Unbelievable. This is the third incredibly wet year running now. Rain, rain, rain. It really gets old. (And mucky.) But that didn’t stop us from the cob bed and bench demolition project inside of my house. I had been dreading this task for a while now, but boy am I glad we got it accomplished! And it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be to destroy thousands of pounds worth of cob… but normally, you cannot really say that of cob, because it is so incredibly tough and resilient!
Last week, April, Snack (Wabi-sabi’s work exchanger), and I went about destroying the cob bed in the house. We moved out into a tent, and shoved everything in the house into one corner, protecting it with a tarp. Taking apart that bed was not going to be a clean task.
With pick axes in hand, we took our first swings at the bed. The pick axes left hardly a mark! Those first 8 inches of material were bone dry and nearly as tough as rock. It took serious effort to dislodge any significant amount of material, with lots of sweat and pauses for achy bodies. This video should give you an idea just how strong of a building material cob is:
Thankfully, the random rubble mixed into the bed made it slightly easier to remove larger pieces at a time. But I don’t wish this task upon anyone. Taking apart cob is really, really difficult.
As we got further into the project, we hit stovepipe (literally). It was impossibly to avoid not destroying the stuff, unfortunately. It was sad to see but it had to be done.
As we got deeper down, the job suddenly became easier. The material was actually wet about halfway down, around and underneath the stovepipe. Hm! It seemed as though the bed never dried after it was built. Without exposure to the sun and wind, cob takes a long time to dry, especially in a humid environment, and especially when it’s in a thick form. I’m still guessing that it never fully dried, but it could also be that the stovepipe condensed in the cold, and the moisture ran down throughout the mass, making it damp over winter. Either way, this cob crumbled when we hit it.
Seeing this problem, I was relieved that we were removing the bed from the house. I knew that this would have caused serious problems down the line. A damp bed against the exterior walls of the house? Not good. Around the edge of the bed, the straw in the cob walls was actually rotten at the ends. It smelled like mold. Mold = really not good. Yeck.
Destroying the whole bed and bench ended up taking about a full day of work. We carried all of the cob out in buckets and filled a whopping dozen 55 gallon drums full of the stuff. That’s a lot of material!
When all was said and done, it was a relief. Next up? Replastering the wall where the bed was, redoing that part of the floor, and building a wood bed frame…