One of the perks of being in the real estate business is that you get a glimpse into how other people live their lives, and ‘everyone once in a while, you run into a new listing that is so unique it requires some research into what it is and how it works. This week, we have just that situation when the owner and designated broker of Northwest Home Team Realty in Tumwater, Washington, Jessica Poulos went to a listing appointment in the quaint town of Tenino and met the owners of a cordwood construction home.
Perched on a hill top with breathtaking sunset views is this unique log home which uses logs with the end grain exposed rather than running with the grain.
WHAT IS CORDWOOD CONSTRUCTION?
Cordwood Masonry is where logs are cut to the same desired length and laid with the grain facing out instead of running lengthwise like traditional log homes. Logs lay in a bed of mortar with insulation in the middle.
HOW IS CORDWOOD DIFFERENT THAN TRADITIONAL LOG HOMES?
In standard log construction, the side grain runs to the outside. In cordwood construction, the end grain is exposed instead.
WHAT ARE THE BASICS OF THE WALLS?
LOGS: Trees are cut down, peeled, and cut to uniform lengths to match your desired wall thickness. Ideal logs come from softwood trees, though hardwood can be used if it is the only thing available.
INSULATION: Typical insulation for cordwood masonry is sawdust mixed with dry masonry lime. The lime prevents decay/pests and using a softwood sawdust (typically cedar, though any softwood will do) provides an effective and green insulation.
MORTAR: There are several mortar mix recipes out there. It can be made with Portland cement, but we chose to make ours out of LIME PUTTY instead to keep it simple.
CORDWOOD & ENERGY EFFICIENCY:
Cordwood homes are energy efficient, because the concrete acts as thermal mass holding heat that radiates into the house. Because there are no studs, air is not transferred from inside to outside (thermal bridging). A 16” wall has an approximate R-value of 20, and a 24” wall is about R40.
Aside from being energy efficient, cordwood houses have great acoustic qualities, and they have a natural, rustic look to them. They fit in well in a wooded setting.