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Guide to Cob Homes

Guide to Cob Homes

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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Benefits of Cob Homes

Cob homes use basic materials like straw, clay and sand to make inexpensive, livable homes. Many people are choosing to build cob homes for a wide variety of reasons. Every person or family that decides on using cob to build a small family home has their own primary reason whether it is due to them being 'green' and more eco-friendly, less expensive or the fact that anyone can do it and you don't need to pay contractors or buy heavy machinery. The following benefits are reasons why you might want to consider building a cob home.

Save Money

The first benefit is the fact that you will save a lot of money. On average, the total cost of building a cob home is between $3,000 and $10,000. The materials you use are very inexpensive, including, water, clay, dirt, straw and sand. These are mixed together to create a 'mud' which will dry and leave behind a hard surface. You also don't use any heavy or expensive machinery and most of the building is done by hand which saves even more money. You can even create most of the furniture in your cob home with the cob as it will dry in whatever form you molded.

Energy Efficient

If being green is important to you, the high energy efficiency will be a deciding factor. Cob homes can naturally heat themselves during the winter and cool naturally in the summer due to the unique insulation so you're saving on heating and cooling from a thermostat. If you choose to forego electricity, then you don't need to worry about the energy bill or using energy in your home. You can get electricity but not use as much as a traditional home.

Lack of Building Permits

Another important benefit is that you don't need a building permit. Since cob homes aren't listed in any of the building codes in the United States, all you need to do is own the land and you can build any type or size of cob home as you want. The opportunities are endless and you don't need to pay taxes or fees for the permits.

No Experience Required

Anyone can build a cob home which means no hiring out expensive contractors or needing special experience. In a short period of time, you can learn the basics of building a cob home and the rest is up to you. There are helpful workshops and programs to show you how to mix the materials and build your cob home along with information on wiring for electricity an adding plumbing, but that is all optional.

Materials Used to Make Cob Homes

As being green, self-sufficient and eco-friendly continue becoming more popular, people are looking for ways to incorporate this into their homes. Many natural and earth materials are used to make different types of homes, including cob homes. Earth materials such as gravel, sand and clay are used to create sturdy, custom-made homes. This mixed material is called cob and once it dries, it becomes a concrete-like material. The homes are much sturdier than you might imagine and the majority of the insulation is completely natural. They are also very inexpensive at under $10,000 from start to finish. The following lists all of the materials you might need to build a cob home for yourself.

Foundation Materials

The basic materials used to make the cob material are clay, sand, water, straw, gravel and sand. These are all naturally occurring earth materials you can get from local suppliers and hardware stores. To make the basic foundation of your cob home, you will mix the clay, sand, straw and water together into a thick mud-like substance. The clay acts as a glue to keep the pieces together. The flooring of your home will use the cob material and you and your friends or other helpers will stomp down the ground until it is flat and as thick as you desire. For the walls, the method is up to you but most likely you will use the cob material to create bricks which are stacked much in the same method. You can create any shape home you want and once it dries, the cob material hardens.

Additional Components

You may also want to add other components to your home which will require additional materials For example, if you want windows and door sin your home, you will need to add these spaces in your walls and purchase basic door and wall materials along with any hardware. Some of your furniture can be built into the cob home such as benches or tables along the walls. If you plan to add electricity, remember you will need lighting fixtures and outlets. To protect your home in certain climates, you might also need to purchase plaster or concrete for the exterior walls of your cob home.

Insulation, Wiring and Plumbing

Lastly, keep in mind the materials you need for electrical wiring and plumbing. It is indeed possible to have indoor plumbing and electricity in a cob home, but you need to make this decision before you begin building the home. The electrical wiring goes in between your cob walls so it should be decided on beforehand. Electrical wiring supplies include electrical boxes, wiring materials and metal conduits.

How to Create the Plans for a Cob Home

If you want to benefit from building a Cob home, such as having a more energy efficient and green home and saving money on building and labor costs you will be able to get the satisfaction of knowing your home was built with your own two hands. Not only do you need to know how much it will cost and what supplies to buy, but create a plan for the home. Rather than just starting blind, it helps to have an approximate layout of the home, such as adding furniture elements or different rooms. If you want to add electrical wiring or plumbing, those are things that should be decided beforehand as they go in during the process of building the home's foundation.

Costs and Setting a Budget

The first step to any building or remodeling project is to set a budget. Your budget should be realistic based on the actual costs of the project, so you should first find out how much the materials and tools will cost in your area. The basic materials for a cob home are clay, sand, straw and water. Other supplies and materials are secondary though many of them might be necessary, depending on what type of cob home you want and how much you're willing to spend. For about 30 tons of sand, 13 tons of gravel and 16 bales of straw, expect to pay about $800. Additional materials might include scrap lumber, windows, hardware, electrical wire and supplies, plumbing fixtures, nails, and miscellaneous materials. In the end, you're looking at $5,000 to $10,000 on average.


When designing a timeline and plan for your cob home, keep in mind other components you want to include. This include leaving empty space for windows and doors, and adding plumbing fixtures or electrical wiring. If you plan to have electricity for lighting, cable or phone service, be sure to include this in your plan as the wiring needs to go up in between your cob walls. There should be sufficient space for a bathroom area depending on the fixtures you choose, any appliances you want (minimal in cob homes) and the size of windows and doors. Draw a blueprint-style plan of how you want your home shaped and what all is to be included.

Insulation and Protection

Depending on where you live in the country and your climate you might need to add additional protection or insulation. You should consider this when choosing your budget and overall plan for building and finishing the home. Most cob materials are naturally insulated meaning your home stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. However to protect the exterior walls of your home from harsh weather conditions like rain, sleet or heavy winds, concrete or plaster is recommended. This will be added after your cob work is finished and dries.

How to Start Saving for a Cob Home

Cob homes are quickly becoming popular due to how inexpensive they are the fact that anyone can build them. Not having to hire a contractor will save you a lot of money. In fact, while some builders have experience with cob homes, most of the money you pay them will be in labor costs because the materials for cob houses are very inexpensive. Materials you will need include clay, sand and dirt, straw and water; all of these occur naturally in the earth which makes your cob house inexpensive and energy efficient. This is why you should do the majority of the labor work yourself.

Cost of a Cob Home

As mentioned previously, the materials used foe the cob house foundation is inexpensive. Approximately 25% of the cost you will pay to build your cob home is for the walls and foundation. The rest of the money goes into wiring for electricity, electric and plumbing fixtures, windows, doors and anything else you want to include. The cob home can cost as little as $3,000 to build or as much as $10,000. Of course they can cost more that this depends largely on the size and what you decide to include. To keep the cost low, build a small home with basic insulation and use the cob material for the furniture in your home such as tables, chairs and benches along the walls.

Saving Tips for Cob Homes

If you want to build a cob home, start by setting a budget. Learn how much the materials will cost in your area including the clay, sand and straw. Most of this will be provided by local suppliers and inexpensive. Most of the labor going into building cob homes is done by your bare hands but you may need some basic tools and other supplies. Keep in mind if you want electricity and plumbing, you need to factor in those expenses. As far as financing is concerned, it can be difficult getting a loan because most lenders don't know what a cob home is and won't offer financing for it. However a simple cob home costs a few thousand dollars which is achievable with some saving tactics. Begin by cutting down on your current expenses. Cancel your cable, turn off lights, and unplug appliances not in use and stop eating out so often. Use coupons and stick to a tighter budget while you begin saving money. If your family has more than one vehicle, see if you can downsize to one vehicle. If you plan to move into the cob home once it is built, now is the time to get your current home ready to sell if you own it. You can wait until it sells and use that money to build your cob home.

Electricity and Internet in Cob Homes

Cob homes combine inexpensive and natural materials and labor work to build affordable, custom-made and durable homes. With less than $10,000 you can make a home for your family using material such as sand, dirt, clay, water and straw. These materials form a mud that hardens and leaves behind a sturdy and safe home to live in. Many people think that by building a cob home you are committing to a life of 'living off the grid' but in fact you can actually have all the things normal homes have including plumbing, electricity, cable and internet.


Your cob home is going to use layers of materials that are formed into stacks of bricks. You will start by mixing up the materials to form a mud, including mixing clay, sand and straw with water. Once it forms a mud, you create brick-like pieces and stack them for your walls and foundation. The floor of your cob home is done by stomping the cob material. Once the cob material hardens, it resembles concrete or rock in its hardness and consistency. For more insulation in your home, you will also add a coat of plaster so that it will be protected against wind and rain. If you want to run electricity, the best thing to do is run the wiring through the walls of your foundation before the cobbing and plaster work is complete.


The first step is getting electrical wiring done for electricity. The best way to do this is during the building of your cob home's foundation, you use metal conduits to run electrical wiring. This and plumbing may be the only thing you hire a professional to help with. You don't want to mess around with electrical work if you're not familiar with it. Install metal conduits and electrical boxes before finishing with the cob material and adding the plaster. The electrical wiring will now be inside the walls of your home and used for anything you need.

Phone Service

Now that you have electrical wiring and electrical boxes throughout your cob home, you can set up phone service. When setting up electrical wiring, you should be telling the electrician you want phone service and they will put in a phone jack in one of the walls. This lets you easily call the phone company to set up service in your home. The same goes for cable service. As long as your home is in a location with phone and cable service, you can get them set up.


The same rule applies for getting internet service. As long as your cob home is equipped for electrical outlets and components, you can get internet service. Call your local internet service provider to find out if they offer service in your area.

Companies that make Cob Homes

Cob homes are great because it is something you can do on your own with minimal supervision and instruction. It is easy to mix the cob materials, which include clay, sand, gravel, straw and water, and you basically build your home however you want. She size, shape and dimensions of the home are entirely up to you. You don't even need to worry about building codes because most cities in the United States don't have restrictions in cob homes since they're rare. As long as you own the land, the rest is up to you. However, before you begin your first cob home you might want a little assistance. Whether you're interested in taking a workshop, joining an apprenticeship or even hiring contractors to help build the home, the following information will be helpful to you.

Workshops and Work Parties

Many different companies, farms and organizations offer their local residents workshops you can join. One such company is called the Cob Cottage Company, located in Oregon. The Cob Cottage Company offers workshops that will show you all about using natural earth materials to build your own cob home. They give you hands-on instruction on mixing and choosing materials, building your home, adding insulation, and trying out their buildings to see if they suit you. The workshops are located in Oregon but you don't need to be a local to take them. Cob Cottage Company is happy to accept anyone willing to travel to the Pacific Northwest and take part in their affordable workshops. Another Oregon-based company offering similar services is called House Alive. House Alive offers hands-on workshops and work parties, both to help you learn how to build your own cob home in a short amount of time. Each workshop is done in just a few days, where you dedicate 6 hours a day to choosing materials, mixing cob material, learning how to build your foundation, even learning how to add electrical wiring or plumbing fixtures to your new home. House Alive accepts people of all ages and you don't need any building experience before you begin.


Apprenticeships are similar to workshops offered in learning to build cob homes but you will actually learn a little more and spend more time. Apprenticeships are offered by a variety of companies, organizations, non-profits and even local farms. These are offered by companies that want to teach others how live in a natural cob home and explore the beauty and many benefits of this self-sufficient and energy-efficient home.

Cob Building Contractors

Your last option is to hire a building contractor company that hires people experienced working with cob to help you build your home. Most of what you pay them is in labor costs because the materials are inexpensive. One such building company is called Barefoot Builders who not only provides contracting work but also similar workshops.

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