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Where should I start? - the cob journey.  RSS feed

 
Caitlynn Lancaster
Posts: 1
Location: Winston-Salem NC
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Hello! I've been studying cob building on and off for the last seven years or so. I'm 22, just got out of college, and I am finally feeling ready to begin the cob journey. Only thing is, I've read so much for so many years and it's left me sort of confused as to how I should begin. Keep in mind, I'm in student debt on a starving artist's income, with a part time job. My boyfriend, who works full time as a chimney sweep and I want to get out of our parents houses soon, and enjoy a life with more privacy. So here are my burning questions:
1) what comes first, land or building permit approval? I live in North Carolina. Do I get permits then find the land? Vice versa?
2) we're thinking of getting a good sized camper to remodel and live in so we can build at a more relaxed pace, and as we can afford to build. Would it be better to just build a small cob cottage on the property to live in while we build a larger home, or does anyone have insight on the advantages of the camper life? Other temporary living suggestions?
3) has anyone else here built with cob in North Carolina? I live right outside Winston Salem, and it's awfully backwoods out here. Did anyone run into problems getting approval to build?
4) any extra wisdom?
Thanks!
 
                        
Posts: 5
Location: Zone 5
forest garden trees
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On the camper front, I've read of a number of natural builders who would camp out in tents or a vehicle while they build. 'Roughing it.' I'm sure a decent camper would be more comfortable, or a tent better than a simple weekend camping one.

An option to consider is canvas tents (pyramid or wall style). They can often have wood stoves installed to help make it more cozy and livable in the winter, and they're a good balance between mobile and semi-permanent to make it easy to overcome the initial hurdles of site selection, permits, access. Consider the Civilian_Conservation_Corps and how they setup some of their 100+ person camps using canvas tents with wood stoves in them while they would work in substantial projects in sometimes very remote areas. One key thing they had that you won't: a lot of hands on deck, government support, and often a specific tent and group of specialists for food, medicine, tools, transportation. You'd need a different camp/tent setup than that of a CCC worker but the canvas tent may still do well for you.
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
Posts: 2180
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I've never heard of a building permit issued without being tied to a specific site. You really can't know exactly what you want to build until you have a site anyway. You can limit your site selection process to places that will work with a certain technology and certain orientations, but that's pretty much it unless you just want to plop a tract house on flat land facing the road... which isn't exactly your situation
 
Daniel Ray
pollinator
Posts: 122
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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You will need land before a building permit, but don't expect it to be an easy thing if you are building cob, especially load bearing cob vs a post and beam structure. Try to find a place that will not require any building permits/codes if possible. I'm not sure what the situation is in North Carolina.

You won't really be able to plan your house until you have your land. Define your house by the land which it is situated on, not vice versa.

Although it may be really nice to have a camper or temp shelter, I recommend building a small cob house to start with just to get the hang of it. Or maybe a broomshed or art studio that a mattress would fit in. You will want the experience of building.

Go for it, don't let anything hold you back and look at as many examples/blogs/websites as you possibly can. Do you have any ideas for house design? roof design? size? load vs post and beam? Good luck!
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
Posts: 2180
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Unless you are willing to seriously rough it for the months or years that a full sized cob house will take, I would not advise just building a cob closet However, alongside a camper or something to live in full time while building, it would be a very good idea to build a cob toolshed or something to become familiar with the process and make your mistakes on something that doesn't matter. I am in the process of building a cob hut which will be just big enough for a built-in bed heated by a tiny RMH, and a chair or two, as a sort of guest house. At 7' x 9' outside and 5 to 6' x 7' inside, it would not even require a building permit (less than 100 sf) if it was visible to the public.
 
Ziggy Ziegler
Posts: 17
Location: Oregon
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If you want to see some great cob houses and even find a project you can help out in check out this place it is located near you! In Joy Ziggy http://www.earthaven.org/
 
Barbara Dickinson
Posts: 3
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My advice: buy the land first and live on it however seems best as a longish term temporary situation...for us it was a concerted bus with a woodstove, which is now an excellent guest space and air bnb rental. Get to know your land. Garden, check out the soil, note the wildlife. Find a cob building project to help out on, preferably from start to finish. Visit other cob structures and talk to the builders. Ask them what they wish they would have done differently. Get a couple good books (Becky Bee's Cob Builders Handbook is a good primer). Start collecting materials: rocks, tiles, Windows, doors, glass bottles, lumber.
When you have your site picked out, draw plans. Make a scaled model (plasteline, so you can easily "remodel"). Camp on the site, and plan some more. Dig your foundation trench, put in your rubble and French drains. Rally your volunteer crew, and start building first thing in the spring. Plan for it to take twice as long as you think it will. Both of the 200sq' 2 story cottages we build took two years to build...each. Take the time you need to prepare, gather materials and plan, so that once you start, you can really move forward with the energy of obsession that building a cob house generates.
Embrace how utterly amazing you are!

 
Ziggy Ziegler
Posts: 17
Location: Oregon
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Great post Barbara thanks for putting it up.
 
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