View Full Version : Cordwood Building in Wet Climates - Is this possible?
29-05-2003, 01:05 PM
Have recently purchased six acres with dozens of huge live oak trees, 200 to 500 years old, just 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico in northcentral Florida USA, and the property has an overgrown understory with many smaller, dying, hardwood trees that need to come out before they fall down. And I'm badly in need of more living space, as this is an old hunting/fishing camp with tiny buildings and RV sites. And as wood is my largest resource, I am thinking of cordwood structures, but my son says this is a building technique for cold, snowy, relatively dry climates, such as Canada and New England, USA. And all of the cordwood websites I have visited are in these areas. Does anyone have any experience building with cordwood in warm, humid climates where termites and rapid wood decay are problems? Is there an ecological way to preserve cordwood against insects and water rot? I love the look of this building process, and it looks as if it could stand up to our occasional fierce storms with tornados, and even an infrequent hurricane. And according to the websites I have visited it's easy--even small women and children can build with it.
29-05-2003, 09:12 PM
I would be very interested to see if you could earth render and lime plaster a cord wood wall. I really don't see why it would not work exactly the same as a straw bale. With this method because the wall breaths and the hydrolic facter of clay and lime are higher than timber and straw the wall exhausts itself dry continuesly. If the footings are at least 6 inches above ground and the walls are completely encased in the earth render and lime plaster it show have a really good R rating similar to strawbale. Have a look at the strawbale building slide show in the photo galleries. If you want to try a small test wall I could talk you through the earth render and lime plaster process.
31-05-2003, 01:10 AM
I'm not familiar with the term "earth render," but have seen examples of plasters at EarthHaven and at Penny Livingston's place in California. And I thought at the time that these were building practices for dryer climates. However, I am open to experimentation, but do not want to waste time and energy on a test wall. How about a very small project like a cold frame, as I'm in need of one to harden off spring garden seedlings. We have to start our Spring garden seedlings around January 1, at our coldest time, with often wild temperature extremes--it can be in the 50's one night, and the next down into the low 30's, or possibly the 20's a few nights in January and February. So a thick walled cold frame would be very helpful. Plus it would be a very wet environment, inside and out, and a good test.
I'll do some research as you suggested, and when I'm ready to build, probably in the Fall of this year, I'll get back to you. Right now I'm extremely busy trying to get the rest of my small Spring salad and herb garden planted, and it's almost summer already. Still have about 100 plants of Lettuce Leaf and Thai Basil and Broadleaf Sage to plant, and then I'll be finished with seedlings until August when the perennials and Fall garden veggies have to be started. And at the same time I'm trying to clear out beds to plant all this in--this place is a sea of vines--poison oak, virginia creeper, trumpet vines that attract hoards of hummingbirds, wild grape. And while I'm planting I'm doing lots of sheet mulching to see if it will work against all these rampant wild vines!
31-05-2003, 07:05 AM
you are in a very similar climate to Northern New South Wales where we have no problems with earth renders and lime plasters. We are probably a little bit wetter and more sub tropical, but with a very similar temperature range.
I suggest you just make up just a 2 or 3 square foot of wall and render it as a test then lime plaster it. This will cost about $1 and take less than 1 hour.
Cheers Geoff ???
31-05-2003, 01:27 PM
Hi Geoff--Well, you got me going, doing research. First looked at all the pictures in the photo gallery of the construction of the straw bale house--very nice. My ex was a contractor--built spec houses along Monterey Bay in California and lost a lot of money because he had principles and built nice places, so I can appreciate quality construction.
Then I went on a Google search for cordwood and found a lot more sites than my earlier search of a few years ago--even a forum--and perused these for awhile, and oops, I can't use my hardwoods for cordwood construction--they shrink and split and crack the mortar. Only softwoods, preferably cut with a metal saw (no chainsaws) into 24" long pieces (using a jig for uniform pieces), debarked and cured for two to three years. The walls should be built at least 24" off the ground with at least a 24" overhang. Can't use masonary cement (concrete) mortar--too strong and unforgiving--need to use a lime mortar that is softer and won't crack with the shrinking wood, and here there is much disagreement as to formulas for mortar. And during and after construction the walls should be sprayed with water for a slow cure. And neither the logs nor the mortar can be sealed with anything--the walls have to breathe and will rot if enclosed in a cavity.
So hopefully anyone reading this thread will still learn something from this discussion. I just stumbled upon your website the other evening and had been thinking of how to use my most abundant resource, downed and dying hardwoods, so it seemed an obvious question, but I should have done more homework before putting it out there.
So, I'm back to my problem of what to build with. My three little buildings are built with pressure treated lumber and what we call T-111 exterior plywood panels stained a barn red (good Feng Shui). They were built in 1989 and already need major renovations, especially near the ground where rain reaches. In fact the shower house has to be torn down to the foundation and rebuilt. However, both of these products are toxic, and their manufacturing processes can't be very "organic" either.
The soil here is almost pure sand, and I don't know where I would even get any kind of clay for earth rendering, or even building with cob. The closest clay I know of is up in Alabama and Georgia, about a day's drive away.
For generations people built with cypress here, but it has been about logged out and is now very, very expensive. The only way I can think of getting any cypress cleaply is to find an old barn to tear down, but that is beyond my capabilities. But I really like the idea of recycling building materials and
that may be the way I finally go.
I joined the local historical society here thinking I could get some information on how the Indians lived and built their homes, but it's composed mainly of descendants of pioneer families with zero interest in Indian history (I'm one-eighth American Indian--Cherokee Tribe).
So it's more research--maybe the University of Florida in nearby Gainesville has some information on how the Indians constructed their homes here. The problem is the solution, but I haven't found it yet. So I have to make do with the old Airstream travel trailer sitting on one of my three RV sites and the three tiny buildings for awhile until the solution becomes apparent. Thanks.
Powered by vBulletin™ Version 4.1.1 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.