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7 things we wish we had known earlier before we built a cob house.

No. 026 Reading Time 4 minutes

After attending 5 natural building workshops, online and offline.

Reading 7 books on various natural building techniques from cob building to earthbag.

Watching 57 videos of people building their natural homes.

We thought we would build it better and cheaper than others.

After all, we are both "architects."

We will plan smarter, and toil harder. Call our friends to help.

When the villagers asked us to get professional help, we said

" No, thank you. We want to build everything with our own hands. Just show us where we can find the rocks and clay soil. "

We wanted to be lone rangers.

This is a photo of Raghav, trying his polite best to break the stone, before we hired a professional.

You may call it overconfidence, but it was just overenthusiasm.

Well, okay. It was overconfidence!

We were new to the game.

We committed many rookie mistakes along the journey.

This journey has taught us many lessons.

Some the hard way.

Earlier, we had shared life lessons that we learned from building a mud house. Today, we are sharing 7 pieces of advice we wish we had known earlier that could have helped us do things differently:

1) Unrealistic Timelines and Budget

When we leased the land, we saw the mud house as a summer project.

It wasn’t even a “house" when we started. It was a round cottage of 300 sq ft, which we had in mind. It grew and became a tiny house of 600 sq ft.

The initial idea was to build an earthbag house which turned into a cob house.

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

Paraphrasing what the author of the book The Hand-Sculpted House, and the founder of the Cob Cottage Company, Ianto Evans said, "Remember everything takes twice as long as you think and costs three times as much."

"Remember everything takes twice as long as you think and costs three times as much."

Ianto Evans

It was the reverse for us. It took us thrice as much time and twice as much money as we had imagined. This segues into our second mistake.

2) Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Maybe it is just an Indian thing to do. We are proud of our frugality or as we call it “Jugaad.” Whereas the West is proud of its tools and its precision.

We did not invest in the right tools at the right time. Please note we are not talking about machines.

We hired generalists instead of specialists. Honestly, we didn’t have many options to choose from. No one wants to cross a river or hike 2 kilometers to fix a window.

Wherever we tried saving costs, we ended up paying in time and eventually money, because of the labor involved. We had to redo many things.

3) Risk is what you don’t see

Morgan Housel, the best-selling author of The Psychology of Money was right when he described the risk in his latest book Same As Ever: Timeless Lessons on Risk, Opportunity and Living a Good Life.

“ Risk is what’s left over when you think you’ve thought of everything."

We did not imagine the village and the whole mountain forest becoming an island during monsoon. Completely cut off from the rest of the world.

We lose almost 4 months every year as the rivers swell and the wooden bridge washes away.

4) Hire the right people for the right task.

The mud house is just the tip of the iceberg.

The mammoth 20 meters long, 3 meters high, and 1 m wide dry stone retaining wall is what no one notices.

We both carried zillions of stones on our heads, shoulders, and stretchers.

Retaining the wall was the first building task. Our bodies were not accustomed to heavy physical work.

Even though we enjoy doing stone masonry and it is a meditative process, solving it like a puzzle, we should have hired physically strong help to build the wall faster.

5) Have all the materials on site before starting the build

It took us over two years, endless calls, losing money to cons, and futile reiki visits to sawmills, to find the right thickness and length for the wooden beams for the reciprocal living roof.

Asking people to find the round beams

We don’t know if it was persistence or if we got lucky to just find the right lot.

We have seen many builds struggle with putting the roof. The roof is the trickiest part. It’s too late to think about it when the walls are ready. The span of the wooden beams available could dictate the width of the house.

6) Last 10% of the project takes 90% of your time and energy

Any seasoned builder would be too familiar with the 90/10 rule.

But we were noobs.

Building the walls was the easy part.

Plastering, flooring, and finishing never seem to finish.

There are thousands of details you need to care for. Some of them being the ones you had decided to “I’ll deal with it later.”

Finishing layers dry slowly in winter. You might have to redo several finishes.

This phase tests your patience and every ounce of determination.

7) Don't follow the books blindly. Consult someone who has done it before.

Books are useful but might not cover all the potential issues you could encounter.

Building a cob house involves various practical considerations and site-specific factors such as local climate conditions, soil types, or material availability.

A mentor with hands-on experience can share insights, help us source the right materials, and help us avoid the pitfalls.

Whether you’re just starting to build your own mud house, or curious about building one, we hope you found something here that helps you navigate your own building journey.

By the way, we are starting a free 20-minute discovery consultation call.

You can book it here. You can also DM us on Instagram and we will fix a time.


Raghav and Ansh

PS: Have you seen our YouTube Channel? We are putting a ton of energy into sharing our journey and creating valuable content that we think you'll like. It would mean the world to us if you would consider subscribing to the channel and sharing it with your friends and family.


Watch this truly heartwarming and well-documented video of building a Cob House in the North East of India.

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In this conversation, we trace their journey from finding land and building an earthbag dome to growing a fruit forest.

Atulya K. Bingham completed her lovely earthbag home in a remote Turkish field, despite having very little money, almost no building experience, and endless naysayers who told her she would fail.

Tiny Farm Friends Newsletter. Every Sunday, we share tiny valuable lessons to help you transition to the countryside and build naturally.


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