Have you ever heard of a mud brick? What if I told you that it was the single most important building material in history? Seems rather hard to believe, right?
In this post, you’re going to learn everything about them. Including their history, how to make them, how to make them waterproof, and the advantages for using them.
The purpose of this post is to bring awareness to the mud brick because it, in fact, is truly one of the most significant materials used in the history of men building structures.
How Ancient Civilizations Were Built
Thousands of years ago, the first houses and structures that were ever built were generally made out of stone, wood, and bones. Along with fibers and plants, these ancient materials were also used to create tools and weapons.
However, early villages that were largely made out of wooden tents and houses were prone to fire destruction. This would leave hundreds of families distraught from having their hard built properties destroyed by fire. After that, there was nothing left to do but to rebuild their village and start anew.
But that was life before the first-ever mud bricks were discovered and built. The main difference of a mud brick from wood is its invincibility to fire. These cheap, convenient, and easy to make building blocks have been part of our history and global development from then to now.
What Is A Mud brick?
Mud brick (spelled as mud-brick) is a brick made out of mixing mud, loam soil, sand, water, and rice husk or straw as a binding agent to reduce breaking or cracking.
It is usually air- and sun-dried but several years after its first discovery, mud bricks were then subjected to fire to intensify its longevity and strength.
Your Home, a guide published in Australia for environmentally sustainable homes, stated that the ideal materials for building and construction are those that are borrowed from nature and replaced afterward. “If used carefully, mud bricks come close to this ideal,” as emphasized in its official website.
Why is this so? First, the materials used for making mud bricks are easily available and obtained from the environment. Second, the production would only require little processing, mainly from manual labor. Third, mud bricks require only the sun and the air in order for it to be formed and solidified. Finally, they are cheap, effective, and long-lasting.
After mixing mud, loam soil, sand, water, and binding material, the mixture is then poured into molds and then dried in the open air. When used in construction, mud bricks are joined and piled onto each other with mud mortar.
A History of Building Nations
It was recorded that they were first used in 9000 BC in Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world. Back then, the houses in Jericho were discovered to be made out of piles of mud bricks.
Later in 5200 BC, well-preserved mud bricks were also found in Jordan Valley. Then came 4000 BC and they were subjected to fire so that their durability and sturdiness would be enhanced.
From 7000 BC to 3000 BC, it was recorded that families in Pakistan had built and resided in mud brick houses. Since 3000 BC, they have been used in the ancient civilization of Indus Valley.
Sun-dried mud bricks were used to build cities in Mesopotamia (modern-day Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey). Their mud bricks were called “plano-convex” because of their shape: curved top and a flat bottom.
The construction is also known as adobe in Spain and other areas influenced by the Spanish.
In Ur, Iraq, the potters have discovered that heat can be controlled in a closed kiln. The ziggurat there is also an example of structural brickwork constructed using sun-dried bricks but in 1500 BC, the steps were replaced with burned brick.
When development and civilization began to spread to the East and the West, their production and utilization had also expanded.
If you’re going to make your own, you need to have these tools and materials: sand, soil, shovel, straw, mesh screen, 6 pieces of wood (three 2×4 feet, two 5 feet long, and one 7 feet long), nails, hammer, gloves, hoe, measuring tape, kiln (optional), and bucket.
How To Make Mud Bricks
Total Time: 1 hour
Sift The Soil
Sift the soil through the mesh screen and remove any stones and other impurities. If some impurities were left in the mixture, the resulting bricks will easily crack and break.
Make The Brick Mold
In making the brick mold, combine the pieces of wood and form them like a ladder. It is advisable that the resulting brick will measure 10 x 14 inches.
Mix The Soil
Now, completely mix the soil with water in a dug hole or a wheelbarrow (if you’re making just a few bricks). Add the straw and take note that the composition of your mixture should be 40% to 60% straw so that the bricks will not easily break or crack. Add some sand to strengthen its bind.
Add Mixture Into Mold
Add the mud mixture into the sections of the mold and fill them up entirely. Remove any excess mud and pat each brick mixture to remove bubbles.
Remove The Mold
Remove the mold after letting it settle. Place the mold in another dry and clean surface and repeat the process until you complete the number of bricks that you need.
Let Air Dry
Let them air dry under the sun for up to 4 to 5 days. After that, make them stand in a vertical position. Dry them up to one month before using for construction. These can last up to 30 years but firing them in a kiln can extend their longevity.
Mud bricks have lots of benefits. They are cheap, durable, biodegradable, sustainable, and fire-proof.
These building materials are also non-toxic and very easy to make. It also offers insulation and sound-proofing.
Finally, it can resist water and is very easy to repair. Most importantly, building them doesn’t require any technical or complex skills.
Significance of Today
Several structures that were built with mud bricks many years ago are still standing today. A classic example is the Great Wall of China, which was built in 210 BC.
Today, they are still used to build homes, low- and high-rise buildings, and other important societal structures. From Yemen to Australia to Romania, they are still widely produced and used for building and construction.
Learning the history and benefits of mud brick is very helpful as we tread in the future. Moreover, learning how to make these reliable building materials can improve our preparedness if ever we will need to actually build new homes from scratch.
Further Reading on Mud bricks: