Building a Cordwood Home
by staff writer
Building with cordwood is a great way to construct a unique and energy efficient
green home from locally grown wood and scrap wood found on your property.
Cordwood homes are pleasing to the eye and require very little maintenance.
Cordwood building is a natural construction technique where small, debarked logs
are stacked to build walls. Cob or concrete is used to bind the logs together
and seal the gaps. The remains of early examples of cordwood homes -- dating
back thousands of years -- have been found in Siberia and in the eastern side of
Greece. However it is a great option to consider if you wish
to build an eco-friendly home!
There are several benefits associated with cordwood construction:
• Cordwood buildings can offer great insulation, depending on the types of wood
and mortar that are used and on the thickness of the walls.
• Cordwood construction is a cost-effective means to build your own home. The
ease of construction of cordwood homes makes it possible for many owners to
build these houses themselves with little professional help.
• Cordwood homes are known for their rustic beauty and unique architectural
Cordwood construction is a particularly good choice in areas that are heavily
timbered; this makes it easy to find fallen trees and unused log ends. It's also
possible to use leftover products from sawmills, rail fence posts, and split
firewood for cordwood buildings.
Any type of wood can be used to build a cordwood home; however, some woods work
better than others. Pines and softwoods are preferable to hardwoods (like maple,
oak, and elm) because they offer better insulation value. Hardwoods also tend to
shrink and expand more than softwoods when temperature and humidity varies. For
increased stability, it's best to use logs of the same species. This will help
to ensure that expansion and contraction in the walls is consistent between
Woods like cedar, pacific yew, and juniper offer the additional benefit of being
naturally rot-resistant. Some logs -- like cedar and elm -- give off a strong
odor that people find unpleasant or irritating. Keep this in mind when selecting
a species of wood to use, especially if a member of your household is prone to
Logs should be trimmed so that the lengths are almost the same; this will result
in smooth, even walls inside and out. Before starting construction, all logs
must be debarked and allowed to dry thoroughly. Once the logs have been
selected, you'll need a suitable mortar mix to bind them together. You can make
a simple mortar by mixing nine parts of sand with three parts of sawdust, three
parts of builder’s lime and two parts of Portland cement. Sawdust helps to
absorb moisture, builders' lime increases the flexibility of the walls, and
Portland cement strongly binds the mortar and logs together. Some people prefer
using cob, but keep in mind that cob
must be sealed to make the cordwood home
The most common thickness for cordwood home walls is between 16 to 24 inches.
Thicknesses of up to 36 inches may be a better choice in regions that experience
extreme cold. Walls are made by stacking the logs and filling the hollows with
the mortar mixture and some insulation material. There are two different kinds
of cordwood walls: load-bearing and post-and-beam framing with cordwood fill.
Using the right technique, it is easy to construct economical and sustainable
cordwood homes. However, choosing the right logs is essential to keep water and
moisture -- which can cause wood to shrink or expand -- away. A poorly-insulated
cordwood building could also lead to higher electricity bills. If you're
building a cordwood home in a region with a wet or humid climate, it is
especially important that the other walls be properly plastered with mortar to
prevent seepage of water into the building. When done properly, however,
building with cordwood creates natural, eco-friendly homes that are not only
beautiful, but are also easy on your wallet.