Affordable and Environmentally Sound Cob Housing

By Candice Armstrong

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It may surprise you to learn that you can build your own home for as little as a few thousand dollars: just by using your bare hands and feet!

Cob housing is extremely affordable, earth friendly and has been around for hundreds of years. Your time and energy are the two biggest investments that go into building your cob house.

What is cob housing?

Cob houses are built using a mix of three ingredients: clay, sand and straw. Although they are relatively small in size, cob houses offer all of the amenities you would expect in a home. They have fully functioning bathrooms and kitchens, including appliances, and they are extremely energy efficient.

build_cob_houseHow do I build a cob house?

To keep costs low, most cob homes are built by their owners. There are many books available that can serve as a how-to guide for building your cob home. There are courses you can take or, if you want to save some time, you can hire helpers. However, that will boost building costs. Also, you will need a dry, well-drained site to build upon. The basic process for getting the walls up involves digging a trench for a foundation, making the cob, and building up the walls with it. Plaster will then be applied over the cob walls.

What are my design options for a cob house?

With a cob house, you can consider a variety of sizes and shapes. Round cob houses are a popular choice, but you also may choose a more traditional, rectangle home. Cob houses can be one or two stories, and can have one or several bedrooms. Different-shaped windows and doorways are a fun and interesting feature of cob homes. They can be painted vibrant colors or kept in earth tones. It’s all about your design aesthetic.

How do cob houses stand up to the elements?

Cob houses withstand the elements extremely well. Cob material is very porous so it can withstand the rain and even humidity. A roof with wide eaves is the best way to protect the walls from rain, and a lime-sand plaster is best for areas with high winds. Cob homes are stronger than brick or blocks, and hold up to earthquakes better than traditional homes. The immense thermal mass and natural insulation of cob homes makes them very warm in winter so there is very little need for additional heating. However, you can install ovens, stoves and chimneys in your fireproof cob home. Cob homes also will stay cool on those hot summer days.

Cob housing is relatively new to the United States but its popularity is growing. There are numerous resources available to help you build your new cob home. Reach out to the cob community, they will happily share their advice and experience with you. Building a cob home is about community, nature and being at peace with your surroundings. When you are living in a home you and your friends and family have built with your own hands, it truly brings meaning to the saying “home is where the heart is.”

 

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