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3 thoughts on “Resources

  1. Thanks for sharing some of your stories and insights, I’ve really enjoyed reading them! This blog has been very helpful because I’m in the planning (& a crap ton of money saving) to buy a property in Johnson County (ya, no building codes!) to be somewhat near a large city to build my eco house. How do you guys like cob in our missouri climate? Thanks for sharing and I look forward to seeing updates!

    • Sorry for not getting back to you sooner! I have had a partly composed response saved for more than a month and wanted to reply with a substantial answer. (We don’t have an internet connection at home, so I have been trying to squeeze it in during other random times.) I will work on getting back to you soon. Thanks for your interest!

    • First, sorry that it has taken so long for me to respond! Thanks for reading and your interest. Here are my thoughts from our experience with cob in mid-Missouri.

      Overall, we have been satisfied with how our home performed over the winter. Last year was our first winter in the house, and we made it through without any severe cold or mold issues that some of the other Midwest cobbers have mentioned (http://www.theyearofmud.com/2011/02/14/mold-has-reared-its-ugly-head-winter-moisture-issues). I suspect that there were three big factors that differentiated our experience from theirs: (1) we built 20-24″ walls, which helps to stabilize the temperature; (2) we whitewashed our walls, which inhibits mold growth; and (3) we have a metal roof with insulation, so we didn’t lose the heat that you would with a living roof, for example. (Also note that we are in a warmer climate zone than the builders in Iowa.)

      We did get a little bit of mildew on the exposed interior stone in the northwest room of our home, particularly in the corner where I had a cardboard box of books and a canvas shoe holder against the wall, which prevented good air circulation and allowed some moisture to build up. (This was also at the height when a foot or so of snow was piled against the northern wall of our structure.) However, now we keep that cleared from clutter and haven’t had any long-term issues from it. We will see how it fares this year.

      We heat our 400 SF home using a wood stove with a blower (rated for 1,000 SF), and that keeps it pretty comfortable. Naturally, the front room where the stove is stays a few degrees warmer than the back rooms (bedroom and bathroom). In the fall/winter or winter/spring transition when the outside temperature is around 40-50 degrees, we will build only a small fire at night or it gets uncomfortably hot in the house (like 80 degrees in the front room). In the 30s, we’ll do a big fire at night and re-stoke it in the morning, which will keep the house around 67-70 degrees. In the 20s and below, we have to feed the fire on a more consistent basis. (We have about 35 acres of hardwood, so our wood source is very sustainable and high quality.) All of this also depends if it is sunny or cloudy outside, how much snow there is, and how many cloudy days we’ve had in a row.

      Last year, we hadn’t finished winterizing all aspects of our house (for example, insulating our gables and caulking the wood frame around our door), so on the days we had temperatures in the single digits and teens, it would definitely feel chilly in the height of winter when the outside temperature was in the single digits (I’m guessing it was around 65 degrees or so in the house). Also, we’ve supplemented our wood stove heating with an infrared space heater, which draws on electric power–probably the most inefficient heat source you can imagine with a big carbon footprint. So, that is a little disappointing, but we are hoping that some of the steps we’ve taken to winterize will improve the situation this year.

      In my personal opinion, we live in probably the absolute coldest climate you would want for building a cob house, and that is assuming you take steps to address the insulation requirements of our area. In our zone 4 climate zone for insulation ratings, the recommendation is R25-R30 for insulation under the floor (http://www.naima.org/insulation-knowledge-base/residential-home-insulation/how-much-insulation-should-be-installed.html). We put in lava rock to add some R factor to our floor, but it definitely isn’t anywhere near that recommendation. I’m not sure how much that does or doesn’t affect the comfortability or suitability of cob in our area. As I said, we have found that we are comfortable enough in winter, but I do wonder if a strawbale or heavily-insulated home would just be a better option, as Michael Smith suggests (http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/cob/insulation.htm).

      Hopefully that is a helpful response. Let us know if you have any other questions, and please share your experience if you decide to build!

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