Adobe repairs


Almost every adobe home has an area where bricks have seen some erosion over the years. This can be caused by years of sprinkler spray (a big adobe no-no), wind-driven heavy rain, unprotected water runoff from an unguttered roof, or moisture wicking from the ground up if the adobes are not on a cement foundation and above grade.

The adobe bricks made in Escondido were considered waterproof, sort of.  You still want to keep your adobes as dry as possible.

Show below are some examples of what local adobe homeowners have done; painting, plastering, and making an adobe like veneer with modern materials.

There’s a few opinions on the internet about how to preserve a California adobe home, built with Escondido Caladobe bricks.  Some are of the opinion that the bricks must always be left alone; to breathe.  Some are of the opinion that a thin, lime based whitewash is the only acceptable coating.  However, it’s hard to deny that there’s a large number of painted and stucco plastered adobe homes out there, doing just fine.

A painted adobe house in Escondido.  Using a breathe-able, non oil based paint for masonry is necessary.  Oil based paint may attack the asphalt emulsion binder in the bricks, causing the bricks to flake and peel a layer.  Some clear sealers may do this too.

Another painted adobe house in Escondido.


Restoration on the webmaster’s Poway adobe home below. The restoration is considered non-structural.

Steps eroded from years of sprinkler spray.

The same steps tiled and plastered using modern materials.  The adjacent garden was replanted with water-wise plants and sprinklers were reconfigured.

A wall showing slow erosion from years of sprinkler spray.  The lawn sprinklers (once at the wall base) have been moved out 4′, and a DG pathway put along the wall.

Finished wall, plastered with adobe looking modern materials.  It’s important to note that moisture was not coming from inside the wall (or steps) when deciding to do the plastering. (The wall has a Satillo tiled grade on top with a formed concrete rain gutter along it’s top inside edge.)  Also, not shown in the pictures; galvanized chicken wire and roofing nails were attached to the adobes to help the stucco bind to the adobes.  The final color coat adobe looking stucco used was by Expo Stucco, and sold by Westside building materials in Miramar.  The part number was SBP3 (Santa Barbara premix L-3, with color #5012 at 25%.  For a realistic adobe finish, it was not doubled back on during the application to allow some micro-cracks in the finish.  See Below.

The hand painted tiles are from a local Escondido artist.


Here’s a neat DIY article on “refacing” eroded adobe bricks using modern materials, on an Escondido adobe home.  The restoration is considered non-structural:

“Many of you ask how I repaired my coving (eroding) adobes here are a few photos showing how we did it we used  expanded metal lath to form the new adobe shapes and fill  the area with mortar mixed with Acry 60 (liquid glue) and we shaped the mortar with a wet sponge. after a week  or so of drying we coated the entire wall with a sealer called Thoroseal (white) powder mixed with old mission concrete dye in powder form.”

“You add the dye powder to the Thoroseal powder dry, to get the color match you desire.  Then add water and Acryl 60 per the manufacturer’s instructions.  Mix a small batch and do a test on an adobe before proceeding.  Consider using a lighter/finer brush after the recommended heavy brush for a smoother finish.”

“This cement based sealer allows the wall to breathe and protects the adobe from exterior water exposure. All of the material was purchased at RCP brick and block in Escondido.  We used an adobe to shape the lath before nailing it to the wall with large head nails (roofing ) and the key is to allow the blocks to be uneven just as your original adobes are. The other important thing you must do is figure out how the adobes are absorbing moisture. Is it a sprinkler, rain or water coming off your roof (no gutters) and splash on the wall. Some landscape walls are built  without concrete footings and often are absorbing the water from the ground and I don’t have a good solution for that other than not adding more water via irrigation . I would always dig down around the affected are to see if the grade may just be above a footing allowing the adobe to absorb the water.”

Feel free to ask any questions, at one of our adobe homeowner get togethers or via the website contact page.

Greg Minor

Below: Mailbox adobe structure coated with Thoroseal with old mission dye colorant, performed 17 years ago, still looking good.

The webmaster revisited Greg’s procedure in 2017; and some discoveries were made.  RCP block and brick in Escondido still has the products, but they are all renamed.  Thoroseal white is now Masterseal 581 white.  Acryl 60 is now Master Emanco A660.  Old mission concrete dye powder is not in any RCP supplier catalog, you must ask for it by their RCP part number 1367, or item ID 425001. it’s referred to as Mission Oxide. (RCP uses it in their mission colored slump-blocks).

For a mix you can apply in 30 minutes: Using different size measuring cups and mixing buckets from home depot, measure out of of 3000 ml of Masterseal 581 white powder, then make an addition of 250 ml of dye power (this is all by volume) seems to be a good starting point for a color match to our bricks. Take the dye powder up to a 300 ml addition for a darker coffee color, if desired.  Blend the colorant into the white powder by hand, while still dry.  Then add the Acryl 60/water mix per mfg. instructions. (The webmaster likes using half liter bottles, two full of water, one full of Acryl60 provides a thick “pancake-batter like” paint.  After brushing the on product with a heavy brush, using a grout sponge will smooth the brush marks.  This whole process can be messy, mask and tarp off your work area surroundings.

Here’s a picture from year 2000, of water erosion of the courtyard walls of the webmaster’s house, where a previous owner was irrigating plants on top of the wall for several years.  DO NOT DO THIS!

Pictures after the Masterseal 581 mixture application in 2017.


Another resource from Arizona is here:

Most of the repairs mentioned are about adobe homes in Arizona, built with various kinds of adobes.  There’s mention of a adobe sealer called Silox.  If any California adobe homeowners (with homes built from Escondido bricks) have had experience with this sealer, we would like to hear from you.