In the summer of 2010, my lovely friend Kat Mcglynn asked me if I was interested in taking this green building course given on Salt Spring Island. I had always been interested in learning more about that stuff so I attended this workshop with the Mudgirls. We camped, learned and worked for a week on this beautiful cob house project. I fell in love with the whole idea and I knew right away that I wanted to build my own one day, which I did the summer after.
We started on may 26th 2011 and we found this perfect spot. There was a lot of thick bush so my brother came out with his machete and in a matter of a few hours we had made this little nest to welcome the home.
Im skipping a lot of steps here as this was a long process but basically we started doing the foundation with several layers of Urbanite (old broken down cement) that I got for free from a demolition site very close by. Getting all those heavy blocks up there by hand, breaking them into smaller pieces and placing them required a lot of pure hand strength and it got us pretty buff for a few weeks!
Once the foundation and drainage were done, we started getting the posts and rafters up to build the roof. I must say that this would have never happened without my brother Alex’s help. He is the best carpenter ever and this dream project would have never been a reality without him.
Like I said, Im skipping a lot of steps and weeks of works but I just wanted to show the big idea. After the roof was up, I could slowly start working on the cob walls. I did the soil test first in order to make the right mix. Cob is made of sand, clay (which is right in the soil beside my house), water and straw.
Making the cob is also a lot of work, especially by yourself but it’s also really fun and rewarding. It takes me about an hour to make 2 and a half 5 Gallon buckets of cob. Which isnt very much! But at least its a pretty good workout.
Walls are about a foot thick. We add all kinds of material in there like rocks or glass and plastic bottles. They are good fillers and since there is no glass recycling on the whole Island (except the ones you get money for), we are putting it to good use and keeping it all out of the landfills. I also fill most of those bottles with non-recyclable plastic bags or packaging or any kind of trash that can fit in there.
I also got my electricity man Malcolm to install all the conduit and outlets for future wires and power.
Last fall, I got 2 of my friends to finish the upstairs level (outside only) so that the heavy winter rains wouldn’t destroy the cob on the lower level. They used cedar board and batten siding that was collected from dead fall and installed the second hand windows I got from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Its starting to look very good!!
Next summer I am hoping to finish the cob walls up to the second level and hook up all the plumbing and maybe build the outhouse if time allows. I want to try to make it work off the grid eventually too but I still need to research a lot on what would be the best set-up. I also want to experience the idea to get hot water out of a big compost pile, that would be amazing…
Thanks for looking and Ill try to update on the next steps!