Interior of an adobe home in Tucson.

Adobe Homes in Tucson: Timeless style

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Kim Labriola

What is adobe?

Adobe has been used throughout the world and is one of the earliest building materials. Adobe works best in dry climates, one of the reasons we see adobe homes in Tucson and throughout the desert southwest.

Older adobe is a mixture of clay, sand, water, and organic material such as straw, that’s formed into bricks then dried. In older adobe buildings the adobes were often made onsite. Adobe blocks are held together with a clay mixture that is used as mortar. The completed adobe wall is often coated with a lime plaster mixture to protect it from erosion.

mud adobe home c. 1879 in historic Barrio Viejo, Tucson Arizona
Mud adobe home c. 1879 in historic Barrio Viejo, Tucson Arizona

Adobe homes in Tucson for sale

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Interested in buying or selling a home in Tucson? Contact us to go over your needs. 520-975-8956 or Hello@RealTucson.com


Adobe Homes in Tucson
This adobe home, built around 1879, is located in Barrio Viejo neighborhood in Downtown Tucson.

Differences in modern adobe vs historic adobe

Modern adobe is stabilized with cement or an asphalt emulsion. Modern adobes are more weather resistant than traditional adobe.


Why use adobe?

  • Natural, green, non-toxic material.
  • The thermal mass properties of adobe are fantastic for climates with hot days and cool nights and a large temperature differential. The adobe mass moderates the temperature swings outside for a comfortable indoor temperature.
  • Warm, rustic, southwestern appearance.
  • Historic material.
  • Acoustic properties of adobe create a quiet home.

A few neighborhoods to find adobe homes in Tucson:

This mud adobe home built in the early 2000s exudes warmth and charm.
This mud adobe home built in the early 2000s exudes warmth and charm.

Interested in buying or selling a home in Tucson? Contact us to go over your needs. 520-975-8956 or Hello@RealTucson.com


What’s the difference between mud adobe and burnt adobe?

Mud adobe is not kiln fired. Burnt adobe is made in Mexico of clay. The burnt adobe is formed into blocks, allowed to dry, then fired in a kiln. Burnt adobe was a commonly used building material during the mid-20th century in Tucson.

This lovely mud adobe home in Tucson Arizona was built in the early 2000s.
This lovely mud adobe home in Tucson Arizona was built in the early 2000s.

Adobe homes require more maintenance

Potential adobe homeowners need to realize that this unique material will require more maintenance and upkeep than other types of building materials. Contractors hired to do work on an adobe home, must be knowledgeable about the material. Hiring a contractor who is unaware of the differences in the material could cause more harm and damage in the future.

Adobe Homes in Tucson
This adobe home, built in 1947, is located in the Palo Verde neighborhood in Midtown Tucson.

Adobe in Tucson

Tucson has a long history of adobe building. San Xavier del Bac Mission was constructed of adobe in 1783. The Tumacacori Mission, located south of Tucson, was built of adobe in 1800.

Adobe was the most common building material used prior to the railroad line reaching Tucson in 1880. Before the railroad, wood and brick were very expensive to haul into town. Our area may not have large native trees but we do have clay and sand readily available.

Once the railroad came, building materials commonly found in other areas of the country became much more accessible and popular. Although, waning in popularity by this time, adobe was used to build the multistory Marist College in 1915 in downtown Tucson. After decades of neglect, the Marist College was restored in 2017.

Renowned architect Judith Chafee remembers growing up in Tucson in an adobe home. As a child, her mother would send her out to the backyard to make adobe bricks while they were adding on to their home.

A historic mud adobe home in Barriio Santa Rosa, a neighborhood south of downtown Tucson
A historic mud adobe home in Barriio Santa Rosa, a neighborhood south of downtown Tucson
Sometimes an adobe wall is left in it's raw state after a restoration work to show off the humble but beautiful material
Sometimes an adobe wall is left with the plaster stripped, even after a building’s restoration, to show off the humble but beautiful material.

Interested in buying or selling a home in Tucson? Contact us to go over your needs. 520-975-8956 or Hello@RealTucson.com