, that is great for you, as you will have some sort of standard or precedence to follow which applies to any Adobe structures in North Carolina... If not, you might face an lengthy uphill battle with the state building code people where you would have to provide suitable engineering studies at your own costs by structural engineers licensed to practice in North Carolina proving that such building materials and methods are safe and suitable for use in your state...
At the very least if there are not clearly defined standards for using your desired materials or building methods you would be seeking to build an "experimental structure" which would require jumping through extra hoops... Until a new or previously unused construction material or design method in your jurisdiction is approved by those in authority you are looking at what is considered an "experimental" test case scenario which usually implies extra inspections and added costs...
~~ Evan
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JIMMIE wrote:

I wonder what people use on the straw bale houses. Maybe the same stuff would help on the adobe buildings.
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The straw house are usually sheathed with siding like a conventional house. That has been given consideration too.
Jimmie
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On 3/5/2010 3:38 AM Dean Hoffman spake thus:

Straw bale construction, while also very interesting, is a different concept from adobe, at least thermally speaking. Straw acts as an insulator. Adobe, on the other hand, is not a very good insulator, contrary to popular conception; it's actually better at storing heat than keeping it in or out. So an adobe building acts like a giant thermal flywheel, storing heat at night and keeping the inside warmer, while keeping the inside cooler during the day during hot weather, or keeping the inside warmer than it normally would be during winter. In that sense, it's the ideal building material for any climate, hot or cold.
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Yeah. My concrete block veneered with granite house stores heat and cold like a bitch. I have to keep the humidity low in the winter to prevent water from condensing on the inside of the perimeter walls. In the summer, I have to run the central air day and night. If I try to let the house warm up a little during the day while I'm at work, it takes hours to get it cool again. Cindy Hamilton
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Cindy:
What sort of interior wall construction or insulation do you have on the inside of your concrete block exterior walls ???
Also, have you looked into using a programmable thermostat which you could use to activate the air conditioning in the early afternoon before you come home -- then you would only have that problem of taking hours to cool off when you come home early for whatever reason...
~~ Evan
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1948-vintage drywall, skim-coated with plaster. Affixed to the block with furring strips. No insulation.
Yes, I could take that down and fur out the walls with 2x4 or 2x6, thus destroying the cove ceiling in my living room. Not gonna do it.

I have a programmable thermostat. It's useful in the heating season.
I'd have to start cooling around lunchtime to get it cooled down by the time I come home from work. Hardly seems worthwhile, plus I usually come home for lunch, so I'd have to start cooling around the time I leave for work. In effect, just what I do now.
Frankly, I could save a ton of money by murdering my asthmatic husband, so that I could keep the windows open on mild nights. But that just doesn't seem like a good idea in the long run. He earns a whale of a lot more than we spend on electricity. Plus, I like him.
Cindy Hamilton
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Cindy Hamilton wrote: (snip)

Chortle. Cindy, please never leave this group! -- aem sends...
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Someone should teach her about insurance. ;-)
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On 3/4/2010 11:30 AM, JIMMIE wrote:

Whether adobe brick or rammed earth the structural walls could be covered with a waterproof membrane like house wrap to keep moisture out but allow vapor to escape. The house wrap could be covered with any sort of material you care for. I've seen an acrylic stucco finish that could easily be made to look like adobe. With modern materials and a little imagination just about any traditional building can be duplicated without sacrificing the aesthetic qualities of the structure.
You could dig a basement then the use the dirt to build your house. There's got to be lots of green points in a concept like that
LdB
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We are thinking of trying rammed earth bricks, Very large building blocks made of local clay soil and about 10% Portland cement. We also found that the building code does have standards for rammed earth. They require test samples much like concrete. Beer and work permitting we plan to have so samples made in the next couple of weeks, maybe the next couple of days.
Jimmie
Jimmie
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On 3/5/2010 2:02 PM JIMMIE spake thus:

Be sure to let us know how this project progresses. And some of us would love to see pictures too.
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Found out this AM that digging up local soil to make adobe or rammed earth may not be very practical. In this case cutting blocks from the ground would be the best way to make adobe bricks. It seems the soil in my friends backyard is as hard as mine.
Jimmie
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On 3/6/2010 6:40 AM JIMMIE spake thus:

Sounds like you have caliche, no?
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

produced from mostly local ingredients, and is a lot 'greener' than most building materials. You can skim-coat the outside to get whatever look you want, and you won't have to fight/educate the local code officials about it. With modern insulation materials and vapor barriers, it will be as dry and warm inside as any other method of construction, and properly laid and reinforced, it lasts A Real Long Time. People in US scoff, but concrete and clay block are still routinely used for residential construction in many parts of the world, especially those that have used up their cheap trees. I've had visitors from Europe visit a US construction site and ask why we build our houses out of twigs.
Remember, way back when. people used mud brick and straw to build with, because that was all they had. We have better stuff now. 50 years, we may be back to building from bricks of ultra-compressed garbage, and have little Wall-e droids running all over the job sites.
-- aem sends...
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On 3/6/2010 3:19 PM aemeijers spake thus:

Well, we have better stuff now, yes and no. Of course, nobody builds adobes because it's technologically superior, although in many ways it really is.
And one is probably not going to easily get away with building an adobe house anywhere in the urban grid, at least not without a lot of hassle and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, educating building inspection departments about this primitive building material, mollifying suspicious neighbors, etc., etc. It's really a building material for homes in the outlying areas. At least that's where I've seen all the adobes I knew about (mostly in northern Arizona). There are a few exceptions: in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the city authorities are enlightened enough to deal with adobe as just another choice of material.
Where adobe really shines, apart from its esthetic appeal, is in its ability to temper the living space with minimal energy input. In this sense it's really a "green" building material (how I hate that term!) in the truest sense. It takes much less energy overall, apart from human labor primarily (and some fuel to mix mud and transport materials) to build an adobe than practically any other kind of dwelling which uses manufactured materials. It's low-tech and very forgiving; you can literally sculpt your walls using garden tools.
When I was back in my idealistic youth I attended an adobe workshop in northern Arizona, where we got hands-on experience building two houses. One thing we did that would be valuable to anyone interested in this material was to build an horno, a traditional Mexican outdoor bread-baking oven, out of adobe block. It's a small enough project that you can get your hands dirty, experiment, get a feel (literally) for the materials, and see if it's really for you. Plus you'll have a free outdoor adobe oven you can use to cook all kinds of stuff in.
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great idea on the horno, Im thinking wood fired pizza oven
Jimmie
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