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[Cob] Clay (Bill Christensen)

philmoulton philmoulton at
Sun Nov 2 18:58:39 CST 2008

That's why we are "here" to gain knowledge and learn from others comments.

As for a work crew. there is myself and my wife, as I no longer expect
anyone to help or even be interested in helping including my grown kids.
As we are now both over 50 it is a daunting challenge, Toss in a 90 mile
commute one way and a 9-5 job as well it is not going to be easy, however I
feel compelled for a unknown reason to leave my home of 30 years and start
it as soon as possible.

My concern with straw bale is concerns with mold as my wife does have
It also will not wick out any moisture as cob does. (I do not think). But
its construction would be much faster.
It appears tho that there are accepted building codes for straw bale, but I
would need someone versed in planning such a structure to create a well made
set of plans I can work from. Cob appears to be easier in that respect and
the idea of a monolithic structure on a solid rebared foundation it would
withstand natural and non-natural disasters much better then a stick or
brick structure.

We have our home on the market here in Portland and are relocating to the
cabin we have in Bear creek by the 15th of November, Unfortunately the cabin
is barely livable due to structural and mold issues. I accept though that
this project will take 2 years to complete at best.
If we are unable to purchase the neighbors cabin we will have to live out of
a trailer once we start.
I would like to get a poured concrete foundation in the ground this
winter/spring and start construction in the summer. 
So planning and design takes a priority.
Hopefully by then someone in the Pacific NW will have a class scheduled to
give us more first hand knowledge.

My preferred method is find someone who for the same amount of $$ would be
interested in direct mentoring. As we are not interested in creating a
"artsy" bench but a fully livable/functional and legal home.
And taking a week off work and learn to build a stove, well I would rather
it go to a set of plans and first hand experience.
(As well as suggestions to go straw bale or ?? Due to siting issues as they
could see what I have to work with first hand.)


-----Original Message-----
From: coblist-bounces at [mailto:coblist-bounces at] On
Behalf Of Bernhard Masterson
Sent: Sunday, November 02, 2008 1:56 PM
To: coblist at
Subject: Re: [Cob] Clay (Bill Christensen)

Hi Phil,
   As an experienced cob and bale cob builder I have a couple of questions
for you.  First if you have not yet actually built anything with cob why are
you considering such a large project for your first?   Depending on the size
of your work crew the walls could easily be a two year project.  I would
recommend starting with something much smaller, around a 120sqft.  Such a
small structure can easily be built in a couple of months and would provide
valuable experience, a warm dry spot to stay on site, and time to observe
your property and plan. 
    Do you plan to taper your walls? Load bearing walls need to be a foot
thick at the top so if your walls are eight feet tall they really only need
to be about 18 inches thick at the base.  This will reduce your total cob
    Also your concerns about building cob in a site that does not have good
passive solar access is warranted.  I would recommend you consider straw
bale as an alternative.  

- Bernhard 

____________________________________bernhard_masterson at

Natural building instruction and consultation

> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 23:00:40 -0700
> From: "philmoulton" <philmoulton at>
> Subject: [Cob] Clay
> To: <Cob_Building at>, <coblist at>,
> 	<coblist-bounces at>
> Message-ID: <E6D017CABB3941B3B9FD218C38967544 at phil>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="US-ASCII"
> d=464/stime=1225286169/nc1=4507179/nc2=3848640/nc3=4025338>   I know
> in Portland this even to me sounds strange, as all dirt in Portland is
> mostly clay.
>  However we are moving,to Otis (just east of Lincoln City and  the ground
> the property does not appear to be clay like.
> Is there a source for good consistent clay
> We are planning on building a cob home that  my probably incorrect math
> I need a LOT of clay.
>  3 exterior walls 24 ft long  one interior wall and the entry way figure
> another 26 ft.
> figure also  8 ft high and 2 ft thick (may be able to go 18 inches tho...)

>  That comes out to 1568 sq. ft. of cob, figure it rounded off to 1600sq
> Although Cob is a mixture of sand and clay and straw it still it means I
> need a lot of clay.
> To be consistent I should have all my materials on-site before we start. 
> Getting a consistent mix is important, so getting it in buckets from here
> there with varying content of clay is not sound thinking.
>  The lot we have will need some excavation prior to pouring a foundation
> I do not feel there is near enough "dirt" to be worth while,As most of the
> foundation work will only be 1-2 ft down and the interior will be a adobe
> com[onsite floor of some sort so I may actually have to add material to
> it all even.
> Also the lot we have is not conducive to Solar heat as there is a fairly
> large hill to our Southeast. There would be some solar gain during high
> but not much. the hill is just low enough to allow a dish to clear it but
> not by much so it could be as much as 30 degrees high. 
>  Being in the coast range should we reconsider Cob and think more Straw
> or a more clay/straw mixture for thermal insulation.
>  Btw We are still looking for someone who might be interested in
> us a bit who does have hands on experience building a Cob home.
> Phil and lilpony 
> __,_._,___  \ 
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> End of Coblist Digest, Vol 6, Issue 154
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