Round & Rectangle Cordwood: Best of both worlds

Who doesn’t love round?  Everyone right.  But there comes a time when folks who have been living in round (or nearly round) start to complain about the idiosyncrasies. Just recently a friend who lives in one of the most beautiful 16 sided cordwood homes ever, said to me.  “Rich, if I had it to do over, I would build a rectangle.  Every time I have to make a cut for roofing, flooring, cabinetry it has to be 11 degrees.   It takes forever to do the work.”

However, combining round and rectangle cordwood styles provides the best of both worlds.

Don Gerdes Reedsburg3.jpg

Don Gerdes an engineer from Reedsburg, Wisconsin built a post framed “curved front” attached to a rectangle.  Here are some pictures of his beautiful creation.

Sierra Exif JPEG

Cathy Hubbart and Don Gerdes in 2006.

Don Gerdes Reedsburg2The interior shows off Don’s Brilliant Bottles invention (which light up at night) and its curved walls.

Don Gerdes Reedsburg10.jpg

Brilliant bottles are made ahead of time as a single unit to mortar into the wall.  They boast a changeable LED light in the middle.

Don Gerdes Reedsburg11.jpgPlowing snow is easier with a straight line.Don Gerdes Reedsburg13.jpg

The workshop garage doors make it easily accessible.

Don Gerdes Reedsburg5.jpg

Hanging cabinets on straight walls is a breeze.

Don Gerdes Reedsburg4.jpg

From curved to rectangle is a smooth transition.

Rairlee and James Frame it firstOctagon with a “square” back room.  Rainless’ B and B in the Adirondacks.

Sebastien Demers 10Post framed, curved front with a rectangle on the back, a masonry heater and two stories high by Sebastien Demers. Sebastien Demers 12 build a modelA 3D model with a round front and   a rectangle on the backside by Sebastien Demers of Quebec.

Round, Rectangle, Octagon, or 16 sided?

When deciding which style of cordwood to build it is of the utmost importance to know that every cordwood author recommends building within a post framework.  The reasons are very simple:  1.  The roof can be built before the cordwood is finished.  2.  With the roof on, the materials stay dry and so do the builders.  3.  The cordwood wall building can be completed in manageable sections.  4.  You can cover the walls that remain unfinished and continue interior work. 5.  It makes the building inspector very happy.

Even if one decides to “go round,” a framework can be hidden in the middle of the wall using wraparound cordwood. Why would anyone build a hidden framework within the structure?  To get code approval, to make certain the roof is going to be properly supported and to allow for the use of  a “slower setting mortar” which reduces mortar cracking and log loosening.

16 sided cordwood creates a large number of 11 degree cuts:   The roof sheeting, the roofing material (metal or shingles) and the many valleys that accompany 16 sides.  Then the interior ceiling the interior flooring and the interior cabinetry all require angle cuts.  The cordwood itself will end up having small, tight mortar joints on the inside and larger ones on the outside.

If you decide to build an 8 sided octagon, keep in mind that you will need to re-engineer the structural parts (think posts and rafters) if you want to go larger than 300 sq. ft.  One way to get the curved and the straight to work together is to build a half round, half rectangle home.  

Bottom line, the choice is yours.  If you plan to build 16-sided cordwood, you can do yourself a favor by checking out the successful 17 page building permit application for a 16 sided cordwood home in SE Minnesota.  The approved permit is, in its entirety, in the book Cordwood and the Code: A Building Permit Guide.   It is meant to be copied and pasted and modified for your local building codes.  BN new 2 with logo.jpgThis beautiful round cordwood guest cottage,  by Bruce Kilgore and Nancy Dow has a post and beam framework hidden in the middle  to support the roof. BN new wraparounds with logo.jpg

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit   While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format.

If you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at  

Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsReaders have requested a brief bio, so here goes:

“Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated the 2005,  2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders.  Cordwood Workshop Vide,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their ever expanding online cordwood bookstore.”

DVD label cover yellow

Here is a jpeg of the new Cordwood Construction DVD cover available at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s