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Enjoy one of the latest Made To Watch videos of the cobbing of Casa de Guthrie. Warning: You may experience an irrepressible desire to play in the mud. We call this phenomenon the cob web because the cob catches many unsuspecting bystanders and never lets them go.
Casa de Guthrie has a 20’ diameter bedroom/ studio space with a timber frame extension that houses a kitchen, bathroom and front entryway. This 600sqft home is tiny by American standard but we are building more and more of these small yet ample, mortgage free homes.
The yurt kit and timber framed portions of the house are in filled with straw bales and covered with a cob plaster. The thick walls make for a cozy, energy-efficient home. We love building with straw bale and cob because they are as lovely as they are green and affordable. Working with the clay is fun and it is a lot easier to get your friends to come help you play in the clay than it is to get them to help you hang drywall.
To color the cob we use joint compound the white gypsum paste used with dry wall and drizzle pigments or paints over it for a faux look or thoroughly mix the color into the paste for more even color. Apply the colored paste with your hand or a trowel. For a textured look, let your trowel strokes run wild. For a more traditional style, flatten down your marks with a damp sponge after the past has begun to set. It is easy for a first-timer to get great results and the gypsum has great adhesion to the clay.
The house is currently heated with an electric hot water radiant floor system, but is designed to accomodate a wood stove with hot water heat exchanger or a passive solar hot water heater. A sky dome in the yurt bathes the room with natural light and by night moon light. A glass over-hang outside the sliding glass door in the kitchen provides a secondary source of light, thereby reducing the need for electric light.
The wild-edge cedar ceilings are covered with three inches of ridged foam insulation and topped with a 45mil. EPDM pond-liner. The roof is ready to be covered with flakes of straw, a light dusting of well-composted soil, then planted with moss and sedum. The straw holds the soil in place and sprouts, adds roots to the matrix that prevents soil erosion. The straw itself will become soil over time. It is a myth that living roofs are so heavy. You can keep it light by using the straw and not much soil. For about 65 cents a square foot you can have a roof covering good for at least 50 years or more that helps to cool the house in the summer and warm it in the winter.
Casa de Guthrie i s what quality green, low cost housing can look like. By working with those we build for and their friends we assist people in not only building a home, but also building sweat equity in their new home. This kind of partnership makes housing more affordable and creates the possibility of owning a mortgage free home. Cob is an age-old building material that is being rediscovered her and around the world as humanity continues its search for cheap, non-toxic construction materials.