10/3/23: Updated with link.
Our 2014 “meditation building” has yet to be finished. We need at least 10′ untreated poles for the reciprocal roof and I could not find any in Kingman. Visitors used the structure for tents or as a gym occasionally. Would make a great sweatlodge too.
We’ve been building with adobe since 2007. Started with an oven after visiting Pueblo (Taos):
We saw many ovens in various stages of construction, decay, and repair and a very helpful guide explained how to make adobe.
Next, I built my 5′ x 24′ adobe seedling addition on the south side of the house. Unfortunately, I couldn’t build any wider because of zoning setback restrictions and we didn’t purchase the neighbor lot until late 2013.
Living without A/C or swamp coolers, I so appreciate the passive cooling in summer and keeping the house much warmer in winter. On sunny cold days, I often open the kitchen window to the addition and run a few USB fans to blow in the hot air.
Our (future) adobe chicken house:
Our adobe structures are small because we were limited by Mohave County’s max. 120 sqft for unpermitted structures. Several years ago it was increased to 300 sqft and I recently bought a couple more acres for a demonstration site about a mile from my place by a well-maintained road. Would love to document for our County officials as well as residents how energy-efficient these structures are.
Of course, adobe and cob erode sooner or later unless fortified and we added Portland cement to the cob on the rubble foundations and the first few layers of bricks.
What we really need is a lasting FINISH coat and a way to get cob to stick to conventional materials such as plywood or OSB:
The SOLID adobe walls do very well, but I couldn’t put the heavy bricks over the windows without installing giant headers and therefore used OSB and fiberglass insulation. But cob won’t stick to wood very long, no matter what.
Finally, in Feb. 2019 I tried Portland enhanced cob over chickenwire and stucco corner metal on the top and so far and despite major rains since last summer, it held up. There’s supposed to be a regular cob coat covering it, but I haven’t had time. And it made for an interesting test.
I was very poor when I built this addition in 2007 out of mostly recycled materials and if I ever have to redo the roof, it will be redesigned to drain better. It gets all the water from the main building and I had planned on an arbor to support an overhead drainage run to a ditch about 10 ft from the addition since this is the major access to the orchard garden. Now I have a large grate and I’m thinking I should just extend the ditch a bit and regrade around the addition so the water drains into the ditch. Another project. And it should be combined with building an adjacent summer retreat for Rocket the piglet.
I recently saw this article about LIME being the “secret” ingredient that made Roman concrete far more durable than our modern concrete.
How has ancient Roman cement stood the test of time so well? Scientists finally have an answer after 2,000 years!
From China to India to Central America and Europe, lime “concrete” was enhanced with various local materials. What worked it what we see today.
“They know the region, they know the soil condition, they know the climate,” Selvaraj said. “So they engineer a material according to this.”
Apparently, I hadn’t searched for lime in a while as there’s so much great info now:
All About Adobe – Sustainable and Energy Efficient
… Adobe’s strength and resilience vary with its water content: too much water weakens the brick. Today’s adobe is sometimes made with an asphalt emulsion added to help with waterproofing properties. A mixture of Portland cement and lime may also be added. In parts of Latin America, fermented cactus juice is used for waterproofing. …”
Sadly, most of our prickly pear cacti died during the 2020 – 22 drought.
LIME STABILIZED CONSTRUCTION: A Manual and Practical Guide
Slaking Lime for Restoration and Conservation of Historical Buildings and Materials, Criticism of an Arabic Historical Manuscript
A paper on industrial lime slaking:
And here is a great post on DYI lime slaking:
WARNING ABOUT S-TYPE LIME
Folks in the US are often pointed towards S-type hydrated lime. This is not what you want! It’s in the dolomitic lime category, usually made by the cement industry and an inferior product. It’s more liable to crack too.
Of course, that’s what’s been sitting in my garage for 10+ years.
And here is the $62 Lime course:
And so much free info at https://www.themudhome.com/
Atulya has experience building with lime in Spain, Turkey and England.
I started watching Atulya’s course yesterday and am very impressed by her knowledge and skills.
Atulya explains why you can NOT put lime render, a solid lime/sand coat, over earthen walls. Earth expands and contracts, while lime or stucco doesn’t. A huge problem for hybrid construction, especially in our extreme climate.
However, mixing some lime instead of concrete with bricks or cob should work just as well as Portland to stabilize adobe bricks or cob. Hopefully better!
We were going to work with lime quite a few years ago, but I ended up being afraid of it. I didn’t even realize back then that the Type S lime doesn’t have to be slaked and is almost as bad as Portland. Atulya does a fantastic job explaining how to slake lime safely.
My stucco is cracking on the parapets.
In 2006 I paid $4k to stucco three sides of the main structure before the winter rains, but I never applied a finish coat. The stucco on the top of the parapets has serious cracks. When it’s wet and then freezes, the ice expands in the cracks and it gets rapidly worse.
I tried roofing elastomeric and taped the big cracks on the parapets, but it FAILED.
I’m going to try LIME render. The self-healing properties of lime are so incredibly appealing!
After the parapets, I want to cover all stucco with a lime finish coat. So wish I’d built everything with adobe from the start, but I had no clue back in 2006 when it was still legal to build without inspections.
Mohave County needs to step up and follow other Arizona counties with inspection opt-out provisions:
Record that the property was not inspected for full disclosure to future buyers and require owner occupancy.
Nobody should get dementia from living in moldy old firetraps (mobile homes) and toxic building materials like so many of our neighbors.
Not to mention the coolness of building your ultra-energy-efficient and nontoxic home yourself for a lot less money.
That’s what I call freedom and liberty!
I’ve spent hours searching for quicklime but have found absolutely NO source.
I remember neighbors talking about a lime mine outside Kingman many years ago, but haven’t found it. I would gladly drive a couple of hundred miles for a truckload.
Obviously, I can’t spend tens of thousands of dollars on the lime putty sold on Amazon by the quart.
Will have to do a lot of reading and am so incredibly glad I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Can’t wait for my foot to get better and the rain to stop!