With so many building materials available on the market, you may be wondering what the best choice for your dream home really is. You may not have considered building with mud, but mud bricks trace back to as far as 9000 BC, and are still a popular choice of building material. So what are the pros and cons of building a mud brick house and are they a good choice for a home in Australia? Let’s dig up some dirt and find out.
What exactly is mud brick?
Mud bricks (or adobe) are the world’s oldest manufactured building material going as far back as ancient Egypt and earlier. They’re made from a mixture of water, earth and binding material. Making mud bricks requires mixing quality clay (the quantity and a reliable binding material, which is then placed into a mould and allowed to set. This can take as long as a month for the brick to set. Ideally, bricks should be between To ensure the brick is suitable for building, most councils will require an erosion test on dry bricks to make sure they’re stable.
Due to mud bricks being vulnerable to moisture, manufacturers will often add another ingredient like bitumen to help provide extra protection.
What are the key elements to consider before building a mud brick house?
Is mud brick available in your area?
Any material that isn’t readily available in your immediate area is automatically going to cost you more. This is due to transport and logistic costs. If a material isn’t prevalent where you’re building, it might be worth investigating why. Is the reason simply a lack of demand or is the building material not suitable for your area and especially vulnerable to the conditions?
Remember, aesthetics are important but if they come at the cost of durability and functionality, it may not be worth it in the long run.
How much does a mud brick house cost?
The price of a mud brick building is going to vary depending on numerous factors, but our research indicates the average is around $2800 per square metre. To help put that in perspective, a timber house costs around $1480-1800 per square metre, while a fired clay bricks house is around $2000.
Remember the materials you use to build your house are only some of the factors that will determine how much your house will cost to build.
What does a mud brick house look like?
Mud brick houses do resemble regular brick homes, but have an earthy, natural look that can very aesthetically pleasing when done well. A mud brick house has a distinct character and will help your home stand out.
Mud Brick houses can fetch a high price on the market if you’re ever planning to resell down the line.
Are mud brick homes structurally strong enough to withstand Australian conditions?
There are mud brick buildings around the world that are centuries old, but does that mean it’s got what it takes to handle the often harsh Australian environment? The answer is yes with some additions. Well-made mud bricks are incredibly sturdy when stabilised and tend to perform well even in cyclone and earthquake-prone areas. On the other side, poorly made mud brick homes are vulnerable to moisture damage and decay.
To meet the necessary Australian standards laid out in the National Construction Code, you’ll likely need additional insulation (especially now the new homes are required to meet a 6-star NaTHERs rating).
Does a mud brick home provide sufficient insulation?
While mud bricks do provide a strong thermal mass, like most masonry, they’re notoriously poor for insulation. For both your comfort and to meet the necessary Australian building standards, you’re going to require additional insulation in your mud brick walls and roof. The strong thermal mass will help you reduce heating and cooling costs
Are mud brick homes moisture-resistant?
When well-constructed mud brick homes provide a strong structure, however, they’ll need extra support in order to be moisture resistant. This can include having deep eaves for your roofing, having a strong drainage system and minimising your walls to heavy water impact.
Do mud brick homes provide good sound insulation?
Soundproofing is an area where any masonry material tends to excel. Mud bricks offer a similar level of sound attenuation as a monolithic masonry structure, which is much higher than other materials. They’re not completely soundproof on their own however, so if you need your home to be soundproof (maybe you want a home studio or live in a particularly noisy area), we’d recommend having additional soundproofing added to your home.
Are mud brick homes fire and pest resistant?
Earth doesn’t burn or catch fire, so mud brick homes are naturally fire-resistant. Your home will need to be tested to ensure it meets fire safety standards, especially if you’re building in a known bushfire zone.
Mudbricks also don’t provide an ideal habitat for a lot of the wildlife, so mud brick houses are also pest resistant. Remember, many animals like mice, rats and cockroaches are incredibly adaptive and can make homes in all sorts of environments. While mud brick is pest resistant, it won’t guarantee your house will be pest-proof.
What are the environmental impacts of mud bricks homes?
Mud bricks are traditionally made with water, dirt and a binding. Therefore their manufacturing usually has a minimal carbon footprint. Buidling with mud bricks can increase the eco-friendliness of your home, however, to truly make your home sustainable, you’ll need to incorporate a few design choices beyond your choice of building material.
Take other steps to make your house sustainable
Making your home eco-friendly is about many smaller decisions that create a sustainable whole. Along with mud bricks, you should incorporate passive design, solar panels and design choices that work with your environment.
What are the benefits of building a mud brick house?
Mud bricks have been around for millenniums so they must have something going for them. Here are some of the key advantages of this building material:
- Mud bricks are fire-resistant and pest resistant
- Bio-degradable and environmentally friendly
- Good thermal mass
- Can offer distinct, aesthetically appealing qualities to your home.
What are the disadvantages of building a mud brick house?
No building material is perfect for everyone and mud bricks are no exception. Here are some of the potential disadvantages of building with mud bricks.
- Mud bricks can have issues with corrosion and wear.
- Can be an expensive building material
- Can require a lot of maintenance if the house isn’t built well or in a hostile environment.
- Poorly made mud bricks are especially vulnerable to the above issues, so make sure you have a reputable source.
Our tips to help you find the best mud brick homes builder
- Make sure your builder has used mud bricks before. While someone who hasn’t might be able to adapt, consider whether you want your home to be their test run.
- Mud Brick constructions live and die on the quality of the mud brick, so be sure you’re using quality materials
- If possible, find a few different mud brick builders, and get quotes from each. This will allow you to compare and provide you with some choices.
- With any builders, look into their previous work, and references and seek third-party advice. Your choice of builder is a crucial element in deciding the success of your build, so it’s worth making the effort to choose the right company for you.