140-year-old mud insulation surprisingly effective

News editor

When Shane Marler started taking down old plaster walls in a home he and his wife, Morgan, were renovating between Hillsboro and Peabody, they were surprised at what they found behind the plaster.

At first he thought it was the biggest mud-dauber nest he’d ever seen, but he quickly realized that the dirt behind the plaster was insulation. The original builders made bricks of mud and straw to use as insulation when the house was built in 1874.

The adobe insulation was in a little less than half of the home, which had been expanded upon.

The earthen bricks worked surprisingly well as insulation, Marler said. The building stayed fairly warm during the winter and fairly cool during the summer, especially for a home its age. He said it was kind of like living underground.

Adobe insulation wasn’t the only sign of ingenuity on the part of the settlers who built the house. The house, especially its original portion, is solidly built, Marler said.

The Marlers would have liked to save the uncommon insulation, but it has been unstable since they removed the plaster walls, and some bricks have fallen out.

“They’re really heavy, I can tell you that, because they’ve fallen out from time to time,” he said.

As the Marlers began removing the bricks, Morgan Marler checked with friends to see whether any had an interest in the bricks. A couple of teachers asked for bricks to show to their students. Anyone else interested in the bricks can contact her at shaneandmorgan@yahoo.com.

 

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