Blog

Bio of Dominic Keogh - our guest tutor

Dominic Keogh is a stonemason, lime practitioner, craft trainer and traditional Irish musician from Kilmovee, county Mayo, now based in County Clare. Informed by over 20 years of experience, Dominic is a leading voice in the movement to conserve Ireland’s vernacular heritage and has contributed to the conservation of many historically significant sites such as Spike Island Prison, University College Cork, Ichidoney House, Cork, Forenaught's House, Kildare and O’Brien's column in Clare to name a few. Dominic started his path in vernacular crafts at the age of 18, initially training as a thatcher, before becoming fascinated with traditional dry stone walling and stonemasonry. After training with fifth generation master mason Padraig McGoldrick from county Sligo, Dominic became concerned with the loss of vernacular craft skills in his home area, and focussed his attention on gathering knowledge and information on regional dry stone walling traditions, and building conservation, becoming an active member of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Ireland. His passion for preserving craft knowledge compelled him to complete a FETAC level 6 Train the Trainer qualification, which allowed him to lead numerous volunteer community projects and training events in order to preserve and promote dry stone walling, conservation and Irish culture. Dominic’s passion for Ireland's crafts has led him to be invited to participate and display at events such as the Milwaukee Irish festival in America, and the Canadian international Dry Stone Festival, where Dominic was invited to Amherst Island in Ontario by the Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada as an ambassador for Irish Stonemasonry. After seeing how revered Ireland’s heritage is abroad, Dominic returned with a new determination to expand on his knowledge of the craft, moving to West Cork to study architectural stonecutting, and monumental masonry under a German master stonecutter. Inspired by a passion for historic conservation, Dominic moved to County Clare to establish a conservation company and continue his mission to promote Irish traditional craft skills and knowledge. In recent years, Dominic has branched out on his own and has expanded his skill set to include the art of letter carving, and is growing a reputation for creating unique designs for monumental, private and public display.

Notable Events and Projects Dominic has been involved in:

Entrance plaque for St. Tierneys cemetery, Clones, (commission by Monaghan county council) Clócha nah Eireann monument, (DSWAI carving project)Glencolumkille, co Donegal 
Michael Coleman Homestead and Heritage centre, Mount Irwin, co Sligo
Milwaukee Irish Fest, (Stonemasonry and letter cutting demonstration, yearly.) WN, USA
Gathering of the Stones monument, (DSWAI volunteer project)Birr, co Offaly.
Spike Island Prison conservation, (for Cork county council) Cobh, co Cork 
West Cork Stone Symposium, Ahakishta, West Cork (ongoing, yearly)
Mullranny Dry Stone festival, Mulranny co Mayo (ongoing yearly) 
Kilmovee ETB community training project, Kilmovee co Mayo (ongoing, yearly) 
Building Limes Forum, Lime demo day, Drimnagh Castle, co Dublin
O’Briens Column conservation (through the Follies Trust) Liscannor, Co Clare


Dominic will be delivering an Introduction to building with stone and lime mortar at The Mudhouse on the 6th of August, places are limited, for more information and to book  see https://www.themudhouse.ie/store/product/introduction-to-stone-building-with-lime-mortar-6th-august-...

Cob FAQ's

Some of our frequently asked questions 

What is Cob?

It’s a mixture of clay, sandy aggregate and straw.

Cob is usually made from the subsoil dug up for the foundations of the house. The subsoil is beneath the top soil. Top soil contains organic matter which will break down and is not suitable for building with. Not all subsoil is suitable too much clay causes cracks and too little and it won’t hold together. There are tests that can be done and it’s also good to attend a course to get a feel for the material. For cob it’s difficult to beat the hands on experience. We would also recommend (advice we didn’t take ourselves!) building small structures to start with such as an oven or coop.

Won’t it wash away?

Because of its porous nature, cob can with stand long periods of rain, however, too much moisture is best avoided by a good ‘hat and boots’ that is an overhanging roof and build on a foundation of stone. Cob house are plastered in (or should be) with breathable renders such as lime.

Don’t cob house look like hobbit Houses?

The answer is they can look like anything you want them too. Cob is very versatile, lending itself well to curves and circular designs but it can be built to look exactly like any standard house.

Is it difficult to obtain planning?

We didn’t encounter too many issues with our planning. Any difficulties were not cob related but the same issues that can affect any build such as site lines. Dealing with waste etc… The Mudhouse is quite a standard design in that it has no external curves or green roof. For designs more out of the ordinary you may have to fight your case. Each site has its own challenges its best to have all your research done speak to other natural builders and people who have built in your area to foresee any challenges you may have.

Are Cob houses cheaper to build?

Yes and No, yes in that the material itself is cheap and by building yourself there are savings on labour costs. There can be additional costs related to it, for example at the Mudhouse we had to get a structural engineer to sign off on our house, for regs our house has additional insulation as the Cob does not have a ‘value’ on any of the systems used by building control.

How tall can you build with cob?

There are cob building standing nine stories high with no issues.

How long does a cob house last?

Cob houses are still standing from the 1400’s in England, many are still lived in. There is debate on the oldest cob building in the world. The oldest known cob house is 10,000 years old (Source: https://www.heritagecobandlime.com/why-ancient-cob-will-always-have-a-place-in-our-modern-world)

To learn more about cobbing, get some hands on experience and meet other future cob builders we have two Introduction to cob courses this summer.

Where it all began


Like most people once we hit our late twenties we discussed the possibility of where and how to live. We had been renting and decided it might be time to get on the property ladder. Ireland was going through a recession and house prices had fallen through the floor. It made economic sense to buy, however we did look at a handful of properties and all would involve a compromise in some shape or another. The other option as to build we luckily had family land available to us. The inspiration for cob came from grand designs, Kevin McCabe's ‘cob castle’ was mind blowing, sure it was great in Devon but Ireland? It turns out there are cob houses dotted all over the place, we attended the open day at mud and wood in Sligo and absolutely loved their house, this lead on to attending their intro to cob course to try our hand at cob. We also attended a straw building course as we thought based on our research we would require a straw bale wall as part of our house for insulation reasons however this was not a necessity as it turned out.

Cob had all the attributes we looked for it was environmentally friendly, it could be self-built, is readily available, cheap and in many ways it is a very forgiving material to build with. Planning for the Mudhouse was relatively easy from a cob point of view however site lines caused us more of a headache and threatened to derail the project however we got around this issue by submitting as a replacement dwelling and taking down an old house on the property which was beyond repair. this also provided the stone for our plinth, porch and stone outshot. Cob is not recognised by planning to meet building regs .The mudhouse compensates by having additional insulation in roof, floor and cavity walls. Along with our original architect and engineer we had sign off from a structural engineer who had previously worked with a cob house. Feile from mud and wood also input on some technical aspects of our house. 

The design of the Mudhouse is quite conventional, fitting in with general vernacular of other houses in the area and laid out to take in the spectacular views. we hope by employing this design people can see that natural materials can be used in the same way as conventional materials and meet current building regulations. this design also helped in planning as the Mudhouse ticks many of the initial boxes looked for by planning. The Mudhouse once completed will be approx 1800sq ft and a Storey and a half. it will encompass 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen/dining room, utility, living room and a play room/sitting room. It is also envisioned that a lean to greenhouse will be added and a covered outdoor dining area accessed by the double patio doors.  Internally the Mudhouse will reflect our ethos using as many upcycled and natural materials as possible. Once completed the Mudhouse will serve as a warm, comfortable family home for our children to grow up in, for family and friends to gather and to share with others.