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Cordwood Homes In The Winter: How do they evaluate to common building?


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Mar 21, 2024
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Can cordwood homes stand up to the bitter winter chilly?

It is a query many of us ask about cordwood masonry. In spite of everything, it could appear counterintuitive that this type of pure constructing technique would carry out properly in locations that have bitter chilly just like the Northern U.S. and Canada. Nevertheless it does!

On this submit, I’ll take you thru a few of the commonest questions we get about cordwood masonry in chilly climates. I’ll additionally present you what our expertise has been residing in a cordwood house by means of some bitterly chilly Kentucky winters.

cordwood wall against a snowy backdrop, text reads: Cordwood Masonry in the winter: does it work in cold climates?

Cordwood Homes In The Winter​

First, in the event you’ve by no means seen our homestead project earlier than, listed below are some fast info about it:

Cordwood is beautiful but how does it hold up in the winter? Is it drafty? Cold? Find out our experiences and more here.

  • The home is 30’x34′ with a stud framed mudroom on the entrance measuring 8’x12′.
  • Our cordwood walls are 16 inches thick and are comprised of eastern red cedar and a lime putty mortar.
  • The cordwood partitions are R-16 with 8 inches of softwood sawdust blended with lime within the middle cavity of the wall.
  • The roof and stud wall insulation is open-cell spray foam with a score as much as R-40 at its thinnest factors within the roof, and R-20 within the partitions.
  • There’s roughly 855 sq. ft of residing house on the primary flooring with a loft over the second half of the home measuring about 300 sq. ft.
  • Our major warmth supply is a soapstone wooden range made by HearthStone, with the secondary being the radiant heat in our slab basis.
  • We took benefit of some passive photo voltaic rules in our house design: oriented the house to photo voltaic south, a number of home windows on the south face, fewer on the east and west, small home windows on the north.

“Are you able to construct a cordwood home in areas that get chilly climate?”​

That is in all probability the primary query I get from folks, and the reply is a powerful YES. There are quite a few cordwood houses all through Canada and the northern United States. Double-wall construction is a particularly popular method among northern cordwood builders.

Cordwood houses, when constructed correctly, stand as much as the chilly, ice, and snow in ways in which conventional building merely can’t. I’ll handle why all through this submit as I am going into extra element about our specific home.

You may study extra about correct cordwood building practices here.

And for extra details about cordwood houses in chilly and snowy climates, learn extra here and here.

How OUR Cordwood Residence Has Carried out within the Winter

Each cordwood home and each location is totally different. Right here’s some context that can assist you out.

Fast Stats:​

  • Gardening Zone 6B
  • Common yearly snowfall: 12 inches
  • Common excessive temperature: 43 F
  • Common low temperature: 26 F

2018 Unique Put up Date Stats:

  • Lowest temperature: -6 F (occurs most winters, although folks right here will certainly complain prefer it’s a giant deal)
  • Highest temperature: 76 F (complicated and alarming when winter isn’t really over but)
  • Snowfall: decrease than regular, we solely had 2 inches on the bottom at any given time

2021 Replace Stats:

  • Lowest temperature: 4 F
  • Highest temperature: 44 F
  • Snowfall: 26 inches from November by means of February

Use these fast stats to present you context for the way we reply these questions. Kentucky is actually hotter than Canada, however we nonetheless expertise sub-zero temps on occasion.

cordwood shed in the snow

1. How does cordwood deal with the chilly?​

Till now, we’ve each solely ever lived in older stud-framed houses with forced-air heating and cooling. Given this, we had no thought what to anticipate with an insulated cordwood home versus a normal house.

The thermal mass of the partitions holds warmth for HOURS. This consists of warmth from the solar and out of doors air in addition to warmth from the radiant system and wooden range.

That being stated, if the partitions are chilly it takes a LONG time to heat up. We went out of city for a number of days when the temperatures didn’t get out of the low teenagers, and had lowered the set temperature on the radiant, which was a mistake. Getting the home warmed again as much as a livable temperature took a number of hours however as soon as it reached that temperature it held regular.


That is the second winter for our cordwood photo voltaic shed, and we’ve been fairly impressed with the way it has dealt with the chilly up to now. We applied related passive photo voltaic rules into its design, together with placing a giant window on the south face and portray the ground black. (The image beneath is earlier than we painted the ground, which actually was a little bit of an afterthought.)

Panorama of cordwood shed interior

This small constructing has NO auxiliary heating or cooling programs. As a substitute, we monitor the temperature by way of this Bluetooth thermometer station in the home. When it begins getting nearer to freezing (i.e. round 34-37 levels Fahrenheit) we’ll run a kerosene heater for just a few hours to spice up the temperature again as much as hold the batteries and system parts working optimally.

This sometimes will get the constructing to round 70 levels inside initially. The temperature will often drop to round 55 levels within the 8-12 hours after we flip the heater off, after which it tends to both drop slowly over a interval of weeks or keep across the similar, relying on the climate.

To this point throughout the 2021-22 winter season, we have now run the kerosene heater a grand complete of THREE instances. Temperatures exterior have been hanging out properly beneath freezing for a number of weeks, and we’ll in all probability run the heater once more just a few extra instances earlier than spring arrives, however the constructing has stayed pretty constant (round 40-50 levels) it doesn’t matter what the temperature exterior is doing. Thermal mass and insulation at work!

2. What about SNOW? How do you retain it from drifting in opposition to the partitions?​

Nice query! One cordwood greatest observe is to have a lot wider roof overhangs than a historically constructed house may.

Our house has a 24-inch overhang across the whole house. That is the minimal typically accepted to guard cordwood partitions. We don’t stay in an space the place we ever have a number of snow on the bottom, so a deep overhang wasn’t a priority for us.

If you happen to’re contemplating cordwood and stay in an space that will get really deep snows, contemplate designs with overhangs of not less than 3-4 ft or a wrap-around porch. It is a nice technique to defend your cordwood from all types of inclement climate.

3. How properly does passive photo voltaic design actually work with cordwood?​

Think about a sunny however bitterly chilly day. The solar is blazing however the exterior temperature barely will get above zero.

As a result of we have now a whole lot of south-facing home windows we are able to reap the benefits of the solar on frigid days like this. The warmth of the solar warms the partitions and the slab, that means that on these sorts of days the home stayed comfy with out sustaining a hearth within the range AND with out the radiant warmth ever kicking on.

Even on very cloudy days, the quantity of sunshine reaching the home windows is sufficient to keep away from having the lights on. This implies we’re saving energy and harnessing vitality it doesn’t matter what.

That stated, I do want we might have developed a design to face the lengthy facet of the home in the direction of the south. The bedrooms on the north wall do generally tend to really feel a bit of bit colder, however the distinction is fairly slight. On a optimistic notice, this really makes sleeping way more comfy, so I don’t assume it’s essentially a nasty factor.

4. Do you might have sufficient energy to get by means of winter days in a cordwood home?​

The character of cordwood really performs fairly properly with an off-grid energy system.

Our house is solely off the grid, which suggests we have now a system of photo voltaic panels and batteries to energy our house.

The system we had (on the time of this writing) was comparatively small at roughly 1.14 kW value of photo voltaic panels. Since our radiant warmth system makes use of electrical energy to energy the pumps and to maintain the propane water heater on, it does eat up about 250-500 watts of energy at a time whereas it’s operating.

Luckily, the character of the thermal mass and insulation in our house means our radiant warmth system doesn’t need to kick on almost as typically as it’d in a typical stud-framed house.

On these days with excessive temperatures within the single digits, our radiant kicked on each few hours on the most. Each different “regular” house I’ve ever lived in retains the warmth operating virtually always all day and evening when the temperature is that low.

You may learn extra about our experiences with off-grid solar energy within the winter here.

5. Does the home creak or moan in excessive winds?​

No. Not even a bit of.

This was a bizarre one to us as a result of we’ve by no means been in a home that doesn’t creak or groan not less than a bit of bit in a excessive wind.

Actually, we’re unsure if it’s as a result of the partitions are so stout, due to all of the insulation within the roof, or as a result of we have now two units of hurricane clips on each truss (lengthy foolish story).

Both means, our home doesn’t flinch on the few winter storms we’ve had with sustained excessive winds.

6. Is cordwood drafty?​

No, fortunately. The picture beneath reveals a cross-section of a cordwood wall going up. It will begin to provide you with an thought of WHY cordwood masonry constructed with greatest practices shouldn’t develop drafts.

Cordwood walls built 16 inches thick using cedar logs, lime putty mortar (4 inches on either side) and 8 inches of cedar sawdust/lime insulation in the middle. Click to learn how to DIY! #cordwood #diy

Drafts don’t kind simply due to the character of the wall system. So as so that you can really feel a breeze, you’d first want a niche between the log and mortar on the skin of the wall, adopted by a void within the insulation, adopted by one other hole between the log and mortar on the within wall.

I had this concern as soon as too. However as I really constructed a cordwood wall, it turned apparent why it shouldn’t develop drafts. Even in the event you get some log shrinkage on the skin, your insulation must be packed sufficient contained in the partitions to “catch” any air that is available in. And if the insulation is doing its job, the air would nonetheless have to return by means of an equally problematic hole on the within wall. We had been very deliberate by means of the constructing course of and, consequently, haven’t skilled any drafts within the cordwood.

You may sit proper subsequent to any a part of the wall and even in a excessive wind you received’t really feel a draft. The problem many individuals face with that is if the partitions are utterly strong and uninsulated. When the logs shrink in an uninsulated system, there’s nothing within the center to behave as a buffer to the air.

Our house is a single-wall system, however double-wall systems offer an extra layer of redundancy, just about guaranteeing no probabilities of a draft.

Related: Cordwood for Beginners

7. Do you might have issues with log shrinkage?​

Not significantly. There was some shrinkage, which is to be anticipated with wooden, however nothing main. Know why?

We dried the overwhelming majority of our logs for a bit of over a 12 months to roughly a 12-16% moisture stage. Nonetheless, we did find yourself reducing some timber down throughout the summer time proper earlier than we began our partitions. They managed to dry to about 16-20% within the sizzling summer time solar, however they weren’t almost as seasoned because the others.

To benefit from this example, we put probably the most seasoned logs within the partitions that obtained probably the most direct climate hits on the west and north. We put the newer logs on the east wall, which receives virtually no direct beating from the climate in our space.

Consequently, probably the most dramatic shrinkage I’ve seen is about 1/eighth of an inch. Extra typical shrinkage is barely seen to perhaps 1/sixteenth of an inch.

If you must construct with “moist” logs, be ready to make use of one thing like Log Jam or Permachink to mitigate the shrinkage you get. However if in case you have the choice and the time, reduce and put together your entire logs not less than a 12 months earlier than you construct.

You may study extra about how we prepped our cedar logs right here.

8. How is your inside air high quality? Is it as “sealed” as a whole lot of newer houses?​

The indoor air high quality in our cordwood house is sort of nice in comparison with conventional building.

Right here we have now the double results of cordwood building and the full lack of compelled air heating and cooling in our house.

Cordwood by its very nature is sealed but breathable.
As a result of the logs have their finish grain dealing with out on either side of the wall they permit an trade of air by means of the grain. This has stored our inside air from ever feeling or smelling stagnant.

Related: End grain out? Learn how to prevent rot in a cordwood wall.

And since we aren’t blowing germs and mud by means of any vent programs, we’ve managed to scale back our winter sniffles fairly dramatically.

Moreover, our indoor humidity tends to hang around between 35-45%, so it’s low however not “nosebleed low”. Plus it lets our laundry air dry tremendous quick!

Air drying our clothes by the woodstove is just one way we save power off grid in the winter. What else do we do living with off grid solar?

9. Do you might have any points with bugs inside your cordwood house this winter?​

No! No points in any respect apart from stinkbugs and the occasional ladybug. This has been a fairly fascinating factor to see since I’ve been so accustomed to seeing spiders and home centipedes all winter lengthy all over the place else I’ve lived.

I haven’t seen a single spider or centipede all winter lengthy. Throughout the summer time I’d watch carpenter bees fly as much as our home and hover as in the event that they’re checking it out. Each single time they’d simply fly away with out even making contact with our home.

I chalk this as much as the big quantity of cedar overlaying every little thing. Our cordwood is Japanese Crimson Cedar and so is the siding on our roof gables, so it’s pretty pest resistant.

The one bugs that don’t appear to care are the stink bugs, which whereas innocent are utterly annoying. We had a stink bug crawl right into a smoke detector at 3:00 within the morning and provides us all a scare. So hey, if anybody has any nice stink bug options that truly work please share!!

So there you might have it! Every little thing we’ve realized about our cordwood home over the previous few winters.​

I hope we hit the principle questions that folks ask, however I’m certain you might need extra. If I missed one thing, be at liberty ship me a message on Facebook or Instagram.

2022: That is the sixth winter the cordwood partitions have existed, and the fifth winter residing in it. I’m certain that because the years roll by issues will change. We’ll do our greatest to maintain you up to date, particularly all of you aspiring cordwood builders on the market.

Wish to know extra about constructing with cordwood? Seize our free eBook exhibiting precisely what went into constructing our house:

Excited about constructing with cordwood for your self? Check out our Building With Cordwood Masonry Online Course!​

text reads: building with cordwood masonry

Try our homestead progress and find out more about our cordwood homestead project right here. You must also be part of us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m at all times pinning a number of nice concepts on Pinterest too! Thanks for studying!​

Cordwood is beautiful but how does it hold up in the winter? Is it drafty? Cold? Find out our experiences and more here.
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