All about the Cob, more sustainable way of building.
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
We tried https://www.workaway.info for the first time, without knowing what we will be getting ourselves into. But good thing is we knew we can get on the road anytime, if for whatever reason we don't like it. So to give you an idea what workaway.com is, you stay with a family or an individual and help them with whatever they might need help with around their property/ business etc. in exchange they host you and lots of times provide meals, place to sleep, and other accommodations depending on the place.
In our case, we stayed with Jen in Southern Colorado. She is a single lady, with a lot of motivation and a big dream! She lives on a 40 acres land up in the mountains and is building a sustainable home that will become her home and a retreat. When we arrived there were people all over the place most covered in clay/mud but everyone had smiles on their faces and were very welcoming. Upon our arrival Jen pointed us to our parking spot for Brave, and showed us around and introduced 10 workers and couple other workawayers.
We would each work 4 hours a day. We wold help out with whatever needed to be done. As we did we learned so much, instantaneously got so intrigued with the technique of building a home out of cob. We got to stomp in mud to build cob bricks, which then we used in build the walls. We got to learn about lime plaster which serves as an outdoor and indoor protection from all weather conditions, and also about "Tadelak" old Moroccan plastering technique.
We would take turns with Luna, usually Flori would do his 4 hours in the morning, as I played with Luna and I would do mine in the afternoon. Some days we worked together and Luna would play around and help us out ( work/play) she loves to help with whatever we are doing, but that usually last no more then 15 min :-)
In the photo on the left I was scraping existing walls in the bathroom to make them rough before we could apply Tadelak plaster that would waterproof the whole bathroom.
There is also a little cabin that was. build last year as part of a work-shop, and a test run before building the main house this year. This cute little cabin will become an Airbnb soon.
The workers were from all around the world (Australia, Japan, Brazil, Chile, Germany, and US) they were all professional cobers.
Alternative homes building is such an interesting topic. Cob structures are known to withstand earthquakes, they naturally stay cool, and also retain heat pretty well, unless you are in very cold climate that you would need to use extra insulation. They are much cheaper to build compare to standard timber frame home, and most importantly they are sustainable, you don't need expensive machinery, or lumber. Few tricky things are the building code, some states might not have building codes for cob homes, and insurance companies might give you issues.
There is total of 6 steps to building your cob home:
1. Foundation cob is very heavy and hard when it dries it needs solid foundation first.
2. Prep the mixture ( it all depends on type of clay/sand/straw) you are working with. Here we used, 2 buckets of sand, 1 1/2 buckets of clay, about 3 handfuls of straw ( you want to make sure to pick long straws, this way they interlock better and create stronger structure. When it comes to water.
3. Mix the fun part, best done with you feet you want to presoak the clay night before this way it will be easier to work with, the measurements all depend on the the of clay and sand you use ( in this case we did two 5 gal buckets of sand, 1 1/2 gal bucket of clay, roughly three handfuls of straw ( the longer the better), and get your dancing moves on! you keep stomping it over and keep rolling the tarp every minute or so to create burrito shape and keep stomping on it until the mixture feels well mixed and it stays together. Then you form the cob bricks.
4. Build and sculpt after making the cub bricks you want to transfer them quickly to the crew thats building the walls, cob dries very fast! Thats when you let your imagination come to play you can make all kinds of shapes and sculptures within the wall, check the photos above.
5. Plaster thats the part that makes your home water proof and more resistant to damage, in this instance we mixed lime plaster with sand and water.
6. Tadelak/Paint not necessary but adds additional protection to the structure. You would use special paint thats meant for natural materials such as lime plaster.
This was an experience that created new fascination in us, and more then ever convinced us that our next home will be out of cob!
But it also created unforgettable
friendship that will be cherished for years to come! If you want to learn how toward with cub there are workshops all over the place! Contact us and we can help you find one the closest you.