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Couple lives debt-free in cob home that only cost $20,000 to build: ‘A pot-shot dream that we really wanted to do’

“We both had full-time jobs and then would also work about 40 hours a week on building the house.”

"We both had full-time jobs and then would also work about 40 hours a week on building the house."

Photo Credit: SpiritWood Natural Building

A Montana couple who built a home from clay and straw brings to mind “The Three Little Pigs” fairytale.

But Daniel and Katherine Ray, the ambitious and frugal home builders, are not interested in barricading against a wind-blowing wolf. That’s because they seemed to have perfected a do-it-yourself build concept that can reduce the use of common, dirtier materials, including cement, with energy-saving results, all per a story from Business Insider. 

What’s more, the couple has monetized their expertise by offering workshops, teaching others how to build a cob house using clay, sand, and straw. 

“It was a pot-shot dream that we really wanted to do,” Daniel told the online publication.

The report notes that the Rays built their home (their second one) for around $20,000. That’s a huge saving, considering that Forbes reports the average price to build a house in America to be at $329,000, excluding land. Better yet, they have no debt from the project. 

Their first build — a 300-square-foot home on land that Daniel’s parents gave them — was a success for around $3,000 or $4,000. A couple of years later, they decided they wanted a larger model and bought some Montana land to build a 700-square-foot house, all per Business Insider. 

“We both had full-time jobs and then would also work about 40 hours a week on building the house,” Daniel said in the report.

Daniel and Katherine helped to design the home and gathered mostly local materials to make the cob, mixing it by stomping it with their feet. The cob mix was put down in layers. Windows and doors were built into the solid cob exterior. The walls are 2.5 feet thick. Even some seating is made from cob. Three large, wooden posts hold up the roof. Amenities include two bedrooms and a bath with a composting toilet and a tub, according to Business Insider

The extra-thick walls are delivering energy-efficient results, Daniel said in the story. Montana summer heat can hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But the thick cob walls are keeping the indoor temperature in the low 70s, sans power-sucking air conditioning.  

“They absorb a lot of heat from the sun and from our wood stove inside. And then it reflects back during the day,” Daniel told Business Insider. 

The Rays aren’t the only ones using unconventional materials and designs to build more efficient homes. Minimalist designs and even Lego-inspired innovations are bringing nature and DIY concepts to fruition.  

What’s more, you don’t have to be an architect to build a home like the Rays. For $150, they will teach you how to construct a cob structure. 

“A house like this could be as inexpensive or expensive as you want it to be,” Daniel told Business Insider. “The first house that we built, we didn’t have any money then … But then this house is much bigger and has more amenities, so it was more expensive.”

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