If you’re looking to build a truly eco-friendly structure, then you might like to make mud bricks from scratch all by yourself. It isn’t hard to do!
Mud bricks are one of our oldest building materials. They are cheap, simple to make, environmentally friendly, and they are used around the world to make low cost, fireproof structures.
Before beginning, you will want to make sure that you clear a dry area for brick-making. The bricks could take several weeks to dry out and will need to be protected from rain.
To make mud bricks, follow these 6 simple steps:
What you will need:
Soil, Shovel, Mesh screen, Straw or manure, 3 lengths of 2 x 4 timber, each 5 ft in length, Hammer & nails, Gloves, Measuring tape, Hoe, Bucket
1 – Collect Soil. To start, you will need to collect enough loamy soil to form the bricks. Soil taken from the top or the sides of a natural hill is good as it has already withstood rain and erosion. You might like to add sand to the soil to improve its quality. Sift the soil you have collected through the mesh screen to take out any stones which could weaken the bricks and cause them to crack.
2 – Make the Mold. Use two 5ft lengths of timber for the sides and cut the third into six equal pieces of 14 inches. Nail these pieces to the two 5ft lenghts ten inches apart. The mould should resemble a ladder, with room for five brick molds 10″ x 14″ each.
3 – Dig a Pit. If you want to make just a few bricks, use a wheelbarrow to mix the soil, but if you are taking on a larger project then you will need to make a pit. Dig out a 3ft deep, large hole in the ground.Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain itself. This could take up to a day but will prevent the walls from crumbling during the mixing process.
4 – Add the Soil and Mix. Fill up the hole halfway with soil. Fill your bucket with water and add this to the soil, mixing with a hoe or shovel. Add straw or manure to keep the bricks from cracking. Add enough water to form a thick mix.
5 – Add the Mix to the Mold. To make mud bricks, lay the mold evenly on dry ground and shovel the mud mix into each section, filling them completely. Pat the top firmly with the back side of the shovel so as to pack the mix in tightly and remove air bubbles or excess water.
6 – Drying. Let the bricks settle before you carefully lift off the mold. Move the bricks to another dry spot to continue drying whilst you make the next five bricks. Continue until you have all of the bricks you need.
Wait for at least a fortnight before checking the sun-dried bricks. The edges should have turned white before they are used, otherwise they will crumble. You may have to wait up to three weeks before use is possible. Sun dried bricks can last for 30 years before beginning to crack, but if you want them to last longer then firing them in a kiln will help.
Image: Ian Scott