Aussies Living Simply

Mud Brick House Maintence ?

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    We are looking to buy property with a 2 bedroom cottage on a small block (45 Acres). The house was built from the mud from the small farm dam and not being used by this style of house building I am wondering what sort of things need to be done in regards to on-going maintenance of the walls ? Painting (suitable paint ?or just stained whitewash ?, or rural rendering ? or…

    Things to look out for ?


    I would recommend a thick coat of limewash. You can tint it if you like. Don’t believe anyone that recommends a cement-based render as cement is too rigid a material for the mud brick to cope with. A mud render would be fine – bagging it one with some hessian. I would be looking closely at the roof structure to see if there is sufficient overhang to protect the walls, and also around the base of the wall to see whether the bricks have started to crumble. Mudbrick will survive hundreds of years, but only if it is properly maintained. It it has been used for rural purposes and not as a house, then maintenance may have been a problem in the past. The heritage body in your state will be able to provide recipes for a limewash, or you can just mix water with slaked lime, bring it to the texture of milk and apply with a paintbrush. I use coloured minerals (ochre and such like) to provide tints, but remember that it will dry a lot lighter than the colour you are applying, so be prepared to scare yourself:lol:

    Many light coats will give you a better result that one or two thick coats which will crack and peel off over time.



    If the walls are OK and under cover leave them alone.

    If they have been sealed previously, then you need to keep up the finish what ever that is.

    We have been in our rammed earth house for 12 years and not touched the walls:tup: (I hate painting).

    If you are looking at buying. I would try to find someone in your area who knows about muddies to take a look. A standard building inspector may not have much idea about them,

    Muddies Rule:metal:

    Cheers Pinetree


    trandto wrote:

    We are looking to buy property with a 2 bedroom cottage on a small block (45 Acres). The house was built from the mud from the small farm dam and not being used by this style of house building I am wondering what sort of things need to be done in regards to on-going maintenance of the walls ? Painting (suitable paint ?or just stained whitewash ?, or rural rendering ? or…

    Things to look out for ?

    We live in a muddie (also made from mud on the farm)and haven’t done anything at all to the walls. It isn’t really necessary at all if they are under verandah cover. I Makes repair work easy too!! f they might be a bit exposed you can mix in some boncrete as a sealer.


    I’m afraid I would have to contradict you there Margo. Bondcrete will seal the surface, yes. But that is not a good thing in the long term as a mud brick building will need to be able to get rid of any moisture through evaporation. Once you seal the surface that can not happen so will lead to deterioration of the fabric and probably to the loss of any internal timber framing you may have used to provide a wall surface. Some sort of limewash or mudwash is really the only sensible solution if you want the building to remain viable longterm.


    I can only second (or is that third?) the use of limewash and natural renders. Our cottage is over 100 years old, hand made bricks (not mudbrick though), and the use of concrete in this house has caused rising damp. It breaks the surface of the brick and it’s a bugger to get off if you (or even, someone 100 years from now!) wants to get it off. Areas where the lime plaster remain are in great condition, despite it’s age! Lime breathes, which is so important for getting rid of moisture.

    I warn anyone who’ll listen (and that’s not many around here! 😆 ) about using concrete. 😉 Except one guy working at a hardware store that insisted he was doing the right thing (and informed us we should, too) by pouring concrete floors into his old cottage and if the water rises up the walls – put up special sealing concrete render.. keep going higher as the moisture rises above that. Hmmm… 😮 :confused:


    Lol Purple hat, sounds like my conversations about oil paints vs plastic paints that I have been having lately. Or the dubious benefits of a cement mortar on old bricks.

    Old buildings need special care and modern materials do not always provide appropriate solutions (not that cement is a modern material, but concrete is another matter).


    Thanks for the replies. The Mud bricks seem in excellent condition, are under a wide verandah on all four sides, 20 years or so old. I was down there (Northern NSW over the last few days having a final look at the property. I am having it inspected “professionally” as well (next Tuesday)

    The only damage I noticed (untrained eye) is on some internal joins, where the doors frames are (and only on two of them). I assume this is from the different swelling of the mudbrick vs the timber that has caused a crack ?

    Originating in North Qld I see this all the time from foundations moving from the extremes of dry and wet but thought I should ask anyway.

    I don’t like painting either, I just prefer preventative maintenance (if required) over having something destroys itself in front of me out of apathy or a lack of knowledge so thought I might as for some “expert” opinions 🙂 The current owner advises me nothing has been done to it in the last 15 years (she is the second owner).


    Sounds like whoever built it designed it sensibly then. The cracks around the doors are probably, as you say, differential movement of materials. They could also simply be that the door frames were inserted before the material dried out. I would just stuff some more mud in there. If the interior is lined out with plaster then you may need something a little more elegant. Hope your ‘professional’ is familiar with mud brick. Your average building inspection will not be aware of the issues.


    sounds good Trandto,

    It is hard to say with out seeing what the internal cracking what the cause could be ( the current owner might be a door slammer ???) or as you say materials move.

    If the Skin is 20y.o. and in good nick, it sounds like a good one.

    Have you got any pic’s , what sort of design is it ?

    Cheers Pinetree.


    The cracks are “small”, about the width of a matchstick (or less) ? If I patch them, I assume I use “mud” but then I guess I would need to repaint with limewash as well. The inside surfaces looks nice (as does the outside) and I think patching may just “highlight” the cracks. I took lots of pics but didn’t think to take any of the cracks, DOH !

    That aside what about attaching something to allow you to hang things, like pictures, or a hook for a hat or plants ?

    I see in a couple places there where nails, with chip had had come out around them. I imagine not being able to put too much load ?

    Haven’t signed the contract yet, next week or so if it goes ahead.


    Oh, it’s gorgeous!!! I want it!!!:lol::lol: Fixing picture rails might sort out the nailing issue. If there are timber beams at intervals along the wall then you can nail to them, then just use those hooky things you can get for hanging pictures over picture rails (bad description but I have no idea what they are called!!). You should be able to get them at secondhand junk shops, but if not, then places that specialise in reproduction house fittings will be able to help. Or once you have a real name for them you could probably search on line.

    You can make up a mortar from slaked lime and sand (not sharp sand, not fat sand, but something in between). The consistency is that of mud and if you put some on your trowel you should be able to turn it upside down and not lose the load immediately. Again, you can tint it with oxides so that it matches the walls. It dries white otherwise. Slaked lime may not be available but you can make your own.

    I reckon the cracks are just part of the on-going movement of the materials if they are only narrow like that. Natural materials absorb moisture and release it by evaporation (hence the need to have a porous top coat) so expand and shrink accordingly.

    The coating you use, by the way, is essentially a ‘sacrificial’ surface to protect the skin that forms on the bricks as they dry. It is replenished regularly so that you don’t have to replace the bricks. In case you are wondering, this sort of thing is my line of work:lol::lol:

    Mind you, with a good veranda like that around the place, unless your area specialises in horizontal rain (like mine does) you probably don’t need to apply a coating if you are happy with the colour it is.



    that is a nice looking Muddie:tup:



    Beautiful. I love it! Where do I sign? 😆

    The stones by the side of the house in that last pic are perfect drainage away from the mudbricks! We just made a similar thing by the side of our old cottage.

    I can almost feel the cool in those pictures.. aaah, lovely! 🙂

    There is one company that I know of near Melbourne who sells slaked lime. Gimme a yell if you need their contact details.


    Thanks. and as HG noted I can just use picture rails and the appropriate bits to hang photo’s but what if you want to attach something more substantial ? eg a hook for winter coats ? IN the past with masonry block, putting up some shelves has just seen me use Is this just one of the things you forgo ? or is there something you can do ?

    I am just curious… as mentioned a couple nails have been used in places but this has resulted in a chip the size of a 10c piece coming away each time a nail is used. I was thinking larger diameter masonry anchors screwed slowly into the wall or something ?

    I noticed for example near the main entrance, that a hat hook was used, two of the three nails have been pulled out and magic a prayer are holding the hook and hat hanging off it up.

    What do people do ? avoid it altogether ?

    and thanks muchly, we have been reading avidly the tidbts on the forums 🙂

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