Sebastien Demers built a beautiful two story cordwood home near Ste. Onesime, Quebec in 2009. Here are some pictures and an explanation of “the build” from Sebastien himself. The half round/half rectangle floor plan also has two interior gardens and a banana tree flourishes there and produced 30 pounds of bananas last year.
This is the front of the half round, the rectangle is in the back.
A whole bunch of bananas! 30 pounds!
The masonry heater, tile floor and indoor garden areas.
The post and beam framework cross-braced with roof applied and ready for cordwood infill.
Sebastien suggests building a 3D scale model first. Note the two indoor garden plots. Genius!
Sebastien built his own doors. What a beautiful looking entrance. Note the shelves on the outside for keeping keys or packages up off the snow. This is Quebec remember:0)
The masonry heater supplies warmth for 24 hours at a time.
Sebastien offers advice on what to do when building your cordwood home:
1. Read everything on the subject.
2. Take a workshop.
3. Build a practice building.
4. Make a 3D scale model of your building.
Here are a few facts and figures from Sebastien:
Sebastien Demers Ste Onesime, Quebec.
“My best suggestions would be to take the time to do it, by : – reading; – visiting houses: – Workshops; – Experimenting, idealy with a test building; – Alot of planning and asking questions – Making a model of the house. It takes alot of time, but this time is so much worth it when it comes to the real construction!
And some details
I used 16″ logs, cedar.
Insulation is sawdust with a bit of lime.
Next to the kitchen, there is à root celar whitch is 3´ underground and it communicantes from the inside. It is 12’x12′
The house is a half circle (40′ in diameter) annexed to à 15’x40′ rectangle. All of it is on a flaoting slab, Heater by water.
The structure is made from beams that come from an old barn I recycled.
There is also à living roof.
Let me know if you need anymore details.
Almost forgot… There are 2 inside gardens in the circular part of the house. They are simply holes (about 10’x20′ x 3’deep) in whitch i did not pour concrete.
I have a banana tree that gave me 30 pounds of bananas, 2 years ago
As you can see a very beautiful and very functional cordwood home was built with patience, research and planning.
What good fortune to find an excellent timber framer who infills with cordwood. Nick Kautzer is that framer/builder and is located in Tuolumne, CA.
Nick Kautzer is a fine craftsman and cordwood mason. He has a wonderful “eye” for detail and his buildings flow into their surroundings.
Nick’s website lists the following: “We specialize in timber framing, custom furniture, and stone masonry to cultivate timeless, naturally beautiful craftsmanship. We are dedicated to utilizing sustainable and locally sourced materials to create long-lasting quality products.”
Interior corner with framing, bottle ends and red cedar.
This is also from Nick’s website. “Hello, I am Nick Kautzer, designer and builder of timber framing, stone masonry, furniture, rock walls, patios and doors. I also create cordwood structures such as Cupolas, green houses and additions to existing structures. Custom designs for furniture to homes are always welcome. Talk to me about your ideas or share some pictures with me to explore the possibilities. My passion for building with natural materials stems back to my father who is a master of fine cabinetry.”
As you can see Nick is an artist with his framing, window placement and cordwood.
Cordwood when done properly, is such a visual feast.
The door sends a warm and inviting message.
If this appeals to you and you want to use Nick’s services, please contact him at:
I received a delightful email from Whitney about her cordwood project at Idaho Base Camp. Whitney said, “I’d like to invite you to check out our cordwood cottage progress here in the Big Lost mountain range 26 miles east of Sun Valley Idaho…”
Thanks for your constant inspiration on facebook!!
Idaho BaseCamp is an Environmental Eco-Retreat Center 26 miles outside of Sun Valley, Idaho, dedicated to education, creative expression and the development of a sustainable relationship with nature. Our aim is to expand the understanding and create a working consciousness for the environment, community and Self. . Part of our master plan is to have several examples of sustainable building. This cordwood cottage is our first permanent structure to go up on the land, where up to now, we have only had yurts.
We broke ground on this project on May 7, 2013 and since then have been learning the process along the way, and building from below the ground up with the help of MANY friends, the Cordwood Construction facebook page, http://facebook.com/cordwoodconstruction and BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. This has proven to be an incredible community building process and are so grateful for everyone who has helped, from lending their truck to fill with shale, to cutting wood and hauling it to the site, laying logs and mortar, taping bottles together, framing windows and doors, and so much more. http://www.cordwoodconstruction.org
Sawdust was donated by the local sawmill. All of our wood came from Stanley, 60 miles away. Our tongue and groove roof was recycled from a house in Ketchum. The logs have all been bucked up on our very own land. Our doors were recycled from the Sun ValleyCenter for the Arts. The windows from a house in Ketchum. The tin for the room came off of a house in Ketchum. Our beams were recycled from a recreational Mud Run in Hailey Idaho. Shale was gathered from the hillside across from Basecamp. Plywood was recycled from a landscaping job site in Ketchum. Even our concrete mix came from Idaho-a little town called Paul about 120 miles away. Our hard foam insulation for the roof came from a poolhouse re-model in Ketchum. The tires the make up the bottom half of our North wall were donated by the Sun Valley Auto Club. All of the bottles came from local bars and restaurants in Ketchum and Hailey.
This helps to get the word out about alternative building. If you are interested in books, books, books (including ebooks) got http://www.cordwoodconstruction.org You might enjoy the latest book on cordwood “Cordwood Construction Best Practices” which will steer you in the right direction and help you make informed decisions.
The latest and most comprehensive book on All Things Cordwood
Or you can send me an email at email@example.com
Here is a 22 acre mountain parcel near Idaho City, Idaho that has two cordwood cabins, a yurt-sized, timber-framed cabin with built-ins, 2 tepees, a spacious and luxurious wall tent with wood stove and great southern mountain views. [Thanks to friend Geoff Jordan for telling me about this parcel.]<a I don’t really know anything about the property, so please don’t consider this an endorsement. The reason I am showing it, is because of the visual attractiveness of the cordwood buildings.
There are many more pictures and information at the Real Estate link
Kinstone Chapel July 13-14, 2013; Cordwood walls continue their ascent
Another group of talented, interesting and wonderful folks attended the Cordwood Workshop at the Kinstone Chapel near Fountain City, Wisconsin on July 13-14, 2013 to continue the building of the chapel’s cordwood walls. As you may know, this Chapel is being built using the symbols/motifs from the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
Here are a slew of pictures of mixing mud, screening sawdust, building walls, tuck pointing, covering walls, conversing, concentrating, eating and generally having a grand ol’ time.
Mixing a good cordwood mud…chop, chop, chop went the hoe.
Some people are all smiles and giggles when they are cordwooding!
Even certified organic farmer’s get a kick out of tuck pointing.
Folks got serious about building a best practices cordwood wall.
A time for learning…
Screening the sawdust to weed out the big pieces. This will be for insulation and the mortar mix.
A time for demonstrating…
A good perspective of a cordwood wall under construction.
Some folks take to mortar mixing like ducks to water!
“It’s getting to the point…”
A thousand designs are rolling around in that pretty, curly little head:0)
Discussions over excellent meals lead to plan improvements.
John brought his solar telescope so we could see sun spots and his evening telescope so we could view Saturn and the craters on the moon. Amazing! Thank you John.
Mixing mortar, adding the right amount of water is critical.
Every one has a choice of a dust mask or a bandana when mixing lime insulation and mortaring, most choose the bandana. I feel like the Lone Ranger when I wear mine:0)
We even had snacks on site! Here Cook ‘Par Excellence’ Dorothy receives a hug from ‘instructoress’ Becky for a delicious piece of Mona’s fresh baked bread with Joerg’s home harvested honey! Ummm Good!
This is the bottle and log end wall that will surround the entrance way door to the Chapel. Our two cordwood wood mason’s are very pleased with their work (and so are we!)
A dragonfly…takes a bit of forethought.
Brother Fire is one of the design motifs.
Covering the walls at day’s end is a very important practice to ensure a slow set and cure of the mortar.
My neighbor Steve called up the other day and asked if I’d like to come over to see his new floor. Steve is a contractor by trade, he does beautiful work, so I jumped at the chance. When I walked in the door my mouth fell open. He had built a cordwood floor! It was beautiful, warm and artistic. The colors were tan and brown and the floor was polished to a shine.
Steve the craftsman proudly stands on his cordwood floor.
I asked Steve how he built this floor. He said he had bought some old hardwood barn beams at an auction and decided to use them for flooring. First he cut hundreds of 5/8″ “log end” slices on a bandsaw. Then he placed the slices onto a plywood subfloor. He kept them in place by using Construction Adhesive. Then he used regular flooring grout, mixed with sawdust in an 80/20 ratio (80% grout/20% sawdust). After the grout had set, he came back with a heavy duty floor sander, smoothed the whole floor and blasted the grout off the faces of the log end slices.
Finally he sealed the floor with a commercial grade sealer. Steve says that if he had it to do over again, he would first seal the log end slices before attaching them to the sub-floor. He figures this would cut down on the amount of sealer he used. The hardwood sawdust would probably change to softwood sawdust next time to slow the set and cure of the grout.
All in all his floor is durable, stunning to look at and adds quite a nice touch to the Russian Masonry Stove Heater in the middle of the house. Steve and Sharon have a wonderful homestead complete with horses, chickens, cows, dogs, cats and children.
For information on how to do cordwood walls why not take a peek at:
Luke and Amy Metzger have built a wonderful cordwood home in Spartanburg, SC. They have a basement, a post and beam framework, an open ceiling and a loft area, beautiful porches and more. They offer the “wood-be” cordwood builder some great and timely tips. I will use quotes from Luke’s emails to share his (and Amy’s) knowledge and wisdom.
Nice shade, porches, beautiful cordwood walls, post and beam framework.
The following are Luke’s words. “The house although only 4 years old is holding up well. We used red cedar that was debarked and seasoned for 1-1/2 to 2 years. Only the largest of logs shrink in the winter…but only 1/32″ max…we heat with a wood stove. And when the spring returns the logs expand back. We have front and back covered porches and the gables have a 2′ overhang. This really protects the cordwood and was a really good decision with the rain and humidity of the south.”
The post and beam framework. The roof went on before the cordwood infill.
“What we did was complete the entire structure first. This was was done for two reasons. First, the building inspectors had never seen cordwood masonry and they wanted to ensure that the structure and the integrity of the house would be sufficient on its own….the cordwood would simply be an infill. Of course the infill with the logs and mortar gave increased strength, but they were concerned none the less. Second, since it was just me and Amy doing the building, it took us alot longer than conventional construction. So by getting the structure up in the dry, we had a nice place to dry store the cordwood and it allowed us not to worry about rain as we worked on each infill section.”
Luke used a special method of inserting his floor joists so there would be no deflection.
“One other design detail was the basement: I did not want the weight of the cordwood walls to sit on a joist system. I was afraid that the joists (cross grain) would move with humidity which might cause additional cracks in the lime morter over time. So as you can see in the pics, I created pockets between the cinder blocks on the last course for the joists sit down in. Therefore a 2×10 sill plate was anchored directly to the foundation falls….hence the entire weight of the cordwood falls directly on foundation and not on the joists. The wall were 10″ thick.”
The cordwood was dried and then stacked under the roof and between the posts. Very smart because it keeps your wood and materials dry and under shelter.
Coming down the steps from the second floor gives one a birds eye view of the cordwood walls. The section to the top left is cordwood siding!
“The cordwood coming down the stairs on the gable ends were 1″ thick slices glued and screwed to the wall (cordwood siding). We painted the wall with a sand and paint mixture to match the color of the lime mortar first. ”
They heat with wood and love the natural feel of their lovely home.
It doesn’t snow all that often in South Carolina, but when it does, it sure looks grand.
All pictures are courtesy of Luke and Amy Metzger. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story of having a goal, planning for that goal and reaching it with a most excellent result. Congratulations.
Here are some photos of Clarke when he spoke to our Cordwood Workshop at Love’s Organic Farm in September of 2007 near Marshall, North Carolina. We then followed him to his Building Green Cottage site where he gave the class a tour and explanation of the various wall types (cordwood, cob, strawbale, earthen plaster, and a living roof) and delineated their pros and cons. It was a very interesting visit.
Hope you enjoyed the pictures. We have more workshops coming up in Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Please stay tuned to for further information.
My friend, the author and cordwood expert Richard Flatuau, was nice enough to write this excellent short article on cordwood for the digital update to “Building Green”. He promises to blog here on occasion, so check back for more good cordwood information.
Best Practices with Cordwood Construction
By Richard Flatau
Over the years the people in the cordwood field who have kept building, writing and helping have come to realize that there are several techniques that can be considered Best Practices to use with Cordwood Construction.
Like all building decisions there are continual cost/benefit/budget decisions that must be made before and during the construction of your home. There is no absolute right way to build your home, rather there are decisions that you must make based upon available money, skills, time, talent and preferences. When we built, one of our main goals was to come away from the project mortgage-free. Not everyone has that goal and so you adjust your purchases to meet your goals. For example, rather than buy expensive cabinets, we ordered birch cabinets from the former JC Penny catalog for 1/5th of the cost of regular cabinets in order to meet our goal. We didn’t scrimp and save on the safety aspects: wiring, plumbing, chimney, furnace, windows, but we did make monetary concessions on the plumbing fixtures, floor coverings, cabinets, etc. You too, will have to make decisions based on your goals and objectives. Take the following discussion on Best Practices with that in mind.
1. Foundations: Most cordwood builders use an insulated frost protected shallow foundation (FPSF). www.nahb.com Others are implementing Frank Lloyd Wright’s rubble trench foundation as an alternative to costly foundation work. Several are putting radiant-in-floor heat into the slab. It is, of course, possible to build cordwood with a basement or crawl space, and this adds to the cost of the building. If you prefer a basement and have that as a goal, put in a basement. Remember that even with an insulated slab you can frame out the floor and put in hardwood floors. Some cordwood builders have done this and used the 2” x 6” floor framing to run electrical, plumbing and heating.
2. Post and Beam: Most cordwood experts now agree that one of the advantages of post and beam framing is that you can put your roof on first. That allows you to do the cordwood masonry ‘out of the elements’, it also gives you a covered space to store all of your log-ends, tools and supplies. It affords the opportunity to build one section of wall at a time. If winter comes early, simply side up the sections that aren’t finished and finish them in the spring. Even folks who have chosen the stackwall corner are beginning to post and beam the walls in between the stackwall corners.
3. Build a Practice Building: In order to find out if the alternative building technique you are enamored with is the “right fit” why not build a small (doghouse size) or large (garage) practice building. This way the system is researched, tested and evaluated. It can be an effective method of learning and deciding. Or you can do like Clarke and build a cottage using multiple systems.
4. Mortar Mix: The mortar mix must be one that will cure slowly and set up relatively slowly. There are about four basic mixes. Some will leave your walls smooth and others will have an adobe type quality. Before you make a decision it is wise to try a few of the mixes and see what they look and feel like before and AFTER you mortar. It is also good to see which ones crack more and which retain their color. The latest craze in cordwood is a Lime Putty Mortar (LPM) mix which is basically how the Romans did it. Type S hydrated lime, soaked for three days, mixed with mason’s sand in 2.5 sand to 1 LPM ratio. I will write an article and give all the gory details on how to use this new/old mix. Soaked sawdust and slurried paper have been used successfully to slow the set and cure of the mortar.
5. Wood Prep & Drying: The biggest problem with cordwood is the natural tendency of the mortar to separate from the wood. This is why it is so very important to dry wood to the minimum moisture content for your area. Here in Wisconsin that is 12% for air-dried wood. Your wood should have cracks and checks in it before you use it. Otherwise it will shrink in the wall and let air in. Borrow a moisture meter from a lumber yard, sawmill or a friend. Or buy one. Burn a piece of your wood and see if it spits and pops (if it does, it is still too wet.)
6. Split some of your wood. If you want your wood to dry faster, try splitting it. Splitting makes two things happen. The wood will dry faster and there will be no primary check to allow air infiltration.
7. Perma Chink & Log Jam: NO matter how dry your wood is, there will still be some pieces that loosen up or check. This is a cosmetic problem and can easily be solved by putting (slathering) PermaChink or Log Jam caulk on the mortar and the space where the log end and the mortar meet. In fact I was just in a house that had ALL the mortar PermaChinked. Believe me there was no air infiltration in that home.
8. Cedar and other softwood: Cedar is the ideal wood for cordwood. It is light, has a good
R-value, is naturally decay resistant and has a light attractive end grain. However, except for staying away from hardwoods (they have a tendency to swell and crack mortar joints) most of the other dry, insect free softwoods are suitable for cordwood building.
9. “Treat” the wood to a borate bath: It is becoming common practice to spray or soak the cordwood in a solution of borate (borax). The most preferred, economical method is to use 4 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax (borate) with a gallon of hot water. This can be sprayed on, or the logs can be dunked. This treated is a “three-fer:” an insecticide, a wood preservative and a fungicide. Commercially available products can be used: (Timbor, Shell-Guard, Pentatreat, etc.)
10. Large Overhangs & gutters: In order to keep the cordwood dry and free from splashback, it is a good idea to have at least a 24” overhang. It is also a good idea to gutter your roof eaves to prevent against splashback.
11. Build up off the ground: Most experienced cordwood builders recommend that you start your cordwood at least 12 inches off the ground, however, if your climate is especially prone to high water or straight-line rain, and then you will want to consult with local officials and apply what works for your locale. We have been using split faced block on the outside and inside with an extruded polystyrene thermal break in-between.
12. Code Compliance: One of the main thrusts of the Cordwood Conference 2005 was to establish a document that dealt with Code Issues. Fortunately the document
Cordwood & the Code: A Building Permit Guide was one of the gems produced by the Conference. It comes in a 54 page volume with an attached CD that will allow most owner builders to approach the code officials with confidence and success.
13. Build small now, add-on later: Some would advise building a smaller structure now, while leaving room to add on later as more resources become available. This is one of those areas that become a personal decision, but it is important to know that it is an available option.
14. Random Pattern: Don’t build with all one size wood, use a random pattern to give your cordwood building an attractive appearance. Step back from the wall every so often to see what you are building.
15. Use Energy Startm Guidelines:www.energystar.gov
• Energy Heel Trusses that allow R-60 in the ceiling and especially at the point where the top plate meets the truss.
• Energy Efficient Windows and doors. Much of the heat loss in a home comes from leaky windows and doors.
• Standing Seam metal roofs are long lasting; provide some fire protection and let snow and tree leaves/needles slide right off.
• Living Roofs are an important consideration and should be thoroughly researched if chosen as an option.
• Seal all electrical outlets
• Caulk all inlets and outlets (plumbing, electrical, etc) to keep the home as air tight as possible.
Cordwood Construction Resources
W4837 Schulz Spur Dr
Merrill, WI 54452