Tag Archives: survival

Cordwood Warming Shelter

We built a cordwood warming hut at the Merrill School Forest that gradually morphed into a public school classroom along the way. The goal was to create a natural building using materials from the surrounding woods for students to warm up in on their winter hikes.
The result is a state code-approved, public school classroom that boldly demonstrates “best practice building” using sustainable methods.  Many of  these techniques can be used with other alternative building methods like strawbale, cob, earthen plaster, adobe and cobwood. Cordwood Education Center Richard Flatau highresjpeg with logo

The building started with architectural drawings and blueprints. These were sent to the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to be assessed for code compliance  We were pleased when they were approved. [Note:  In the future this tiny cabin may become a care-takers cottage and so “knock outs” were made during construction to provide for plumbing for a kitchen and a bathroom.]

The wood for the entire building (posts, cordwood, window boxes, paneling, trim) was cut within 1000 feet of the building site.  We used tamarack (larch), pine, spruce and balsam. Crews of community volunteers from ages 4 to 80 turned out to help. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Wood Mizer cut all the posts, beams and one inch lumber. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For planning, we started with an architectural drawing.

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A rubble trench is much messier in reality.  This poor soil is called “goose nuggets.” sfwh5

A 4″ perforated drain tile surrounds the foundation and carries the water away. sfwh12

In order to satisfy code requirements, we topped it with a Frost Protected Shallow Foundation (FPSF).  Five million of these foundations have been built in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland and they are now approved in the USA and Canada.  They work very well in cold climates, keeping the heat in the building and most are outfitted with radiant-in-floor heating systems.  This type of foundation saves money by reducing materials and excavation costs.

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The building was framed using heavy timbers of pine and tamarack (larch).  The roof truss was built with a 14″ Energy Heel so that  starched cellulose could be packed to the outside edge of the top plate, giving the roof an R-value of 53.

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The high school construction classes and middle school students came to work and learn.  They wanted to live and work here all semester.

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Everybody pitched in.  We had 90 volunteers and 180 folks who came to “have a look/see.”  So, doing the math,  for every one who worked, two supervised :0)

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The split faced blocks are needed in this area because of the high snow depth (70″ per year) to protect the cordwood.  The double posts allow for a 16″ wall, which not only provides an excellent thermal mass, but also an R-value of 24.

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The sawdust mixed with lime provides a thermal break.

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As the walls began to rise, the community came together to help.

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Building the Big Dipper wall with seventeen volunteers.

Below, ready for the windows and doors as Autumn approaches.

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The cup end of the dipper points to the North Star.  “Follow the drinking gourd” was what Harriet Tubman sang to her escaping comrades.

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The dedication was planned and celebrations took place.  The Cordwood Education Center is now used every day by the students of the Merrill Area Public Schools. It is also used as a Warming Shelter by weekend skiers and hikers.

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The students celebrate!

Watch a brief video about beavers at the Cordwood Education Center .  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh6uW663R88

Even the media found this little classroom in the woods appealing.

The local and national media payed close attention to the project.  Many other cabins, homes and cottages have been built using the Cordwood Education template.

Cordwood has a tremendous amount of “thermal mass” which means it has the capability of taking and holding and then releasing the warmth or coolness that has been introduced by passive or active means.   In other words your warm building will stay warm and if you cool it, it will stay cool:0)

Ready to welcome the students!cordwood-education-center-with-summer-small-pixels-for-new-pioneer-sample

We host an annual Solar Tour of Homes and Businesses. solar-tour-cordwood-education-center-2015-with-logo

Best Practices used in this building.

  • Rubble Trench
  • FPSF  (Frost Protected Shallow Foundation)
  • Natural materials built up (off grade)
  • 16″ cordwood walls (R-24)
  • Post & Beam Framework
  • Energy Heel Truss
  • Large Overhangs (2′ and 6′)
  • Gutters to prevent splashback
  • Metal Roof (to shed extreme snow load)
  • Energy Efficient Windows and doors
  • Passive Solar Design
  • Natural materials sustainably and locally harvested (posts/sawdust/cordwood/lumber)
  • Random patterning of well dried softwood
  • 200 recycled bottles/stones/momentos placed in the walls from the volunteers

Let’s be clear. Not everyone has to use all these best practices.  They are simply listed for the owner/builders consideration.  The choices you make will be based upon your time, talents and treasure.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   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 richardflatau@gmail.com  

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Readers 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 Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.”  www.cordwoodconstruction.org

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Here is a jpeg of the new Cordwood Construction DVD cover available at http://cordwoodconstruction.org/

Tiny Cordwood Cabin in Colorado

Peter Debenham and Ann Linquist built a lovely tiny cordwood cabin in Colorado. Their original practice building was a wood shed, but this is going to be a multi-use cabin. They are 10 miles from Estes Park in Drake, Colorado.  peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-5This is a 15′ x 8′ post and beam tiny home, cabin, shelter, shop, studio, etc.  120 sq. ft. with 10 inch cordwood infill. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-1The generous use of bottles has made it even more attractive (just like the handsome couple).  The bottles are colored both inside and out (not clear on the outside). peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-2The wood is “pine beetle killed” lodgepole pine.  If you’ve been to the west you will see this is a great use of an insect destroyed resource. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-6The Tiny Cottage nestles nicely into the mountains, forest and streams.  It is what I feel Frank Lloyd Wright would call Organic Architecture. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-3Ann proudly displays her tuckpointing skills. Notice (again) that the bottle bricks are colored on both sides. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-8Peter stands on top of the outstanding framework happily enjoying the sturdiness and a refreshing breeze. . peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-7Under construction.  Note the well placed log ends, the clean mortar joints and the colored bottles.  The roof is a living roof. peter-debenham-ann-lundquist-4The Grade Beam is such a good way to save on material cost (both excavation and concrete).  A Rubble Trench can be used if you are worried about heaving, but this is mostly a sandy subsoil.

Here is the wood shed and “come along” that started it all.peter-debenham-3peter-debenham-2peter-debenham-1

This is the practice building that endowed Peter and Ann with manifest confidence to tackle the Tiny Cordwood Cabin.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   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.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers 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 Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

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Here is a picture of the DVD label on the best selling Cordwood Construction video.  It has been getting rave reviews for its incredible detail, clear instruction and how it breaks the cordwood tasks into manageable sections.  There are 30 menu items from foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing, wall building, materials, special effects, bottle bricks, best practices, drone views of outstanding cordwood and so much more. Order yours today.

For more information on Cordwood Construciton, click on the picture or visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org

 

Cordwood Sauna: Medicine Wheel & Grade Beam

Dan & Kristen wanted a sauna on their 80 wooded acres in northern Wisconsin.  They had previously hosted a very successful workshop at the 2005 Cordwood Conference which resulted in the construction of a beautiful cordwood maple syrup shed.  novitch-shed-31

They wanted to have their teenage sons participate in the process, they decided on a grade beam  for economy and ease of building.Novitch sauna 2A grade beam is simply a shallow, perimeter poured slab which rests on a rubble trench foundation.  In the trades it is called a Frost Protected Shallow Foundation (FPSF) and is insulated on the bottom and sides. Novitch sauna 1The posts are anchored to the grade beam using angle iron and wedge anchors or anchor bolts.   All the posts were cut at a local sawmill. Novitch 19It is important to cross brace the framework.  The roof was built before the cordwood infill commenced. Novitch workshop 18Before the workshop portions of the walls built with the family for practice. Novitch workshop 20

On the top right hand side an “exploded log” has been split and then placed in the mortar matrix to regain its round shape.  This is done to eliminate log shrinkage. Novitch workshop 21We had an August workshop with a delightful and studious group of cordwooders from all over the country.  Novitch workshop 23A cardboard template for bottle end designs works very well.Novitch workshop 24The finished Ojibwe-inspired Medicine Wheel. novitch-shed-31

The Novitch’s are very happy with their new sauna!novitch-cordwood-finished-1-with-logonovitch-cordwood-finished-2-jpg-with-logoA butterfly checks it out!novitch-cordwood-finished-3-with-logonovitch-cordwood-finished-4-with-logonovitch-cordwood-finished-5-with-logoExploded large pieces look very good in a wall. novitch-cordwood-finished-6-with-logonovitch-cordwood-finished-7-jpg-with-logonovitch-cordwood-finished-8-with-logo

Cordwood Lessons by Dan Novitch

Cordwood Points gleaned from two cordwood projects: a cordwood pole shed built on a ladder pad foundation and a post-and-beam framed cordwood sauna built on a grade beam/ring beam foundation) completed 11 years apart:

* Tuck pointing – we used table knives to tuck point the mortar on our first building and tea spoons followed by a wet paint brush on the second building.  The spoon, brush technique was quicker and resulted in a smoother finish.

* First building used treated lumber for the frame of the ladder pad and the poles.  Second building used posts and beams from trees cut on site and milled on site with portable bandsaw mill.  Use as much site sourced or locally sourced building material as possible.

*. Both buildings used coarse sawdust for insulation and when soaked, as a set retardant in the mortar.  Really liked this due to low cost, local material, and completely “green” building material.  Plus, any leftover sawdust is great for composting or as mulch.

* Ladder pad foundation from first building is on a well drained, sandy soil site.  After 11 years and 11 Wisconsin winters, the building has NOT moved a bit.  I wouldn’t hesitate to use similar foundation in the future for a shed or similar out building.

* The second building is on a grade beam foundation.  I was originally going to build it on a floating slab until a grade beam foundation was suggested.  I think the grade beam is definitely the way to go.  In addition to greatly reducing the amount of and cost for concrete, it allows for a plethora of really cool flooring options.

* First building was built when our sons were 5 and 3 years old.  For the second building they were 16 and 14.  Besides being a great help as laborers and mortar mixers, they learned how to run a sawmill, do post and beam construction methods, use cordwood masonry skills, etc.  In the future, if they choose, their parents could be laborers for their own cordwood building dream.

*  For anything but a very small project, use a mortar mixer or modified cement mixer.  It will speed the project and reduce physical fatigue.  Definitely,  mix your first batches of mortar in a wheelbarrow or mortar boat, though.  That is the best way to truly get to know and understand the mortar.

*  For the first project all log ends over 6-7 inches in diameter were split and air dried for 15 months before building began.  However, in looking at other cordwood buildings over the intervening 11 years, I found that I liked the look of at least  a few large, true rounds in each wall.  So for the second project, we used both “exploded” rounds and kiln dried true rounds in each wall along with smaller diameter rounds and various split log ends.  At three months post cordwooding, the exploded rounds haven’t changed or moved a bit.  For the largest kiln dried true rounds, some 12-16 inches in diameter, there is a 2-3mm gap between the mortar and the log ends due to further shrinkage/drying of these really large rounds with time.  I still like the look of the larger rounds but it looks like permachink will be needed in the future.  The kiln dried rounds up to 8-10″ diameter have not shrunk to this point, but I’ll keep my eye on them over the coming months and cold, dry winter.

*  Bottle end designs are really cool.

*  My wife is not only a wonderful, beautiful partner in this voyage known as life, she is a patient, forgiving building partner who knows all my shortcomings, but loves me anyway.

*  The 94# bags of Portland cement weigh more now than they did 11 years ago!

A cardboard template for bottle end designs work very well.
*  We used different mortar mixes for each building.  I liked the second building’s mix a bit better, but both worked fine.  If you plan to do a small “learning” cordwood building before undertaking a larger house or cabin project, consider trying different mortar mixes on different walls of the learner project to see which type of mortar you like best.

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   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.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers 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 Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

DVDandPrint

Here is a picture of the print version and the DVD label in one composite.

For more information on Cordwood Construciton, click on the picture or visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org

 

Cordwood home near Asheville, North Carolina

Maria & Toby built a beautiful cordwood home in the mountains near Asheville, NC.   Maria blogs about her life as a homesteader, homeschooler at www.dirtundermynails.com   It is an excellent blog, filled with hope and life and light.  I go there whenever I need a pick-me-up.   Their two children Kaia and Leif and wonderful and inquisitive.  Her blog goes from homeschooling to cordwood building, to chicken rearing, and on and on.

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Toby & Maria’s cordwood creation with living roof.

Here are Maria’s words…“Hey there! Welcome to my blog. I’m a Nurse-Herbalist turned homesteader and homeschooling mom of two crazy-awesome kids. I love to knit, sew, play on aerial silks, and wear my pajamas all day long.”

Framing the home took some serious geometric cutting skills.  Fortunately Toby is a carpenter!

Framing the home took some serious geometric cutting skills. Fortunately Toby is a carpenter!

This is a double wall cordwood home with blown in Icyene foam.  It has a living roof and a cool second floor.   Heated with a Hearthstone soapstone stove, this beautiful dwelling provides a welcome family sanctuary.

All kinds of interesting motifs are mortared into the walls.

All kinds of interesting motifs are mortared into the walls.

Garlic and onions hanging from the rafters, no problem in a post and beam framed home.  Especially if the beams are left exposed.

Garlic and onions hanging from the rafters, no problem in a post and beam framed home. Especially if the beams are left exposed.

A triangle window is the backdrop for mother and child.

A triangle window is the backdrop for a loving mother and her dear child.

More wonderful shades of poor man's stained glass.

More wonderful shades of poor man’s stained glass.

Natural paving stones form a very functional and attractive patio.

Natural paving stones form a very functional and attractive patio.

The family and homestead were part of an excellent article about cordwood construction in the NY Times.

The family and homestead were part of an excellent article about cordwood construction in the NY Times.

   For more information on Maria’s blog (great tips and links on all things homesteading, homeschooling, family and herbal) go to www.dirtundermynails.com

Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org   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.Cordwood Construction Best Practices Front_Cover_-_CC_Best_Practices small pixelsIf you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at richardflatau@gmail.com  

Readers 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 Construction: Best Practices DVD,  Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore.   www.cordwoodconstruction.org

dvd-label-cover-yellow

Here is a picture of the DVD label on the best selling Cordwood Construction video.  It has been getting rave reviews for its incredible detail, clear instruction and how it breaks the cordwood tasks into manageable sections.  There are 30 menu items from foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing, wall building, materials, special effects, bottle bricks, best practices, drone views of outstanding cordwood and so much more. Order yours today.

For more information on Cordwood Construciton, click on the picture or visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org

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Cob & Cordwood Cottage in Finland by Heidi Vilkman

Heidi Vilkman sent me photos of her wonderful natural building project in southern Finland.

Heidi Vilkman's cob and cordwood cottage in southern Finland.  Beautiful flowing motifs in the walls, a living roof, whimsy and artistry everywhere you look.

Heidi Vilkman’s cob and cordwood cottage in southern Finland. Beautiful flowing motifs in the walls, a living roof, whimsy and artistry everywhere you look.


You can read more about Heidi’s adventure at http://www.heidivilkman.com/ go to the Eco link.
A close up of Heidi's tree motif.  To me this, along with the cobwood connects teh building to the earth and the surrounding Finnish countryside.

A close up of Heidi’s tree motif. To me this, along with the cobwood connects the building to the earth and the surrounding Finnish countryside.


Here is Heidi’s intro “This blog is about following my dream to build a small Eco dwelling in a forest in South of Finland, by using only my bare hands, some friends’ help, as little money as possible and only natural materials from the surrounding environment (strawbale, wood and cob).

A view from the front door.  While Heidi intends to do more work next summer, she has left her cob cottage with a sense of  deep satisfaction and the pride of a major accomplishment.  The door rings of her artistic nature as the blue medallion gives a personal message to all who are welcome.

A view from the front door. While Heidi intends to do more work next summer, she has left her cob cottage with a sense of deep satisfaction and the pride of a major accomplishment. The door rings of her artistic nature as the blue medallion gives a personal message to all who are welcome.


A panorama of the many changes that took place as Heidi's cottage went from dream to drawing to building.

A panorama of the many changes that took place as Heidi’s cottage went from dream to drawing to building.


Heidi made some drawings and models of her cottage before she started building. In my mind this is a critical step for any owner-builder and if you are an artist like Heidi you can make your model be a work of art. Ah, if only I had that talent:0)

If you would like to see some exquisite jewelry go to Heidi’s webpage

http://www.etsy.com/shop/Taikaearth

Heidi also makes some fabulously earthy and whimsical jewelry, drawings and crafts.  You would be well served by Heidi should you be in the market for something unique and one of a kind.

Heidi also makes some fabulously earthy and whimsical jewelry, drawings and crafts. You would be well served by Heidi should you be in the market for something unique and one of a kind.

Heidi's cabin in mid-winter with a wish for everyone.   Stay warm and toasty!

Heidi’s cabin in mid-winter with a wish for everyone. Stay warm and toasty!

For information on cordwood or cobwood go to http://cordwoodconstruction.org/

Cordwood Construction Best Practices    The latest and most comprehensive book on All Things Cordwood

Cordwood Construction Best Practices The latest and most comprehensive book on All Things Cordwood