Top 8 Adobe House Building Plans and Manuals

Books to Help You Build Your Adobe Home

Adobe style self-sustainable solar and wind house made out of recycled materials
Adobe style self-sustainable solar and wind house made out of recycled materials - Earthship House in Taos, New Mexico. Photo by Christian Aslund/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images

It's often said that once you live in a home made from the earth, you won't settle for anything else. To build your own adobe home, start with these helpful how-to guides. You'll find floor plans, construction information, and more—inspiration.

Adobe structures are not just for hot and dry climates, explain construction engineer Lisa Morey Schroder from Canada and the late Vince Ogletree from Australia. Adobe Homes is a handbook for the do-it-yourselfer and experimenter—Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques. Fully illustrated, with charts, color photos, and quick list sidebars, the book guides your through the process, from design to materials, site preparation to making adobe bricks, from preventing cracks to creating adobe brick arches. This book invests in your future. Chelsea Green Publishing, 224 pages, 2010

New Mexico native Laura Sanchez presents 12 plans for building with adobe, one of the world's most energy efficient materials. Along with her husband, Alex, Sanchez and Sanchez have given us designs that are flexible and expandable. But this is no ordinary plan book. The couple spends the first hundred pages describing adobe technically and historically before even getting us to the house plans. The richness of southwest architecture comes through. Sunstone Press, 230 pages, 2008

Paul Graham McHenry's oversized paperback lays the foundation for what you need to know before building your adobe home. Covers all aspects of construction from building codes to energy requirements, although no actual floor plans are included. A good practical resource for helping you decide whether to actually "do-it-yourself" or hire a builder. University of Arizona Press, 158 pages, 1985

This adobe book by Paul Graham McHenry is geared more toward the experienced builder and can be a bit overwhelming for beginners. However if you're already familiar with adobe construction and want to understand the engineering and technical aspects behind it, this book is a great resource. University of Arizona Press, 217 pages, 1989

Also check out McHenry's 1996 The Adobe Story, reprinted by University of New Mexico Press.
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Architect William Lumpkins was an influential designer in the American Southwest. His plans in this series are patterned after Pueblo-style dwellings that were never executed, but provide examples of native architecture for modern times. Author and curator Joseph Traugott includes 47 projects and 94 drawings of modern adobe homes, along with Pueblo source material and floor plans. Museum of New Mexico Press, 144 pages, 1998

Author Marcia Southwick asks the practical questions: "Where will you put it?" and "What will you spend?" then provides no-nonsense information to answer them. The 235-page book has hundreds of photographs, drawings, and house plans, and is a good overview for those who are considering the adobe lifestyle. Swallow Press, 1994

A good book for anyone who is interested in alternative building methods. Iranian-born California architect, teacher, and author Nader Khalili shows several examples of houses and schools built with adobe, then takes it a step further by demonstrating how to build vaults, domes, and arches, as well as the SuperAdobe method of building with earthbags. Included is a section on how to build a model house out of clay. Cal Earth Press, 233 pages, 1996

Also check out Khalili's Emergency Sandbag Shelter and Eco-Village: Manual - How to Build Your Own with Superadobe / Earthbags, Cal Earth Press, 2011
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For novice and expert alike, here's a description of many aspects of adobe construction, including plumbing, electricity, heating and cooling, fireplaces, flooring, window and door frames, roofs and more. Author Duane Newcomb's field manual from 1980 guides you through every step of the process, from selecting a site to excavating to making your own bricks. University of New Mexico Press, 174 pages