Cob houses? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 02-28-2010, 07:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Does anyone have experience building a cob house?

We're planning to ditch the rat race and build one on some family land in a couple years. I'm wondering about how long it takes, how well it works, problems, codes and permits, all that stuff.

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#2 of 9 Old 03-02-2010, 06:15 AM
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I live in Southern Africa and saw a picture of some houses people are building here with pop cans for insulation. Basically, they built their regular concrete houses, but layer pop cans (horizontally so all you can see is then ends of them in the wall) between the layers of concrete. I am having trouble explaining it, so I tried to find a picture.

I found this interesting house instead that isn't at all what I was walking about, but it's neat.

Ok, something like this, but with soda cans.

I know all of this isn't answering your question, but I wanted to throw out some "modern" alternatives to the cob house.
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#3 of 9 Old 03-02-2010, 12:13 PM
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Awesome! I have no experience with this, but have a few books on the topic and would LOVE to try it out. I think the codes/permits will depend on your local ordinaces, and the problems are also specific to where you live (is it wet or dry, etc).
I love the look and feel of cob structures and think I could be very happy in one. Best of luck to you!

 Married to my sweetie and enjoying life with our fabulous dog.  Expecting #1 in August 2012!!!!


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#4 of 9 Old 03-02-2010, 04:51 PM
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when we build our final home it will be mostly cob. From the research I've done I have found that it is easier to get permits for non load bearing cob walls. Like frame out the house and then fill it in with cob. I would search on the web for people or organizations near your area that work with cob and talk to them since they will have worked with nearby codes officials and all that.

Urban homesteader married to my high school sweetheart, mama to V(4/07) and H(6/10)

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#5 of 9 Old 03-03-2010, 07:20 PM
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images here:

ETA: I imagine if you contact the earthship folks, they might be able to give you some pointers about who to get in touch with locally.
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#6 of 9 Old 03-04-2010, 02:07 AM
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We are building a cob home on Vancouver Island. Our foundation is going in early May and we will begin cobbing end of May /early June. We are doing load bearing cob on west, south and east walls and Wood chip clay infill on the north wall to up our R value. We have both built cob before on smaller projects. We are open to having volunteers since we believe its such a huge learning experience for others! As far as permits, we are doing it "legally", applying for a permit and building to code.
We also know a fair amount about earthships and have been Taos (earthship mecca) and also have some friends up here in BC building a code approved earthship ( ) , we have spent some time helping them and learning. We actually we originally planning to do an earthship but because one hasn't been built to code in our area which is a seismic zone we decided we didn't want to take A LONG time to do permits etc
With our cob home we are having it engineered by a specialist in alternative building styles so that will speed up our permit process alot. The biggest hurdle for us most likely will be that we are trying to pass a composting toilet with a septic in place first . Hopefully it goes well!
as far as time frame it is fairly weather dependent especially load bearing because you can't put a roof up first! We are speeding our process up by mixing with a bobcat not the traditional foot mixing method but we have 5 kids so would like to be in sooner than later! We hope to be in by next winter. Our walls will be approx 400 hours of labor, 6 weeks is what we are thinking..
We have a blog that I haven't updated in a while but I will as we build

Mama to SDD (12), DD (8), DD (6), DD, (4), DS (3) and new little babe arriving Dec. We are in the process of building our cob home and homestead
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#7 of 9 Old 03-06-2010, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the links and thoughts, everybody!

There's a cob institute a couple hours from where we'll be building in Oregon, and I know they will be a lot of help. Their approach to codes, though, is that you're better off building off the radar, as there are no statutes in the state for earth building. Thing is, where we'll be building is right in clear view of a highway, and people have gotten hassled by passing inspectors for much less than we want to do. I'm glad to hear of some people's experiences with what works best with codes (the non-load bearing wall thing, for example). It's good to hear from people who are actually doing it! (I'm checking out your blog with interest, kimmom!)
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#8 of 9 Old 03-07-2010, 02:57 AM
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Hi Kim! Since posting our website/blog about our earthship, we've had a few people come and look!

Just to add to the understanding of permits, etc: it is fairly straightforward to get permits to build alternative housing. In most cases (especially in Canada) you WILL be required to have an engineer stamp the drawings. The challenging part is finding an engineer comfortable with alternative design. Those who aren't tend to want to change rather important details of the design... And on the downside, sometimes (not always) the engineering can be expensive. Engineers can't stamp drawings that aren't up to code...the challenge is that it is difficult to equate, say a tire foundation to Part 9 of the building code for a traditional cement foundation. There is now a section of the code that allows for a "prescriptive" application of the principles to be applied to all the functions that the code entails. I know, sometimes it DOES seem you need an engineer. The nice part about people getting permits, is that it sets precedence and eventually building authorities get comfortable with it and then code can be changed...
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#9 of 9 Old 03-23-2010, 10:10 PM
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I am lusting over cob houses. My family has property in Michigan and I wish we could move there. *sigh*

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