How Much Does It Cost to Build an Adobe House?

Everything you need to know to be able to calculate the most exact cost of your future adobe home

Updated on:

There are plenty of different building materials today on the market, but brick is still among the most popular ones. People have been using bricks for building their homes for many decades, and wood is known as an even older material!

However, there has recently appeared another building material that is gaining popularity extremely fast, and it is adobe! Yes, such a simple and, actually, long known natural material is now having its revival. 

However, those who decide to build an adobe house often have the same question: How much will an adobe home construction cost? In this article, we will try to give you the answer. And In addition, we will provide you with some other useful information that might be helpful if you decide to build a house made of this natural and eco-friendly material.

Everything You Need to Know About an Adobe House Cost

If you want to build an adobe home, you have definitely already wondered what the final price could be after all the work is done and the house is ready to be used. As you probably heard, adobe-brick houses are significantly cheaper than those made of traditional materials. But how much cheaper?

Courtyard of a beautiful adobe house
By vista.com

How much does it cost to build an adobe house? Usually, costs for owner-built projects start at a range of $55 per square foot. But that is only if you will be using salvaged and saved materials, a simple design, and a few custom touches. If you decide to add some extra features, the final price might rise up to $85 per square foot.

Building with this type of material is also so affordable and low-cost because adobe bricks are held together by cement (also known as “mud”) that is made of the same material as the bricks themselves. That mud is basically the same material as the one that is used for bricks, only more watered down. So naturally, you will not have to pay extra for making a mortar since you already have it!

Adobe construction is also quite cheap in comparison to the constructions made of other materials because it only requires a modest amount of labor to construct. In addition, the labor that is needed for building an adobe home from the basement to the roof is not excessively demanding. In fact, you and your family or friends can do it yourself!

How Many Adobe Bricks You Need to Build a House

Adobe bricks drying in the sun
By itishouse.com

We are pretty sure that you have already understood that the answer will strongly depend on several aspects:

  1. the size of the future house (how many square meters it will have in total)
  2. its design
  3. the number of storeys

Respectively, if you are going to build a one-storey house that will have two or three rooms plus a bathroom and a kitchen area, it will need fewer bricks than the house with two storeys and thus with more rooms. Also, the more complicated the architecture and overall design of your house will be, the more bricks you will need to use.

So if you are going to build something that will look outstanding, we recommend you calculate first how many bricks you will need for that project, and how much money that will cost you.

What Components Are Adobe Bricks Made Of?

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors used adobe bricks that were made of clay and straw with some minor variations. But modern adobe bricks have somewhat distinct list of “ingredients”. They consist of a mixture of clay, sand, straw, and emulsified asphalt. And each of these components plays an important role in the lifespan and functionality of the building material.

Adobe bricks bent in open space
By vista.com

Clay

This element is used for holding your bricks together. In fact, it works just like the cement used in concrete blocks. Clay used for adobe bricks contains an aluminum salt and is made up of exceptionally fine particles. Several different kinds of clay exist, but the good thing is that any one of them can be  used for making bricks. What you need is some sandy clay or clay loam. 

Sand

Sand is another ingredient that you can find in adobe bricks. It actually works as an inert filler, and it is held together by clay. To a certain point, this may remind you of gravel in concrete. 

The good news is that almost any type of sand will be ok for making adobe bricks. Just make sure you don’t use beach sand! See, it contains too much salt which will affect your walls in qiote a bad way. 

Straw

Straw, the third ingredient, doesn’t add strength but binds a brick together and allows it to shrink without cracking.

Emulsified Asphalt

Bituminous emulsion suitable for use on adobe bricks
By vista.com

Emulsified asphalt is used to make the bricks water-resistant which is essential for such a material as adobe. Without the addition of this component, your bricks wil become weak and unprotected, and soon they will just weather away. But if you remember to add this ingredient, the bricks will be able to stand for many years without any significant or dramatic damage.

In some areas, for example, in New Mexico and nearby areas where the bricks are to be plastered over and not exposed to the weather, they are generally left unstabilized (not treated with emulsified asphalt). Adobe-makers create the bricks as people have been doing for centuries and simply lay them up into walls with a mud mortar. You can do this where the codes approve. Bricks exposed directly to the weather must be treated.

Now that you know how much it costs to build an adobe house and what the price per one square foot is, and since you are now aware of some basic specifics of this material, you might be curious to learn whether or not this constructing material has any downsides. So below we have prepared more information for you on this subject. You will learn what pros and cons this all-natural and so praised material has. It will help you to realize better whether adobe is your material for building a house, or not.

Wall Construction Costs: Adobe vs Conventional

Building a house is an exciting venture, but costs can quickly add up, especially if you opt for traditional construction methods. The 2 main factors that determine 'how much does it cost to build an adobe house' include labor and material costs. This section will compare these costs with those of constructing a conventional house.

Labor Costs: Building with Your Own Hands vs Hiring a Contractor

When it comes to labor costs, there are significant differences between building an adobe home and a conventional home.

Should you decide to embark on the construction journey with your own hands, perhaps with the assistance of family and friends, you can save substantially on labor costs. This approach is particularly applicable when building an adobe home, as it can be a fun and fulfilling family project.

On the other hand, hiring a contractor to build a one-story 2000 square foot house, you'll have to consider several labor costs:

  • Carpenter/Frameworker: $5–8 per square foot, totaling $10,000–$16,000.
  • Siding work: $100-$200 per square foot, or $2,000-$4,000.
  • Insulation: Relatively affordable, around $500-$1000, inclusive of installing a plastic vapor barrier.
  • Drywall: $7,000–$8,000
  • Trim and plinth: $2,000-$3,000.
  • Paint: $3,000–$5,000

By building with your own hands, you can save approximately $24,500 to $37,000, or $12.25 to $18.5 per square foot.

Wall Material Costs: Adobe vs Conventional

The second major factor that affects 'how much does it cost to build an adobe house' is the cost of materials. Here, adobe brick prices can offer significant savings over conventional materials.

The cost of materials for a conventional 2000 square foot house is estimated as:

  • Lumber (interior and exterior walls): $3,000–$5,000.
  • Siding: $3,000 - $5,000
  • Insulation: $2,000-$3,000 (more if using foam insulation over skin or spray foam between studs).
  • Drywall: $4,000-$5,000
  • Paint: $500
  • Trim and baseboard: $500-$2,000.

In contrast, the adobe brick prices could save you $13,000 to $20,000 or $6.5 to $10 per square foot.

Comparing Total Savings: Adobe vs Conventional

When we sum up the savings from labor and material costs, we see that it's cheaper to build an adobe home.

The total savings on exterior and interior wall construction are $37,500-$57,000 ($18.75-$28.50 per square foot). Considering a total construction cost of $125 per square foot for a conventional house, an adobe house is about 15-23% cheaper.

Additional Construction Costs: Roof and Floor Construction

Building a house is more than just erecting walls. The cost to build an adobe home or a conventional house also involves roof and floor construction.

Roof Construction: Traditional vs Living Roof

A significant factor in house construction costs is the roof. Traditional western labor and roof construction materials can cost:

  • Trusses and tinplate: $5,000–$8,000
  • Shingles: $8,000–$12,000
  • Fascia and soffit: $2,200–$3,500
  • Blown insulation (P-60 for cold and hot climates): $2,400-$3,600
  • Drywall (hang and tape): $3,000
  • Paint: $1,200.

With these costs in mind, we get $21,000 to $32,500, or $10.00 to $15.00 per square foot.

However, if you want to save money and build an environmentally-friendly adobe home, you can opt for a living roof made out of mud. This option can cost $2,000 to $4,000, offering net savings of $19,000 to $27,000.

Floor Construction: Traditional vs Dirt Floors

The choice of flooring can also influence the overall cost of building a house. Traditional laminate, vinyl, or hardwood flooring can cost between $6,000 to $20,000 or $3 to $10 per square foot.

Alternatively, you can build beautiful, low-maintenance dirt floors for free, saving the above costs.

Beautiful, low-maintenance earthen floor
By vista.com

 

Summing Up the Savings

When we add up all the savings from wall, roof, and floor construction, an adobe house of 2000 square feet can save you between $61,000 and $104,000 compared to conventional construction. This makes building an adobe home a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternative.

Eco house wall with window
By vista.com

Building your own adobe home can be a rewarding and economical venture, provided you are willing to put in the effort and time. For more information, check out our other articles on making waterproof mud bricks, the pros and cons of adobe houses, and the 10 best anchors for a strong home.
 

What Are the Pros And Cons Of Adobe Constructions?

Like any construction material, adobe also has its benefits and downsides. So before you start building the house of your dream, we recommend you read the following information very attentively. With its help, you will see clearly whether this material can be suitable for the area where you live.

Advantages:

  1. It is very cost-effective. Saves you $61.000-$104.000 on the construction cost of a $2.000 sqft house
  2. Low to zero heating and cooling electrical costs
  3. Very durable (an adobe home can last for hundreds of years if maintained correctly!)
  4. Fire-resistant and fire-proof since mud doesn’t burn well
  5. Adobe gives a beautiful natural pattern on the walls
  6. Adobe is a non-toxic material
  7. Easy-to-get materials
  8. Easy to build
  9. Environmentally-friendly
  10. Very quiet (the walls “absorb” the sounds and noises)
  11. Natural climate control indoors (cool in summer, warm in winter)
  12. More shock-resistant material

Disadvantages of adobe houses:

  1. It is difficult to obtain building permits in some states
  2. Slow building method
  3. Adobe bricks don’t handle water well
  4. Heavy material so proper footing is a must
  5. Insects can be an issue

With all this in mind, think it over and decide whether or not adobe is the material that you really want to use for building your house.

How Much Time Does It take to Build an Adobe House?

It is commonly known that adobe houses take quite a lot of time to build. And of course, those who think about having such a house might be wondering, how much time exactly they will have to spend before they can enter their new home.

So once you begin your adobe house building project, how long will it take? An adobe contractor can typically complete the average turn-key, custom adobe home in four months, building one house in the spring, another in the fall, or two a year. The average owner-builder, when working with fewer tools, a smaller crew, and having less experience, will be lucky to finish in a year. 

This is why if you are sure that you want an adobe house, but you don’t want to wait for too long, we recommend you hire a professional contractor and get the job done much faster.

What Makes Adobe Houses So Special And Popular?

Having an adobe house is nearly a trend these days! People around the world are getting crazy about this natural, easy-to-build, and eco-friendly material. But is it the only reason why adobe homes are so popular?

You surely noticed that the majority of adobe buildings are similar in appearance to a rammed earth style building popular in new construction. Adobe is one of the earliest building materials and is used throughout the world. They can be subsequently assembled with the application of mud to a bond that usually involves straw. 

There is really no standard size when you are working with adobe. It varies, which really gives it an organic look. This material is also very strong and, in dry climates, adobe structures are extremely durable, being among some of the oldest existing buildings in the world!

One of the key elements that make adobe so special is the greater thermal mass. It means that it really keeps the home cool in the summer, but also holds in the heat in the winter. In addition, a constructing method is really very simple and adaptable which is some of the significant advantages as well. 

Like this, you are not bound to the prescribed designs or styles, and you can experiment and create a home design to your liking.

How Is an Adobe House Made?

As we have already mentioned above, adobe is in fact a dried mud brick. It is combining the natural elements of earth, water, and sun. It is an ancient building material known for hundreds of years that is usually made with tightly compacted sand, clay, and straw (less frequently grass) mixed with moisture. Afterward, that mass is formed into bricks and naturally dried or baked in the sun without an oven or kiln. 

But then you might have another question: are adobe houses strong? In dry climates, adobe structures are extremely durable and strong, being among some of the oldest existing buildings in the world! Adobe buildings offer significant advantages due to their greater thermal mass, but they are known to be particularly susceptible to earthquake damage if they are not reinforced.

However, this material can be that strong only if maintained properly and used in dry climates. If in constant contact with water, adobe might get damaged which means that the construction will require additional sealing if built in an area with high moisture levels.

Like this, now you know much more about such a popular construction material as adobe. This material is a living proof that all well-known tend to return and be used again. People used adobe bricks for building their homes centuries ago, and now this tradition is gaining popularity again!

And now you also know how much such a house will cost you, and what pros and cons this material has. In addition, we explained to you what adobe bricks consist of and why this material is so easy to use. Like that, you will be able to easier understand whether or not this is your option.

Links on this topic to authoritative sources:
  1. Building material : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_material
  2. Adobe : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe

Expert Advice

  1. Selecting the Right Adobe Bricks: Not all adobe bricks are equal. Adobe bricks can be made locally or purchased from a vendor. Local-made bricks can help save cost but require time and manual labor. Conversely, vendor-made bricks could be more expensive but save you time and labor. Consider the trade-offs and choose what suits you best.
  2. Consider Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Approach: Engaging professionals for wall construction can be costly. If you're handy and willing, consider DIY construction. However, remember that quality matters, so ensure that you or anyone helping you have the right skills to avoid costly mistakes.
  3. Adequate Insulation: Insulation is critical for comfort and energy efficiency in an adobe house. Even though adobe bricks have natural insulating properties, additional insulation might be required. Insulation costs can range from $2,000 to $3,000 but choosing the right type and installing it correctly can enhance the house's comfort and reduce future energy bills.
  4. Choosing a Budget-Friendly Roof: Roof construction can be expensive. Consider alternative options like a mud-made living roof which can significantly cut down your expenses while being eco-friendly.
  5. Opt for Low-cost Flooring: Dirt floors are an excellent low-cost, low-maintenance alternative to conventional flooring options like laminate or hardwood. They can save you from $6,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of the house.
  6. Prioritize Construction Phases: Not all parts of the house need to be completed simultaneously. Prioritize based on your budget and immediate needs. Complete the essential sections first and gradually finish the rest.
  7. Consult with Professionals: Even though you might take the DIY route, professional advice can be invaluable. Professionals can provide insights into cost-effective methods, potential pitfalls, and best practices for building an adobe house.

Remember, building an adobe house is not just about cutting costs; it's about creating a sustainable, comfortable, and culturally rich living space. These tips can help you approach the process with more knowledge and confidence. Happy building! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Big Should Adobe Bricks Be?

In North America, the adobe brick should typically be about 25 by 36 cm (10 by 14 in) in size.

How Much Does Adobe Block Cost?

One should expect bricks to cost between $2.50 and $3.00 each. For rural sites and those with difficult access, site made adobes often work best for logistics and shipping costs.

How Long Do Adobe Houses Last?

Adobe houses can last for thousands of years! They just should be well-maintained, kept dry, expertly built, have a strong and waterproof foundation, and be located in dry areas of the world.

Publication date:
@livewireScriptss