Building a mud wall house the way it has been done for centuries in West Africa.

On the mission property of Gospel For Africa we are building a traditional mud wall house to be used for temporary housing and storage. The method of construction is the same as has been used by local builders for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

The builder digs the dirt from around where the house will stand. The soil is made up of laterite clay and sand with small gravel mixed in. The builders do not have to add anything to the soil except water. They make balls of the soil while it is wet. Then they stack the balls one upon the other and compact the soil downward using flat wooden boards on either side to trap the mud and make it flat on either side. It is a three man job. Two men hold the flat boards while the third adds the mud and compacts it downward and against the boards. The three men then move around the borders of the house until they come back to where they started. They will make one course of mud like this up to 50cm in height and let it dry. When it drys and hardens they begin the next course 50cm high. This continues until they reach the desired height of 2.5m.

Women cleaning rice after the harvest. Traditional mud houses behind them is where they live.

The walls are very sturdy but will erode through many seasons of rain if they are not maintained. Once the wall is finished the builder will make a thin mortar of the same mud and use it like plaster to seal all the cracks and holes he finds. If the owner has the funds to do so he can use cement stucco to seal the walls. We know of some house constructed this way and sealed with cement stucco that are over 40 years old.

The doorways and widows are formed the same way. But under the eves of the doors and windows they place a sturdy thick board to support the weight of the mud wall above the door or window. The ends of the board enter into the mud wall about 20cm to hold it in place. Door and window frames are added using wood boards cut to fit and secured with wood dowels that extend into the mud walls. Doors are made of wood planks tightly fitted together and nailed. Traditional hinges are made of leather, but these days metal hinges are used. Traditional locks were made of wood slide bars. Today keyed locks are purchased locally. Windows are usually very smalland covered with wooden planks nailed together and hinged at the top. During the day they windows are proped open with a small piece of wood. At night they are firmly closed and locked.

The floors are compacted dirt, the same dirt the walls are made of. They wet the dirt many times and compact it until it becomes very hard and smooth. Some people these days add a thin layer of cement on top to seal the floor.

Traditional village house with undulated tin roof.

The roof supports are of wood and are pitched upward about 75cm in the middle to allow drainage. Traditional roofing materials are palm leaves or straw layered in dense layers. Now the people use sheeted plastic underneath a layer of palm leaves or a thin layer of straw. If they have the funding for a metal roof they can buy undulated tim sheets locally and nail them to the wood supports.

I hope this was interesting for you. Please pray for us and consider support our work in Africa.

Pastor Chris Jones
Executive Director and Founder
Gospel For frica

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