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143 of 144 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 19, 2005
For your inspiration, edification, and step by step hands-on & how-to, this book just can't be improved upon. Long checklists to help you choose the perfect piece of land and how to situate the location of your home. A tutorial in using passive solar to heat your house. How to design its interior to embrace you, find your materials as inexpensively as possible, gather your tool kit (what's essential, what's not), test the soil you have, make cob samples and evaluate them. Starter projects such as walls, benches, and stoves. Mixing techniques, building techniques, finishing techniques. The history of cob, the durability of cob, a trouble-shooting guide. How to make your own paint, make your own floor, insulate, remodel the house if you want to, where to put the wiring, every practical detail is included as well as the philosophical... you will find inspiration on every page. Countless examples and real life stories are included, as well as color photographs of cob structures all over the world. This book doesn't just critique the current system, it shows you a way out!
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237 of 243 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2002
I paid full price for this book at a retail Book store (I wish I had bought it here!). I have 2 other books on cob building also (Becky Bee's "The Cob Builders Handbook" - Which I highly recommend also & Michael Smith's "Cobbers Companion", I also recommend but Becky's, I feel is the better of the two.) However, THIS book stands out considerably. It is the MOST awesome book on cob building. It has wonderful photographs & drawings including additional privacy courtyard/outside ideas etc. There is nothing out there that can compare to this book to spark ideas and show the beauty, versatility & many options & benefits one has in cob building. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has even a slight interest in earth homes/cob building. If you are very interested in this or a related subject(straw bale etc.) you will LOVE this book!
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122 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2004
The Cob Cottage Company literally invented a building technique called "Oregon Cob". Their collective development includes not only high-quality cob mixing techniques, but also a holistic design and construction approach to suit both the building material and the sustainable living philosophies of the builders. The Cob Cottage Company has used this book to summarize more than a decade of research and development of both mind and mud. Each author has focused on one of three sections of the book and each contributes something unique.
Ianto appropriately begins the book by not only giving a history of earth and cob building, but also by helping the reader redefine their view of housing. I've read this section 3 times thus far. It contains so many great ideas and insights that the reader may want to keep a journal to remember them by. The authors' ideas concerning intuitive design with natural materials are amazing, yet proven. Ianto is definitely critical of industrial architecture (he was a trained and licensed architect in the UK) and corporate control, but not in a way that is unbearable or preachy. I find these sorts of viewpoints incredibly refreshing when communicated so well, whether or not I completely agree with them or not. Evans covers virtually all aspects of site selection and home design while also including interviews with a few cob home owner/builders. This section is surely the real magic of this book and may greatly alter the reader's perceptions of both shelter and its relation to the surrounding environment.
Part 2 describes the actual construction of a cob cottage. It is mostly authored by Michael Smith, who has authored another book detailing cob construction, "The Cobber's Companion". This section of the book provides plenty of helpful advice and creative ideas that the Cob Cottage Company and other cob enthusiasts have developed over the years. None of the authors pull any punches. They obviously have pursued their Cob Revival with intelligent passion, being certain that potential builders understand the potential pitfalls and the keys to success. They know that failed projects can do have as much impact on society's acceptance of cob and natural building than successful projects. Smith and crew really try to help the reader plan for success and encourage them at every step. While the reader would do well to take part in a cob building workshop for hands-on experience, they will get a very thorough understanding of the steps and techniques involved by reading this book. The authors' credibility on cob construction is never in doubt here.
Part 3 is an Onward by Linda Smiley. She attempts to spur the reader on to the next step(s) after reading this book. The entire book is treated as a beginning to a rewarding journey, not just an end to its own means. Smiley provides valuable advice on attending and sponsoring cob workshops. She also expands upon Evans' introduction to alternative living ideas and encourages the reader to live in the moment. While this section is much shorter than the other two, it is important to the book. Ianto gets the reader fired-up about building with cob, Michael tells the reader how to actually do it, and Linda encourages them to put their new-found ideas into action.
The Cob Cottage Company recognizes that cob is but one component of natural building. While the authors' passion for mud is ever-present, so also is their understanding of region and site-specific alternatives and constraints. The Cob Cottage Company integrates and shares ideas with the growing community of natural building enthusiasts, always attempting to create solutions appropriate to the need. Oregon Cob truly offers amazing potential for affordable, durable, healthy housing, especially to owner/builders who can greatly offset the dollar cost of a home with their own efficient labor. Cob offers much greater earthquake resistance than unreinforced adobe, creating a simpler building process that anyone can learn. My review would not be complete without admitting that this book gave focus to numerous nagging doubts that I've long had about American culture and homebuilding. Though I have worked in residential construction for nearly a decade, I could never quite describe exactly why I found our homes (and my job) so inadequate until I read this book. Though my worldview and opinions continue to evolve with each new day and discovery, this book was surely a milestone for me. It changed my life in ways I have yet to even realize.
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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Building with Cob is the way to make your house fit you rather than you fitting yourself to the house(usually designed and built by someone else).

While the most comprehensive instruction manual on building a Cob home with your own hands (and feet!) this is also your ticket for an escape from mortgage(lit. "death-pledge") serfdom. One of the most important chapters of the book discusses the economics of house-building in a very enlightening way.

The book has superb illustrations well integrated into the text and colour photographs of cob houses.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2003
I'd give five stars except so many times, an interesting idea technique or feature is not as fully explained as i'd like. For example, the "lorena stove" sounds interesting, but i'm not satisfied with the brief description. But then, the authors do give references to other books, videotapes etc. that one may pursue. Many photos of cob being made, walls being built, and finished houses. I was already motivated to build a cob house before buying this book (from reading Dan Chiras' The Natural House) but now i'm even more fired up! This book is a HUGE help, inspiring, with useful detail, but is not in itself complete in detail for someone who want to build with cob. This book along with attending a cob workshop would be the ideal educational experience.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2003
If you only ever buy one book on cob building make sure it is this book! This book contains everything you can learn about cob without getting your hands dirty. Then it inspires you to go out and get your hands dirty. Everyone who is interested in natural building and ecological design should own a copy of this book. So many new techniques have come along since the first books on cob were published. It is great to have a book with all the new tips and ideas. If you've never heard of cob or if you think you know it all this book has something for everyone.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2005
First, it's fun just to browse through the gorgeous homes and creations in this book. Second, cob is well researched and documented here, for instance, did you know there are cob homes in Devonshire England that are over 400 years old? Third, this is a remarkably practical handbook for siting, designing, and building a home from cob.

On a practical note, you might want to start with a cob oven for practice. Kiko Denzer wrote a lovely book on the subject, "Building your own wood fired oven". Cob is incredibly fun to work with, but very, very labor intensive.

I really wish I could give this book six stars, because it's truly a fabulous and peerless manual for building with cob.

Buy it, you won't regret it a bit! It's a book you'll go back to again and again, and dream with on cold winter days.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
this book is fantastic as it covers all levels of cob building from picking a suitible plot of land, testing soil, providing adequate drainage and sunlight, to making cob, cob walls, proper mixing, plaster finishes, and decoration. A good section on floors and roofing as well. this book has just about everything one would need to start and complete a cob house/structure.
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144 of 175 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2009
I bought this book some months ago and I have enjoyed the information in it and have found it to be extremely useful. It has lots of hands on instructions from talented builders and designers. That said now onto the review.

Throughout this book they kept talking about building things yourself and yet they mentioned nothing about permits and I didn't know why. I work in restoring old historic buildings and I am studying to be an structural engineer specializing in earthen construction and I know that some of the most difficult permits to get are for earthen buildings. I finally found my answer in the back of the book where there is a section dedicated to telling you how and why you should break the law and build without permits and building without the safety code. They claim that permits and building codes are only so bureaucrats and inspectors can make a buck and make your life more difficult. Well I am here to set the record strait.

The International building code and local building codes are in place because people in the past have built faulty housing that has not held up in sever wind conditions, flooding, earthquakes, etc... Each area and city has codes that are adapted to their local weather conditions. For example, you can not have a thatched roof house in the states of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, or Nevada without them being properly fireproofed, and even then many cities don't allow it. Why, Thatched roofs are highly flammable in dry deserts. That has nothing to do with the man trying to keep you down and discourage your creativity, they don't want your house to burn down. I was insulted by the fact that they were telling people how to avoid these laws because I am studying so I can help local governments be more open to alternative building, the legal way. This type of behavior is irresponsible, dangerous, and is exactly the reason why so many governments don't want this type of construction in their states.

This is also dangerous because they talk about designing artistic buildings and roofs without the help of engineers or architects. This can be highly dangerous because I have seen roof built that were not properly designed for local weather conditions and watched as the first major snow fall of the year collapses the entire roofing system inwards. The codes are not there to restrict you but to make sure that what you are building is safe to live in. I agree that many of the rules and regulations seem pointless and in all reality you don't have to follow them if you can prove to a building inspector that you don't need them. However, there are many codes that are necessary.

I gave this book three stars because I loved the information inside of it but I was shocked at their blatant disregard for safety and for the law and I would not be surprised if they end up with a lawsuit on their hands in the future because someones wall that was not properly anchored, or buttressed, collapses on the family who followed this books advice in trying to beat the system.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2013
Let me say first that I enjoyed this book. I have always been interested in "alternative" construction (although cob is obviously very old and established). I have a deep seated desire to build a home that will outlast my great, great grandchildren. Something that, once built, won't have to be torn down in 50-75 years to make way for the latest cookie cutter stick house. When I was in Great Britain, I fell absolutely in love with cob cottages. The smoothness of the walls. The curve of the corners. The thick solidity of the walls. The atmosphere and quietude within. I knew then that I would love to live in one. So, I picked up this book at a local library hoping to find a way to replicate something like the homes I saw in Britain. Unfortunately, that is not what this book is.

This book comes from a very different place, philosophically, than I was expecting. It talks about living in the minimum possible space you need to function as human living on the earth. 200 square feet is considered nearly extravagant by Mr. Evans. Outdoor bathrooms and "being-in areas" less than 6' in ceiling height to promote connectedness to nature and cozy relationship to your home are mentioned with reverence; And we are instructed to consider following suit. Part of me agrees, and would love a cute, twisty "hobbit house", as my wife calls them. A "house like a shell." Sized just right to encapsulate its owners.

But here's the deal. See, I have 3 kids. My son was 5'8" on his 13th birthday. My daughters will no doubt want their privacy as they become teenagers, and (gasp) maybe even separate bedrooms, or more than one bathroom. I would like to take a shower, or even a bath, or perhaps shave in the morning without 4 other people clamoring for use of the same space. Mr. Evans, et al. recommend the use of attached "sleeping spaces" like nooks or lofts connected to the main living area of the house. When any of my children are mere feet away, separated by only a curtain, certain private activities between their mother and I simply will not occur. Parents and children DO sometimes need space from one another.

The other issues I had with the book relate to attempts to circumvent or simply disregard building code recommendations and permits. I used to work as a grunt for a construction company, and understand fully, the pain in the *ss that codes and inspectors can be. But simply building willy-nilly, with no regard at all to the structural capacities of the materials you are using is inviting disaster. Even highly engineered materials fail. The area I have the most concern with this is roofing. Cob walls, well constructed, have and will stand for centuries. But using that super pretty log you got out of the forest as your main roof beam, could have dire consequences once there is 3' of snow on your roof.

There is more than just a bit of neo-hippy philosophy sprinkled throughout this book. Admonitions to invite wild animals into your home (including snakes, skunks, rats and spiders [fleas= lyme disease anyone!?]) feature in a few places. Gentle nudges toward permaculture (which I agree with). Magical house design with things like a polaris peep hole window. I think that many of these things simply won't appeal to most people.

I do understand the authors philosophical points of view, and believe that we humans can and should take better care of the environment, and that this can start with where we live and what we live in. But taken to this extreme, I would end up with a tiny, overcrowded hobbit house, filled with cranky people falling all over each other wishing for more privacy and unable to entertain the average extended family dinner, much less an actual party indoors.

Based on the above, I give this book 3 stars. I wish there was a cob building book out there that wasn't so "far out" philosophically that would help me to replicate those lovely homes I remember from my time in Britain.
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