HomeArticlesWoman’s Magical Cob House Built with Earth & Reclaimed Materials
Woman’s Magical Cob House Built with Earth & Reclaimed Materials
January 14, 2020
>>DANIELLE: Hey everyone in this video, we’re gonna visit a fantastic DIY cob house that was built using sand, clay, straw and reclaimed materials like cedar siding, ceramic tiles, and second hand windows. It was built by a professional snowboarder who’s been living in it for 4 years and at just under 400 square feet, she managed to create a really cozy and functional tiny home. In this video, she’s gonna give us a full tour of her cob house. So let’s go check it out! [Music Playing]>>MARIE FRANCE: It’s hard to tell the size of the house because nothing is square. It is a roundish weird shape, but I guess it’s 2 big rooms. So the downstairs which is the kitchen and living area and then upstairs is a sleeping loft. So it’s about maybe 400 square feet and then I have the outhouse with the tub and the toilet. So an extra 10X10 over there. It’s simple, there’s 2 of us living in here comfortably and that’s all I need! [Music Playing] Welcome to my house! It’s made out of cob. So it’s a mixture of sand, clay, and straw and you mix it all by hand or I should say by feet. I basically built it all right outside the door with my feet. You put a tarp down and you step on it, sand, clay, straw, and a bit of water and put it into buckets and then you shape the wall as you go from the ground up, similar to Play-Doh. It’s kind of cool because then you can be creative and create any shape you want and you have to think ahead too if you want to put some shelves in some areas and I had to plan the kitchen. Also, with the sunlight and where I wanted the wood stove. It was a wonderful process. I’m really impressed that I finished it! [Laughter] When I started building here, they didn’t recycle glass or plastic bags in the area. Since my walls are not structural because we built the roof first, I decided that I could basically use all this trash to make fillers in the walls. I filled so many jars, glass jars, with plastic and any kind of trash I could find that is not recyclable and it helped me save so much time. You can’t even tell but there’s so much garbage that ended up in these walls that are not in the landfill, so that’s really cool. I used a bunch of recycled windows as much as possible either people getting rid of stuff or from Habitat for Humanity or Craigslist. I was really trying to not use new materials. It happened in some places but very little. The last layer was linseed oil, some clay, and some mica stones. That’s what gives it the little glitter. I built most of my furniture with scrap materials and 2X4’s that were laying around. It’s not the most beautiful [Laughter] my couches but it does the trick! And I find that even when things are not perfect, I find more beauty in using waste than just trying to fit a certain style, but that’s just my taste. My brother built the kitchen and there’s a lot of round customizing. So he wasn’t too happy about that, but we made it work! We installed a garden window there. [Music Playing] I have a nice little inlet view that I can stare at when I’m grinding coffee in the morning or cooking. So it’s kind of cool! I love surfing so when I look outside I can tell what the tide is doing I can tell what the wind is doing. It’s nice to be connected with the outside. [Music Playing] The space is in a weird shape. When we decided on the site, I wanted to take the least room as possible and I wanted to make the least impact. So we dug down right down to the rock and whatever shape we ended up with is basically the shape of the walls now, so the perimeter. It’s not a perfect shape. It’s not a perfect circle or anything, but I was just trying to fit with the environment as much as possible. For the water, when I bought the property, there was a well already. So I’m really lucky to have my own water here. The same with the septic system in the bathroom. I dug a trench all the way to the existing septic field. So I wanted to make sure there’s no leaching in the environment and I wanted to be responsible in that way, so I have really good water. I’m really lucky. I’m using propane for now for cooking, so just these little barbecue tanks. This is also what is providing me with hot water, I have an on-demand hot water system for the shower. But, I have started trying to make my own methane for cooking and for hopefully heat, out of food waste. So I just bought this Home Biogas system. I just activated it and I need to create more heat for it. But when it’s gonna be running, you basically use your food waste and you feed it every day, and that creates methane. It’s a little bit like a cow’s stomach. Everything you put in, you get the same amount that comes out in liquid fertilizers so I use that in my garden. You get about 2 hours of cooking per day when your system is running good. I’m really excited! It’s not fully functional yet, but I’m getting there. I’m creating gas and I need just a bit more. Out here is the outhouse where I have my shower. I have an old clawfoot tub and I also have a little bathroom with a little toilet. It’s very bright and it smells really good because of the cedar rafters. You can have a bath and look at the forest, which I love. I also have heat in here, if I need it, a little electric heater, there. But generally during the day just because I have a skylight, the sun will heat up the space pretty good. So it is just a bit cold in the morning and at night, but little sacrifice. I can deal with it! [Laughter] A lot of people ask me about my decision to build with cob in the rainforest and a lot of people are skeptical about it. But honestly, it’s all about getting a good roof and making sure that you don’t have too much direct rainfall going on your walls. That’s why I made sure to build a really good roof and this out skirting roof as well to make sure that even when it’s really stormy in the winter, the rain will touch it sometimes on some of the walls, but it’s not really going to affect it to the point where it will wash away the walls like people think. Because I put linseed oil on the outside of the cob, it’s kind of acting as a natural waterproofing agent. So even if there’s rain that comes on it, it’s not going to wash anything away and I can also repaint it with clay anytime I see a little bit of moss for example wanting to grow on it. The building is now 4 years old, so I think it’s gonna last probably 100 years. [Laughter] People don’t believe me, but I think the wood is what I’ll have to change way before the cob. So I have electricity for the house. So I’m hooked onto the grid. I do have solar panels on a different roof on another building. I have a little fridge. I have a little dehumidifier because sometimes we’ve come back from surfing with our wet towels and the air is so wet around here. So it’s nice to run that once in a while and I have another little electric heater if I leave for a long time and it’s cold over the winter. It’s set at a minimum temperature like 10 degrees. So I’m not worried about pipes freezing and blowing up on me. This is probably my favorite part of the house where I got a little more creative and I used driftwood to make the shelves and picked some different bottles and tried to make it pretty looking. And the glass blocks I got pretty much for free on Craigslist and initially, I didn’t know what to do with them. I was stuck in the traditional frame of building where it’s going to be a glass block wall and then the beauty of cob allowed creativity. I can separate them. I can put them sideways. So now they’re all looking like little diamonds and in afternoon, they all light up with the sun coming in. I love it! [Music Playing] [Sound of wood being chopped] Initially, I had an old wood stove that I got used as well in here. It wasn’t really airtight. I was losing a lot of heat and there was some smoke in the house. So I upgraded to a better stove. For that reason, it’s more efficient. That’s all I need here. It’s not really cold in the winter. So the house itself is insulated upstairs, but not the cob walls itself. However, with just with the stove, I’m so cozy in here to the point where I need to open the doors and windows sometimes because it’s so warm. Under that you can see the mosaic tiles that I made. Originally the whole floor was like that, but I upgraded to cork for a little bit more warmth. Also, it is easier to clean. I do love the recycled mosaic tiles. Most of the tiles are from friends’ renovation projects. They had extra tiles that end up in the landfill. So I would take them, break them up and make my own little designs with them. I have some storage all over. It’s a small space and there’s two of us living in here. So it’s nice to have storage wherever you can. I have some boxes under the couches here and this one too. I had to kind of make my own couches to fit the uneven walls and most couches are just so big and take so much room. I wanted it to be fireproof as well. So that’s why I decided just to make my own. It’s nice because when I have friends they can sleep there too. It’s like a little bed as well. I made this table with the end of the counter. So I had some extra scrap material and made this coffee table as well. So I just tried to use as much scrap as I could. Upstairs is the sleeping loft. Those walls are made out of wood and they’re insulated. My dad helped me. This is cedar siding that came from my brother’s renovation project. They were getting rid of it and throwing it out. It’s such nice cedar and it was free. This is the sleeping loft. It’s pretty small, but it’s all that I need. I can store my clothes there. We have the bed. [Music Playing] Over here is my pee toilet, number 1s only! So it’s like a very rugged toilet and I have a tap, cold water only. My friend made a burl sink. So that’s pretty cool. My dad helped me dig out this log. It took him forever. He was swearing a little bit. But it’s so super cool and that goes all the way down to the kitchen and the piping for the toilet and the sink are in the log. The windows up here are all recycled too. I made an effort to have the windows south-facing. And the neat thing too is that in the winter, most of those trees will lose their leaves. In the winter also, the sun is quite a bit lower. So in the winter, the house will get actually warmer than in the summer because the sun comes in more. So I did good on that. It’s fun to design your own house. There’s so much to think about especially if you want to make it efficient, but I love that challenge to try to make it as efficient as you can with the elements. So this is my little office. It’s a little messy, but this is all I need. I snowboard for a living still and I love surfing but through snowboarding, I feel pretty lucky that I have the extra time and resources to get involved in other things. I’ve been passionate about the environment ever since I was a kid and I think what we’re facing right now with climate change is something we need to act upon and so that’s why I’m involved with organizations like Protect Our Winters. I’m on the board of directors for Protect Our Winters, Canada. And we’re basically trying to mobilize the snowboard industry but also all the outdoor industries to act on climate change. We are trying to find ways to connect people with nature. [Music Playing] I built this place because I wanted to be a part of the solution. I wanted to live simply as much as possible and I find that in the way we build our homes is a beautiful and massive place where you can make a difference. I’m very lucky. I know I’m privileged to be able to own the property. At the same time, if I want to go further along with my values to build small and to build locally with as many natural materials as possible. It’s probably a great way for me to reduce my footprint and live in harmony with nature too. So this is kind of why I wanted to build this ever since I did that course with The Mud Girls. I fell in love right away with the beauty of the cob and how you can really make it, you can make it your own. You can make this space really different and unique and this is what I love about cob. It’s not like traditional building where you’re limited to square angles and spaces. I was lucky to have a lot of help. My brother helped me so much. My dad and I had lots of friends who came and got their hands dirty as well. We had a workshop here with The Mud Girls as well. So that was really cool to get other people to learn about it as well. And I wish it was easier for people to build small. I feel like it’s a big challenge. We have as a society that is promoting bigger and consumption and I think we need to move away from that. And, I don’t know, living in a small space is great. I’m kind of obsessed with it! [Laughter] Sometimes I look at my chicken coop, I’m like I should make a bed in there. [Laughter]>>DANIELLE: If you’re interested in learning more about cob, we actually made a more in-depth video about using it as a natural building material and we’ll link to that in the description if you want to check it out. If you want to follow Marie and her work with Protect Our Winters, you can find her on instagram here. Please share this video if you liked it. Thanks so much for watching and we’ll see you next time.