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Cordwood.....Most of what you will read on cordwood is filled with misinformation or mistakes.All the cordwood authors talk about 1,000 year old cordwood structures that are still in use in Siberia,Greece and Norway.However,they just don`t exist.[But i`m sure it would help sell books.]Now,I`ve refered to 13,000-18,000 year old conventional log cabins,but tell you they are 200 feet under the black sea.Ten miles off the coast of Turkey.
My system Cordwoodguy's differs drastically from what's in the books,but with some intelligence and common sense newbies should be able to distinguish truth from fiction.Here is the reality check and my system is based on log building techniques found and practiced for centuries. 84-10 BC[by Macros Vitruvius Pollio].Also Caius Plinius Secundus aka Pliny-the-Elder (23-79 AD) utilized the traditional winter cutting practices and tied that in with the waning of the moon.This wood retained less water and the wood stayed more stable. Plus still practiced by loggers,log builders,milling/lumber companies today.
Before anyone starts attacking me for using lower case letters here,as i always use uppercase because of a visual disability. This page wouldn`t accept my normal upper case printing, so i have to do about a paragraph then log out. [Most other forums allow me to use uppercase.]My eyes can`t tolerate a lot of this at one time so i`m building this page a little at a time.As much as i can do with out tiring my eyes.
HOW MY SYSTEM DIFFERS FROM THE BOOKS[edit | edit source]
- I build my structures 24" off the ground,which keeps the wood dry.The authors have all built on the ground exposing the wood to rain splash,melting snow and floods.Remember that wood rots when the moisture content reaches 19%.
- I recommend treating all wood to help preserve it,it can also extend the life of the logs 5-10 times.Safe treatments kills off microbes,insects and prevents rot.Yet,the authors don`t recommend treating wood,even when all North American wood is subject to rot.DAH!They talk about cedar as if its immortal,this mythical cedar can rot quite quickly and is subject to insect attack.
- I fell my trees in the early winter and peel the logs when the tree is dormant,insects dormant and microbes dormant.[Maple Syrup time]I also treat the logs within 24 hours of peeling them to prevent spores from attaching.The authors basically say anytime is good and recommend spring and summer[But unbeknownst to them that causes rapid dehydration which causes checking...that you don`t want.]
- I recommend that people allow their logs to season for about 2-3 years. That's what scientists say it takes for logs to reach the equilibrium moisture content with air. Some of the authors and other cordwood sites say 6 weeks - 12 months is adequate.[LOL]
- I recommend annual maintenance...the authors don`t
- I recommend that people get a soils report done on their property,because cordwood walls are quite heavy.But if you read the books,you would think that you could just roll back the sod and build.[LOL] There are properties near me,that you have to go down 27' to get hard pan.I know of areas in my province with silt to depths of 200'
- I only recommend the use of softwood except for poplar if used properly.YET,the authors recommend hardwoods which haven`t been proven and some of the authors have failed in attempts to build with it.So isn`t that irresponsible to tell Newbies to use something the masters have failed with..[DAH!]
- I recommend the K.I.S.S./the keep it simple stupid rule.
- (A)I only recommend single story structures with a living roof design.This keeps the the wall area to a minimum and the roof overhang protects it.But those that choose to go with 2 story homes leave the walls subject to weather damage as the roof overhang has become useless.
- (B)The addition of a second floor also adds weight to an extremely heavy wall system.But can the soil carry the weight?
- (C)Living roof...once again adding weight to a heavy wall system.A better roof can be built cheaper as well.
- I seal my logs sidegrain before i lay them in mud/mortar.This prevents the log from robbing the moisture from the mortar and ruining its cure.The authors don`t.
- The authors recommend sawdust and lime for insulation.This to me is the dreaded failure of the system as we know it today.It becomes cementinoius and when the logs shrink,gaps appear in the wall.I recommend a free flowing insulation so that when gaps appear they get filled by the free flowing insulation.Plus my insulation choice is non organic and doesn`t absorb moisture like sawdust does.
- I only use 24" logs and can easily exceed building code r-values.You see in my system i have about 16" of inner cavity where i add my insulation to boost the r-values.[I have described how to build an r-96 wall].The authors have used 9",12",16" logs...most wouldn`t meet code compliance.
- One author recommends treating the mortar with perma chink.This would be disastrous as it would trap moisture trying to escape.Logs as well as the mortar have to breath and allow moisture to pass. The National Historic Society has determined when you seal a masonry structure it causes rot and the decline of the building.
- The authors tend to believe that their mortar mixes are universal.I don`t think that is the case... i know masons change their mortar mixes within the same region. There is no way one mortar can work in arid regions, rain forest, coastal, frost prone areas etc.