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Cob Housing Contractors?

Hello, all!

I am a seventeen years old at the moment, and female. In the next few years I am hoping to be able to live in an environmentally friendly home made of cob (or something similar), though I am not sure how to go about it.

I've been told that it is possible to have a home contracted for as low as $3,000- but I'm not sure if it's true. If so, does anyone know of a group of people who build for others with natural resources? I live in British Columbia, Canada, and am wondering if either somebody locally is able to do it, or if there is a group of people who travel to do work.

I hope this is the right place to ask-- I thought if anyone knew, it would be members of this community. :)

Any help would be very appreciated! Thank you.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 25th, 2008 09:52 am (UTC)
I don't see how much could be done for $3,000. I think you at least need to look at $10,000, and even then that's probably way too low for a house... especially one you're paying someone else to build it.

However, I don't actually know here... it just seems highly unlikely that a house could be built, by a contractor, for such a small fee..... even if it's small and super-basic (no plumbing, no electrical, no heat, etc).

Edited at 2008-01-25 09:52 am (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
no, that's not true. you can build one yourself for very little if you can get the needed non-cob parts free/cheaply, but there aren't that many companies building with cob so the labor pool is small and prices are high.

greenhomebuilding has a page on it here http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/cob/cost.htm

eta: the handsculpted house by ianto evans is GREAT and does mention several people who built their own homes. one is a young girl whose mother built their house when the girl was a pre-teen, and she wenet on to build her own house in her teens!

Edited at 2008-01-25 10:01 am (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2008 11:22 am (UTC)
Ahh yes, but that's doing it one's self. Paying someone else to do it for you is where I think it would begin to get expensive.
Jan. 25th, 2008 11:35 am (UTC)
exactly. it can run about the same price/sq ft as a conventional house if you contract it out.

i really really really want to do some cob garden walls and a combo shed/chicken coop when i'm strong enough. i love how it looks and how well it lasts. but since i'm mostly chair bound right now, probly not going to happen for a long time, if ever.

i think in his book ianto says his cottage was built for less than $6000, but it's also less than 200 square feet, he got most of the boughten stuff 2nd hand, and he and his family and friends did all the work themselves.

his company is not to far from where i live, and i'd love to go see it sometime.
Jan. 25th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
Boughten? What's that?
Jan. 25th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
all right Mr. English Police, settle down!
Jan. 25th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
oops, i thought it aws a serious question. O.O
Jan. 26th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
That's Ms. English Police, to you! ;P Nobody uses that term, in my part of the country (we say "purchased"), so it wasn't immediately familiar. Thanks for the clarification!
Jan. 26th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Dialects are funny things. :)
Jan. 26th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
they really are. i LOVE learning about variants. i've heard other ppl use "store-bought" but that sounds funny to me. and i love the differences between all the different parts of the uk, canada, australia, new zealand, usa, etc.

i grwe up (in the 60s) hearing "ain't ain't a word" and only read in the last 5 years that it's really the old contraction for am/are/is/have/has not, going back to the early 18th century in england.
Jan. 25th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah one thing I remember was the cob cottage that was done for $500, but i think it was off the grid, tiny, and done by the homeowners. Which is still a small price to pay for not having a morgage, imho. The bigger thing, i think, is the cost of the land because even if you can build the house for 3000, the land is likely to cost alot more depending on where you live.
Jan. 25th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
Seconded... land, and property taxes, are expensive.
Jan. 25th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
the prehub and i are going to be building a strawbale house. you could look into that. i know more about that than cobs. but it ends up alot cheaper and is more cost effective and earth friendly.
Jan. 25th, 2008 02:31 pm (UTC)
I think the missing piece here is the cost of land. You have to have a place to build that cob house. That's likely to cost more than the actual house.

Just something to think about as you start budgeting.
Jan. 25th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
It depends. If you rent land, that is much cheaper. If the owner of the land does not care or wants you to build a cob house, and you do not have to introduce a sewer line or electricity then it is even cheaper still.

If you build off the main path, you can pretty much build what you like if no one lets the local authorities know. BC has TONS of people who live like this. It is more common then people realise. :-)
Jan. 25th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
Well, you live in the right province for building cob and cob workshops! Check out Mudgirls (www.mudgirls.ca) for workshops run on the gulf islands. They run weekend workshops for specific tasks (roof building or foundation building) and weeks-long workshops (building homes).

If you are in the GVRD area, go to Banyen Books (4th and Dunbar in Vancouver) for a large selection of cob building books. There is also a group at UBC (on the farm) that works with cob although I am not sure how active they are. You can find their contact info on the UBC Farm webpage. I am not sure their contact info (my partner found them) but there is a local community garden (near the Broadway skytrain) that is building a cob garden shed. We checked them out last summer and they had most of the walls completed. It looked amazing!!

There is also a group on Mayne Island that runs workshops (www.cobworks.com) and I've been able to visit their site with friends before - although I have never been in one of their workshops. Mayne Island has a lot of cob houses! :-)

I would suggest doing lots of research (reading books and websites) and taking part in a workshop. Depending on the length of the workshop, they vary in price but I think they are very much worth it for learning the basics and really getting used to using the materials.
Jan. 26th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
I don't know of any contractors in your area, or anyone else who may help you with building your home for that price (or really any price at all, since I'm not familiar with your area). I just want to say that living in a cob home as been a dream of mine for several years now. I would love to be able to build and live in one someday. :)
Jan. 26th, 2008 02:51 am (UTC)
Im a BC girl too! I know saltspring has done a couple of sustainable housing tours and that the building codes on that island are a bit different. the tour might be annual so you might try to keep your eyes peeled for it.
We looked into hybred adobe and a couple of things when contemplating putting up outbuilding but there is no way we are ready to go through go through the Langley permit process and some of our neibours the type that would report an unpermited fire in a rainstorm in October. ah I guess they will have to look at the recycled propane tank domes for a bit longer.
while we are on the subject of housing there was a cool news segment on the smallest house in Toronto last night.
Feb. 13th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
this is late, but i was putting together some cob links for someone else and thought you might like them as well.

there's the book "the hand scuplted house" by ianto evans & co. it's a wonderful book with pretty detailed instructions.

ianto has a website http://www.cobcottage.com/ and his "sculpt your own house" is here http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/good_wood/cob.htm

the cob builders handbook is here http://www.weblife.org/cob/

some other sites i love and have bookmarked are:

and here are some cob ovens:
Jul. 27th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
you can build cob homes for much less than that
Hello, cob houses can be built for free, for $500, a few thousand or hundreds of thousands depending on what you want and how much work you contract out. Cob building is very democratic and does not require crazy specialized skills so you CAN do it yourself. Luckily BC has quite a few great cob building companies. You MUST check out the mudgirls at mudgirls.ca whom are based on Lasqueiti Island and have members on Vancouver Island and on the smaller islands as well. They specialize in smaller homes but will help you build what you want. They also hold great AFFORDABLE workshops so check one out when you can! Mayne island also has cobworks and are very well established. As more people polish their skills they are setting up companies as well.
The big trick is buying land. Can you afford land where you live or want to live? Will you find a cool lease or rent agreement with someone who owns land? Will you buy into lands with friends and others to set up a little cob community? Also building codes! Do you want to deal with using concrete and toxic materials to appease building codes or do something with more freedom? most areas allow you to build sheds etc that are 100 square feet and often people build themselves very tiny cob cottages that way.
Can you afford contractors or do you want to do it yourself? I recently took a 2 week workshop and there is still alot to know but with help I know I could build a house! The mudgirls will come and build but you can also help, invite friends and neighbours to help or set up workshops to get extra help in every stage of the process.
Once you have your land you check it out for a year. What feels like the best spot, where will you get the most sun year round, where do storms come from, is there good drainage etc. Also start stockpiling supplies over time. most things can be found for free. Also what can be sourced from your land or area? You will need soil, clay, sand, straw, logs and wood for framing, rocks and gravel for foundations etc.. Windows, glass bottles etc are often free for the taking. Call building contractors and ask if they have any gravel, soil, clay, sand etc-most of it has to be taken away from their sites and often is dumped.
And start planning! take workshops, read books, experiment with paints and cob mixes...
Do you want a small hobbit house or a big suburban dream home? All can be done with natural building.
Another thing to consider is where you are living. The coast is great for cob because of the temperate climate but cob is not great insulation. If you have cold winters you may want to go the strawbale route which is great too.
Strawbales go up faster although there is alot more fussing around to do after the walls are up.
So check out the mudgirls, cobworks, hobbit homes etc and happy dreaming!

Jan. 23rd, 2010 10:15 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing!
We are building a straw bale house just an hour in Village. Don't know if you strictly interested in the adobe cob thing. If so you need to check out village in Black Mountain. They have a lot of cob structures. This cob cottage that was done for $500 as a cheap one.
I love this project and many considered a similar one.
Best wishes.
Hometech are specialists in a range of Building Contractors Services.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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