Appearance of Adobe?

Question: I wish I could build my own Adobe home. Unfortunately I am just renovating so that I can have the look of Mexican design. Specifically I am looking for information on how to make stucco walls, color washes, and beehive fireplaces. Can you tell me where to go for instructions on how to make my current brick fireplace look like a beehive fireplace? I am wondering if I can simply put something over it to make it look like a beehive fireplace - should I use some mesh and then a stucco mixture. And what typically goes in the mixture.

Answer: I hate to be so smug, but we have dedicated our lives to doing the real thing. Twenty-five years home building and not a one framed. All adobe. The adobe look can apparently be achieved with chunks of foam board covered with various plasters. There are lots of plaster virtuosos in every state.

Question: I was wondering if you could answer my question about a remodel of my brick f/p into an adobe style one. I do need to know if there are special materials on the market (CDN); does it need a 'frame' ie: wire to be fastened onto the existing brick or is there some kind of stucco/masonry, etc. materials that I could improvise with? I want to eliminate the sharp angles and replace/remodel them into a more rounded (pleasing) shape.

Answer: Use expanded, galvanized metal lath to form the curved shaped. Standard gypsum based plasters will cover the lath and give the desired shape. As long as their are few air voids behind the lath, the fireplace facade will be very strong.

Question: What can I add to my mud to give it that dark brown "wet look"?

Answer: Several coats of boiled linseed oil. Apply it with brush, roller, or rag to an adobe surface once it has dried. Remove anything still on the surface after 20 minutes or it will turn gummy. We have used various oil based varnishes if the linseed does not impart enough dark brown color. Some folks even apply a layer of polyurethane or a clear varnish on top of it all. Every dirt works up differently so you get to experiment a bit to find out what works to get the result you want with yours.

Question: I have a small mobile home. I want to do an adobe siding. Can this be done and how would I go about it . I don't want to do bricks. I don't know if siding is the right word but I want it to look adobe.

Answer: Paint it brown.

Question: We just bought a home in Southern Utah. The upstairs room's walls are adobe. We are trying to remodel and make this room suitable for our young children. It looks like someone has wallpapered at least 3 times. How can we finish these walls. The adobe is coming down, the wallpaper is cracking, and the plaster is falling. Is there a certain kind of paint to use, cement? What? We can't leave the walls bare.

Answer: Wow! Sounds like a real mess. If the plaster is coming off the walls, I think you will just have to remove it. Once removed, the wall can be plastered again with adobe plaster if that is what was used before or a gypsum based plaster such as Red Top which is mixed with three parts of sand or Structolite which is used right out of the bag with water. Anywhere the wall is in good enough condition to be mostly solid, you can paint over the wallpaper, mud plaster over it or Structolite over it. If you choose to paint and if there are ridges left by the wallpaper, you can smooth that up with a big wide sheetrocker's taping knife and a bit of joint compound. If you are really, really lucky you might be able to make chunks of falling plaster stick in place with Gorilla glue which is a urethane based product that has proven to be pretty amazing. This is just a guess and you might be the first person to try it but you could get your name in Reader's Digest if it works.

Question: I am in the process of purchasing an adobe brick home. The bricks in the home have been painted over, home was built in 1960, and may have several layers of paint. How do you remove paint from the bricks? Is the only manner to remove the paint, sandblasting? Will this process damage the bricks? The inside of the home has also been painted, however we will most likely Sheetrock. Do you have any suggestions for ensuring this process is done appropriately in order to prevent mildew?

Answer: I have never tried sandblasting on adobe. It might work but it might take a lot of the adobe with it. Never heard of anyone else doing it either. Might just have to find a strong scraping tool and tackle it by hand. Sheetrock? Why buy an adobe house in the first place? It totally ruins adobe walls' thermal characteristics to have an interior surface that is not in thermal contact with the adobe. With Sheetrock there will be an airspace to accommodate the presumed furring. That airspace is also another opportunity for those little mildew or even mildew critters to get a start in life. And that interior paint may act as a a vapor moisture barrier to keep the adobe wall from breathing. If you do use Sheetrock, rough up the interior paint in as many places as you can to break the moisture barrier.

Question: My husband and I are about to purchase an adobe home that was completed in about 1989. It seems both the interior and exterior walls were later painted with standard house paint. We very much would like to remove this, and revert to the original natural finish. Any clue how this can be done?

Answer: Sometimes if you just dampen the wall the paint will fall off or can be easily scrapped off. I have a three head mister from a plant nursery that works nicely to apply moisture at a fine, controllable rate. Spray it until it begins to run then move on. Go back over the wall again and perhaps a third time. Then, good luck. It may be very easy or it may take a lot of work. We got fooled by wallpaper that was on an adobe wall once. We thought it would come off so easily. It took a lot of work. The wallpaper hangers past had penetrated well into the wall and the created a strong composite surface. Quentin Wilson, not the rocket science boy from the movie.

Question: We have built (still building, actually, but we live there) an adobe home in SW Colorado. We are using Structolite plaster on most of the interior walls but we have several that we want to leave exposed. What do you recommend for a finish on those that will keep them as natural looking as possible but keep them from "dusting"? How would you go about applying such a finish?

Answer: Exposed adobes can be washed and smoothed a bit with a sheepskin, a towel, a rubber float from the plastering trades or even left as is for a crisper look. Actually the wall is usually fine with no finish and visitors just have to be reminded not to rub the walls. It they rubbed painted Sheetrock walls over a year old, they get chalk on their hands. There is a clear finish that waterproofs the wall yet allows it to breath. It is OKON and comes in two formulations, W-1 and W-2. I can never remember which is which but don't need to. A competent paint company that carries it will have employees who can advise. (Home Depot and such outfits may not.)

Question: My husband and I purchased an adobe block home that was built in 1978. The exterior walls have been painted off white which is in poor condition (i.e. peeling). Is it possible to restore adobe walls to their original appearance after they have been painted? Soft red brick peeks through some parts of the peeling paint. Any suggestions?

Answer: Probably just simple, backbreaking, brutal, hard work. Paint scrapers with changeable blades, the type with a long handle so you can get two hands on them will work. Sometimes, if you are lucky a stiff wire brush or even a bristle floor brush. Or try spraying the wall with a mist of water and then see if the paint rubs of easier. A steamer can be rented in some places that is used to steam off wallpaper. That might work. Maybe the fact that it is already peeling means that the job will not be as difficult as I may have led you to believe.