Cordwood masonry construction is an old building technique whereby walls are constructed of short logs (called “log-ends”) laid up widthwise in the wall within a special mortar matrix. The wall derives excellent insulation and thermal mass characteristics from insulation sandwiched between the inner and outer mortar joints. Cordwood houses are low in cost, use indigenous materials, and are easy and fun to build.
Cordwood masonry is also beautiful, combining the texture of stone masonry with the warmth of wood. “Earthwood” is our round two-story off-the-grid cordwood masonry earth-shelter, with a 38’8″ outside diameter, 16″ thick walls and about 2800 square feet of living space. Built mostly in 1981, a new sun room was added in 2004. In spite of the cold winters in northern New York, we heat Earthwood with about four cords of wood per year, thanks to our energy efficient masonry stove, the building’s round shape, and the high insulative value of cordwood masonry walls. Solar energy (photovoltaic panels) provides electricity for our off-the-grid home and building school year round.
We are often asked if cordwood masonry is a green and sustainable building method. We feel very strongly that, yes, cordwood is certainly a green building method. See Rob Roy’s article on this subject at GreenHomeBuilding.com.
We have ten other cordwood masonry outbuildings at the Earthwood Building School campus, including a sauna, office, bookstore/library, playhouse, garage, three guest houses, a mess hall, and a bath house. Some of these can be seen on our picture pages: Click on
- Cordwood Small Buildings – Cordwood masonry construction is the perfect building medium for a sauna, combining insulation and thermal mass in a wonderful way. Or a garden shed. Or a small guest house.
- Earth-Sheltered Housing – often combined with cordwood masonry
- Cordwood Workshops – with construction images
- Cordwood Masonry – detailed pictures
- Effects – textures and special design features using cordwood masonry
- Cordwood Interior – how cordwood masonry looks inside the building
If properly built, a cordwood structure provides natural fire-retardant mortgage-free shelter, is easy to build, and will last at least one hundred years. Many new and older cordwood homes can be seen around the world, particularly in the United States, Canada, and Sweden. In the U.S., Wisconsin, New York, Colorado, Maine, Vermont, Michigan and Minnesota are states with a lot of cordwood masonry, but it can be found in all regions of the country. Earthwood has introduced cordwood masonry to Hawaii and South America, and conducted the first workshops in Australia and New Zealand. We’ve done North American workshops in more than 15 States and Provinces.
The Earthwood Building School is close to many cordwood masonry homes and other cordwood buildings in northeastern New York State. Workshops offered by the school include tours of cordwood homes, lots of supervised hands-on building practice, instructional Power Point presentations and other demonstrations. For more workshop info, click on:
Earthwood director Rob Roy maintains a Q & A column (Rob’s Cordwood Masonry Q and A page) on Kelly Hart’s fine website, Green Home Building (www.greenhomebuilding.com ) Rob has answered hundreds of cordwood masonry construction questions, on topics like: Types of Wood to Use, Where to Find Cordwood, Debarking and Curing the Wood, Foundations for Cordwood Masonry, Cordwood Mortar, Structural Considerations, Code and Permit Issues, and much more.