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DayCreek Journal

June 9, 2002

How Long?
Work moves to the WNW side of the house where the sun doesn't shine until later in the afternoon.

Aren't you done with the house yet? Haven't you finished the walls yet? When will the house be completed? How long is it going to take? I get those questions every week it seems. I think I will leave everyone in suspense.

Regardless of when the house gets completed, I thought it would be worth while to examine in detail the amount of hours that go into building each wall. Most cordwood books refer to cordwood construction as being "labor intensive", but I have yet to see any documentation that quantifies what "labor intensive" really means.

So let's take a look at the man-hours associated with each wall. Before I go any further, I must admit that my way of doing things is more labor intensive than most other cordwood builders. Heck, this is just the exterior walls! Don't forget, the plans are for a double cordwood wall. And don't forget I'm using paper in the mortar and don't forget I'm bevelling the edges of each and every log.

Here's my estimate for doing (1) 8' x 8' wall:

(Time does not include felling of trees, stacking, drying, etc. For simplicity sake, I'll start from the time I cut the wood to 8" to the time it's mortared into the wall.)

Step 1. Cut wood to 8", enough to complete one wall. 6 Hrs.

Step 2. Bevel log ends using Dremmel-like tool. 4 Hrs.

Step 3. Slurry 75lb. paper bale (About 1 bale required per wall.) 2 Hrs.

Step 4. Mix mortar in cement mixer. 15 minutes

Step 5. Mud the wall, point in between logs, etc. 45 minutes

(Repeat steps 4 and 5 until dead tired. Slurry more paper, go to bed, get up the next morning, repeating steps 4 and 5 until dead tired again.)

Using slurried paper, sand and masonry cement mix it takes about 22 batches to complete one wall. So that's about 22 hours of mudding, plus 2 hours of paper slurrying, plus 9 hours of cutting and bevelling. The grand total comes out to be about 34 man hours of labor. This does not include the time that it takes to get supplies when you run out or disruptions due to weather, etc. All things considered, it usually takes me 5 work days to complete one wall.

Wall #23 finished!

A team of two can certainly get things done quicker and thankfully, Tom came out on last Thursday and Friday to complete wall #23. Because of the extra help, the wall was completed in three days. (I think that's a Day Creek record for a full wall.)

Maybe I'm too particular about the wall. You could certainly cut down on the amount of time that it takes to build a wall if you didn't care about priding (pointing) the mortar and left the logs flush with the mortar. You could cut down on the time by not bevelling the log ends and you could use wet sawdust instead of slurried paper to retard the setup time of the mortar. So, there are ways to trim down the amount of time if you don't want to do certain steps, but no matter, it is quite labor intensive and like any project, take your estimate and double it. There's always the "gotchyas" that add more time.

I hope the above information is useful to those interested in building a cordwood house and when it comes time for you to build your dream home and someone asks you how long it will take for you to finish, you can leave them in suspense too. (Or estimate how long it will take and double it!)

Finally a photograph of a cat bird. They love to hide in the thickets and are seldom seen, but often heard.