Print This Page

DayCreek Journal

November 11, 2002

A Close Shave

House under the stars.

Work has now shifted back into construction mode now that the heating systems are up and running. Having the luxury of indoor heat will allow me to do some cordwood work over the winter months, although it will be more of a challenge. I've been spoiled using a cement mixer while constructing the exterior walls, and while I plan to use it again during the summer months, it's just too cold outside to mix mortar. This means that the mortar will have to be mixed by hand using a wheel barrow and hoe inside of the house.

My first interior wall will be the downstairs bathroom wall. This cordwood wall will not be visible from inside the bathroom, so it's a good wall to do a few experiments. Plans are to mix just sand and masonry cement. Although I really like the texture of the slurried newspaper recipe, I'm after more thermal mass than R-value in these walls. Cliff Shockey did this with his double wall home in Saskatchewan and had great success. Because of the slower indoor drying time, the mortar did not crack—so no sawdust was required. I'm a bit skeptical, because humidity levels are quite low in the house, but I'm willing to give it a try.

Before the interior cordwood walls go up, I have decided to erect cedar posts at each of the 16 corners. This will accomplish three things: (1) provide a raceway to run my electrical conduit and receptacles, (2) provide wall stability and (3) add rustic beauty to the interior of the house.

By running the electrical conduit along the posts, I will be able to have all of my electrical runs inspected (requiring only on visit by the inspector) before the walls go up. Electrical boxes can be easily attached to the posts and will provide receptacles within every 4' of any appliance. (The distance between the posts is a bit short of 8', which provides electrical receptacles within a 4' reach. This is well within the code which stipulates that receptacles must be within 6' of appliances.)

Wall stability is also an issue, especially with 8" walls and although I could tie the walls together using rebar or some other means, it makes things easier by running a few bolts into the posts and through the mortar. Each of the 32 walls will be tied in on the sides, top and bottom with timber screws and/or lag bolts.

Before any of the posts are erected, they need to be cleaned up a bit. I've had these cedar fence posts for some time now and if you recall they were purchased from an elk farmer. They're a tad over 8' tall and will work nicely. I honed my fence post skills last winter when I constructed a cedar post bed out of them.

Each of the posts are given a "close shave" using an electric planer. This shaves the outer layer off of the log. It's amazing what interesting grains and colors are found under the outer layer. Once planed, I then go over the entire log with a belt sander that rids the logs of the "planer washboard" look. It really looks nice once the log has been fully sanded. It takes about an hour to do each log and there are 32 of them to be done. This will keep me out of trouble for at least a few weeks.

Another one of those "must have" tools has been a surveyor's level/laser. I invested in this tool before I did any work on the house and it has been used extensively from the time I first dug in the foundation. (Originally I thought about renting the tool, but realized that the amount of use it would get would pay for all of the rentals.)

With the posts vertically erected, I set the laser level parallel to the floor directly in line with where the face of the wall will be. Projecting the line up the sides of the posts, I then scribe my plumb line. This will give me a continuous plumb line so I know exactly where to stop the cordwood wall. I should end up with straight vertical walls.





So far this season I have counted four bald eagles that have taken up residence in the bluff directly above the house. It's a beautiful sight to see these birds gliding along on sunny days.