Constructing a Cordwood House: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Home Improvement

Cordwood construction, also referred to as stackwall building, is a unique building technique where the walls of the house are made of firewood logs of varying lengths which are set in mortar or concrete. These logs are called cordwood due to their resemblance to firewood. The cut ends of the wood are exposed and arranged horizontally, creating walls that can be more than a foot (30.5 centimeters) thick. This type of construction is preferred by naturalists as it is simple and cost-effective. Let’s take a look at how to build a cordwood house.

  1. Engage an architect or engineer to design the house. Since the walls can be 12 to 24 inches (30.5 to 61 centimeters) thick, the foundation must be designed with extra care. A concrete slab foundation may suffice for small houses, but large ones may require a professionally poured foundation.
  2. Obtain all the necessary building permits.
  3. Acquire soft cedar wood that has been cured for 6 to 12 months and has had its bark removed.
  4. Collect sawdust for insulation.
  5. Use regular lumber to construct the house frame, not cordwood.
  6. Build the walls using mortar and logs. Arrange the logs horizontally with the cut ends exposed, and use mortar only on the outside and inside one-third of the logs, leaving the middle clear and empty.
  7. Place sawdust insulation between the two layers of mortar.
  8. Ensure there are open spaces for doors and windows.
  9. Seal the gaps around doors and windows to prevent air leakage.
  10. Install the roof using standard roofing material.

FAQ

1. What is a cordwood house?

A cordwood house is a type of natural building made with log ends or cordwood (short pieces of firewood) and mortar or cob. It is an eco-friendly and low-cost option for building a home.

2. What are the benefits of building a cordwood house?

Cordwood houses are energy-efficient, sustainable, and have a unique aesthetic appeal. They use natural and renewable materials and have a high thermal mass, making them well-insulated and able to retain heat in winter and keep cool in summer.

3. What materials are needed to build a cordwood house?

You will need cordwood, mortar, insulation, roofing materials, and windows and doors. You can also incorporate other natural materials such as straw bales, cob, and timber frames.

4. How long does it take to build a cordwood house?

The time it takes to build a cordwood house varies depending on the size of the house and the experience of the builders. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to complete the project.

5. What skills are required to build a cordwood house?

Basic building skills such as measuring, cutting, and assembling materials are necessary to build a cordwood house. Experience with mortar mixing and laying is also important. However, with proper guidance and training, anyone can learn to build a cordwood house.

6. Is it possible to build a cordwood house yourself or do you need to hire a professional?

It is possible to build a cordwood house yourself if you have the necessary skills and knowledge. However, it is recommended to seek professional advice and training before starting the project to ensure safety and quality.

7. How much does it cost to build a cordwood house?

The cost of building a cordwood house varies depending on the size, location, and materials used. Generally, it is a low-cost option compared to conventional homes, with estimates ranging from $50 to $200 per square foot.

8. Can a cordwood house withstand extreme weather conditions?

Yes, cordwood houses are sturdy and durable and can withstand extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow, and wind. Proper insulation and waterproofing are necessary to ensure the longevity of the structure.

9. Are there any disadvantages to building a cordwood house?

One disadvantage of building a cordwood house is that it requires regular maintenance, especially in areas with high humidity or termite infestations. Additionally, it may not be suitable for areas with strict building codes or regulations.

10. Can a cordwood house be expanded or modified?

Yes, a cordwood house can be expanded or modified in the same way as any other home. However, it is important to consider the structural integrity and design of the original structure before making any changes.

11. Is it possible to build a cordwood house in an urban area?

Yes, it is possible to build a cordwood house in an urban area, as long as it complies with local building codes and regulations. However, it may be more difficult to obtain permits and approvals compared to rural areas.

12. What are some examples of cordwood houses?

There are many beautiful and unique examples of cordwood houses around the world. Some notable examples include the Cordwood Chapel in Quebec, Canada, the Hobbit House in Wales, and the Earthwood Building School in New York, USA.

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