Tucson, in Pima County Arizona, has about 15% of all the burnt adobe homes built in the US from the 1960s through the 80s.
Basically, burnt adobe homes are bricks made out of mud that are much thicker and larger than typical bricks. The concept behind building with adobe is that adobe walls have enough thermal mass to absorb heat during the day and release it at night thus keeping the home at a fairly stable temperature year round.
(Photo fron Photovault.com.)
Older adobe homes are typically reddish in color while the ones made in the 80s are more of a yellow/tan-ish color. Some people confuse slump block and/or red brick homes for adobe but neither material is nearly as thick as adobe. Adobe homes are also very unique and beautiful with their natural "earth tone" colors.
Since these bricks are made of mud, natural elements (i.e., rain, wind and dirt that bricks are exposed to) can damage the adobe. Although these bricks have a hard layer around the outside, over time the outer layer wears away and once that happens, the bricks can quickly erode - and turn to dust! Left untreated, adobe homes tend to look very rustic - and that's a nice way for a real estate agent to describe the condition of the brick.
Although the bricks will outlast you or me - it is important to care for them just as you would a wood or stucco home. Tucson has several companies that specialize in repairing adobe that is neglected and also those that treat and maintain the bricks with a special coating to maintain its beauty and keep the bricks intact.
If you happen to fall in love with one of the many burnt adobe homes currently for sale in Tucson make sure you have someone who knows adobe come and inspect the condition before you make your purchase!