How to Build a House Out of Clay or Mud

Written by katebo
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How to Build a House Out of Clay or Mud
Building with clay and mud. (Adobe Flora image by John Sfondilias from

You can build a house out of clay or mud and if done correctly it can last for centuries. It is referred to as cob building and it is very similar to adobe in that it used straw, clay, soil, sand and water but instead of being formed into bricks it is more freeform. This allows the builder to literally sculpt an artistic looking, one-of-a-kind home.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Land
  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Water
  • Straw
  • Soil
  • Recycled cans
  • Recycled bottles

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  1. 1

    Design a small house. Small homes, besides being cosy, are easier to cool and heat because there's less air space to work with.

  2. 2

    Situate the home on your lot so that the majority of the windows will face south.

  3. 3

    Build the back of the house into a pile of dirt or hill to create a berm. This will give you the thermal mass needed to naturally heat and cool the home. Since the home is built into a berm, you cannot put windows at the back of the house.

  4. 4

    Harvest the materials you need to build your clay house. You will need to make a mix of sand, clay, soil, straw and water.

  5. 5

    Experiment with mixing the ingredients together using your hands, feet and a shovel. When you have a large pancake-like slab of cob that holds together well and is not too wet, lay it down on the ground and smooth it out. Add another slab next to it and use your hands to sculpt it to join it with the first slab seamlessly. Keep adding slabs until you have an entire row of a wall built ,then allow it to dry before adding the next layer on top.

  6. 6

    Fill in non-weight-bearing walls with materials, such as cans, bottles and other recycled materials. This helps to speed up your building time by taking up space in the cob walls.

Tips and warnings

  • Set bottles into the walls horizontally so that you can see the bottle bottoms in the wall for an artistic effect.
  • Consider setting up planters inside of your home in front of your south-facing windows. The plants will love the sunlight and you can grow your own food indoors year round.
  • When building with cob, expect a lot of trial and error to get exactly the right proportions of materials. You may wish to build a small cob oven first to see how it fares over time.
  • Building with cob generally takes much longer than building with conventional materials but it will last much longer.

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