Why use ‘Deadmen’ in Cob Walls

Deadmen is the word used to describe the naily pieces of wood used inside cob walls to hold a variety of things to the walls. When building a cob wall you are probably going to want to stab many holes in the wall as you build, in order for the wall to dry evenly and a bit quicker. Because of this, even after you have filled your holes, the wall is not going to be suitable for drilling an inserting plugs to attached, doors windows, shelves etc.

For this reason we use deadmen in the walls, which does mean, in the case of shelving, you are going to have to decide where your shelves might be before you finish your house.

The photo below is an example of deadmen we used for shelving. The vertical face must be flush with the outside of the wall. Nails must be hammered in to the sides to hold it in the wall. You are going to have to keep checking they are level as you build up, as the cob is likely to push them around a bit. The horizontal bar inside the wall also adds strength and stops the deadman falling out.

As shown below, on a wet horrible day at our project, you can also use the deadmen in the tops of the wall. This time make them with stumps of strong wood, hammer the nails in all the way round and wrap some strong wire around two times, leaving a generous amount to stick out of the top of the wall. The deadmen should be at least 30cm below the top of the wall to make sure they are in and strong. Whilst building up make sure to keep the wire coming upwards and leave it protruding from the top of the wall. You can then use they wires to attach to your floor joists. This will create more strength by tying the walls and floor together, and help stop the walls falling outwards

You can also use a similar deadman as above to hold in the windows and doorframes. Just make the same shape but don’t add the wire. As you are building up the wall which the door will sit in, add a dead man at the top, middle and bottom to drill the door frames in to. Leave the flat face flush with the edge of the wall, a little bit exposed so you know where to drill when the frame is ready (the ones below are too far out and had to be cut back a bit)

deadmen windows

And finally, if you forget to put an important dead many in for shelves, don’t worry. If the cob is still a bit wet you can make a dead man, mark its outline on the wall by placing it against the wall and giving it a bash with a hammer, then use a chisel to dig out the cob.

And that is what we use deadmen for. Any questions leave them below

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