Building with cob or adobe has been done for centuries; an untold number of buildings have been standing for hundreds of years. That’s a pretty good testament for mixtures of natural materials. It may sound as though the two items are the same, they are very different.
I love building with things around me; I guess it stems from playing with mudpies and sticks as a kid. That never changed, even though I never wanted to be an architect or contractor. Building for myself and helping friends is far more fun.
Adobe buildings are common throughout the American southwest regions such as New Mexico. They feature block-style buildings with flat roofs, white walls and are able to withstand rain, wind and sandstorms.
It is a mixture of sand, clay and water. For additional strength, chopped straw or dried thick-stranded grasses can be included in the mixture. You can learn to make adobe by following this link.
Adobe is generally made into bricks of varying sizes that are attached together with mortar to form walls similar to conventional bricks. The walls are covered with plaster, adobe or even cob to insulate the building and provide protection from the elements.
The use of cob dates back thousands of years, just like adobe does. It is also a mixture of sand, clay and water, but uses far more straw. The plant material is not chopped up; rather it is left long and the mixture is fairly thick. Globs of the mixture are laid in place, allowed to dry with the next course laid on top. This practice is repeated until the building’s walls reach the desired height. No mortar is used.
It can also be pressed into forms to produce any shape desired by the builder. You can learn to make your own cob by following this link. It does require some dedication; the process is labor-intensive.
Although research states that these materials are best used in mild climates, England and Northern Europe do not have mild winters; New Mexico does not have mild summers. The extreme heat and cold has not destroyed these structures; rather they survive with regular maintenance.
For added insulation, interior framing and insulation materials can be added to a structure made with either material.
With more emphasis on green building, these materials are making a wonderful comeback in different areas. In some areas, they never left.
For those who dream about building their own house by using materials found on their own land, these two “building block” mixtures are certainly renewable and if you’ll pardon the expression, “dirt cheap.”
Source: Staff Article, “Natural Building,” Wikipedia website, no date given
Source: Staff Article, “Here’s How To Make Cob,” WebLife website, no date given
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse subjects and skills such as DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects, RV’ing and more.