Anyone live in or build a cob home? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 03-28-2012, 12:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We are looking at purchasing some land (first timers) and possibly building a cob home on it. We are excited about using the resources on the property to make our low-cost home. :) I was thinking that we may have to find land where the soil is rich in clay. Can anyone tell me if this is correct? If so, are there places better than others to look? I am just starting to learn how to plan this. There seem to be plenty or websites and books devoted to this art but there is nothing like talking with someone who is experienced. Thank you!!

 

 

 


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#2 of 14 Old 03-28-2012, 02:03 PM
 
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First of all, you might find that you get more responses if you go back and edit your OP to include lower case letters. It is difficult to read all caps.

We are planning a half cob half straw bale home, and have been doing research about it for a long time. Honestly, anytime you dig more than about a foot down, there is clay, especially in places like FL. If you you could always check to make sure before you purchase, but i seriously doubt you are going to find much land that doesnt have clay down there - unless its beach front property, which you wouldnt want to build cob on anyway.

Here is a great Q & A:
http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/cob/where.htm

and of course, this book is essential:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Cob-Builders-Handbook-Hand-Sculpt/dp/0965908208

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#3 of 14 Old 03-28-2012, 04:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Adaline'sMama View Post

First of all, you might find that you get more responses if you go back and edit your OP to include lower case letters. It is difficult to read all caps.
We are planning a half cob half straw bale home, and have been doing research about it for a long time. Honestly, anytime you dig more than about a foot down, there is clay, especially in places like FL. If you you could always check to make sure before you purchase, but i seriously doubt you are going to find much land that doesnt have clay down there - unless its beach front property, which you wouldnt want to build cob on anyway.
Here is a great Q & A:
http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/cob/where.htm
and of course, this book is essential:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Cob-Builders-Handbook-Hand-Sculpt/dp/0965908208



Thank you for your quick response and suggestions for educating ourselves. :) Also, sorry about the caps. I tend to type in all caps due to my 3 year old and his nursing gymnastic.It leaves me with only one hand to type with and I am terrible at hitting the shift key with one hand. LOL We are not looking to build one in Florida. We have lived in OR, CA, WA, KS, WI and IL as well and are looking to relocate back to the Northwest possibly. So glad to hear that it will not matter. I was concerned that I may have to make my choice depending on the resources available. So nice that you have learned so much and have shared your favorite reading material and website. Thank again~and good luck to YOU and your future cob home. 


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#4 of 14 Old 03-28-2012, 04:27 PM
 
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I dont have any information to add here, but I just wanted to say ME TOO! We are first timers and fell in love with cob houses the moment we seen them- we knew that they would be prefect for us. We are very excited to start saving for out land, back out in the woods a bit, but not TOO far off grid.

 

We plan on using solar panels and all of that. Were trying to still get a basic understanding of how to such things as plumbing and what not, which is still a bit confusing for us. We would still like to have things like internet if possible.

 

I am a sculpter, and I plan on having beautiful cob fire places in our home with sculptures above each one- i have planned EVERYTHING.  We are love that cob houses are so 'personal' and that you can add shelves, right into the walls, where ever you wish. We want as many funky shaped and colored windows as we can find to add.

 

I also plan on building a moon lodge etiher connected to our home or seperate on our property. We are super excited and this has been all ive though about for almost a year now!

 

I can see it now : Me and DH sitting infront of our beautiful warm fire place, Im reading and my belly is big and round with child ( we plan to have our next child after we have moved into our new home ), the kids will be fast asleep in their own rooms, dreaming about our organic garden, our cows, chickens and goats. Our house will always smell like freshly baked bread and herbs..

 

Mmm. The thought makes me warm and fuzzy. luxlove.gif  Thats another thing I love about cob houses; they always looks so warm, magical and inviting. Like something out of a fairy tale.

 

Sorry that I have no information to help you, but we're also really excited and its nice to have someone to share that with. Hope you dont mind.wink1.gif


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#5 of 14 Old 03-28-2012, 04:48 PM
 
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If you are looking to locate near the ancient glacial areas of the PNW, then you will find clay somewhere on the property.  I would not base the purchase of the property on just that.  You will be importing large quantities of sand and of course straw.  Once you add water to make the clay slip for the cob, you really don't need all that much.  Low clay soils, as long as there is not too much silt, can be amended with powdered bentonite to up the clay content.

 

We did not build a cob house, but we did build a round cob bathroom (there's a story to that).  We loved the material for building, but we discovered that it is very time-consuming.  If you are planning to have that be your work, then fine, build small and you will do well.  Sun Ray Kelley who builds (unpermitted, crazy, wonderful) houses has built some pretty amazing, large cob structures using a bulldozer to mix large quantities of cob at the same time.  You'll find pictures of his buildings in many books on hand-built homes.

 

What I loved about the material was it's flexibility, especially for low-skilled homebuilders.  You start to put in a window and cob around it, then check if it's plumb.  No?  Push Push Grunt Grunt Cob Cob--voila!--Perfect!  Then you can cob up and around the roof materials.  Very elegant in a practical sort of way.  The earthen paint spread on top is such a joy to use compared to sticky, smelly house paint.  Really a lovely way to build if you have the time, and in many ways more appropriate to the PNW than straw bale.

 

One more caveat about cob-- being essentially a stone house (made with itty bitty stones) it takes a long time to heat.  Granted, it never gets that cold, either, but if you will be spending most of your time at work, unless you keep the home heated it will be cold when you get home and not that warm until morning.  If you are there most of the day most days, you'll find it quite comfortable.

 

My favorite how-too books have been by Ianto Evans, and Becky Bee.  It's been a long time since I've researched the information so new and wonderful online links might be out there as welI.  I highly recommend you attend a workshop or at least a cob work party to get a feel for what you are doing, mainly with the mixing of the cob.  Every locale will be a bit different because the clay used will be a mite bit different, but you will get a good idea as to what a good cob mix looks (and sounds) like.  If this is out of the realm of possibility, start with a little cob shed, like our bathroom, and get practice working on that.   In fact, do both if you can.  You may decide after building your sweet little outbuilding that, as wonderful a material as it is, cob is not right for your needs.  


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#6 of 14 Old 03-28-2012, 08:23 PM
 
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I would second a lot of what SweetSilver said.  Before building our strawbale home we experimented with cob as well, building a cob oven and using cob with cordwood in the endwalls of a home-attached passive solar greenhouse.  (I definitely recommend AGAINST cordwood by the way.)  We found cob fun to work with but way too time consuming for large scale applications and not insulative enough for our climate (we're in southern IN).  It works wonderfully in a desert climate, if you have warm days and cool nights it works great to mediate temperatures.  But in a climate where you have cold days and cold nights it will just be cold.  And hot in the summer.

 

Strawbale works great in conjunction with cob.  You can incorporate a lot of cob elements in a strawbale house.  Here's an example of some cob details in our house: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=314278408632188&set=a.314277365298959.72727.154268924633138&type=3&theater.  The stone wall in that picture is a trom wall between the house and the greenhouse.  We considered using cob for that, and I think it would also have been a good choice, but we had access to free stone and decided we liked the contrast of materials.  The plaster that we used for our house is basically a cob mixture, and we cobbed many of our windows in (here's some pictures of that process: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.313116388748390.72448.154268924633138&type=3)

 

If you're set on doing cob, I would suggest looking for land in the southwest where the massive earthen walls will work WITH the climate rather than against it.  Adobe, which is traditionally used in those areas, is basically cob, but made into big bricks first rather than just placed directly in the walls.


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#7 of 14 Old 03-28-2012, 10:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all of the helpful suggestions!! I feel that I have such a better grasp on where to start.SweetSilver~~  Thank you for taking so much of your time helping me and giving me so much to think about!!  <3  And, BTW Brambleberry, I just looked at your pics and they are beautiful. I remember seeing your photo of you pregnant with the soundproof headphones on in another thread and thinking how funny that was!! Thanks for sharing so much.

 

I think we need to take land concerns into consideration first. I am willing to relocate to almost anywhere. I have done it many times. And in doing that I have found that you can really make a mistake by moving blindly. Which, unfortunately, in this case we probably will be doing again. I have never bought land nor owned a home and I am really worried about making a big mistake. We are looking for about 2 acres. I understand we will need to buy land with a well already established or we will have to have someone go out and give us an estimate for putting one in. I would love to find one with running water already on it but that will increase the price per acre considerably. I also would like a place where the soil is good for growing vegetation as well and finding a place with an extended growing season would be a plus. We plan to use solar power for most part and will need to have a septic tank installed. I would like to be free from any utilities so I am going to start educating myself on alternative power sources, ways to heat the home and how we will get clean water. I have heard of systems that will reuse grey water for toilets, etc...as you can see I am not too familiar on how it all will work yet. :) We do want to be as completely self-sufficient as possible.I do realize that southwestern states will be a better climate for a cob home to be more efficient but I do want to have a serious garden. :) I would worry about lack of water and soil quality (or lack of ). LOL. So, I guess my next step is to look into the demographics/weather/sun /rain etc...  of the states I am considering.  NM, CO, NC and WA. If any of you have suggestions for locations I am all for it!!!!

 

As far as building I am really concerned that it will be hard to get a permit to build. I have read that there are no building codes in the US that are specifically for building a cod home. I have learned that some building codes include provisions for "alternative methods and materials" not specified by the code.So, in most cases,it will require the involvement of a state-licensed architect or engineer to sign off on your plans to ensure that your building will be safe. I read that it can be rejected unless they are familiar with this type of building material so it is helpful if there are other natural material homes in the area.

 

 


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#8 of 14 Old 03-29-2012, 08:53 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brambleberry View Post

 

If you're set on doing cob, I would suggest looking for land in the southwest where the massive earthen walls will work WITH the climate rather than against it.  Adobe, which is traditionally used in those areas, is basically cob, but made into big bricks first rather than just placed directly in the walls.

Cob also works very nicely in maritime climates like the PNW.  There are some fabulous examples of old cob houses in SW England, in fact that is where the initial process was developed.  The term "cob" came from the brick-size lumps of the material that were made that size to be moved by hand.  There are some amazing photographs of cob buildings all over the world in many types of climates.  Cob is not quite like having just an uninsulated wall.  It is more insulative than a stone wall, though not like straw bale.  Mainly, though, it is a heat sink, and if you have a woodstove going you are going to have some heat in those walls to radiate back to you.  

 

But your right about the cold, northern areas, where the cold is unrelenting.  PNW never really gets that cold even though it doesn't really warm up all that much either.  Earthen building seem to work fine in the cold desert areas like New Mexico.

 

All the states you've listed are going to be good for cob, more or less.  You will probably find an easier time with permits, etc. in NM especially where straw bale is becoming de rigeur and they are building monstrous home with the material.  Besides which, they have adobe so I think cob will be easy.

 

If NM sounds good to you, read Toby Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden" about Permaculture.  He writes about how one woman transformed her hot yard into an oasis.  But remember, while NM gets hot and dry, it is not the low desert.  The main issue will be water and salinity of the soil.  And, of course, cold winters.
 

 


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#9 of 14 Old 04-05-2012, 05:48 AM
 
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Here in Canada, cob homes are becoming popular in coastal BC (pacific coastal climate,USDA zones 7-9, there's actually some guy growing bananas there).  Here in Nova Scotia it's also mild for Canada, but we're not quite that warm, or more accurately, we have some of the warmest temperatures but it is so damp and windy it can feel colder.  Now I'm curious if it could work here because England's climate is very similar.  Maybe some time I'll test with a smaller building.  Right now we're building a small shelter with sod (more just for fun) .


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#10 of 14 Old 04-13-2012, 10:54 PM
 
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Hi :) We built a cob home and live in it with our family, we moved in almost a year ago :) We live on Vancouver Island, BC Canada.. Cob is amazing to build with and very well suited to our climate. Our home is a bit of a hybrid , it is  a passive solar design and our east, south and west walls are load bearing cob and our north wall is wood chip clay infill. We built our home in a  year and it is just over 1000 square feet. We built it to code and had a permit etc.. The way around that was having it engineered, which was actually very affordable and since we are in an earthquake zone there were a few things we needed to do to please them in that way.. We had our own sand on our land but had to find clay, it is a waste product for many sites so we just had to pay trucking to get it here. I disagree with the comment about not needing much though.. We used close to 16 dump trucks of clay to build our home and do all our earthen plasters, floor, counters, cob bench etc.. We mixed with a bobcat so we could put mud up faster and lift the bucket up to the wall height, our south facing wall is 14 feet tall, so it saved alot of effort bucketing mud up.. We sped up the process a UGE amount by doing this.. Feel free to ask anymore questions you have, we love love love our home SO much!!


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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#11 of 14 Old 04-14-2012, 09:00 AM
 
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Originally Posted by kimmom View Post
 I disagree with the comment about not needing much though.. We used close to 16 dump trucks of clay to build our home and do all our earthen plasters, floor, counters, cob bench etc.. We mixed with a bobcat so we could put mud up faster and lift the bucket up to the wall height, our south facing wall is 14 feet tall, so it saved alot of effort bucketing mud up.. 


I've never built an entire home, so I concede to your experience in the matter.  A lot does depend, though, on how pure the clay is and the mix that works best with it.  Also, was that 14-foot wall for a 2-story or loft?  The cob walls I've built have been pretty low.

 

I've seen pictures of a cob house on Vancouver Island.  This couldn't be one and the same, could it?  It was amazing......

 

How is your floor working out?  We built one in our outbuilding, and it doesn't get much traffic on it.  How is yours holding up?  Do you get those bees that carve little shot-holes in the south side?  That's something we didn't expect!

 


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#12 of 14 Old 04-23-2012, 09:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kimmom View Post

Hi :) We built a cob home and live in it with our family, we moved in almost a year ago :) We live on Vancouver Island, BC Canada.. Cob is amazing to build with and very well suited to our climate. Our home is a bit of a hybrid , it is  a passive solar design and our east, south and west walls are load bearing cob and our north wall is wood chip clay infill. We built our home in a  year and it is just over 1000 square feet. We built it to code and had a permit etc.. The way around that was having it engineered, which was actually very affordable and since we are in an earthquake zone there were a few things we needed to do to please them in that way.

 

Thank you for your response. I would love to know how your cob home is keeping up with the cold. How much snow do you get? Probably just rain mostly in that region. I am going to have to look into the wood chip clay infill??? We are looking to build one in Northern Montana and are a bit worried about how to keep it insulated. I have not found too much on insulating cob homes online. Our winters are going to be very cold. Also, I was hoping you might share how you found someone to help you with your home building plans so it was up to code. Where did you find an engineer who could help with a cob home? Did you come up with your own house plans? I have a few books on the way and have only been online as far as research so far but am convinced that this is the way we want to go. I do worry about the short "good cob building weather" we may have. We will not have friends or relatives to help once we get there. It will probably be a long time for us to finish it ourselves. :( I am aware that sometimes people will help out so that they can get practice but we will not have experience ourselves to help them learn. We will be staying in a Yurt while we build and will be using a wood burning stove which we will move into our new cob home once finished. What do you use to heat your home and how efficient is it? Also, since SweetSilver though she may have seen your home online could you let us know if it is? I would love to see some pictures! :)


Wife to a super sexy hubby , mom to Christian 12/94 , Autumn 10/97 (HB), Will 07/00 (HB), Ocean 06/09 (birth center) and Zion 11/13 (HB) co-sleeper. no-vac, no-circ, babywearer, 8.5 years accu BF...and counting.
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#13 of 14 Old 04-23-2012, 09:47 PM
 
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#14 of 14 Old 05-05-2012, 12:44 PM
 
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Thank you for your response. I would love to know how your cob home is keeping up with the cold. How much snow do you get? Probably just rain mostly in that region. I am going to have to look into the wood chip clay infill??? We are looking to build one in Northern Montana and are a bit worried about how to keep it insulated. I have not found too much on insulating cob homes online. Our winters are going to be very cold. Also, I was hoping you might share how you found someone to help you with your home building plans so it was up to code. Where did you find an engineer who could help with a cob home? Did you come up with your own house plans? I have a few books on the way and have only been online as far as research so far but am convinced that this is the way we want to go. I do worry about the short "good cob building weather" we may have. We will not have friends or relatives to help once we get there. It will probably be a long time for us to finish it ourselves. :( I am aware that sometimes people will help out so that they can get practice but we will not have experience ourselves to help them learn. We will be staying in a Yurt while we build and will be using a wood burning stove which we will move into our new cob home once finished. What do you use to heat your home and how efficient is it? Also, since SweetSilver though she may have seen your home online could you let us know if it is? I would love to see some pictures! :)

 

Hi again!

We do have a website with some pictures which I don't update often at all! It is www.canadianfamilyrobinson.com :)



We don not get much snow here , we are coastal so mild winters and lots of rain. We have 3 foot overhangs on our roof so not much rain hits the walls on the outside. We are doing our exterior pigmented waterproof lime plaster this year. I have heard of a fair number of people in cooler climates doing cob on 3 walls and strawbale on the north wall. I also know of a family adding an exterior framed wall to the outside of their north cob wall to add more insulation value. The engineerw ho we used has dealt with alot of alternative homes and is from eastern Canada. If you want any info on his contact name etc PM me :) We had a friend who is an architect who lives in an alternative home look at what we wanted and help us with our plans.. For us it was worth hiring some help to build, it meant we could get done in one season and though having friends and family help is lovely.. the reality of it is you need strong workers if you are wanting to get your walls up in a timely manner :) We had already been in our 5th wheel almost 2 years and I was pregnant so we were keen to get in the house! We have been in now a year and couldn't be happier with how it functions etc.. Our floor is holding up great! And we have 6 kids so we are a real test on earthen homes ;) We have hydronic floor heat, it was fairly simple to put in and an effective way to heat for sure!


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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