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How long does it take to build a cordwood masonry home?  RSS feed

 
Mindy Wood
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My husband and I are planning a 700 sq ft home with loft and I'm wondering how I can figure out a rough estimate for home long it will take to actually build the structure. We have short summers here so I want to be sure I won't end up without a roof when the snow flies.

Let's assume I have all of my building materials ready to go how many hours of work can I estimate it will take to build the structure with roof (its ok if the inside isn't totally finished). I know it probably depends on a lot of factors, namely my speed, but any estimate would help me plan. Thanks!
 
allen lumley
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Mindy Wood : I am sure others will jump into this conversation with more remarks directly to your question but a little more information shared will help !

The Logs that you will use for your cordwood house next year should have already been cut this year, and peeled /de-barked, and possibly cut up into cord

wood lengths ! this will dry and shrink your logs meaning less shifting and cracking !


If you go with the pole barn type structure or the Post and Beam construction then you can have your roof overhead now -ahead of your wall building and be

undercover the whole time ! Your Cordwood walls proceed at your pace less dependent on the weather


I can personally recommend Two books by rob roy - His "Timberframing for the rest of us'' an his Cordwood building book

He also has an excellent book on 'living mortgage free' - You might try to see if you can get them used through Amazon books or Alibris books

Rob Roy does give workshops at his home in West Chazy N Y and subtracts the cost of books from the cost of his workshops ! Rob Roy also occasionally posts

here at Permies !

I hope you found this timely and useful good luck! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Bryant RedHawk
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When you are talking Timber Frame Cord Wood home building you are looking at a two stage building process just for the framework.

I would figure (with four framers working from good plan drawings) on at least 2 weeks of cutting joints.
This assumes the timbers are on site and ready for joinery to begin.

With four people on a 16 foot long wall, window and door frames already built to set in place and all the chord wood cut, dried and boraxed, you are looking at 3 days start to finish for the wall, this assumes you have mortar mixers/ toters in addition to the four log layers.

The process is to build and raise the bents, add the roof joists and purlons then install the roof. Now you can work on the walls in the dryness provided by the roof.

I'm building a timber frame but not going to use the cord wood part. Since it will be just me and my wife doing all the work by hand. I am building our house in sections. I can get a section (aprox. 14 x 26 ) in 7 months start to finish.
My wife and I work in town so we have the weekends for the farm. She does the animals and mowing while I do the building, she comes to help me when it will take two people to do something.
If I could get a couple of friends (who are carpenters) to come and help every weekend, I could cut the time to 3 months. Do note this is two days a week for 10 hours a day I am talking.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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I know it probably depends on a lot of factors,


Yep. One of the factors is if you are using a cement mixer, or working by shovel and hoe in a wheelbarrow. When I was part of a construction team building a 40 foot long 20 foot wide oval two story cordwood castle with two lofts and a barn shaped roof, it took a while. We did all the mixing by hand, as the machine had to be gas powered, was noisy, and it filled the basement (made of stone over two summers), which was the only dry place to mix the mortar in the coastal rainforest, with stinky exhaust. So we worked by hand, a group of 4 of us every day 10 to 12 hours of ripping labor for 4 months over a summer.

One thing to consider is that a 'round' or single level of cordwood must dry to a substantial degree before adding too many other layers, or one risks squishing the lower layer's mortar mix out. With a larger building, this wasn't so big a deal, as we could just continue around and around the big oval, but with a smaller building, you may be confined to do only so much on a given day.

As Bryant said, a post and beam structure and roof is a really good starting plan.

I don't necessarily agree with him that the joinery has to take that long. A simplified post and beam design, rather than complex timber frame joinery, can be strong enough to do what most people need, and if you are building cordwood to the ceiling, you will have plenty of added strength in your system. We tied the posts and the cordwood together using nails in the post which the concrete in the cordwood adhered to. Hire a carpenter for a few days on each end of the post and beam project to sort out your foundation (getting it square and solid is important to support the cordwood weight) and the roof situation, so that it is strong enough to support or shed any snow that might be on it.
 
Mindy Wood
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Thanks everyone, great info! I should have mentioned that I am still in the VERY early planning stage but I just want to make sure I have everything planned and accounted for as much as possible so we don't end up with trouble because of something not being thought through.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Definitely look into Rob Roy's Cordwood book.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I agree with you Roberto, post and beam is a lot faster method, almost as strong and long lasting too.
Another way to get the "Look" and strength is to use steel brackets instead of cutting the mortise and tenon joints.

One of the fastest methods I've seen for building a wall is to use expanding foam for the center insulation layer.
The foam expands quickly and hardens pretty fast too, giving support and protecting the mortar from "squish" as you go up.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Cool, Bryant. I was going to mention steel brackets. Sometimes a person can get someone local to make these relatively cheaply compared to a hardware store as well.

I personally wouldn't use the expanded foam, but that is just my preference. Bryant makes good comments on why this might be worthwhile; it would also seal off drafts better and provide better insulation than the standard boraxed or limed wood chips.

The reason I wouldn't use the foam is that if there ever is a catastrophic fire indoors or outdoors (I'm assuming that you will have wood and or gas burning inside for heat or cooking---so always a possibility; and assuming that you are in a forested or bushy area--- and thus wildfire is a possibility.), your cordwood is unlikely to burn, and your posts and beams are likely to not be easy to catch flame if they are tight to the cordwood with concrete, but If a fire is hot enough outside or inside your walls, the foam will melt/vaporize, and the gasses that that produces are very toxic.

I should have mentioned that I am still in the VERY early planning stage

This is great.
That is the best way to plan and figure out everything WAY ahead of time. It also makes things potentially cheaper as one can source out cheaper/free materials.

Another couple things to consider:

1.}When cutting wood for the structure
A.) If you are cutting wood in the dead of winter in a cold climate, the bark will tend to be stuck to the tree trunk. This is because the sap is not running.
The bonus of this is that the winter growth ring (on a conifer/needle tree) is very thin, and thus is LESS likely to get rot problems. The detriment to it is that the bark is a lot more of a chore to peel.
B.) If you wait until the spring, the sap is running, the growth ring is getting fat, the bark comes off easy. The problem is the wood is more prone to invasion of fungi and pests.

This is not necessarily an issue, but it can be, depending on the type of pests in your neighborhood.

2.} Be sure to design/make as large an overhang on your roof as possible in order to create an umbrella for your walls. A good tall concrete foundation or pony wall will help protect the lower part of your walls from rain splash.
 
Lawson Deal
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No matter the size, unless we are talking dog house, it takes a Loooong time! I did this five years ago-1,100 square feet and would never mess with cord wood again. Extremely labor intensive, heavy, sloppy, miserable process. They LOOK nice, but there are other approaches to building that do not destroy your back and knees and move along quicker.

I had plenty of dried wood cut to length and ready to go and had planned as much as I thought necessary. Never again. If you have logs available I would seriously suggest a more traditional log home. Daunting at first glance but flies up compared to cordwood. Not trying to rain on your parade but just a voice from someone who has been there and done that. Good luck to you no matter which route you take.
 
Genevieve Jones
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I am in the early stages of planning as well! I have read a good amount of Rob Roy's books, his one book called Stoneview: how to build an eco-friendly little guest house.it shows you how to build your own small house/guest house. He explains the importance of cheap and easy building to get a person started on their land while they plan the bigger main house. The house is an octagon and uses simple timber framing methods that can support a green roof. Its a really informative book that gives most details of how to build the structure as he did.

The structure in the book is probably half the size of what you want, however I think it will work for me!
 
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