You may know that country singer Willie Nelson has a cordwood cabin on his ranch in Texas, but did you know that Sarah Matisak of Juniper Hill Farm in Smithville, Texas has one as well? Sarah sent these pictures and descriptions of her Cordwood & Light Straw Clay home. Below is her narrative.
“We run Juniper Hill Farm in Smithville, Texas. The cordwood walls are 16” thick Eastern Red Cedar with red cedar sawdust and lime in the insulation cavity. It is so hot in Texas that we worked evenings and weekends – mostly because we both worked full-time jobs 9-5 and it made sense. The heat of the day from late Spring through early Fall is between 90-105 degrees Fahrenheit.
The cordwood portion of our house is built on a cinder block foundation, which rests atop, a French drain. rebar, pounded into the ground beneath the French drain and cemented into the blocks, which ties it all together. We wanted to stay above grade because we have solid red clay as shallow as 6” to 2’ below the surface and we were unsure about shrinking and swelling with the flooding that happens from time to time during hurricane season.
This is Eastern Red Cedar for the cordwood. The pine and other timbers are from the property. A center bearing post was used to support the six-sided metal roof.
The floor framing keeps the home “up” to protect it from flooding during hurricane season.
One of my favorite parts of the home are the heavy framed doors with the iron bolts. Each of the six panelled doors has a sunburst pattern. Sarah says, “We bought them at an antique fair – the shop owner said they came from a demolition site in India.”
The cordwood is Eastern Red Cedar from the property. The mortar joints are clean and even and most of the wood was split to minimize shrinkage.
The back porch became the Light Straw Clay addition. It looks fantastic.
“This is the Light Straw Clay addition which is plastered/stuccoed on each side. We used an earthen plaster mixture using fine (play) sand and kaolin clay for the interior and earthen plaster using construction-grade sand, and red clay from our land for the exterior. I’ve also layered a lime wash using aged lime putty and water on the exterior for extra protection when/if the rain goes sideways and hits the wall. Which has happened once on the southern side of the house over the past year.”
I am delighted to include Sarah’s home on the Cordwood Construction website. To visit Sarah’s Juniper Hill Farm (goats, carpentry, arborist) FB page go to https://www.facebook.com/TheJuniperHillFarm/
Should you wish to learn how to build a cordwood cottage, cabin or home, please visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org While you are there, click on the pictures, read the brief articles, check out the latest workshops and newsletter and if you are interested click on the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print and ebook format. If you have questions that aren’t answered on the website you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Readers have requested a brief bio, so here goes:
Richard & Becky Flatau built their mortgage-free cordwood home in 1979 in Merrill, Wisconsin. Since then, they have written books, conducted workshops, facilitated 2005, 2011 & 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders. Cordwood Construction: Best Practices DVD (2018), Cordwood Construction Best Practices 2020 (print & ebook) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their online cordwood bookstore. www.cordwoodconstruction.org
The Cordwood Workshop DVD is like taking a workshop in your own living room.
For more information on Cordwood Construction, click on the picture or visit www.cordwoodconstruction.org