I first heard about cordwood houses in early 2002. Shortly thereafter I ordered Rob Roy’s Cordwood building book and signed up for his 3 day Wisconsin summer course. It was a very interesting 3 days with equally interesting classmates. At that time I had very ambitious goals. My house would be a large round two stories and be a Bed and Breakfast. I ordered the Wisconsin Rules and Regulations for B&B’s and decided I didn’t need the hassle connected with the B&B. I still liked the cordwood building concept so I designed a much simpler house with only 2 bedrooms. That “simpler” house went through a lot of changes before I settled on the present layout.
I moved into my Wisconsin mobile home permanently from Illinois in May of 2003 and started finalizing plans for the house. I got my homemade plans approved on the first try. I also got approval to tie into the existing well and septic which serviced the mobile home. The new house is only about 100 ft from where the mobile home was. About this time, Cathy and I went to an Open House at Richard and Becky Flatau’s. This was very inspiring and helped us proceed. Alan Stankevitz also stopped a couple of times on his way from Illinois to Day Creek, giving me some much needed advice and encouragement.
Requirements for building a slab on grade house in Sauk Co. WI. calls for a footing and frost walls. I had this done in the fall of 2003. Prior to pouring the 5” slab, all underground utilities were installed, PVC drain pipe, CPVC water supply, 2” rigid insulation, 6 mill plastic sheeting, ½ “ pex tubing for the radiant heat and 4x4 mesh for slab reinforcement. My friend Cathy helped me considerably with this stage. She likes to tell about literally digging a trench for the PVC with her bare hands. The perimeter of the slab was keyed into the top of the walls and was poured 12” thick and 18 inches wide with re-bars to support the cordwood walls. The slab under the fireplace is also 12” thick and re-barred. The slab pour was in the late spring of 2004.
The footprint of the slab was a South facing 8 sided semicircle with an outside radius of 19’. Extending north from that are (2) 40’ walls on the east and west side. The north wall is 38’. The slab is approximately 2100 sq. ft.
The first floor consists of the combination lofted ceiling Great Room and Dining Area in the south semicircular area. At the radius is a high efficiency fireplace which heats the house, including the 720 sq. ft. upstairs adequately, down to about 10 degrees outside temp. Any colder and we turn on the radiant heat. A large kitchen, ½ bath, full bath, bedroom w/ walk in closet, utility room, workshop and oversized 2 car garage with storage constitutes the rest of the first floor. The 720’ upstairs is accessed by an open stairway going to a front loft room, 18x 16, which overlooks the great room. The rest of the upstairs is a 16 x 18 bedroom with walk in closet and a full bath with shower, which is accessed from the bedroom as well as the loft. The upstairs is framed by “attic” trusses, 24” on center. They anchor to the top of the perimeter beams and extend outward to make a 3’-6” overhang.
The Post and Beam perimeter walls are 16” thick white cedar with 5” of mortar on each end and 6” of cellulose insulation between the mortar. I left all of the logs round. I do not have any air infiltration around the circumference. I did have to fill the checks in about 80% of the logs though. The exterior posts are treated 6 x 6’s. The beam sizes vary depending on span and load.
I designed and built a simple and inexpensive mortar mixing cart that worked well for mixing and transporting the mortar. I also built a movable and adjustable height platform for building the upper half of the walls. This was a major help as a constant supply of logs and mortar were always within reach. The walls were kept straight horizontally and vertically by what I call a “rigid plumb line” This consists of a straight 2 x 4 tacked onto the outside center of beam at the exterior of the wall and hanging down to the floor. After the first course of logs were put down, the 2x4 would swing, touching the outside of the logs and the outside of the posts. The succeeding logs would be put against the inside of the 2x4, keeping them straight and plumb.
There are (5) 5’ high windows and a 6’ wide sliding patio door in the great-room. In the west wall is a bottle arrangement showing the big and little dipper. In the east wall is a rainbow made of blue, green, yellow, orange and red bottles. In 4 walls next to windows are bottle arrangements that can be lighted at night by compact florescent bulbs between the colored inside bottles and short logs on the outside.
There are a total of 15 windows, most of them casements, 2 trapezoids and the patio door. I got them from a local lumber yard and Weather Shield in Medford WI. All for under $1000.00.
Cathy and I moved into a livable but not nearly done house in April of 2006. I am still working on interior, and exterior trim. Last Spring I built a front screened porch on the front of the house, extending the segment where the patio door is. On the segment next to it is a pergola where the outdoor cooking is done. The screened in porch is used almost every day weather permitting.
We love our CEDAR HOUSE very much. It was very labor intensive to build, but in the end worth it. I still marvel, when looking at the plans that the house actually looks like it does on paper. We welcome people to come and see our house. Just call in advance (608) 253-6679 so we can be here. Look for the CEDAR HOUSE sign by the driveway.