Cob house designs and planning

by ziggy on February 28, 2008 -- 4 comments -- Follow

I’ve been dwelling on (pun sorta intended) my cob house designs for a little while now, making plenty of sketches and reading lots of different books. As of yesterday, I thought I was fairly settled on a basic design. The roof has been causing me the most anxiety, since that is where I have no experience in either design or construction. But anyway, I had a salon/discussion last night to talk about my plans and to get feedback. I’ve been talking to a few different folks already, but I wanted to have a group discussion to get additional ideas. As a result of that talk, I am no longer so attached to my original design, and today I am doing some re-thinking, especially in terms of the roof I had in mind.

Originally, my plans looked something like this.


It’s a small cob house, with an 11’x13′ interior, rounded corners, with an urbanite foundation and a living roof. The walls are projected to be about 18 inches thick. A 6′ wide porch is on the west side of the house.

The south-facing wall would feature a large sliding window, about 4-6 feet wide for solar gain. The entrance is positioned in the southeast corner. Smaller double hung windows rest in the east and west walls, with a tiny fixed window in the north. Along the west wall is a rocket stove connected to a 4′ wide heated cob bed and bench that wraps around the northwest.

cob house interior 2

cob house interior

Bookshelves would be cobbed directly into the walls. A three foot deep shelf would be positioned above the cob bed for storage.

So. I’m now rethinking these basic plans a bit after learning about reciprocal roofs and seeing this incredible woodland home design. Originally, I kept debating between using standard dimensional lumber or pole wood for the roof construction. I was leaning towards dimensional lumber since I figured it would be easier to work with, and it would keep the living roof design more uniform and easier to build. However, I did not like the idea of depending on milled lumber. I thought it would be much nicer to find wood poles here on the land and incorporate them into the building instead. But I was intimidated by the prospect of using lots of uneven pieces of wood. How would that complicate the living roof?

However, after talking with Mark of Red Earth Farms I became inspired by the reciprocal roof design, which could easily be made using pole wood. I even made a couple smaller scale reciprocal roof models using chopsticks and oak wood scraps. After doing some web browsing, I have seen a number of photos of natural homes with reciprocal living roofs. Additionally, I am just starting to overcome my fear of a lack of familiarity with some of the construction process. Why should I worry? This is all one great big learning experience. If I really want to learn, I might as well design the cottage the way I really envision it. Take the bull by the horns.

Now I am starting to reformulate my design to incorporate a reciprocal roof, and a slightly different building shape. The basic layout will be similar, but I think this potential second iteration will have a more unique design. We shall see.

UPDATE (7/21): See building with cob on the Tiny House Blog for a feature on my cob house in progress!

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  • jeff droz

    I was interested in your plans for a new place after reading the latest DR newsletter. I have built and lived in for 2 years a round straw bale, living roof “hut”. I also considered the reciprocal roof, but it seemed that it would have taken at least as much, but probably more wood than using diminsional lumber. I have very similar features to what you are looking for in my building… round, south large windows, south door, living roof… and would gladly share any info you would want to help you out. I have a myspace acct where you can check out some pics of it (I think that should get you to the pics of myspace)or my sisters website at the specific page on her site is this:
    Good luck with the new adventure!

  • Gwen

    Jeff…. love your little cottage… strawbale is the way to go… the only sad thing is that you only have room for one in your bed….fyi two make a hut a home… 🙂

  • Hi Jeff,

    I would enjoy featuring your little cottage home on my Tiny House Blog. Please contact me using the contact form if this is OK with you.

    Thank you,


  • Beth


    First of all, let me express my condolences on the loss of your friend Tamar. Only time will ease that pain.

    Could I possibly get you to e-mail me? I’m having issues with your blog. Unless I’m VERY quick to hit the ‘stop’ button, or through trial-and-error with opening different pages/links in new tabs, I’m always redirected in a matter of seconds to some search engine I’ve never heard of. Won’t post it here, but I’ll share the link in an e-mail if your curious. It’s weird; brings up stuff about wd-40 and such.

    The reason I’d like to e-mail you is to ask you (or more specifically make sure I get the answer to) this question: in the year-round kitchen y’all are building, what are y’all going to use for kitchen counters? This is something I’ve been pondering as I’m designing my own house, and want to use as much free/cheap/reclaimed stuff as possible.

    Wood would be beautiful, but there’s a reason it’s not used for kitchen counters in the modern world – too porous, doesn’t hold up well. I was wondering if it would be possible to get some big slabs of reclaimed concrete and polish it/seal it – would that work? Or even sealed, is traditional mix concrete too porous? Another thought I’d had would be to do a mosaic of some kind – mimic a tile look, maybe, using stones, urbanite, or a mix – but what would you use for mortar unless you used traditional, modern-day mortar? And then you have to worry about keeping it kinda/sorta level, too…

    Just trying to think outside the box…

    Thanks for your help 🙂

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