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DayCreek Journal

July 28, 2002

And Then There were Three

Another week has gone by and right on schedule wall #29 has been completed. I know now that it takes approximately 20 batches of PEM (Paper Enhanced Mortar) to complete a full wall now, so it makes it a bit easier to schedule out a days work knowing how many batches it will take to complete a wall. Of course the weather is the variable, but like most recent weeks there hasn't been much rain to speak of during the day.

The above photograph shows that all of the walls in back of the house are now complete except for the wall that will have a door to the back walkway. This will be the last wall to be completed.

Being a bit ahead of schedule, I was able to install the two remaining 2nd floor windows on the north side of the house. So, I am happy to report that all the windows have now been installed! Here's a view of the north side of the house.

There are two more walls around the front side that are next on the agenda:(1) the front door wall located on the first floor and (2) the wall directly above it. Next week's challenge will be to build the front door frame and wall.



A Note to Mudders
Just a note to those who plan on building their own cordwood house. Temperatures do effect the mortar setup time. The hot sun and 90° F plus air temperatures shorten the setup time and may cause more cracking in the mortar as it dries. This applies to PEM (Paper Enhanced Mortar) as well. The PEM mix is definitely applied wetter than regular cordwood mortar recipes, but there is a remarkable difference in setup time between early morning and mid-afternoons when the weather is hot. To lessen the effects of this I've been letting the well water run a bit before adding water to the mixer. The well water temperature is approximately 55° F, so it helps slow the setup time. I also try to keep the mud out of the sun while it is being applied.

As I have mentioned in previous journals, I have not babied the walls at all by covering the walls and I have had a few cracks. This might be totally avoided by doing so, but the cracks are minor and not a major concern. I have been told that the ideal temperature for masonry cement is around 74° F, so if you can keep the walls cool, the setup time should stay reasonable.

So keep this in mind if you are mortaring on hot summer days.

Soy Insulation Update
After leaving numerous phone messages with HealthySeal, I did some investigating and decided to call the company the manufactures the soy oil used in the product. They were nice enough to put me in contact with another company in Iowa that is just in the ramp-up phase of providing a spray foam that is soy oil based.

After speaking with the company, I am in a quandary of sorts. Although the product is soy-oil based, it only adds up to about 25% of the overall product. They are calling it an "earth-friendly" product and I guess in a way it is, but it's just like anything else on the market that says it is earth-friendly — you have to read the label. A prime example of this is the paper industry. There's all sorts of "earth-friendly" paper products on the market now, but buyer beware, read the fine print! Some of the products that claim to be "earth-friendly" only contain 10% or less recycled materials.

I still like the open-celled foam products even though they are not totally earth friendly. I don't know of any other product on the market that will readily stick to wood/mortar and fill in all the holes to prevent air infiltration. Open celled, by the way means it will allow moisture to pass through the wall preventing moisture entrapment in the wall.

At this point, I'm still leaning towards the foam product but I'm always willing to hear your point of view on this. You can contact me at or feel free to post your opinions on the forum. I'd love to hear from you.

Close Encounters of the Deer Kind. The other night I was taking a few photographs of mother deer and her two fawns out in our field. I stood perfectly still with my face behind the camera for about ten minutes. To my surprise, mom jumped over the fence into the yard and the two fawns followed. Mom then decided to enjoy some freshly cut lawn, while the two fawns just kept getting closer to me. They ended up about 20 feet in front of me and I just kept snapping photographs. I got about 45 good shots (photographs of course!) during my close encounter.