While we began to cut down the cedar trees and drag them out of the woods, we also worked on our house plan. Before we actually moved to the property, my dad and my husband had begun building piers out of stone for our eventual house. We knew that they couldn't be used with a cordwood house, so when my dad had a backhoe on the property doing some work, we hired the man to dig out the foundation area for our future cordwood house. Having him already on the spot did save us a couple of hundred dollars.
We spent almost two years cutting the trees, bringing them to the building site and cutting them into the correct length and stacking them to dry. We decided to make our walls 20 inches thick. In the northern part of the country, staying warm in the winter is the main concern, while here in the southern region, staying cool in the summer is a major concern, and we figured that 20 inch walls were about right.
The choice to use 20" logs eliminated the possibility of the post and beam cordwood home that I had hoped for. Most cordwood walls in post and beam homes are only about 9" thick--the width of the posts--much less than what we wanted. We chose the 'stackwall' method of building~building our corners with longer log ends to support the structure.
The next step for the logs was peeling them. It sounds easy, right? Well, occasionally it was. But most of the time, you sat down in a lawn chair and used a paint scraper to work under the bark and then peel it off. We learned to tell by looking at the log whether or not it was going to peel easily. I would usually stack a few next to me and do the hard ones first--it made the easy ones enjoyable. Rob Roy's book recommended peeling immediately, but said spring time was best as the sap was running and the bark came off easier. In the end, for us it didn't seem to matter whether the tree was newly cut or had been drying for a long time. I also had a scraper that I used to sort of 'sand' the edges of the end of each log. That gave a nice smooth end to it and avoided a lot of little spikes of wood sticking into your hand!
Meanwhile, the house plan was being debated. Our original house plan had been 1200 square feet. But looking at our budget, we realized we needed to cut off some square footage in order to build and finish our home. After being so crowded in the mobile home, we really didn't like the idea of making the cabin smaller than our original plan, but we did. We finally settled on 915 square feet.
This meant we had to hand dig the 24 foot section for the front of the cabin, since we'd had the back hoe guy dig the original plan. We were glad it was only that section that had to be dug--our ground is very rocky. Later, we ended up digging another section when we decided to 'bump' the living room out 4 feet. This brought our square footage to 975.
We were so excited the day the first cement truck arrived to begin pouring our foundation! We felt that we were finally getting started on the actual structure. The trucks could only bring partial loads due to one of the mountains between us and town. We, my husband, dad, and I had hoes and rakes ready to help spread the cement as it poured into the foundation area. It was hard work and I was glad for the break in between the two trucks! There were pieces of steel sticking up in areas of the foundation to connect this 'pour' to the one we would have done a few weeks down the road.
And then. . .we could start laying the cordwood!
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