How to build a Pueblo Indian mud house

Updated April 17, 2017

Pueblo Indians used adobe bricks to build with after the Spanish introduced the brick mould to the Americas. Mix clay, sand, water and straw into a viscous mud to make the adobe bricks. Mud is used as mortar to hold these bricks in place during construction, and the entire structure is covered in a layer of mud inside and out. Adobe does not weather well in wet climates and was only used in arid parts of the world.

Make an adobe mould from a cardboard box. Locate a box with dimensions around 380 by 255 mm (15 by 10 inches). Measure up 100 mm (4 inches) from the bottom with a tape measure and mark a line all the way around the perimeter at the 100 mm (4 inch) mark. Cut the bottom out of the box on the line.

Mix sand, clay, straw and water together in a wheelbarrow with a shovel or hoe until it becomes a thick, uniform consistency. Lightly dampen the inside of the mould. Pack the mud into the cardboard brick mould by hand.

Turn the mould over and lift it slowly off of the adobe. Lift carefully and allow the suction to relieve itself as you lift the mould off. Allow the adobe brick to dry for 7 to 10 days before building with it. Turn the bricks several times as they dry to help them to dry evenly.

Lay out the footprint of the building with a tape measure. Ensure that the building is square. Mark the corners with a stake and run a string around the perimeter of the footprint to define the walls.

Mix a combination of sand, clay and water in a wheelbarrow with a shovel and hoe. Work the mixture until it reaches a smooth texture. Add enough water to make the mortar sticky but not runny.

Lay three adobe bricks down starting in a corner and following the string line. Lay three more bricks down along the adjacent wall. Butt the corner brick of the second wall into the side of the corner brick of the first wall. Fill in any gaps between the bricks with mortar mud.

Lay another course of bricks on top of the first course. Lay the corner brick of the second wall so that it overlaps the corner brick of the first course. Lay out the other corner bricks and bed them down into the mortar mud on the first course. Build the other corners with this procedure.

Lay bricks down along the wall strings to connect the first course of the corners. Fill in any gaps with mortar mud. Bring the wall height up to that of the corners. Continue adding bricks one course at a time until the walls reach the desired ceiling height.

Place roof support poles across the top of the walls from the front to the back of the building. Roof supports should be heavy enough to support the roof loads and long enough to reach the front and back walls in one piece. Space the support poles about 765 mm (30 inches) apart. Fill in the gaps between the poles with adobe bricks and mortar mud.

Lay smaller diameter sticks perpendicular to the support poles to form a gridlike pattern. Lay grass or straw across the roof grid to close the gaps between the sticks and supports.

Coat the roof with a layer of mortar mud. Trowel the mud on about 12 mm (1/2 inch) thick across the roof from one edge to another. Trowel mud onto the outside and inside of the walls. Leave a layer of mud 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick and smooth it out with a trowel or by hand. Allow the mud to dry fully before painting or decorating the building.

Things You'll Need

  • 380 by 255 mm (15 by 10 inch) cardboard box
  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Water
  • Straw
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel or hoe
  • Tape measure
  • 4 stakes
  • Nylon construction twine
  • Trowel
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