Unconventional Home Building Techniques: Cob

When homesteading involves complete and total construction from the ground up, and it’s done by an experienced construction tradesman, the results can be amazing; and unconventional. Homesteading involves a fair amount of making due with what you already have. And sometimes this translates to some crazy building ideas. Some work others don’t; but the lessons learned and knowledge gained set the next generation of builders a high bar. Check out some of these unconventional building techniques I’ve seen or heard of!


This unique and ancient building method has been in use for centuries. Using a mixture of clay, water and straw and then packing it into wooden forms and letting it harden in the sun. There are still structures standing to this day from the 15th century all over the world.

Cob is unique in building because it allows virtually anyone to build a structure. There are hundreds of recipes involving different variations of materials for mixing, allowing one to use whatever materials were available to them at the time. Some recipes even called for horse hair.

Modern cob built structures use a small amount of Portland mix for each 4x8x16 brick to create a longer lasting structure. Cob forms are easy to make, simply use a rough cut and true 2×4 (not factory made) or rip down a 2×6 to 4″. Cut the two longest lengths to 19″ and the two end pieces at 8″. Nail the two end pieces between the long pieces with four 12d nails for the perfect cob form.

Fill with cob mix, scrape off the top of the form and lay flat on some hard surface, Put it in the sun for a few hours then flip it over and pull off the form to use for more cob bricks. Let the bricks harden for a few weeks in the sun before you use them. Keep them out of any moisture.

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