Anatomy of a Mud House

This is a very belated post of an event that happened in April, but I wanted to put it up, as it will be something most Westerner’s don’t know about. When I arrived here a 18 months ago, many people thought I would be living in a mud house with a thatched roof. Well, I do live in a mud house with a tin roof, which is very normal for Addis Ababa. But it is a “civilized” mud house with finished walls and floors, unlike the mud houses in which most of our beneficiaries live.

Well, I found out more about mud houses on April Fool’s Day at 2 am, when my living room ceiling came crashing down from a running faucet upstairs that had run long enough to cause problems. It was not an April Fool’s joke. Fortunately, I didn’t lose anything of value.

I’ve documented the process in photos, as it has been quite interesting. It took more than 6 weeks to complete. Fortunately, I was provided with temporary quarters upstairs while the repairs were made.

Wet mud gone

First, the wet mud was pulled off the wall and taken out to the backyard. The lathe underneath needed to dry. The mud is put into a pile and covered with straw and allowed to “cure”. The straw is mixed in every couple of days.

Mud Curing

Wooden Lathe

After about a week, the mud was put into wheelbarrows and brought back to my house and literally “thrown” back onto the lathe. Then it is smoothed, just like plaster and left to dry. During the drying process, it smelled like a barnyard– because there is more than dirt and straw in the mud!

Cured Mud

Ermia throwing mud onto ceiling

Then, the mold came. It took weeks for the mud to dry. They used a charcoal burner one day, but smoked everyone out upstairs. So we just waited…and waited…and waited. Gypsum was put on the wall to pull out the moisture– and more mold grew on that! I sent photos of the mold to my friend Derek, who is a microbiologist, and he told me it is not the toxic kind of mold! Last week an electric heater was put in for a day.

Mold on Mud

Mold on Gypsum

Finally, the mud was deemed dry enough to paint, so the walls and ceilings were painted in the living room and kitchen, the varnish was redone on the floors. So, another adventure in Addis!

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