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Cobb Homes

Cobb homes are made using a mixture of soil, clay, mud, sand and straw (not corn cobs). This is formed into globs, loaves or bricks that work as the building blocks for your house. The initial foundation is completed first, and the house is framed as usual. Then the cobb mixture is used to form the walls of the house. After the walls are done and completely dry, you will apply a mixture similar to plaster, to seal the walls against the outdoor elements.

Cobb Homes

The method of building cobb homes is an ancient method, having been used in areas the world over at some time. You may see cobb houses now that are in use after having been built hundreds of years ago. In some areas, they are built without the wood frame structure, and the loaves or bricks are simply stacked on top of one another. But today's building codes require that the structure be framed, generally using 2'x6' lumber. After the frame is ready, it's not difficult to build the walls from the cobb mixture.

In building a cobb house, you'll need sand, straw, mud, a trowel and cow manure or cattail fiber. For burnishing, a piece of burlap or rubber will suffice.

You'll begin by mixing the sand/mud/straw compound. There isn't really an exact recipe, but you are usually better off to start with clay type soil, and then add water until the consistency is mud, then mix in the sand and add your straw until the complete mixture can be molded, and until it holds itself together. Long straw will strengthen the compound.

Cobb Globs ...

After you have your cobb material made, you'll form it into globs, loaves or blocks. You can buy a mold for bricks if you prefer, but many builders who use the material just knead the mud and form it into bricks shaped like loaves of bread. Then these are placed atop one another and they become the walls. You may also take handfuls and just slap them onto the framing. After six inches are applied, you must let it dry before you continue.

Cobb walls are built with time. You have to allow the drying phase after each six inches of height. If they don't dry properly, they may crack. As you go, fill in spaces so that you can't see the bricks or loaves.

Getting Plastered ...

Next, you'll need your mud plaster coating. Apply this to the inside and outside of the walls. The materials in your plaster will be similar to those used in the cobb mud, but the mixture should be thinner and smoother. Making natural plaster calls for clay, sand and short fibers like cattail fluff, cow manure or chopped straw. Add a binding agent made with water added to flour.

Apply your plaster after you wet down the cobb wall to better the adhesion. Don't over-water the wall, though. You can apply your plaster with a trowel or by hand. It should be a thin coat, no thicker than a half inch. Smooth it out well. Burnish the plaster surface with wet burlap or a rubber piece, when it has partially dried. This adds a finished look to your home.

Layer It On ...

After all the walls have been built and then plastered, you can install windows and doors and erect a roof for your cobb house. It will take you a few weeks to build this type of house if you do it properly. The layers must be allowed to dry or they may crack later on.

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