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Virginia Cobbers?

 
Posts: 1
Location: Richmond, Va
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OK guys,
I just joined and I'm actually really excited about this site.  I am a developing DIY guy located in Richmond va.  I currently want to start working with cob but I have never ever done it before and I'm a little nervous I'm going to royally screw it up.  I am looking to build a chicken coop as my first real test with it before I move to the fire pit benches and the fire pit itself. The the options will be endless depending on how I like working with it.  the idea of working with the earth to create a structure not only excites me but I think its a real piece of art.  
Are you ready for some questions?

1.  I live in Richmond va in a urban area and my back yard isn't really that "big".  where should I get clay? how do I go about seeing if its the right kind of clay?

2.  I would imagine winter is not a good time to work with cob.. but what's a good curing weather?

3.  anyone done this before with a chicken coop?  I could use tips and tricks.

4. does anyone want to help? hahahaha
 
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Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia
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Patrick I also live near Richmond. Did you ever find the clay you need?
 
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Hi! Wow! I have wanted to do this for as long as I can remember. I never dreamed I'd find other interested parties here in Virginia. How do you plan a cob home? Do you take a conventional home plan and convert it with the cob method in mind? Secondly, materials? The entire point of cob is the use of natural resources. But, when your ground does not contain a lot of clay, what then? I am just curious about ideal sand and clay resources. Also, is there ever an alternate to straw that is used in cobbing?
 
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Hi J and welcome to permies!

You may not get much of a response from the first two posters as its an old post but lucky for you, you got me instead! On the other side of the border too!

I think you would be so overwhelmed with all the changes that would need to be made to a regular house plan to convert it to a cob home that I think it would be best just to start from scratch.

A really good documented build by Daniel Ray is here balecob-home-earthbag-foundation-building
There is probably some other ones as well if you do a search on permies in natural building and cob forums.

If you've already found clay in your area, chances are probably high that you'll find more and perhaps even a jackpot. Do some digging around and take some jar samples from many places to get an idea of what your dealing with. Places that already have the topsoil removed are good places to start like road cuts, washouts, creek banks, eroded areas etc.

Straw is usually readily available in the large quantities needed to build a house locally and at a low cost if you shop around at the right time of year from the right farmers.
Anything that will give the cob tensile strength is what your looking for which if you open your imagination can be a lot of things.

The Cob Builders Handbook by Becky Bee is a great place to start. I find she explains things in a very simple manner and doesn't go into huge details that could frighten a person away from getting started.

 
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Hi, although this is an old post, I saw there was a recent post back in April of 2029 so i decided to give it a try. I just started researching cob buildings and want to build a cob house on the land we just purchased. I was trying to go sorta tiny house w the build. My plan is a small off grid homestead. I wanted to do multiple buildings ( all under 200 sq ft bc of permits) and wanted to try different diy builds for the different buildings. A bath house, a kitchen,  and a bedroom all connected by a deck or some sort of pathway. I also wanted a lotus belle canvas tent for the living area, with a big fire pit centered in the middle of the deck areas well as a garden area. I wanted to try and build garden roof tops for hopefully a system to possibly recycle grey water. We will have access to a well but I also want a rain water catchment system. I want to build a bottle wall so I've started collecting glass bottles, but im still debating if that's going to be part of an outdoor shower or a small enclosed bath house. I also am going to use IBC tank to build a small hot tub or bath for the bath house ( i was also thinking of using bamboo for the bath house but im worried about winter). I dont know if I'll do a cob structure for the kitchen but I definitely want to incorporate a cob building for the bedroom. I also wanted to try and build a loft for the bedroom. I need to get some more research material, but what is the roof made of in a cob building? Can I do a second floor/ loft area with only cob or do i need to incorporate some other building material like wood to accomplish that? I wanted to talk with those who built their own cob house on here to see what they did for roofing options and for the foundation? Other things im interested in adding to the little homestead is a green house, some chickens and a coop, a cobb oven for breadbaking, and an aquaponics system. So basically we have a ton of diy projects to tackle and only two of us working on them. If anyone is interested in getting their hands dirty and learning through experience, that would be fantastic. Email me at jbeneke0001@outlook.com. or just reply on here, even just some sound advice or some guidance would be greatly appreciated. Im trying to collect material for building but will be gone until Oct ( my bf and I have a camper we live in that we just outfitted for off grid living/ camping and are about to start traveling or boondocking full time). So we probably will be working slowly on projects when we are back in town and will be slowly gathering material and researching a lot. It will probably be slow moving so plenty of time for any kind of advice or help if anyones interested. Glad I found a semi active thread! Thanks, Jess
 
pioneer
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When I get to the WV property I may be building a cob off-grid home for myself, with the help of family. I see this thread hasn't really seen much in the way of photos of work in progress, nor much other than those interested in doing this cob build project in the same general area of the world/country!! Maybe we need to make more comments on this thread? Or find other threads that discuss the making of cob? HoooHoooo! Anybody home?
 
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I am hoping to talk to some folks in VA who have had success building their own Cob house! I am an interior designer. I have a loose design and met with an architect yesterday. I have questions about building, codes, and financing. Considering attending a cob building workshop or applying for an apprenticeship in Oregon at the Cob Cottage Company. ANYONE OUT THERE?!?! feel free to send me a moosage



Natalie terrill wrote:Hello and Greetings to all VA Cobbers!!!

So, as you all know, back in Jan of this year I talked of starting the build of this years project and low and behold VA had typical VA weather, unpredictable at best!! So needless to say there was a couple of months of delay, however, that time was not wasted. There were several and I mean several different designs that I went through before I landed on my dream design. It is true what they say that cob building is 90% planning and design and 10% building!! Though we are currently about a month behind on my self imposed deadline due to the sheer size of the project, we are making it up with hard work and determination!! Yay!! I include some images of the new projects foundation and will update as I remember to here over the course of the build season. And to answer everyone's question, there are only the four of us ( as stated in previous post)  working on this project. I figure that if we as a family can do this, really anyone can!! Happy Cobbing VA!!! 2016!!

 
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Does anyone have updates on their plans or experience building a cob in VA? I’m near in Richmond. Thanks
 
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Hi VAers! Just moved to VA from Texas and am interested in natural design and build. Looking for some property but meanwhile would be delighted to help others and gain experience. PS I started a botanical medicine company a year ago and am really excited to grow everything I need right on property. Please email me if you would like to connect. Fooddiplomacy@yahoo.com
 
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John are you available for hire? We are looking for a builder who can do this for us here in Crozet VA.
 
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Hello Virginians,
There is at least one permitted cob infill house in Floyd County, VA, built in 2005. The building inspector there may have an opinion. (I do not, unfortunately, know exactly what that opinion is; you had better ask!) Also a few greenhouses and outbuildings. I'm afraid the contractor who managed that house build has since moved to Maine.

Also, the International Residential Code has approved cob standards in Appendix U. This should make the conversation with your local inspector much, much easier. The final word still lies with your local jurisdiction and you would most likely wind up "proposed on a project basis" which is extra paperwork. You might also find the codes a bit restrictive (lintels specified but no arches, etc.) But it's a crack to shove your foot in the door!
 
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Hello!
We are Brandon[28] & Yazz[25], we are planning on moving to Virginia and building our first COB HOUSE, hoping to start it by this summer..but we have not spent enough time in Virginia to know where in Virginia we can build without coding issues? Or if there is Clay in VA? Southern VA? Northen VA? Where in VA would you build if you could?
 
April Wickes
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Hello Yazz and Brandon,
Nearly all of VA west of the Coastal Plains has good clay, although of course the mountains have more geologic variability. You can answer that question for any specific parcel of land by using the NRCS Web Soil Survey, an online compendium of all US government soil maps. I find this an incredibly useful tool and it's one of my first steps when researching any piece of land.

As for the region of Virginia, the state has more geographic and cultural variation east to west than from north to south. I've still a soft spot for Floyd County (there is an alternate universe in which I settled there rather than Vermont), but as with any very rural area, you need to think about how you're going to support yourself with not a lot of outside paying work available. Obviously that is easier nearer to sizeable towns.

Code issues are usually harder nearer to towns. Virginia does, I believe, have a statewide building code and require a Certificate of Occupancy for new construction. How stringently that is enforced is going to vary from county to county and town to town. So ... what do you mean by "cob house"?

If you want a permitted legal residence, it's probably *possible* now, if you settle somewhere with a flexible and adventurous building inspector. (Start any property search by walking into the town office and picking the brain of the town clerk. They should be able to tell you quite a lot about the character of the town and the property in question, the procedures for building there, and the human resources available to help you.) But even with the new cob code appendix, a permitted legal residence is still going to have to meet code in every other way as well -- so it's not going to be any cheaper than any other house, and may be more if you need to hire help.

If instead you're after a funky not-very-legal off-grid cottage, that's possible too -- but it does mean you'd have to be prepared to inhabit a non-legal residence, so you should think that through. People do these things all the time of course, and what it comes down to most of all is whether your neighbors like you, or whether they complain. If you have fee simple ownership of the land itself, a quiet non-legal house *can* be condemned, although many towns consider that more trouble than it's worth. (Unless you are ticking off the neighbors. OR, if you make a media sensation of yourself. That forces their hand too.) If you are on leased or borrowed land in a non-legal set up, your tenure is always uncertain at best. Most towns care where you poop more than anything. Most rural towns operate by "live and let live," unless something brings it to a head. I suppose you could always park an ugly salvaged trailer out front and claim the house is a chicken shed. (Keep the chickens in the trailer.)

There are states which do not have statewide building codes at all. In these, you just have to check whether an individual town has imposed them. Virginia isn't one of these, however. Good luck with your project!
 
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Hello!

How did the permitting and approval process go for your build? I’m not sure how that works in Va and any insight would be very helpful
 
Posts: 13
Location: Virginia, USA
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Hello!
I'm also wondering how everyone's project(s) are going particularly in Va.
Our life has recently opened up a little more after several years of being pretty limited to caring for our busy family, elderly parents, kiddos, etc.
Much to our delight, we're feeling our dreams waking up from dormancy, and are looking forward to getting our hands in the mud again.
We'd like to connect with some folks in Va. that have cobbing experience. Since our project has been on hold for awhile and it has been over 6 years since we last attended a workshop, we'd welcome an opportunity to consult with a cob professional.

Feel free to message me, if you live in Va., and fit the description! We're willing to pay for some services, as we prefer to do a large portion of the actual work ourselves with perhaps a small group of people, but are thinking we might end up more pleased with the results if we have someone knowledgeable to guide the project.
 
Posts: 6
Location: Central Virginia
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Jeff East wrote:I know it's getting late in the year now, but I am hoping to find some folks here in southwestern Virginia that have built or are currently building a cob structure. My wife & I are hoping to get ours underway within the next year or two, and would like to learn locally!



Hi Jeff (and others in Virginia),
I realize I’m a decade late and $10 short but I was hoping things progressed for cob construction and permaculture here in Virginia. Did you find any local help and resources and successfully complete a cob structure?
 
master gardener
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Hi Justin,

Welcome to Permies.
 
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