My hands may be SMALL, but my ideas are BIG


Building A Cob House

How eclectic, yet authentic does it sound to build your affordable dream home...with your hands and feet?
My close friend, Mani Mullenneaux's parents Hap and Lin have been doing just that. They've had "cobbing" parties, mixing earth from their own land in our hometown of Fairfield, Iowa (South East corner of the state) to create their sustainable and natural dream home. Their end result: 400 square feet including a loft bedroom. An article from The Iowa Source features Lin and Hap's journey through not only building their cob home, but the community they've built around it. I was home for a little this summer before moving to Colorado, and I almost went with Mani to help cob, so the story touched me on a personal level. Here are the highlights from the article, with my opinions and thoughts inserted throughout...

What IS a cob house?

"Cob building has been used for centuries in Europe but is relatively unknown in the U.S. In the summer of 2007, Hap and Lin journeyed to Oregon to learn cob building at the Cob Cottage Company, the home of Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley."

Lin in the early stages of foundation of the cob walls (Photo Credit: Hap and Lin Mullenneaux)

In knowing Hap and Lin, I can see how they seek to inspire others to build homes with natural materials through their own personal joy of building their own. "Part of the appeal for this kind of building is that it involves community,” says Lin, “when your friends and family help build your home.” My friend, Mani is the youngest of five in the Mullenneux clan, so with Hap and Lin's children, grandchildren and parents their family and 'cobbing' support has had great breadth.

Affordable living for today's economy

As of October the house has grown and is close to finish. There is a white lime-plaster finish, a green metal roof to catch rainwater and a periwinkle blue door.

“Hap wanted the door to be the color of morning glories,” says Lin. The morning glories have climbed to the top of the arches over the garden and Hap’s mother Dorothy and her husband Bill Beal have planted a beautiful garden of their own, next to the camper where they have lived this summer."

Hap's mother Dorothy and her husband, Bill enjoying the 'cob dance' (Photo Credit: Hap and Lin Mullenneaux)

I think the author, Linda Egenes does a beautiful job of describing the mystical cob, cottage of which I can't wait to see when I make a trip back home:

"But the cottage, the cottage. It’s a cozy, magical place, with a winding staircase to the wooden loft where the bed already rests, and two small baskets for socks and sleepwear are the only other furniture. Pine saplings, cut as dead wood by Hap from a nearby forest, form rustic beams downstairs. The partially plastered interior walls feel smooth and cool as stone. A wood stove sits in the northwest corner, cob benches create a window seat under the south windows."

The best part is that their unique home cost them only an estimated $7000 and half of that was in the windows and roof. Not only have they efficiently spent less on their new home but they are reaping the benefits of the sustainable lifestyle it will provide them.

“The experience of building this house was completely different than the home we built ten years ago,” says Hap. “I don’t remember feeling so vibrant at the end of the process like I do now. These materials are alive. With materials coming out of the ground, with labor coming from so many wonderful friends and family, it’s a tremendous blessing that we’ve received. It feels like a miracle."

Lin and Hap in their cob home (photo by Gabe Walker)

Here is the full article in the Iowa Source, "Building a $7,000 Cob House"
In addition, Hap and Lin are incredible photographers. Check out their site here as they created, "A Cob House Journal"


  1. This is amazing. How inspirational and how small a footprint will they leave behind. We have began studying the idea of downsizing our home when the Mr. retires from the Navy, maybe in the next five years or so. I'm tired of big, cookie cutter homes with too much space. This is so cute. I am going to the site to see their project in action. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am so glad to have inspired, I felt the same exact way! The Iowa Source article is fantastic and I loved browsing through Hap and Lin's photography journal of building their home. Thanks for the visit and if you have any specific questions for Hap and Lin I would be happy to pass it along to them. Cheers!

  3. Do you know if cob homes will work in all weather regions of the US? Some building materials, like straw bales, are best for dry climates because the straw will mildew in climates that get a lot of rain or high humidity. Is that the same rule for building with cob?

  4. Although I'm not an expert on the topic I do however, understand that cob homes require little heating in the winter because of their thick walls, which means they also remain cool for summer days making it ideal for all climates. Iowa has four extreme seasons, so the Mullenneaux's seem to feel it will ideal for the Midwest weather.

    This site seems to offer more information on the topic(

    Thanks for the visit!

  5. this is awesome. I had no idea. I want to go start building my own.

  6. Isn't it exciting? Eco-village in Fairfield is really starting to grow and look at how sustainable the houses can be (not to mention, inexpensive)! Ali, check out the Iowa Source article for more details, it's great: (

  7. Great post (and blog), I'm inspired - my dream is to build my own earth home (rammed earth, cob or straw bale). Isn't it funny how much simple pleasure seems to come from a story like this, versus seeing another cooki-cutter McMansion built?

  8. David--thanks for the kudos. I love new visitors especially 'global visitors.'

    I would hope that this simple, inexpensive yet enriching story around building this house would drive others to think the same as you. If your dream becomes a reality in the future, don't hesitate to e-mail me (gracekboyle [at] gmail dot com) so you can get in touch with Hap and Lin for ideas or advice. Cheers, David.

  9. I LOVE IT! so creative and eco-friendly. What a great home and it creates a great conversation piece. thank you for sharing GRACE!

  10. Jacqueline, thanks for stopping by! Let's be real estate agents together, while promoting the eco-friendly lifestyle;) I'm sure you will choose this as a conversation piece over your weekly dining excursions.

  11. Nice houses Grace, I want to build mine :), I'll follow the links and find some information. I've been doing a wind turbine project in my free time, so may be this is the next project :), I hope.

  12. I know, I'm so inspired and definitely want to build one someday. Check out the other two cob house posts that I followed up with here, they provide more information about how to build one and who to consult. Thanks for stopping by :)

  13. Hi, I just found your great article about Lynn and Hap's new home. I happen to live in the Abundance Ecovillage myself (in the very first home that started the Ecovillage), and I was quite inspired to witness the creation of the cob house.

  14. Dr. Windenberger, thanks for stopping by. I've really enjoyed writing about their cob house. I think that's great that your home was the first in Fairfield's Ecovillage! I would love to hear more stories as you have seen it grow.