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The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage: The Real Goods Solar Living Book Paperback – Illustrated, June 1, 2002
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About the Author
Ianto Evans is an applied ecologist, landscape architect, inventor, and teacher with building experience on six continents. Cob is traditional in his homeland, Wales. In addition to teaching ecological building, Ianto has consulted with USAID, the World Bank, the Peace Corps, and several national governments.
Michael G. Smith teaches practical workshops and consults on cob construction, natural building, and permaculture. He is the author of The Cobber's Companion: How to Build Your Own Earthen Home and co-editor of The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction, Resources.
Linda Smiley teaches workshops on cob, sculpting sacred spaces, intuitive design, and natural plasters and finishes. With a background as a recreational therapist, she specializes in helping people use natural building as a tool for personal transformation and healing.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Building a Cob Cottage Step-by-Step excerpted from Part II: Building the Cob Cottage
EVERY COB BUILDING IS UNIQUE, but most require the same basic steps. The order of some of these steps is critical; others can be rearranged as desired. For a first-time builder, it can be very useful to map out the sequence of all construction tasks. Following is a sample sequence to help you think through your project to completion before you begin. The next ten chapters walk through each of these steps in great detail.
* Select your building site very carefully, for best exposure to winter sun and for good drainage. * Decide in advance roughly what spaces, shapes, and features you will need, both indoors and out, based on the scale of your own activities. Make many sketches and models. Keep the building as small as possible. If you need more than 400 square feet, consider phasing the project to complete the most essential sections first. * Work on a scale model of the building, including site features such as trees and slope. * Decide the wall plan in detail, especially where doors connect the indoors with outdoors. Design the roof at this point, including the roof and how it is supported. Make a full-sized mock-up of the building on the site. Spend time in it, and imagine what it would be like to live there. * Assemble on-site all building materials you will need for enclosure, including glass, lumber, rocks, hardware, pipes, wires, and so forth. Gather your tools, scaffolding, and water storage. * Check your soil, and assess by making test mixes and test blocks what needs to be added for the best cob mix. Measure your proportions and calculate the amounts of sand, clay soil, and straw you will need. Plan out and prepare mixing spaces close to the building. * Arrange delivery of sand, clay soil, and straw as needed. Store deliveries close to and uphill from the building, in locations that won't impede work. Make sure straw is stored under cover, off the ground. * Stake out your design and finished levels precisely on the site using many strong, firmly driven stakes. Adjust for the last time. * Clear and level as little as possible. Grade away from the building so that water runs away on all sides. Set aside excavated soil for gardening or making cob. * Dig drainage and foundation trenches, lay in drainpipe, insulation, plumbing, and wire connections; backfill trenches immediately with drain rock. * Build the foundation stemwall, setting in door frames or frame anchors and joists if floor will be suspended. Leave openings for utilities and water lines in and out. * Tamp the subfloor, lay several inches of drain rock, and, if you will be using an earthen or other mass floor, lay the floor base coat. * Frame the roof, either on permanent posts or on temporary posts that will be removed when the walls are complete. You may also wait until the cob is nearly finished before framing the roof. * Experiment with cob mixing techniques -- for speed, ease, enjoyment, and different numbers of workers. Concentrate on gradual improvements. Apply your mix, probably at first by fork, trodden, then using "Gaab cob" or cob loaves. Sew it all together solidly with your fingers or a "cobber's thumb." Try to raise all the cob walls at the same rate. * Make sure you build vertical or tapered walls; don't leave big bulges or hollows. * Pare each new part with a machete or handsaw before it gets too hard, leaving it ready to plaster as you build. * Set pipes, wires, outlets, junction boxes, and so on into the walls as you build. * Build in windows as you go. Bury "deadmen" in the walls, wooden anchors to which you can later attach door frames, shelving, countertops, and so on. * Sculpt built-in furniture, bookshelves, niches, and alcoves. * Let the walls dry and settle somewhat, then build loft or second-story beams, joists, and ledgers directly into the cob if the wall is loadbearing. * Locate roof deadmen one and a half to two feet down from the rafters. Complete the walls. * If the roof is on, you can now enclose and heat the building. If not, now is the time to build the roof. If the roof will be heavy, allow the cob to dry throughout first. * Do final ceiling work. * Finish interior built-in woodwork, counters, cabinets, interior door frames, and plumbing fixtures. * Apply interior plaster. * Lay a finish coat on floor. Seal an earthen floor with linseed oil and beeswax. * When interior plaster is dry, apply natural paint, lime wash, or alis. * Plaster the exterior, if desired. * Have a big party! Invite everyone who helped you build.
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Top customer reviews
I think that Ianto and Michael beautifully describe all that is involved in building with cob. They go through best practices and also what has not worked. They take their experiences with working with people from around the globe and learn from it. It is refreshing to read a book from authors who do not fall for the we-know-better-than-everybody-else mentality. They really are learners and now also disseminators off what they learned through experience and other professionals from around the world.
While the book itself is filled with much information and I am confident that I could actually build a cob structure after reading it, the book also serves as a guide for further reading. In each section, the authors mention other resources that one can use to further his or her knowledge about that topic. Sometimes, those are other books by these authors, but most of the time it is books by others.
All-in-all, this is a great reference book for everything cob. Probably my favorite book I have read on natural building methods.
The structures are delightful departures from the present box world of design, and harken back to either working with nature, or what confines nature might dictates.
These forms, by way of their practicality and 'movement', either induce or provide confidence and calm.
Todays structures depicting ego driven materialistic projection, are confronted by these understatements of craft, logic, form and function that appear to be nestled, rather than asserted.
Anticipate higher glazing expenses for custom sizings to accommodate and flow with these forms. Reasonably expect challenges from the present 'cubicle mentality' of local 'appointee' building inspectors.
Alternatively, you might consider a move to Idaho, where design is not curtailed, yet remains limited by personal responsibility.
But enough about me, here's some useful info you might want to know about the actual book you're thinking of purchasing... it is chock-a-block full of helpful illustrations, color photos and descriptions of the preparation of the site, the type of cob (mud & straw) you will need and how to prepare it and the actual building. You may or may not need a lot of friends to help you, it all depends on what size home you decide to build. It has pages of book & website resources in the back, descriptions galore of people who never thought they could build their own homes but have managed to do it and thrived in their own cob cottages and it's just such a fun read. It really seems doable and the 3 authors actually live in cob houses. Their stories are included as well. I especially found the option of not paying a mortgage very appealing.
Cob houses can be one or two stories, they have been around for centuries in other countries and there are many even in the US. This book appealed to the architect I never became; it is engrossing in all its detail and it's written so well, that anyone can understand their method. Look into it, you will find it inspiring.
Organic, self-made housing totally appeals, and this is one book to have in your library if that's what you want too.