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The Pros and Cons of Cob Cottages; Building a Debt Free Home!


How would you like to build a debt free, inexpensive, beautiful home that you and your children could enjoy for..well forever? Let me introduce to you a building material that has been used for thousands of years, it's called Cob. You may have seen cob cottages before illustrated in children's fairy tale books. They cover the Irish landscape and have dotted the European countryside for millennium.

With all of the economic turmoil we are dealing with I wanted to bring to your attention a type of inexpensive housing that could really make a difference in a lot of people's lives. Just think what an improvement it would be if people could build their own homes for an average price of $10,000 to $15,000 dollars! And I'm not talking about some cardboard shack. It could revolutionize our economy! Just think of the economic prosperity if people were free of the financial burden of a mortgage!

It is my belief that Cob Cottages are the best kept secret out there. These cottages have been around for hundreds of years (some say thousands) and yet they are easy to build, last forever, and are virtually fireproof. Nevertheless, not very many people know about them and in some places you might even have trouble getting a building permit to build one (the establishment doesn't want anything that can be built by women and children that lasts forever). So my mission is to spread the word about the best kept secret in green building and that is the Whimsical Cob Cottage.

So what are the benefits of Cob Cottages?

The Pros

  • They are cute. If you've ever fantasized about having a fairy tale cottage in the woods you've probably imagined a cob cottage without knowing it. Cob cottages are those cute little Hansel and Gretel cottages from the fairy tale books. They are whimsical and inviting. Everything that an ugly boxed plain inhuman house in the suburbs is cob cottages are not. They can contain numerous nooks and crannies and can be sculpted into any shape imaginable. All that cob cottages require are a little imagination and magic fairy dust :)
  • They are cheap cheap cheap. How cheap is mud, rocks, sand and straw? That's how cheap your house can be. Ok, ok you might have to hunt and gather some window pains and door knobs but the main construction of the house is mud, rocks, sand and straw. You can't get any cheaper than that and most of those ingredients can be found on the land that you are building the house on!
  • Cob doesn't burn. Cob doesn't burn because the primary ingredients are mud, rocks and sand with some straw thrown in that is completely coated in mud rocks and sand. Have you ever seen mud, rocks or sand burning? Yeah, that's why cob houses don't burn.
  • Insects wont eat cob. For the same reason that cob cottages don't burn, they aren't eaten by insects either. See # 3 above.

  • They are warm in winter and cool in summer. They are warm in winter because the mud, rocks and sand hold the heat long after the source is gone. For the same reason they tend to stay cool in summer because they have excellent thermal mass. In fact cob has the highest thermal mass of any building material ever.
  • You don't have to have an engineering degree to build one. They are easy to build, sort of like making giant mud pies. Ok, maybe a little more effort than that. But they are so easy to build that children can help and people who are not familiar with housing construction can build one. Any who can stomp mud can help build a cob house including seniors!
  • They are green, they have no toxins and are completely natural. As far as I know, mud, rocks, straw and sand are the greenest things you can get, you can't get any greener. There are no chemicals, no led paint, no mold, no nothing. Cob is as natural as natural gets!
  • They last for a very long time (some Cob houses are over 900 years old). People have been building with cob for hundreds of years (some say thousands). These houses are still standing. I wonder how long some of our suburban homes will last? Some modern houses fall apart after 30 years, cob homes will last for several generations and are easy to repair when they do need repairing.
  • You don't need any special equipment to build one. Nope you don't need any fancy equipment, think about it...people built cob cottages way back when there was no fancy equipment and those houses are still standing, that alone should convince you. You don't need a table saw or hammers or nails and except for the roof you could probably build the whole thing yourself.
  • They are quiet on the inside because of the thick walls. You can make the walls as thick as you want and most people do make them about 2 feet thick, because of that they are quite insulating and very quiet.

Ok, now for the Cons...there are only two:

  • They can take awhile to build because each layer has to dry. It might take you awhile to build your cob house especially if there are not very many of you. Since you are building it yourself and since each layer has to dry it can take an entire season to build..but considering all the pros I think that this one con is not too much of a stumbling block, you just have to plan well. Moreover, if you use straw-bales for your walls instead of just cob it will help you build faster.
  • Some places you might have trouble with permits because municipalities aren't familiar with them. I have heard that some municipalities have given people trouble with permits because of cob. This is due mostly to ignorance as there aren't very many cob cottages in America (yet). I think as more and more people become educated about cob this will change but it is something you will have to check into before building.

And that's it, that's all of the cons. Cob homes are so beautiful and they have such a huge potential for enabling people to build their home without debt that I think the benefits out way the negatives by a huge margin. If you don't already have a home I hope you will consider building a cob cottage. I am.

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Comments on June 20, 2015:

Can someone build a cobb fairytale cottage for us??

How much land is required??

Rob Hadden on August 28, 2013:

Comment re longevity are a little bit overblown and rose tinted. Most cob houses date from the 17thC on with the majority being much later. Do your homework. There are only the odd few that are earlier and they are the exception rather than the rule.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on May 16, 2013:

I think it depends on how bad the earthquake.

irina on May 16, 2013:

I don't know if someone refers to one more pro: cob houses are earthquake proof!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 25, 2013:

I'm glad you liked it. I hope you end up building a cob home.

AlliOop on January 25, 2013:

Fantastic hub! My husband and I are just beginning to explore the possibility of constructing a cob house, and reading this provided me with some great basic info. Thanks so much!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on May 27, 2012:

Thanks "givans1980", keep in touch.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on May 21, 2012:

You must get the Hand-Sculpted Home offered above. It won't take years..not at all. And everyone can help build the home, even the kids! You have to do this, you will love it! Make sure to research everything I have on this article...all the links and books, it will help you. Building my own cob home is a dream of mine too.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 26, 2012:

Yes, Nick they are beautiful, so full of beauty unlike the boxes they build today!

Nick Marsh on February 26, 2012:

These are beautiful homes, and really keep up in touch with the planet. I would consider building one of these!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 27, 2012:

Thanks Patchofearth, I am thinking of writing a more in depth article about them as I am totally hooked on Cob :)

Rebecca Long from somewhere in the appalachian foothills on January 27, 2012:

I have read a little about cob cottages. At one time I almost considered building one. I loved the idea of a home that I could build and maintain myself and that would cost little and be ecologically sound. I enjoyed this hub.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on October 13, 2011:

You're quite welcome. I hope to build my own cob cottage in the future. And when I do you can be sure I'll be writing about it :)

Hillbilly Zen from Kentucky on October 13, 2011:

Excellent,informative writing, Ms. Brie. Thank you for adding so much to my meager knowledge of cob!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on September 09, 2011:

Sure, thanks for the info, this is awesome. I'm going to add it as a link, what a find! Thanks Again.

Chris Cox on September 09, 2011:

Hi Brie, this article is excellent. If I may share a link, I recently found a free e-book written around 1920 on project Gutenberg, with great detail about how to build them: "Cottage Building in Cob, Pisé, Chalk and

Clay", by Clough Williams-Ellis. The html version is illustrated, but there is also an unillustrated Kindle version.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on September 05, 2011:

Thanks Carco, greatly appreciated!

Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on September 05, 2011:

Another great hub, it just goes to show that you can build houses from just about anything. Real cool! Thanks for sharing. Voted up and Awesome!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on September 05, 2011:

Also, there is a farm called Polyface Farms, he bought his farm when it was a mess. He thinks that anyone can restore the land through his techniques. I may write an article about him and his techniques because I think that they are very cool...look him up.

Fernando on September 04, 2011:

To Blargablarga: Look for "Permaculture"... you'll be able to restore the land.


Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on August 01, 2011:

You're welcome.

leann2800 on August 01, 2011:

This is awesome. The pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on July 28, 2011:

Glad you like it, post it on your facebook if you want.

Cris Melo on July 28, 2011:

Great article, thanks!

Absolut-Pacifist, I LOVE your comments and POV. Exactly! Stop funding and let the system collide on its own crazy weight. Word!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on April 03, 2011:

I don't know if that would affect it, I don't see why it would...however you can read this hub and get topsoil eventually if you follow these guidelines:

Believe it or not our own human waste can restore the soil.

The book "The Hand Sculptured Home" tells you how to test the soil and what to do to correct any's listed up top in Amazon. I would highly recommend it.

blargablarga on April 03, 2011:

This is a brilliant idea! I'm really thinking about building one of these on my grandparent's land that I will eventually inherit. I do wonder though, that land has been strip mined for coal, so would that affect my ability to build an environmentally friendly place like this? I mean, there's no topsoil or anything. My plan is to try and restore the land that my grandparents ruined...

Emma from Houston TX on March 10, 2011:

Good hub with nice pics.

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on March 07, 2011:


Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on March 07, 2011:

Thanks. The very first book that I offer up top "The Hand Sculptured House" tell you how to test the soil and what to add if it needs something. It's not hard. Thanks again.

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on March 07, 2011:

fascinating - Thanks for the info - I've heard of them but never followed up to read about them. I would imagine some types of soil used in the mud would not work --- you know anything about that?

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 23, 2011:

I think that if you have a good roof and a good foundation you should be fine. They have these houses all over Ireland and England where it is very moist and they have been standing for 600 to 1000 years.

Claudi on February 23, 2011:

Hi you have any information on upkeep? Like mold? Is there a website that may give out that kind of info? I lived in the NorthWest for most of my life, and I notice that there some cob houses there. It rains ALOT there so it must be able to withstand that kind of weather. Do you know anything about snow issues?

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 31, 2011:

You really should..why not!

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on January 31, 2011:

You know, I really should just get outside and start building my own house.. . .I get tired of staring at the computer screen, gotta do something.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 27, 2011:

David: put your url link in your comment. I usually don't allow urls in comments but for this I will make an exception.

David Reed on January 27, 2011:

I build cob as well as straw bale in Texas, just northwest of Houston, we are currently offering 2 workshops starting in March, the first is a split 20 day workshop, 10 day cob and 10 day straw bale, crammed together and the second is a 10 day cobwood (cordwood, cob) free standing bathroom in April! this is just the beginning of the year and there will be many many more!!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 20, 2011:

Yes, the 3 that I have on the top under the picture are the best that I've found so far.

Frank on January 20, 2011:

Brie, this is the second article you've written about cob cottages that I've read. You've peaked my interest so I'm wondering if you've a particular book in mind that you found helpful about construction of same? Thanx.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on January 01, 2011:

AND, they are a million times cheaper. I love them!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 01, 2011:

The cob cottages that I have seen have so much character. I like cob cottages for the way they look and for all the other advantages that you've listed. It seems like builders can be really creative when they build a cob cottage, too.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on December 11, 2010:

Sure, they can be made into barns, warehouses, anything really.

Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on December 11, 2010:

These cob cottages are ideal for a fishing or hunting trip. I love thr ruggedness.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on December 11, 2010:

Thanks..wish it were mine :)

breakfastpop on December 11, 2010:

Love the cottage!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on December 10, 2010:

I agree Absolute-Pacifist but I still thought I should mention it.

Absolute-Pacifist on December 10, 2010:

One more thing that people should understand is that the land belongs to the community and to our creator. Not to any non-human institutions/entities (gun-wielding corporations that name itself government) that behave like dictatorships. See link on my name...

Absolute-Pacifist on December 10, 2010:

One of the big problems with society is that false belief that everybody needs a permit before they can do anything under the sun. Just go and find yourself a space that is unused and claim your own acre of land and just build something.

Why would you want to pay permits into an insitution that is known to waste a huge percentage of the monies that are collected ? Stop funding the institutions, let the systems collapse already, and establish a proper society instead.

One that is free of excessive controls and regulations. Simple advice is good enough, and if one wants to be a control-freak, demons from the under-world will drag them down into a dark dungeon, just you wait and see as their insanity explodes.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on December 10, 2010:

There are ...lots..just google volunteer for building cob and you will see.

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on December 10, 2010:

Brie, I love this article...and I love cob houses...I would love to build one...if you ever find an organization that wants volunteers to build one, let me would be worth the volunteering just to see one being built.

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