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better cordwood house

 
steward
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I am baffled at how much struggle I'm having of just getting a simple idea out there.

Traditional cordwood houses typically involve cement.  I don't like cement.  And the quick way of building them has the wood checking and shrinking leaving gaps in the wall and the wind blows through.  Not good.  And even insulating them can be tricky.  By the time you have properly comabatted all of these issues, the time and money involved have displaced all the gains so much that you have actually gone backwards on any value.

Here is a beautiful cordwood house that is done the quick way.  Look carefully at 5:52 to see the light coming through the wall




So I bought the property and it has this building on it.  A sort of garage and pantry.  We call it the library and we hope to convert the garage part to a solarium someday.  But an important part is that the siding is just cheap T1-11.  

Last year some people felt it was time to paint it.  I wish to avoid paint as much as possible.  

My idea is store firewood under the eaves.  Lots of firewood.  Firewood is best if it has had two years to dry - so here would be a great place to let it dry.  And rather than paint it some color and then it is just a different color of T1-11, it would now look every more beautiful than a normal cordwood house.  And we could properly insulate and not worry about the wood shrinking and checking and letting drafts in.  

So it begins.  We have made some firewood racks and have started to store firewood.   The earliest efforts resulted in wood that had wonky sizes - and wonky sizes will not stack well, and it does not lend itself well to this look.  

I just feel like I am very much struggling to convey this idea.   I could really use some feedback that people understand the idea - so I feel less like I am swimming upstream.

Here is the beginning ....
better-cordwood-house.jpg
[Thumbnail for better-cordwood-house.jpg]
 
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Yesterday, I was just admiring my own stack of logs that I recently harvested and stacked temporarily next to the wood splitter and how pretty it looked. Makes me not want to split the wood!
Of course, it will all go away and but again be replaced with new logs many times through the season. Not sure how to get over this myself other than to just enjoy and appreciate things while they last.

I know I've seen people that have just cut rounds out of logs, like big cookies maybe 2" thick and using it as a faux cordwood siding so that it doesn't matter how much they develop cracks because they don't go all the way to the inside. Above the splash line, the grout could be sand/clay. I did this with rock work on one of our buildings and its held up great for 2 years now.

Something that may be worth doing is to put some drain gutters on the roof edge so that the splash doesn't get those bottom logs all wet again.
 
pollinator
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Yep, the matching logs look purty, and it's a nice way to stack functions! What is the strategy for getting this look, using racks with enough space behind to align the front face while stacking?

In my area, that wood would not be dry enough for my taste. Sideways rain...


No, I don't think this makes it a cordwood house of any sort...

If I wanted to build a 'better cordwood house', I would build a cob house, and use cordwood on the inner faces of the walls.


I think the most important thing about cordwood houses is that they are better than no house. If all you have is earth and short chunks of wood and not enough time to build in cob... winner!

For all other situations, I think they are a suboptimal design chosen mostly for looks.
 
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I guess I'm one of the people that doesn't understand.  I understand that you like the look of the wood piled next to the building better than a painted building, but I don't understand the idea that it is a better cordwood house?  It seems to me this didn't change the building at all, or show how you could build a building this way, it just covered up the existing building?  
 
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I think one common mortar for cordwood is the Rob Roy recipe which is 9 parts sand, 3 parts soaked sawdust, 3 parts type S lime and only 2 parts portland cement.  I've also heard of people using a sand and lime mix with no cement.

This is the first I've heard of the "better cordwood house" design.  I'm also struggling to see how it's cordwood.  I can see how it's adding a buffer between an existing house and the elements (wind, cold, etc).  But since it's not part of the wall and air can pass around it easily I don't think it provides much added insulation.  Maybe some radiant thermal mass.  It reminds me of the approach people use of stacking straw bales against their houses to add insulation for the winter.  In that case, they're usually tight to the building and probably do provide decent insulation.

paul wheaton wrote:And we could properly insulate and not worry about the wood shrinking and checking and letting drafts in.


I'm really not understanding this part.  Are you talking about properly insulating the stick framed building behind the wall of firewood?
 
paul wheaton
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I could paint the structure.  And then it looks like painted T1-11.

Or, I could stack a mountain of cordwood there. Then it looks like a lot of cordwood.  And I can use the cordwood too.  

It is an aesthetic.

 
Trace Oswald
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For me, I think any aesthetic gain would be offset by the impracticality of stacking or using wood stacked that high.  If a 4 foot high stack of wood tips over, it isn't going to kill anyone or take all day and equipment to stack it back up again.  An 8 or 9 foot stack of wood is another story.  I don't even have anything available that would allow me to stack it that high, or to get it back down safely to use it.  
 
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OK, I think the real issue is that Paul, you want the "T1-11" to look prettier without using paint? (Or other people want it to look prettier and you're looking for a way to meet that need?) The better cordwood seems to be confusing people.

I think that Paul would also like the "prettiness" to stack function in some way. Correct? And not involve anything "yucky" or at least as little yuck as possible?

Personally, I live in a forest-fire high risk zone and my local Fire Chief would have kittens over the firewood stacking solution. A little firewood for 2-4 days, OK. Big supplies are to be a minimum of 10 meters from the primary dwelling, preferably up hill and downwind. Safety first!

I do know people who have put trellises by walls or windows and planted Scarlet Runner beans to provide shade in the summer and beans all year (SR bean - the seed part - makes awesome bean dip, but being a large bean, they need to be dried carefully in the fall). These people actually wanted the light and solar gain in the winter. Is there a suitable plant that would disguise the unpainted building that would be suitable?  Any plant which slows the wind in the winter will help the building stay warmer, although hopefully, the wall will have proper insulation as part of the fixing up process. Evergreens will protect it more, but they shouldn't be planted so close as to encourage rot. Plants grow, so you need to choose an appropriate natural height. If too high, plants can help small critters gain access to the roof which is not always a good thing.

Another approach I've heard of is to put some really pretty things *near* the wall, so everyone looks at the pretty things and ignores the wall. For example, hang some sun-catchers or wind-chimes?

If you decide to try to stick with the original plan and simply want nice, symmetrical "pretty" wood stacking, I suggest you need to have a second nearby wood stack with a sign which says something like - please put all the ugly, gnarly, weird, asymmetrical wood here - and a sign on the one in the picture that says something like "only pretty wood here please". Yeah, good luck with that! One person's idea of beauty is not always another's. I made our chickens some *very* pretty purple nest boxes and Hubby, silly man, objected that they were puuurrrppllle. Someone gave me some other paint (the purple was all gone), so those nest boxes got painted puke green. I'm sure people can guess what Hubby said...

 
paul wheaton
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From clayton

 
paul wheaton
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from lara

 
paul wheaton
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A nice backdrop for pics

 
paul wheaton
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from josiah

 
Jay Angler
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All that stacked wood looks good to my eyes! Does it need tags so you know which section has the wood that's been drying the longest in it?
 
paul wheaton
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Jay Angler wrote:All that stacked wood looks good to my eyes! Does it need tags so you know which section has the wood that's been drying the longest in it?



It is possible that in time we will need some way to mark when the wood was put in.  But I think a better way would be to measure the moisture.
 
Jay Angler
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paul wheaton wrote:It is possible that in time we will need some way to mark when the wood was put in.  But I think a better way would be to measure the moisture.

Excellent idea! I don't have one of those wood moisture test gizmos, but I've heard of them and if you've got one, testing is good. Different areas may get more sunshine, or more wind which will affect how fast the wood dries.
 
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I envy the fact that your wood dries like that! My micro climate would result in the wood just staying ever-damp because the rain would come at an angle, get it wet, and then it'd stay wet in my dew-soaked, damp little hollow. But, Montana is a lot drier, so it's really cool that you can dry and store wood that way!!!
 
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