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Spring Build: Cordwood/Timber Frame House  RSS feed

 
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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I am very excited to get building this spring.  I am watching the snow melt and pile up again, hoping for an early spring.  As soon as the ground is thawed we break ground on our cordwood timber framed house that we will be building from raw materials from our property.  The house is completely off grid with rainwater collection, passive solar, composting toilets, wood stove, and all the other fun of off grid living.
I will be posting detailed information regarding our plans and the actual build on my blog, Homestead Houligan
I will post some pictures on a permies forum as well, but the details will be in the posts.  If you are interested in following the build, come by and subscribe to the blog.
Here are the possts I have done so far for our build:
Energy Efficiency
Gathering Materials
This house is to be a practice house and a temporary larger living space.  Practice for our dream home, which I also have started planning.
I love to hear any comments, questions, or constructive criticisms anyone may have to offer.  Thanks!
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Posts: 14
Location: British Columbia, Canada
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Hi Sarah,

Thanks for sharing your progress, it's very encouraging to see, my dream is to take on stewardship a piece of land as you currently are.
I have one question, what are you planning for garden deer(or insert local anti-gravity, voracious herbivore) protection?

 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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We have had a pretty good thing going for our gardens so far.  As far as pests anyways.  They haven't yet been the problem.  Our problem has been that our hugel beds haven't ripened yet and are taking longer due to poor layout.  Anyway, we our in a clearing in the woods where we see many birds of prey, including a bald eagle with a baby.  That will likely help with pests.  Our neighbors dogs run all over the place which may also help scare animals away.  The dogs run around enough to scare the animals away, but don't really bother us.  
I also managed to get allium family bulbs planted in all the garden beds, which acts as critter deterrent as well.  Garlic, onions, walking nions, and allium flowers.  There are also daffodils around which deter deer.  I hope.  
We do have plenty of rabbits.  We see foot prints all over the place.  We also occasionally find rabbit remnants, which is encouraging to know that there is some population control.  As the gardens get bigger, I anticipate issues will crop up, but we have looked into lots of options to control them as they happen.  We will have to wait and see what the issue will be.  
I almost forgot, loud children help to scare some critters away too.  At least the ones that the children don't feed.
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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Thanks everyone for showing such an interst in my cordwood build.  I've seen man y new subscribers in the past couple days.
And thanks everyone who posted  your builds or info in any way before me, you inspired this project!
 
Posts: 19
Location: zone 6 (Kansas City)
1
chicken forest garden urban
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Hey Sarah, Leif here in Kansas City... enjoying your project and hoping to escape the city here by/in 2020, but sticking in MO I think. Haven't decided yet on shipping container, straw bale, or started looking into cordwood lately too. Still need some land, but looking for gentle hills and a mix of timber and open-ish areas, with water. Will be watching your progress with interest.
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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Good luck to you in your project!  It took us forever to choose some land.  Escaping the city is the best thing we ever did.  You'll love it!

Here are some pics I took today, looking at our house site, and looking at the house site with the current house behind.
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Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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I have done a couple more posts about our building plans:

Outside the Cordwood House
Building a Cordwood House for Practice
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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A little more of the build plans:

No Waste Build

Design Process

Why Natural Building

We're getting close!
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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We are just about ready to start digging the foundation.  I have been working hard at clearing the site, collecting bottles for widows, rocks for floor tles, and basswood rounds for other floor tiles.  Keeping busy getting the gardens going as well.
The last of the planning posts:

Floorplans

Kids Building

Starting Bottle Bricks

Build into the Landscape

Prepare for and Accept Change

Here are the pictures of the pathway to the house, the house site, and a couple pictures of bottle bricks.
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The pathway
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The house site
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Washing bottles
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Bottle brick #1
 
gardener
Posts: 2765
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
106
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Hi Sarah, glad you're updating here with links. I wish I had seen your layout post earlier; as a onetime architectural design professional, I have a number of suggestions. I put some of them on your blog, and have done a couple of sketches if you would like to see them, all in the interest of helping you get the best house for your money and effort.
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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I would love to hear suggestions!  Thanks.  
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
Posts: 2765
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
106
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Here are the sketches I did. I kept the actual room dimensions the same or larger than they would be given your original numbers.
I noticed that you didn't account for the 18" wall thickness in the main room, which would make the actual layout more cramped than it appeared in the sketch (a common beginner practice).

Thinking about a shed roof, I considered the idea of putting kids' sleeping areas as lofts above the playroom, leaving enough height for adults to walk in, but kid scaled. The roof pitch needed for that would make very high ceilings at the south edge, expensive to build and to heat, so you might change the shed to gable for MBR and living room. Details given are, of course, alterable; I had to use some specific figures to do a layout. You could shorten the east (right) end a foot or so while keeping adequate space, still bigger than your original layout.
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possible floor plans and section
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
Posts: 2765
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
106
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Considering your sketch again, I have the feeling that you gave the 14' x 46' dimensions as the interior space, instead of the usual practice of stating the exterior dimensions which would be 17' x 49'. You apparently didn't show the wall thickness at all, and all the 18" thick elements along exterior walls were intended to project in by that much, not representing the wall thickness.

My sketches would have to be revised to take that into account.
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
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homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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The floorplans I drew are the house interior only, with the walls 18" thick walls completely not there.  Everything shown would be included in the interior and not recessed at all.  
I especially like the kid loft idea.  I'm going to work on this.  Thanks!
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
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homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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So here are my current thoughts:
We have to keep the shed roof because this will be our very first build so it has to be as simple as possible.  
I want to widen the house and make it shorter, like you mentioned, but what I am struggling to find is information about building with roundwood.  I don't know how wide I can go, using all roundwood, and still keep the shed roof.  There are a lot of different factors that I am considering: diameter of posts needed, maximum length I can use (keeping in mind it snows plenty in Maine), and distance between the posts.  The most important factor of all being: what do I have on my land that I can cut to build ith and still fit in all the the other factors.  We have a lot of hemlock, which will be our main source of lumber, but there are plenty of other trees here.  
Plenty of things to consider.
In the layout we drew up, we were going on the shorter side becasue we couldn't find great information sources to satisfy all of our questions.  What we do know is that we threw together a roundwood kitchen in a day with whatever random pieces of wood we found and it is amazingly strong, haha.  This thing has lasted, with a tarp for a roof, through 3 Maine winters.  We didn't even have to clean the 2 feet of snow and ice we got in a single night, and it stands strong.  Roundwood is an amazing building material, and I'm thrilled to build this way, but I don't have solid numbers to go as wide as would otherwise make sense to go.  
I am going to do some more searching on the above mentioned factors and see if I can't find enough information to comfortably widen the house.  I'm sure I can figure something out...
And I appreciate the help, Glenn!
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
Posts: 2765
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
106
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Regarding the shed roof and simplicity: There is simplicity of design and there is ease of construction. A full shed roof that is wide enough for a more compact house and tall enough on one side for a kid loft is going to mean a long tall wall to build, with significant scaffolding to get cordwood and cob up to the higher parts. Also, lifting rafters to the top of that wall is going to be decidedly more challenging than lifting half-length rafters to sit on a short wall and a ridge beam. With the bedroom wall running down the center of the house, you can easily split the ridge into three sections of beam that would not be a big deal to put up.

I'm not sure you will find published tables for roundwood structures, as there is no commercial industry to support the research and compilation. Maybe somebody has done it, though.

My experience with hemlock is that it will split significantly as it seasons, so you need to keep that in mind. I might consider using tables for softwood lumber sizes that would fit inside your roundwood dimensions, for a first idea of requirements. Often wood span tables give results based on deflection, or the amount a floor or roof will bend under load, as the controlling factor. A roof can take more deflection than a floor while still being acceptably sturdy, so you can use "L/240" instead of "L/360", for example. I believe your structure would be significantly stronger than the tables suggest, but that is not a problem. For beams, I can state that the 8x12 (pine?) beam in the house my parents built spanning 15' clear and supporting a roof 25' wide is still good nearly 60 years later.

I would still like to know what roofing material you are considering, as that has a big impact on the allowable roof slope.
 
Sarah Houlihan
Posts: 113
Location: Central Maine
10
homeschooling hugelkultur trees
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After reading through all the posts and staring and redrawing floor plans, we have decided to plan as we go.  I drew up floor plans for 3 other houses with all different dimensions.  I calculated all the square footages and measured six times.  Each size house, I drew up multiple layouts.  We have started digging and are finding so much ledge that the placement of the ledge is what will determine what size house we will build.  It is looking like 18'x42' is a good potential choice.  Thanks for all the input, I will pot a more precise foorplan when I know what we are working with.
 
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