Cob & Cold Climates: What You Need To Know

by ziggy on October 29, 2013 -- 3 comments -- Follow


Some time back, I wrote up an article about why cob is not appropriate for cold climates, based on our experiences living in Gobcobatron for several winters. I continue to get emails from folks saying something like “hey, I live in northern Illinois and really want to live in a cob house… can you recommend some resources?” My usual response is then something like “hold on a second there… I think you need to reconsider… cob may not be the best choice for your location…”

Anyway, it seems clear that folks may still not be up to speed on why cob is not a suitable choice for more northerly or cold climates. I have revisited my original post and added some new information on why cob is not suitable for cold climates.

I hope you’ll check it out. There’s even more to be said, but the basic gist of the issue is there!

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  • Hey Z,

    Awesome news about your new adventure in relocating. I am sure you will miss DR, but moving on with what you have learned with be rewarding in it’s own ways…

    I liked your previous post on this subject of cob in cold weather, and now to bring it up to date is a wonderful thing. I see way too many folks “romanticizing” cob, and not having a solid background in traditional design, vernacular architecture, or a good understanding of general building modalities as it applies to capacities in there constructed materials. Just basic means, methods and materials needs to be well understood before applying any method of construction.

    I don’t think there is a single false observation, or conclusion about what you are saying in regards to building with cob…especially in cold climates. I strongly discourage folks from using cob alone in these conditions, as it simply is not the best practice. With augmentation it can be made to work, but that brings me back to:

    Why reinvent the wheel or use a method of building out of context when there are proven traditional vernaculars that are so much better, and easier to facilitate.



  • Thanks, Jay. I really resonate with your last line. Reminds me of when I’ve read about folks trying to “improve” the insulation value of cob by mixing in perlite or vermiculite… Just… why? We’ve got to draw lines somewhere!

  • Elle

    Every place on the planet has the perfect building material for their climate/micro-climate. Look around you and apply common sense to your location. Adobe exists because it works in it’s geographic location of high dessert–dry, little rain, hot at lower elevations, cold but dry in higher ones. Do your research. Just because cob is great for one area does not mean it will be so for another. Ziggy is correct to say so. It’s just the plain truth. So don’t get hung up on doing something that will not benefit your life. Find another material.

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