Print This Page
The Making of the Turkow House - A Photo Essay

By Peter Turkow

Editor's Note: Peter Turkow is the son of David Turkow. The Turkow family began building their cordwood home back in 1986 and two years after they had moved in, the house was sold to new owners. Peter returned in 2002 to visit the house and has provided both old and new photographs of the house.

In May 1986, we began the long cordwood journey in Waterport, NY with a 40 foot diameter foundation. Our winters can get extremely cold which is why we went with a 4 foot poured footing around the rim of the foundation. It hit the wallet hard at the beginning but saved thousands in preventative frost damage.


This is a view of the Russian fireplace. We are Russian so it seemed to fit. The pegs of the solid-steel frame were used to support the 16 rafters. The steel tubing on the sides gave a majority of support needed for steel frame as well as, the load of the rafters and the upstairs floor. The tubing is stronger than it looks. At the base of the tubing is a one-foot square foundation that is bolted to the foundation with 2 massive steel plates. The tubing was later covered in brick.


This photo shows the top of the wall. 4 inches of mortar, 8 of sawdust mixed with a hint of lime (to keep the rodents out), and another 4 inches of mortar.


His talent was displayed in Rob Roy's books and proven in person when George Barber came to our home to start his magic.
NOTE: Everything he needed to build 2 domes was in that cart!


The first (inside dome) is finished first. Far left is the owner and builder, Dave Turkow and on the right is a local couple that built a home in nearby Lima, NY that most resembles Rob Roy's Mushwood. They are standing in the to-be doorway to the balcony.


Drywall was first cut and placed on the outside of the smaller dome. Next, 12 inches of insulation was covered by ½" plywood to make for very comfortable winters.


In 1990, just 2 years after finishing and moving-in, Dave & Nancy moved out & went their separate ways. This past June I revisited the home for the first time in 12 years. The present owners were happy to let photograph the beautiful home inside and out.


This is a west-side shot that shows the owners great use of the unfinished greenroom we left behind. 4 of the triangles have 3 layers of 1/8" Plexiglas that let soft, opaque light trough. The middle triangle on the bottom has two layers of clear glass great for star gazing at night from the comfort of your own bed. The balcony is also seen and is a great addition to the master bedroom.


Inside the dome where you can see the stairway from the 1st floor and the chimney from the fireplace below. The heat that radiated from the chimney warmed the dome cheaply and efficiently.


Some creative building resulted in this sun. The current owner coated each of the log ends in a dark stain that has lasted 10 years so far and adds a wonderful and new look to the home.


Just a few miles down the road, the Downey family saw what we had done with our home and wanted to transform their traditional (and ordinary) sided home into a cordwood home. A few years later he finished the cordwood siding with 6" log ends. They left the original structure, stripped the outside siding and replaced it with a smaller version of a regular cordwood wall.

Elba, NY - At the current residence we have built a cordwood garage. We decided go square for this one, (20' x 30' to be exact). The upstairs is very spacious as well and will make for a great office/den.