Building a Cordwood House

See how cordwood construction saves you money on the home of your dreams.

| November/December 2015

  • A cordwood house allows you to customize the design.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • Cordwood construction gives a unique touch to homes.
    Photo by Ottmar Bierwagen
  • Any wood, such as timber that doesn’t make the cut for fine carpentry or other uses, can be utilized for cordwood masonry.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • The base of this cordwood wall is a concrete slab that separates the wood from the ground. This helps keep the wood dry and prevents rotting.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • A pile of cordwood ready for construction.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • Gritty's cordwood shed is an efficient structure.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson
  • Wood dust is sifted through a large mesh sieve to break up clumps.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • Try to stack and position the logs so you never have wood in direct contact with wood, because wood on wood can trap moisture and increase the chance of wood rot.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • Wood dust is placed in the empty cavity of the walls and encased with the mortar mixture, which provides good insulation.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • A piece of scrap wood acts as a guide for placement of mortar-insulation-mortar while building the walls, to keep proportions consistent.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • Building a cordwood house can be a project done solo, but it also makes for a great community project. Invite friends, family and neighbors over, share a potluck meal, and build something really cool together.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa
  • Portland cement for your cordwood house keeps it solid.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia & Steve Jamsa

Cordwood can provide so much more than burning heat. It can provide warmth for years to come if embraced in an equally utilitarian way. In fact, we can breathe easier than ever before – and long after they’ve stopped producing oxygen – by using this “green gone brown,” centuries-old technique when building your next home or work space, with cordwood from your woodshed, mill or forest floor.

After the design of your home or structure is chosen, consider the amount and length of wood you’ll need. Be sure to include additional length to some of the pieces you fancy jutting out for shelves inside your home and outside under a covered porch. Keep in mind the R-value – that is, the thermal resistance to heat flow of a material – rating you should achieve based on the area in which you’ll build. In doing so, factor in whether or not the sun and surrounding area will play a role in minimizing or exacerbating the effects of extreme temperatures throughout the year. Also consider what others have used for their homes in areas with a similar climate to yours. That being said, you may wish to keep your internal walls between rooms thinner than that of your main load-bearing walls.

When calculating the cost of the wood or doing the hard work yourself, remember that this is a one chop and stop deal. You can’t replace the insulation as you would with other homebuilding techniques. Even though the plans may call for a certain length of wood and your wallet presently tells you this is an open and shut case, it would be wise to “measure twice and cut once” to minimize future costs and maximize the open comfort level of heating and cooling your home.

As a quick reference, one cord of wood measures 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. A rick of wood, also known as a face cord, is one stack of 24-inch logs that are laid 8 feet long by 4 feet high. A face cord is 1⁄3 of a full cord and is made up of 16-inch logs, while 12-inch logs is 1⁄4 of a cord of wood. This will help you estimate costs when designing your home, depending on how thick you want your walls to be. Cordwood usually comes with bark still intact that will need to be removed.



While there are many other features vital to your research when implementing your design to meet the standards of local building codes and insurance requirements, the best part about building a cordwood home is that it will be truly unique.

Donna
2/26/2018 8:46:40 AM

We built a cordwood house. Finished and moved into it about 2 years ago. It was a lot of work, but it's beautiful and we love it. It was a work of "heart."







Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February 16-17, 2019
Belton, TX

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on modern homesteading, animal husbandry, gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE