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Using Adobe or Clay in Your Remodel

For an earthy, natural look, adobe and clay can be excellent choices – especially if you are doing a green remodel. Adobe and clay building materials are made of natural substances and have been used in construction for centuries, all over the world.

Adobe, or sun-dried brick, is one of the oldest and most common building materials known to man. An article about adobe from This Old House tells readers that traditional adobe bricks consisted of sand, sometimes gravel, clay, water, and often straw or grass, too. These elements were mixed together by hand, then formed in wooden molds and dried in the sun.

Adobe can also be used as a surface coating, and is prized for its authenticity and beauty in rustic or historical buildings and restorations. Adobe bricks were traditionally not kiln-dried, so their natural counterparts, clay bricks, which are fired in a kiln, have more stability and strength than adobe.

Clay can be found all over the world, and it has been used as a building material for many thousands of years. After a period of decline in popularity, the use of clay in building and remodeling is on the rise again due to its natural, ecological benefits. As with adobe, clay is often mixed with straw before combining with water to form bricks. The composition of ingredients can result in variations of shrinkage, and this is a factor to take into consideration before beginning a project. Frank Andresen, who consults on light-clay materials, plasters, and dry clay products, says, “At the end of the ‘70s, clay products were tested, improved, and used with renewed vigor. As a further refinement, “straw/clay” was developed. The term light-clay means the mixing of liquid clay with large quantities of light materials such as straw, wood chips, cork or minerals.”

Clay paint is one of the most common natural paints, according to Green Living Ideas. It is composed of earth-based minerals and uses mostly water as a solvent. Colors range from natural earth tones to an assortment of blue, white, and orange tints. Clay paints adhere readily to most surfaces found inside a house, and also function as an effective odor-absorber, making it an attractive choice for kitchens.

Clay roof tiles, also known as Spanish tiles, are one of the most popular uses of clay in modern building construction. Long lasting and widely available, clay roof tiles add character to many styles of buildings.

Overall, homes built with earthen materials such as clay and adobe tend to have good thermal mass, which means that the walls will change temperature slowly, retaining warmth or coolness longer.

When you are considering the use of adobe or clay in your building or remodeling projects, you will want to consult with a variety of contractors and choose one who has experience working with these materials.

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