Building a cob house is an art that encompasses mixing the aggregates in the right proportions, trampling, and building the walls in courses.
Attending cob house building workshops is an excellent way to acquire hands-on cob-building skills by learning from experts in the field. You need these skills to build a sturdy and durable cob house.
As with any sustainable building technique, the longevity of a cob house depends on the proportions of aggregates in the mix and the laying of the walls.
Moreover, the walls must be built to prevent moisture accumulation. Acquiring all this knowledge can be overwhelming and requires learning from cob construction experts, making cob house-building workshops a must-do before you embark on a cob construction project.
In this article, I’ll discuss the main cob house building workshops you can attend to learn this eco-friendly building technique. From syllabus content and prices to instructors and their experience, you’ll know what you’ll get from each workshop by the end of this article.
Let’s dive right in!
This is one of the cob house-building workshops affiliated with The Cob Cottage Company.
It’s worth mentioning that finishing a cob house with conventional finishes is a recipe for failure. Most of these finishes are impermeable and will lead to the accumulation of moisture within the cob walls.
The Art of Natural Plasters workshop aims to provide an interactive learning experience using natural materials to make permeable finishes suitable for cob walls.
For $1,200, you can attend this workshop in Washington and acquire the following skills:
- How to make the different types of clay and lime finishes and plasters.
- How to apply the different clay and lime plasters on cob walls for longevity.
- The techniques of building with natural materials like cob.
The workshop is designed to deliver a hands-on experience to the participants. Daily, you’ll have six hours of mixing and applying natural plasters on cob walls. This will help you develop the plastering skills necessary to ensure cob’s longevity.
The workshop will cover the following natural wall finishes:
- Coat plasters made from straw and clay.
- Smoothed and polished clay finishes.
- Michael G. Smith: Having completed more than 100 natural-building projects and taught hundreds of hands-on workshops, Michael has sufficient knowledge of what makes the best cob house. He participated in the establishment of The Cob Cottage Company in 1993.
- Athena Steen: Having founded The Canelo Project in 1989 with her husband, Steen is highly experienced in earth-based constructions. She is among the pioneers who collaborated on art museum installations and other projects of national interest.
- Avani Leitz: A natural building expert who built a cob cottage from the ground up.
- Robert Kolden: He is a plastering specialist with over 30 years of experience.
Organized by Athena Steen of the Canelo Project, this cob house-building workshop costs $900 and hosts up to 12 students.
The six-day workshop covers the essentials of earthen and natural plasters.
To make the workshop as hands-on as possible, each participant will have a practice panel to practice plastering techniques at their pace.
The syllabus covers the following natural finishes:
- Clay paint.
- Lime finishes & fresco.
- Lime and simple clay basecoats.
- Smoothed and polished clay finishes.
- Stabilized exterior plasters.
The best part — the workshop considers specific issues related to individual circumstances like climate, building codes, appropriate technologies, and financing.
This is one of the cob house building workshops that entails building with cob from the ground up. It’s ideal for those looking to know how to build a complete cob house.
The workshop costs $1,550 for ten days and entails building a garden wall and an earthen pizza oven.
The garden wall is complete with doors, windows, plumbing, electricity, arches, artwork, and niches. Therefore, it’s a workshop to ensure each participant can build a cob home.
The syllabus covers the following topics:
- Designing and building a cob cottage.
- Renovating or remodeling an existing home.
- Building and using an earthen oven.
- Creating garden walls and hot tubs from cob.
The workshop will focus on the following areas of cob building:
- Foundation systems.
- Mixing cob.
- Identifying the right materials.
- Roof design and attachment.
- Electricity and plumbing system installations.
- Building codes.
- Natural plasters.
- Kyle Isacksen: Has been an instructor at the Be the Change Project and House Alive since 2011.
- Kathleen O’Brien: She is an experienced earthen construction instructor. Kathleen has taught in Mexico, India, Reno, and Oregon.
- Katy Chandler: She is a co-founder of the Be the Change Project. Katy has been building with natural materials for many years.
This is a two-week natural building workshop focusing on building an earthen sauna.
Costing between $1,750 (early bird) and $2,800 (supporter), the workshop covers the following:
- Wall systems like cob, slip, redwood bark, and others.
- Gravel bag foundations.
- Introduction to natural plasters like lime-sand base coats and clay-straw.
The syllabus is designed as follows:
- Intensive-learning lectures for the first five days.
- A weekend tour of the local building sites.
- Hands-on intensive building sessions for six days.
- Michael G. Smith: Co-founder, The Cob Cottage Company and the author of “The Cobber’s Companion.” He also co-authored “The Hand Sculpted House” and has participated in other earthen building projects since 1993.
- Avani Leitz: She has been building with earthen materials since 2017. She has since built a cob cottage in conjunction with her husband.
- Blair Phillips: Holding a BA in Environmental Studies, Blair founded the Abuela Gardens in 2013.
This cob house building workshop entails building a complete cob cottage.
Hosted by Daniel and Molly with their family, the workshop costs between $2,500 (thrifty bird) and $2,700 (super chill bird) for 34 days.
The syllabus covers everything that goes into building a cob cottage, from the foundation to the roof.
Participants are awarded the Advanced Cobber Certification after the training.
Besides the 34 days, you can stay one more week for a Rocket Stove bonus workshop.
Molly and Daniel own an Earthsong Regenerative Farm in Southwestern North Carolina.
The couple intends to build a cob home on this farm through workshops. It’s a win-win situation — you help them build the home while acquiring hands-on cob-building skills.
Cob house building workshops provide an excellent opportunity to learn the necessary skills to build a sustainable home.
Besides the skills, you’ll have a chance to connect with like-minded people. This is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a natural building community.