Natural Building with Balecob

Balecob, a hybrid of cob and straw bale building techniques, can offer unique flexibility to the natural builder.


We live in exciting times for natural building! While building with earth is ancient and global in application, its renaissance in the Western Hemisphere goes back only 30 or 40 years, and that time has been tempered by codes and regulations ill-suited to natural building. But the field is now growing like never before as people seek a greater sense of belonging in their homes and communities, sustainable alternative construction methods, and a more authentic existence. With this growth, natural builders continue to spawn innovations and creative solutions to the challenge of building beautiful, durable structures. Balecob is one such innovation.

Balecob is an infill technique that uses straw bales and cob to quickly create highly insulative, roof-supporting, and load-bearing walls without the need for wood framing for structural support. (Cob is clay, sand, and straw mixed with water.) In balecob walls, straw bales are stacked like bricks and stabilized by jamming cob into the seams. It’s a hybrid building technique that makes use of the best of both cob and straw bale construction, resulting in beautiful, natural, functional buildings.

Balecob was pioneered by Ianto Evans and the Cob Cottage Company in Oregon. I (Kyle) learned from Conrad Rogue of House Alive, who uses a slightly different technique. My hope is that, as people learn about balecob, they’ll appreciate how much sense it makes and decide to give it a go on their own buildings.


Moving Past Wall Systems

Generally, we define a house by its wall system: timber frame, stick frame, concrete block, etc. The same is true in natural building: straw bale, cob, earthbag, and so on. Choosing one wall system can be limiting, and I believe the best houses are hybrids that utilize different materials in the right places. Do you have a lot of windows and doors on the south side? Consider cob or wood framing. What about a long, cold north wall? Go with balecob or straw bale. If you plan to stick frame your interior walls, consider filling them with light straw clay. 

6/20/2020 5:05:56 AM

This is a very nice idea. However, what about the insulation? Strawbales insulate way more than cob. If there is a cob layer between each strawbale, doesn't this downgrade the total insulation of the wall?



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters