Taos House Construction Methods

There are various methods used in the construction of Taos houses, and while not all are unique to the Taos New Mexico area, some are unique and typical for the area. Here are most of the different types of construction techniques you are likely to encounter.

On-Site Taos House Construction Methods


Taos house frame constructionA frame or “stick-built” house is one that is built from standard framing materials, typically 2”x6” wood studs, then sheathed in plywood or particle board on the exterior and sheetrock on the inside, and then finished in a number of potential different ways for the exterior coating and inside wall finishing. Wood framing is the most common for houses, but some builders do use steeling framing components.


An adobe brick is a composite material made of earth mixed with water and an organic material such as straw or dung. The soil composition typically contains sand, silt and clay. Straw is useful in binding the brick together and allowing the brick to dry evenly, thereby preventing cracking due to uneven shrinkage rates through the brick. Dung offers the same advantage. Modern adobe is often stabilized with either emulsified asphalt or Portland cement up to 10% by weight.

SIP [https://www.sips.org/what-are-sips]

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are a high performance building system for residential and light commercial construction. The panels consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically oriented strand board (OSB). SIPs are manufactured under factory controlled conditions and can be fabricated to fit nearly any building design. The result is a building system that is extremely strong, energy efficient and cost effective. Building with SIPs will save you time, money and labor.

Pumice-Crete® [http://www.pumicecrete.com/]

Pumice-Crete® is a low density concrete made from pumice aggregate, Portland cement, and water. It is a mix that provides structural strength and insulation in one material. Typically it is poured on site in a wall thickness of 14″ or greater with no additional insulation or structural components required. Exterior and interior wall surfaces are finished by applying stucco finishes or plaster coats which further add to the thermal performance of the walls by trapping air within the honeycomb Pumice-Crete® mix.

Rastra Block [http://www.rastra.com/whatisrastra.html]

RASTRA is a stay-in-place Insulating Concrete Form (ICF) that is structurally strong • energy-efficient • sound absorbent • non-combustible • resistant to high wind, mold & pests • and made from 85% recycled materials (thastyron – a mixture of plastic foam and binder).

Rammed Earth

Building a rammed-earth wall involves compressing a damp mixture of earth that has suitable proportions of sand, gravel and clay (sometimes with an added stabilizer) into an externally supported frame or mold, creating either a solid wall of earth or individual blocks.


Earthship Taos houseAn Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and up-cycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by the architect Michael Reynolds.

An Earthship addresses six principles or human needs:

  1. thermal/solar heating and cooling;
  2. solar and wind electricity;
  3. contained sewage treatment;
  4. building with natural and recycled materials;
  5. water harvesting; and
  6. food production.

Earthships are intended to be “off-the-grid ready” houses, with minimal reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. They are constructed to use available natural resources, especially energy from the sun and rain water. They are designed with thermal mass construction and natural cross ventilation to regulate indoor temperature. The design is intentionally simple, for example single-story, so that people with little building knowledge can construct one. Earthship houses are usually built into the side of the earth and face a generally southern exposure for maximum solar heat gain.

Straw Bale [http://buildingwithawareness.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-straw-bale-wall-construction-in-green-building/]

Straw-bale construction is a building method that uses bales of straw (commonly wheat, rice, rye and oats straw) as structural elements, building insulation, or both. This construction method is commonly used in natural building or “brown” construction projects. Research has shown that straw-bale construction is a sustainable method for building, from the standpoint of both materials and energy needed for heating and cooling.

Advantages of straw-bale construction over conventional building systems include the renewable nature of straw, cost, easy availability, naturally fire-retardant and high insulation value. Disadvantages include susceptibility to rot, difficulty of obtaining insurance coverage, and high space requirements for the straw itself. Research has been done using moisture probes placed within the straw wall in which 7 of 8 locations had moisture contents of less than 20%. This is a moisture level that does not aid in the breakdown of the straw. However, proper construction of the straw-bale wall is important in keeping moisture levels down, just as in the construction of any type of building.


Pre-Fabricated Taos House Construction Methods


A factory-built house on a permanent chassis constructed prior to enactment of HUD Code on June 15, 1976. There are no HUD identifying tags.


A factory-built house manufactured under the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act, commonly known as the HUD Code. This house has HUD metal tags for each section affixed to the house and should have a HUD data plate (paper, with serial number and date of manufacture and same numbers as the HUD tags) located within the house. This includes manufactured houses with additions and improvements.


A factory-built house constructed in compliance with the standards of the regional, state, or local building code used by the governmental unit where the house is to be located. This usually means one of the model codes (BOCA, UBC, etc.). Most modular houses are built on a 2” x 10” platform and are designed to be placed over a basement or crawl space foundation. A small percentage, known as on-frame modular houses are built on a permanent chassis like manufactured houses. This house has a paper tag (in the shape of NM with the Zia symbol with Construction Industries Division name on it) affixed inside the house, and built to International Residential Code (IRC).

Alternative Taos House Construction Methods

School Bus

Yes, believe it or not, there are Taos houses build in school buses, Volkswagen mini-vans, other type of vehicle shells, railroad train cargo cars, freight containers, and from up-cycled materials such as wood pallets.

So if you are contemplating looking for a house for sale in the Taos area, it would be highly recommended that you utilize the services of a local Realtor® to guide you competently through the process and the options. Click here to start the search for your Taos house now.

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