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Cob house questions

 
Ray Cover
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
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Hey all, new guy here. Would probably consider myself more of a prepper than a permaculture purist but a lot of you folks' ideas appeal to me.

I have a few questions about cob house construction. I am thinking of pole frame and cob type construction not cob only.

1. Is there a limit to size. Is a small two room cottage all that is feasible with this material or is a three bedroom two bath family home possible?
2. Is the material strong enough to make story and a half or two level home possible?
3. Looking online I see a lot of color variation (beyond just various earth tones) So I am wondering if this cob material can be painted.
4. Since this is basically a mud structure, how do you keep wet weather from undermining the integrity of the material (how do you keep it from melting in the rain?)

I make my living as an artist/craftsman and my wife is a school teacher. My kids are in high school and will soon be off on their own. When my wife retires we are considering selling out and moving to the other side of the state (where all my favorite fishing holes are). This type of low cost organic construction REALLY appeals to me. I would be looking at probably four buildings total: our home, my studio, my machine shop/work shop, and a green house.

I live in town now on a 1 acre lot and I have my studio in the basement and shop in the garage but getting away with green houses, gardens, etc. really depend on how much the neighbors are willing to tolerate before they complain. So my garden is in boxes that are cedar stained to match the fence and shed etc (it has to look like a park). Every time I do a project like that I am on pins and needles as to whether I will get away with it or not.

Anyway, I'm looking to downsize a bit and live a little more free not to far in the future. Any input and insights you all have is appreciated.
 
Alex Sumerall
Posts: 7
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Hi Ray,

Let me quickly answer your questions before I leave work and I'm sure someone else can fill in the other details for you.

1. Is there a limit to size. Is a small two room cottage all that is feasible with this material or is a three bedroom two bath family home possible?

Not really. You can build a cob house as large as you like it. It mostly depends on your resources and time. 3bedroom, 2 baths is definitely possible.

2. Is the material strong enough to make story and a half or two level home possible?

I've seen many two story cob homes. I would definitely not recommend going higher than that though. I would just want to be confident that my building is structurally sound if doing two stories. Especially if you're building a large house.

3. Looking online I see a lot of color variation (beyond just various earth tones) So I am wondering if this cob material can be painted.

Yes! Cob can be painted. You can create all kinds of natural paints and pigments to paint your cob walls. I would plaster them first and then paint them.

4. Since this is basically a mud structure, how do you keep wet weather from undermining the integrity of the material (how do you keep it from melting in the rain?)

Create a good lifted foundation, good drainage, a good overhanging roof, and plaster your walls with a breathable plaster so water does not get trapped behind the plaster and saturate the walls.
 
John Seay
Posts: 26
Location: Richmond, Va
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I recommend reading the cob builders handbook. A quick read through that and I think you'll want to stick to just cob. I personally don't have experience with pole built cob homes; but it is my understanding that it actually reduces the strength of the cob to have it interrupted by the wood. There aren't really any limitations to cob. There have been very large, three-story cob homes built. The idea though is the bigger the house the thicker the walls.
 
Ray Cover
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
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Thanks John and Alex,

DO you know if this book is available through amazon.com or another online source? I will have to get online later and search for it.

Again thanks for the info.

Ray
 
Ray Cover
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
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Ok guys I have found three books online
Cob Builders Handbook
The hand Sculpted house
Building with Cob

Which of those three would you recommend as the best one to get on the subject? Depending on how work goes this month I may get two of them. So maybe the best two of the three.

Thanks,

Ray
 
John Seay
Posts: 26
Location: Richmond, Va
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Personally I would get them in that order.
1. Cob builders handbook
2. The hand sculpted house
3. Building with cob
 
Annah Rachel
Posts: 112
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There are skyscrapers in Yemen made out of cob! Look 'em up!
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
Posts: 497
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Those towers in Yemen are built with adobe bricks. You can see an interesting video about them here:

<http://www.der.org/films/architecture-of-mud.html>
 
Alex Sumerall
Posts: 7
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I've never read the Cob Builders Handbook, but The Hand Sculpted House is EXCELLENT. Building With Cob is pretty good too.
 
Ray Cover
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
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Thanks for the input guys. I ordered "THe Cob Builders Handbook" and "Build Your Own Earthen Oven" I figured an oven project would be a good experience before tackling anything bigger.

I will probably get the other two books later.

Again thanks for all the input.

Ray
 
Suzanne Cornell
Posts: 44
Location: Chemung NY
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Also go to buildsomthingbeautiful.co.uk to see two and three story gorgeous Houses.
 
LaLena MaeRee
Posts: 148
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First Earth is a great documentary about cob and adobe allover the world, there is also a photo gallery, in the UK they build cob "mansions"
 
2016 PDC and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://permies.com/pdc
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