Putting Up Adobe Walls

Adobe is an economical building material to use in almost any climate. Here's how to put up adobe walls.

| May/June 1981

  • 069-113-01_01
    Diagram shows two methods of setting string guides.
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069 adobe walls - photo 1 laying bricks
    A worker lays bricks between wooden posts in one of several  adobe walls.
    PHOTO: DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069-113-02_01m1
    Diagram shows two methods of creating doorways in an adobe wall, one with reinforcing steel (left) and the other without (right).
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069 adobe walls - fig 4 bond dreams
    Diagram shows method of creating bond beams from cement or from wood.
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069-113-03_01m
    Diagram shows two methods of creating windows in an adobe wall with and without reinforcing steel.
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069-114-02_01
    Diagram shows method of building adobe walls in the spaces between a wood post frame. Not that hollow beams allow for the routing of electrical conduit.
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069-114-02
    Diagram shows two methods of making concrete lintels. 
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069-115-01_01
    Diagram shows method of anchoring wooden posts for post adobe construction.
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069 adobe walls - headers and top plates
    Headers and top plates cap adobe walls and provide a roof base.
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069 adobe walls - photo 3 post holders
    Post holders, cast into the building's slab, secure the posts in a post and adobe structure.
    DUANE NEWCOMB
  • 069 adobe walls - fig 8 interior stud walls
    Diagram shows method of building interior walls from 2 x 4s and securing them to an adobe wall.
    DUANE NEWCOMB

  • 069-113-01_01
  • 069 adobe walls - photo 1 laying bricks
  • 069-113-02_01m1
  • 069 adobe walls - fig 4 bond dreams
  • 069-113-03_01m
  • 069-114-02_01
  • 069-114-02
  • 069-115-01_01
  • 069 adobe walls - headers and top plates
  • 069 adobe walls - photo 3 post holders
  • 069 adobe walls - fig 8 interior stud walls

The following article is an excerpt from chapter 5 of The Owner-Built Adobe House by Duane Newcomb, copyright 1980 by the author. Reprinted with the permission of the author. 


There are several systems utilized today in constructing adobe walls. Which system you use depends primarily on whether or not you are building in earthquake country. In New Mexico, for instance, the code allows the builder to lay bricks into a self-supporting wall without reinforcement. In California, where you must consider earthquakes, you are required to use either steel reinforcing rods or a wooden post-frame support. Each of these systems will be explained later in this chapter.

Getting Your Equipment Together

No matter where you build, the equipment needed to lay bricks is about the same. My own list includes the following: wheelbarrow, mason's trowel, joint tool, wire brush, shovel, hone brick splitter or wide chisel, a long level (or mason's level), nylon cord, gloves, nails, and a story pole.

Mixing Mortar

The best formula for mortar that is to be used in laying up exposed adobe bricks is 1 part cement to 2 1/2 parts sand. This mortar is waterproofed by adding 1 1/2 gallons (5.7 L.) of emulsified asphalt to each sack of cement.



In New Mexico, where the adobe bricks are covered with plaster, most builders utilize adobe mud mortar, which is adobe dirt that is first screened to remove rocks and then mixed with water to form a stiff paste.

The rule is: If the bricks are to be exposed, use a waterproof cement mortar. If the building department allows, and your walls are to be plastered, use adobe mud as mortar.






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