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Beginner Shed Building, help!

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Hi! I'm new!

I've been interested in cob, homesteading and simple living for years. But I always let the dream fade because I rent an apartment in a big city, I never had land to work with. Well, my parents recently bought 12 acres outside the city, and an opportunity has risen. They need a storage shed.

My first reaction was to get out there and start playing in the mud and just wing it. But after I calmed down, I realized this is my best chance of seeing how liveable of a house I could potentially build on my own land. So, I want to do this right. Having no construction experience and no such thing as cob workshops around here, all I have is the Internet, books and you guys.

And so the purpose of this thread is for guidance. I'm a bit overwhelmed and don't know where to start.

Key thoughts right now are:
- Finding clay on the land, where to look, what to look for, making the right mix.
- Keeping it cheap, but doing it right. This is just a little shed, but more importantly its a learning opportunity for me. The success of this shed determines whether I buy a house in suburbia or buy acerage in the boonies.
- I'm utterly lost on foundations and roofs. Part of me says they don't need to be perfect on a shed, but again this project is determining my faith in my cob abilities.

Thanks for any advice.
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Foundations shouldn't scare you; just take the time to make sure it is level before you pour the concrete. If it's not level, you'll have a hell of a time making the building plumb and straight.

As far as finding clay, take a look at my other post here.

Since it is a shed, the walls are the least important part of the structure, and you can experiment all you want until you figure out a cob mixture that works for you. If you have more specific questions about your project, send me a PM and I'll be glad to help out.
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Justin Shapp : I hope you are following all the Threads here in cob right now, while you are getting your supplies and books lined up, there is much here that you will need
to know ! Good luck ! Though it will be hard to see it now you are slowly growing as you transition from 'new guy' to' them thats doing', to 'them thats done it !'

For the Good of the Crafts ! Be safe, keep warm ! As always, your comments and questions are Solicited and are Welcome PYRO - Magically Big AL !
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Don't let one project make or break your faith in cob. Either way, this will be a good learning experience. First off, you don't need concrete, and if you are looking at needing a large amount of it for your footing, I would recommend looking into french drain/rubble trench foundations. Most natural builders up here in the Pac. NW are using rubble trench with dry stacked or mortared stone or 'urbanite' foundations (broken concrete reclaimed from craigslist, demolition sites, ect.). They stack up rather nicely as they usually have at least one flat side, after all they were once a driveway or a sidewalk usually. As far as the cob mix is concerned, start by digging a few test holes around the base of where your shed will go. If you are using a rubble trench and there is good clay in the subsoil, you may have enough just pulling it out of your drainage trench. Otherwise, popular places are to look at road cuts in hilly areas. Do a few tests to make sure you have clay and not silt. Do a shake test (put it in a jar with water, shake and let rest. Your bottle will then separate into sand (bottom), clay in the middle, then silt at the top. When it comes to sand, ALWAYS use mason or river sand. Beach sand/play sand will not work. Its the marble reference again. If you look at magnified sand, you want the edges sharp and jagged so they catch eachother, beach sand is round and smooth for years of erosion and rolling with the waves. It can be helpful to mix into your plaster sand though. You cant stack a wall with bowling balls so don't use round sand. Get your clay and your sand together. then make test batches... keep them small. Let several different batches dry. 1:1 sand to clay, 1:2, 1:3, 3:1, 2:1. Dry them out in small balls or bricks. Try to break them, throw them, stomp them. Which is strongest? Use that recipe for your walls. To roof is easy, cob is load bearing. Good luck! Remember to have fun and not to stress. Take your time with it.

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Location: Northern California
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as others have said, "relax" and stay on it.

Get a copy of The Hand-Sculpted House and actually read it cover to cover before starting to lift and dig things. 90% of your possible questions will be taken care of.

and spend more time on the foundation and roof than the walls.



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