Bryan and Lois Pratt
Bryan and I discovered cordwood houses through first reading Rob Roy’s “Mortgage Free”. This lead us to his book “Cordwood Masonry House building”, two books I would highly recommend if you are thinking of this technique. Through research on the Internet, we also found Daycreek.com. I cannot say enough about the recording and reporting of this website if you are thinking of cordwood.
We obtained a piece of property in 2000 in Colorado that is almost six acres. We had tried to buy this property back in 1995 but an offer had already been accepted. When it became available again, we knew it was meant to be. We planned to cut and debark all the wood we would need for the post and beam frame and cordwood walls, an ambitious goal indeed. Choosing to build with cordwood is a time intensive method to begin with. Preparing and drying your wood on top of that takes great patience.
Prior to building, Alan allowed us to come to his property in June of 2001 to help build a wall. This helped us test our tenacity for a labor-intensive project. While the majority of the logs we would need for the frame were drying, we took our house ideas to an engineer to put them on paper. We also got the building department involved early to see what they would tolerate. They allowed us to use our wood un-graded for the frame but the pieces would have to be oversized. We were thrilled when the plans were approved in August 2002 with only minor changes, none having to do with the frame or cordwood. We lived in our condo 26 miles from the property and spent just about every weekend, year round working on it. We built the out building the first year to store tools and have a place to camp.
We have a short season for cordwood since we are at 9,500 feet but hope to get 4 or 5 walls complete before this summer is over. We are presently on the third wall. Each wall is 8 feet wide by 17 feet high.
The first solid wall took 24 days spread over six weeks and 64 batches of mortar mixed in a wheelbarrow. We actually bought a mortar mixer but sold it because we preferred the two of us pulling back and forth in the wheelbarrow. We are using paper slurry, as Alan does, since we like the idea of the paper slowing the drying process in dry Colorado. We are using the sawdust, lime mixture for insulation but also are mixing in “beads” collected from cutting our Structural Insulation Panels, known as SIP’s, from the roof. The house will be completely “off the grid” and we will have radiant floor tubing warmed by solar panels with wood stove and propane as backup. The solar pump is installed and we are presently running off a generator until we have the solar equipment in place. The house is 1,400 square feet with twelve sides. We are using 18 inch lengths of spruce, pine and fir for our cordwood.
I am writing a book I hope to publish when the house is complete, not about cordwood technique but more about a husband and wife choosing to take on a project like this, how we got here and the inevitable difficulties that come along. The working title is “The Perfect Picture Of Patience” and I hope to give insight to people who are thinking of taking on the building process themselves. I have learned not to predict the completion of our house but hope to give an update next year. We are thrilled to be at the cord wood stage because it is actually a very meditative activity and not nearly as strenuous as everything we have done prior. We raised the logs with a pulley, block and tackle and the help of our son. When people ask me how the house is coming, I say 18 inches at a time!