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Non-Standard Construction Insurance – The Cob House

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When anyone is considering taking out non-standard construction insurance, or indeed any buildings insurance, it is a common misconception that the sum insured should be the saleable value of the property. This is absolutely not the case. The sum insured should always be the amount required to rebuild the property including any demolition, removal of waste and any professional fees.

Mr. Baggins isn't here I'm afraid!
Mr. Baggins isn’t here I’m afraid!

How then would one insure a beautiful little house built by smallholder Michael Buck, a former art teacher? Mr. Buck spent eight months constructing a house using the ancient technique of cob – building with a mixture of sand, clay, straw, water and earth. He taught himself the method by reading a book, and drew the plans on the back of an envelope.

With no central heating, you might think it would be a bit chilly, but he says the cob walls and thatched roof make it incredibly well insulated, and the ceiling is stuffed with sheep’s wool from a nearby farm to help keep the heat in further.There is also a woodburning stove, strategically placed beneath the mezzanine level double bed to ensure residents stay ‘nice and toasty’ at night, while candles and lanterns provide light. The water supply is free as it comes from a diverted natural spring which gurgles out of a pipe outside, while the ‘natural’ fridge is a shallow well a few yards away from the front door and hidden from view by towering cow parsley. The WC is a composting lavatory in a separate thatched outhouse with a panoramic view of the Oxfordshire countryside, and the ‘bathroom’ is a tin tub hanging on the wall outside which can be brought in and filled as needed.

Hobbit Heaven
Hobbit Heaven

And the build cost of this little cottage? A mere £150! Mr. Buck explained that he originally wanted to build it for nothing but misjudged the amount of straw required for the thatched roof and also needed to buy nails to attach the thatch itself. All the materials were found in skips including the windows which were fashioned from an old lorry windscreen.

Mr. Buck currently rents out the cottage, not to a hobbit, but to a lady who works at a nearby dairy, and she pays her rent in milk! I am unsure if there is any insurance in place but how would you gauge the rebuild cost of such a building? I certainly have no idea and any thoughts would be welcome. One thing I do know is if Mr. Buck were to come to I’m sure he’d find great prices for non-standard construction insurance. The business insurance comparison site!

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