A cob house project
December 7, 2013 5:50 PM   Subscribe

From the previously link, in case you're curious:

"The dictionary lists one of the root meanings of cob as a 'lump' or 'mass'. One definition of cobble is 'to make'. And a cobber is 'a friend'. So let's cobble a cob house with our cobbers! "

Yo dawg, I heard...
posted by nevercalm at 6:01 PM on December 7, 2013

... with the power of Comic Sans.
posted by xmutex at 6:15 PM on December 7, 2013

Farmer Builds a House for just 150 pounds (Daily Mail link). No electricity or running water though; I wonder if that had to do with taxes.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:22 PM on December 7, 2013

How is it that every amateur designer settles on Comic Sans for their project? Just by law of averages or something, shouldn't one of them at least occasionally pick a different typeface?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:25 PM on December 7, 2013

Inspiring! It would be wonderful if schools spent their time teaching people to be just as confident and resourceful as this woman in building, designing, and making things in the world.
posted by ariel_caliban at 6:30 PM on December 7, 2013

I read that as Lois Lane and thought it was a new story about her living in Clark Kent's hometown in a house made of corn cobs.
posted by discopolo at 6:31 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm designing and building one of these over the next 1/2 decade or so.
posted by edgeways at 7:07 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's nice to have a kid who knows how to work a dozer and pour a foundation.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:17 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's true. When I shared this with my partner, he read part of that part aloud to me:

Then it got close to the end of the summer, and I wanted to get the cement poured before bad weather. So I hired a couple of girls to help me finish getting it ready, not just the ditch, but the forms, too. I just kind of freaked out when it came to forms, because they are so straight. So I went running to you and you said, ‘Use straw bales. They will bend in a curve. And plastic, to keep out the cement.' So, I bent the straw bales into the shape I needed, covered them with plastic and staked them down.

Then my son, who was experienced with concrete, told me I needed wires across the ditch, from one bale to another, to help hold it. He helped me do that. It didn't take long, because the bales were solidly in place. Then we called the cement truck. When the cement guy came up he just took his hat off and looked bewildered at the strange sight. My son, grinning from ear to ear, said, ‘I didn't do it! I didn't do it.' Then the fellow looked again and said, ‘Well, it looks like it's going to work.' So he dumped the cement.
posted by aniola at 7:55 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd love a small cob house, imagine it would be very cosy.
posted by arcticseal at 8:41 PM on December 7, 2013

Building a bale or cob house is on my bucket list, which I just started right now because, hell, it looks like it's okay that I won't have time until I'm north of 70.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:59 AM on December 8, 2013

This is wonderful. I would love to see more pictures.

An Irish architect called Dominic Stevens built his own house for €25,000, which is a pittance by this country's standards. More than a cob project but it is a well-finished house with insulation and modern conveniences.

He has made the plans and building instructions available online.

I very much like the idea of open plans shared by the community.
posted by distorte at 3:18 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Inspiring story! Horrible site.
posted by mumimor at 5:45 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

So which of these alternative building techniques is easiest? Cob? Cord wood? Slip-form masonry? Adobe? Which is cheapest? Most satisfying to work on?
posted by LarryC at 9:31 AM on December 8, 2013

From what I've seen, straw bale.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2013

I was trying to figure out a way to explain "it depends." Here's an answer from someone who built a house to code that was insulated with straw bale.
What is the best material to build out of?

It depends on location, codes or lack thereof, size, design requirements and technological capacity of the community the building is designed to serve. A look into indigenous building techniques of the area you want to build in speaks volumes to what will likely be appropriate to the site.
Here's a forum on alternative building techniques.
posted by aniola at 10:41 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The big advantage of cob is that you can do a little at a time in odd hours and the intermediate structure is stable even if it's exposed to the elements. You can get a lot more done more quickly with strawbale, but you've got to do it all at once and get it covered, and strawbale leaves you needing some kind of conventional roof and, if it's code compliant, a lumber frame and impermeable foundation. Cob walls can be folded in to become a roof a few pounds of cob at a time. Adobe is a cheap material that is very expensive to stage and place because of its weight, and again roofs are not trivial. If you live in a desert papercrete is a very interesting alternative but it's not practical in non-desert environments because of its affinity for absorbing water and then growing mold.
posted by localroger at 12:34 PM on December 8, 2013

As well, easiest is not always best for a particular region. We need good thermal retention and decent moisture protection, so while cord wood isn't ''easy'' it is region
adaptable, and outside of a few specific things is totally doable by a person or two.
posted by edgeways at 12:49 PM on December 8, 2013

Also on the topic of which materials to use:
Finally, the increasing collaboration between natural builders during the last few years points to the development of an integrated natural building system of which cob is only a part. Expect to see more hybrid buildings incorporating earth, straw, wood, stone, and other natural materials. Hopefully this will place less emphasis on individual materials and techniques and more on finding the best, most sustainable solution to regional building situations using the natural materials that are close at hand.
posted by aniola at 1:02 PM on December 9, 2013

Oregon code for cob is found in the residential provisions section of the 2011 Oregon Reach Code (pdf) in the section on "light straw clay." Right before the section on compost toilets. I<3 Oregon code sometimes.
posted by aniola at 6:02 PM on December 9, 2013

Tractor cob is a way faster way to mix cob.
posted by aniola at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2013

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