Cordwood Masonry for the Do-it-Yourself Builder

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Cordwood shed plans

Cordwood Masonry
Build a Beautiful, Enduring Home of Firewood!

Want to build a truly unique house? Cordwood masonry is an ancient building technique where walls are constructed from “log ends” laid transversely in the wall, the same way that firewood is stacked.

In the typical cordwood home, the walls are mortared at each end of the wood, while the space around the logs in the middle is filled with a sawdust and lime insulation.

My neighbors here in Pony built the cordwood home pictured here. Buildings made of cordwood are strikingly beautiful, and with modern building techniques, it is more practical than ever for the owner-builder to build their own home with this method. Here are a few good resources to get you pointed in the right direction:

Cordwood Construction: Best Practices
A log home building method using renewable resources and time honored techniques
by Richard Flatau

Cordwood Construction: Best Practices includes 259 color photos, diagrams and formulas to take the novice or experienced builder from house plans to cordwood home occupancy. Sections include: mortar mixes, R-values, code compliance, types of wood, drying wood, shrinkage tables, foundations, how to became mortgage-free, post & beam framing, formulas for estimating materials, homeowners insurance, and summaries from Cordwood Conferences of 2005 and 2011.

Best Practices covers cordwood construction, lime putty mortar, cob, paper enhanced mortars, Permachinking walls, building codes, making stained glass bottle ends, how-to “mortar-up” a cordwood wall, tuck pointing, FAQ’s, maintenance, weight of a cordwood wall, and cost analysis.

The book includes a color photo album and coverage of specific projects, including the Cordwood Education Center and a White Earth Reservation cordwood home. Also included is a condensed version of the Cordwood Cabin booklet. 196 pages. Full Color on White paper. Cordwood Construction Resources. 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0615592701.

Cordwood Building
The State of the Art
by Rob Roy

Cordwood masonry is an ancient building technique where walls are constructed from “log ends” laid transversely in the wall, the same way that firewood is stacked. Buildings made of cordwood are strikingly beautiful, and with modern building techniques, it is more practical than ever for the owner-builder to build their own home with this method.

Cordwood Building collects the wisdom of more than twenty-five of the world’s best practitioners to describe the long history of the method, showing how to build a cordwood home using state of the art techniques such as double walls, Lomax corners, paper-enhanced mortars, and ways of creating round, hexagonal, and other building shapes.

Cordwood buildings from all over the world are featured, including examples from Wales, Chile, and Sweden, and many from Canada and the U.S. With a special emphasis on buiding code issues, Cordwood Building outlines the “5-E” advantages of cordwood buildings: their Ease of construction; Economy, Esthetics, Energy-Efficiency; and Ecological harmony.

Well-illustrated, the book will inspire designs and help owner-builders decide whether cordwood masonry is appropriate for their building plans. It will also appeal to contractors wanting to learn a new building technique, building code enforcement officers, and all those interested in natural buildings.

Author/Editor Rob Roy has been building, researching, and teaching about cordwood masonry for 25 years and, with his wife Jaki started the Earthwood Building School in 1981. He has written 10 books on alternative building, and produced four videos, including two about cordwood masonry. He has taught cordwood masonry all over the world.

The Complete Cordwood DVD
The Complete Cordwood DVD demonstrates all aspects of the technique of cordwood masonry, whereby walls are constructed from mortar and “log ends.” Packed with practical how-to information, innovative design ideas and inspiring, instructive interviews, this is the only video available on the subject. A great companion to Rob Roy’s Cordwood Building , the DVD is essential viewing for those interested in a self-built, low-cost, ecologically sound, energy-efficient and beautiful home.

How to Build an Eco-Friendly Little Guesthouse
by Rob Roy

Stoneview is an octagonal, cordwood masonry timber-framed guesthouse with a living roof located in upstate New York, fully constructed and finished for just $6,000. In response to the enormous interest in this unique little home, author and builder Rob Roy has written Stoneview .

Over 130 clear line drawings and step-by-step images provide the reader with all the information needed to build this three hundred-square-foot cabin from start to finish, and a full-color section shows off the beautiful design features of this charming “green” cabin. All design considerations are covered, as well as an interesting and thorough discussion of the geometry of the octagon.

Separate chapters are devoted to site preparation, forming and pouring the slab, timber framing, the lightweight living roof, and cordwood masonry walls. Full instructions for the interior floor and wall finishing are included, as well as a basic plumbing system featuring the “humanure” composting toilet system. Stoneview concludes with a performance evaluation of the building and a complete costing analysis. Best of all, the house is appropriate for any climate.

This latest book by Rob Roy will appeal to his many followers, as well as those new to alternative buildings. Instructions are designed for both experienced and novice builders. 240 pages. New Society Publishers. 2008. ISBN: 978-0865715974.

The Sauna
A Complete Guide to the Construction, Use, and Benefits of the Finish Bath
Revised and Expanded Edition
by Rob Roy

With a history going back at least one thousand years, the sauna is ready for a new generation of enthusiasts seeking health, pleasure, and peace of mind, and Rob Roy is ready to recruit! “If the sauna is just a bath, then Buckingham Palace is just a house.” So writes sauna expert and intrepid do-it-yourselfer Roy in this new, updated version of The Sauna.

This completely revised and expanded edition of The Sauna contains everything you ever wanted to know about the famous “Finnish bath.” In this inviting book, Roy shares his infectious enthusiasm for the sauna and provides a complete, detailed guide to sauna building, along with resources for equipment and supplies.

The Sauna is replete with history, tradition, health benefits, instructions for proper use and maintenance, as well as step-by-step instructions for building a variety of cordwood masonry saunas.

Building a cordwood-style sauna is also a great way to practice cordwood masonry techniques. It is a great starter project for anyone wanting to build a cordwood home. New to this edition, Roy has added a section on conventionally wood-framed saunas, which is handy for comparison. But do not be misled into thinking that this book is a “complete guide” to building any kind of sauna. Roy’s specialty is cordwood masonry, and this guide will help the reader build a first-class cordwood sauna.

The beautiful color photographs, also new to this edition, will inspire you to create your own sauna haven. 240 pages. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. 2004. ISBN: 9781931498630.

Building Green
A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods
Earth Plaster – Straw Bale – Cordwood – Cob – Living Roofs
by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan

The best-selling and highly regarded reference to sustainable construction gets an update! It’s refreshed with a completely revised introduction, a bright new cover, and extensive online resource tie-ins.

This groundbreaking book doesn’t just tell you about “green” house-building techniques: it actually shows you, with more than 1,200 step-by-step photographs that follow the actual erection of an alternative building from site selection to final-touch interior details. Readers will get a clear sense of the real world challenges as Snell and Callahan create a lovely country cottage using four methods: straw bale, cob, cordwood, and modified stick-frame.

Along with sidebars throughout, there’s a thorough discussion of the fundamentals of building construction, alternative approaches, and designing a beautiful yet environmentally responsible home. Building Green was the first book of its kind-and it remains heads and shoulders above other titles in this field. 616 pages. Lark Crafts, 2nd Edition. 2009. ISBN: 9781600595349.

See also: Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction .

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