What Next For The Year Of Mud?

by ziggy on March 4, 2011 -- 20 comments -- Follow

You might be wondering what’s next for the house, for my living situation, for this website. Gobcobatron needs some help, and it’s clear that a cob house in northeast Missouri is probably not the best idea for a four seasons dwelling. I love my house, but it’s become apparent that this is not the house I am meant to live in for the long haul.

But what will become of it?

The immediate future of Gobcobatron

There are a number of things we can do to alleviate the issues that the house is having. Here’s the full list:

  • insulate the foundation and lower wall
  • build a greenhouse
  • building an addition on the north side to enclose the coldest wall
  • insulate the floor and roof
  • lime plaster bottom half of interior wall
  • install a curtain drain around the house to improve drainage
  • install gutters
  • replace south window with insulated glass

By making all of these changes, the house would be a lot more winter-appropriate, but even still, it would not be the most efficient home for the wintertime. It would also be extremely time-consuming and possibly expensive to make all of these upgrades. For now, we have decided that we will focus our energies on some of the more immediate, smaller tasks of: lime plastering the lower interior wall, installing a curtain drain, installing gutters, and replacing the front window. Some of these changes will likely address the moisture issues significantly, and make cleaning mold that does show up in the house much easier to clean. It will also not be a huge financial investment.

Once these changes have been made, we will likely convert the house to a three season structure. Perhaps a rental, intern housing, a workshop and art space, a pay-per-use space, a store, or some other unknown purpose. (Do you have any ideas about what purpose the space could serve? Be sure to comment and share your idea.)

A more appropriate dwelling

That means we’ll probably begin building another structure, as early as this fall, that will serve as our long term housing. We’ll want to do this next house “right” by including all of those things that we’ve learned by building and living in this one. It will likely be straw bale. (Strawtron?) We have lots of other ideas about design at this point, but building a well-insulated, well-ventilated home is our top priority.

I will likely spend the spring/summer designing and beginning to gather materials to prepare for breaking ground in the fall.

It’s pretty intense to think about building another house so soon after moving in Gobcobatron. At times I am daunted (more because we are also building a kitchen at the same time), but I’m also pretty excited about it. It will be a whole new opportunity to design and building something that I feel good about and to try a whole bunch of new techniques and styles.

The Year of Mud… and Straw?

As always, I will continue to maintain this website to document the new changes to Gobcobatron. Gobcobatron is definitely not going away. Its purpose is only changing. Like most other buildings on this planet, it’s evolving over time.

I don’t know how I’ll go about my process of documenting the design of another structure. I’m already trying to keep up with information about the Wabi-sabi kitchen on this web site, and I’m not sure if throwing another house into the mix is really confusing or not… thoughts? Would you like to see the design/building documentation of a second house included on this website or some new one?

Of course, expect more here on The Year of Mud… and maybe, The Year of Straw….?

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  • Evan

    Gobcobatron should be turned into a disco, and if not a disco…a pirate ship or gym. These choices seem the most logical to me. I’ll bring the blueprints with me. See you in May!

  • Heide

    I’m voting that you keep us posted on ALL your building projects right here. Keep it simple…for us, for you. One site is enough. Just label the posts according to which project it belongs to: Cob house, wabi-sabi kitchen, cob wood shed, allergen-free straw bale house…so that newcomers can read all the posts in each category for each building if they want to catch up.

    My husband and I have been following your project for many months (years?) and we are grateful for you forthrightness in sharing your victories and frustrations. Cob is such a beautiful medium…..but one must live within the reality of its limitations.

    Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors, and looking forward to reading more posts!

  • Michael

    Just a thought have you considered raising the floor I don’t know how high your walls are now however if you cored holes in the wall & slid some floor joists on top of the fondation you could raise the floor up above the ground insulate under it and put in some vents creating a crawl space & also much needed ventalation

  • emma

    I vote for keeping all projects on this blog. And to absolutely include the straw bale house! Look forward to reading all about it.

    New use for the cob house? A sauna…;) (is that mean?)

  • nicofrog


    sorry to hear of you discouragement;

    At Emerald earth in California, there are 6 0r 7 cob house
    in full shade where it is 39 a lot and they’re fine,but I guess at your plase it freezing!frosn ground etc surprised it doesn’t break the cob.

    there are a lot of shoulds that are meningless now,,,,
    perhaps a goat shed!!
    you know HOW to build a cob house
    now learn passive solar(You Do get some solar in the fog)
    solar chimneys, etc and teach class building your next one
    by the way you mentioned cold “radiating” because its about spin off electrons
    cold cannot radiate. It can suck off heat thet is radiated near it.

    Just to be a smarty, I’m going to say spray foam the entire inside four inches thick. Then elmers glue collored print cloths to the inside to make it look hippy chic
    you will lose cubic footage,but have a fun warmer house!!(Sure spray foam is plastic,so are airplanes and cars,convince a few people never to fly again,or
    6 peoples parents NOT to be cremated and you save enough energy to off set your naughty plastic binges!!
    by the way I use plastic fiber in my finish plasters,easy quick cheap and effective(10 oz does a cubic yard) theres more plastic in the lap top you are looking at than my whole last project!
    where’s your first laptop?..)
    or plaster it with soymilk bottles filled with discarded mylar chip bags etc.

    then set up a rocket heater ,insulated underneath cob bench and bed.

    did you insulate under the floor?
    by the way,don’t let folks tell you to insulate with perlite! or vermiculite
    1 , they are dangerous lung irritants(carcinogyns) high embodied energy sinks
    (subsidised companies) used in planting mixes for lame excuses by people who need to learn more about soil.they are crap made in kilns.

    RED LAVA works fine as a soil amendment and cob insulator(for ovens and such) as you know cob needs dimantling and changing now and then(I have taken apart two ovens with the c*** in them(wear a mask to work with natural ingredients(not that its a good Idea to breathe any clay dust).
    best of luck and have fun dancing in the clay!!

  • I agree with Heide- just use tags to separate- you have a word cloud, so no problem.
    I am looking forward to seeing the future project!

  • Marke

    I agree with Heide on all points! Definitely keep writing; no need for separate blogs!

  • Tom in St. Louis

    This has been a cold, snowy winter. I imagine it has been pretty miserable much of the time.

    Good luck with your next attempt!

  • other tom in st. louis (tomcat)

    i also agree- keep it all in one blog! thanks for sharing your super fun and interesting projects.

    who is tom in st. louis, i wonder? have we met? should we meet?

  • Marlene

    Hi Ziggy,
    I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now and am really enjoying all the pain and frustration, success and sorrow, and questions and answers you’ve documented so well since you began building. Yes, I would very much like to follow the design and construction of a new, possibly straw bale house. Are you kidding? Yes, yes, yes!!! I’m currently building an earth-sheltered, earthbag cabin in northeast Georgia and learning a lot from both my successes and failures, too. And it’s great to hear firsthand from someone else doing natural building, what works and what doesn’t for them. I was sorry to hear about your rocket stove failure, I’ve got one in my place and absolutely love it. But of course I live in a milder climate (although we’ve had a really cold winter this year, lows in the teens and highs in the 30’s for much of it), my place is earth-sheltered, and I did use 3/4″ blueboard on the outside, underground portion of the earthbag walls. And I’ve got a living roof also but I have 6-12″ of papercrete underneath that for insulation. So, yes, insulation and earth-sheltering make a big difference in how comfortable a largely thermal mass dwelling can be. And on the plus side, it stays pretty cool during our torrid summers here (the hottest it’s gotten downstairs is 78, even when the outside temps were in the 90’s and 100’s). But the inside humidity is quite high and I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to have to add an air conditioner once I get a solar electric system installed.

    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your story, it’s been very inspiring, informative and so well written. Please continue writing about any and all future building projects. Best wishes.


  • one blog! one blog! makes my life easier.

    if you make gobcobatron a two or three season shelter, how will it fare during winters unoccupied? will it still degrade while uninhabited? what use could you put it to that would keep it in good shape?

  • Kathleen

    Don’t give up Ziggy! What do the English do? Their winters are cold, overcast and damp. Some of the cob buildings there are 100s of years old. Keep looking for answers, man. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Plus your ceiling is a work of art!

  • Kate

    Hi Brian
    Congratulations on who you are and what you do. Bravo! I have enjoyed your building, experimenting and writing…and look forward to more.
    Has anyone built a cob home the same way a cob oven is built? This occured to me after doing the latter and wishing to have cob in a home in Canada.
    Sand-rich cob interior side with straw-rich cob exteriorly. What are your thoughts on this?
    I hope to have this set-up for a south facing wall while transitioning to cob/cordwood for the remainder of the walls.
    Thanks again.

  • Thanks for all of the feedback!

  • Joe

    What I like about your blog about DR is you keep it current and on-going about what is going on- some others on the DR site are old and almost never updated= I really like for some reason reading about what DR is doing.

  • melissa

    Hi –
    I am sad to hear you’re having a mold problem. We did too & my son developed asthma because of it. You can remove mold with a solution of peroxide & water or borax & water but you must wear a mask. However, the danger comes from the mold spores that aren’t visible. I hope you are able to solve the problem soon.
    Take care-

  • Kate in StL

    I also vote for one blog. And have you considered that many other species (and other human cultures) don’t expect one dwelling to be appropriate year-round? Instead of trying to create one perfect 4-season house, why not keep your cob house as your warm-weather house and build a small strawbale for your cold-weather house? “Moving” twice a year can also be good for one’s housekeeping and even one’s brain, I think.

  • Ed Raduazo

    Brian: Have you considered building a cob and straw bale hybrid? I helped Ianto on a hybrid in Whales. I also build a hybrid storage building here in Virginia, and I worked on a hybrid in Coquile, OR.

  • Ed Raduazo

    Brian: Have you considered building a cob and straw bale hybrid? I helped Ianto on a hybrid in Whales. I also build a hybrid storage building here in Virginia, and I worked on a hybrid in Coquile, OR.
    The houses that Ianto is currently living in were made by turning two string bales into four string bales and then cutting the bales in half with a chain saw then incorporating the half bales into the walls. I have never been in one of these houses during the winter so I do not know how they perform, but Eric (The guy in Whales) is very pleased with his.
    If you want pictures or more information just ask.


  • Liz

    Thanks for the great blog. Its very informative and inspiring. One blog is enough. You’ve run into some nuances in cob construction that many can learn from…such as soil with poor drainage. Did you ever figure out what was wrong with the rocket stove? I would really like to build one and you are the only one I have heard of that has been honest enough to document a deconstruction. I can’t wait to hear about your next projects!

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