Many people are attracted to cordwood construction for the potentially low cost of building materials (wood) and the possibility of heating one’s own home with a sustainable natural resource (wood). If you have a woodlot, your cordwood home can be heated for your “sweat equity.” This post has examples of many different types of thermal mass heaters and wood stoves. Some are very simple and inexpensive, others are more costly and more expensive. Part of the home building process is to set a budget and then plan your building according to your resources. Heating and cooling (HVAC) are two of the major impacts on your building budget.
A highly efficient Vigilant wood stove provides maximum heat for a minimal amount of wood.
Our Home Comfort Wood Cook Stove (circa 1929) provides warmth and is an enjoyable, family-oriented way to cook Holiday meals.
A gorgeous thermal mass heater built in the center of the house so the heat radiates to all corners.
(Above) A visual description of one type of rocket mass heater. Courtesy of Permahome.
(Below) The Maine Wood Heat Company has plans for a heating and cooking area.
The next four pictures show the construction of a Maine Wood Heat Company mass heater design (finished picture above). It has all the flues and chambers to capture the “hot burn” and then release it through the “mass” to the living space. All of these stoves could be considered “rocket stoves” since they use the same principle of fast combustion to burn hot. This is in comparison to the slow-burning stoves like the Franklin style heaters that burn wood slowly like a cigar.
These folks hired a skilled mason to construct the stove. This is perhaps not a place where an amateur should be let loose since if the “pitch” of the stove is incorrect through the vents (it has to rise continually), you can end up with a smokey house.
Built from plans from the Maine Wood Heat Company by a local mason who had experience with thermal mass stoves.
Another drool-worthy mass heater. All of these have inserts, cook ovens and flues that do the work.
(Below) A beautiful masonry heater, oven and grill in Turkey.
An elegant rounded thermal mass heater graces a lovely home in Romania.
(Below) Three Hearthstone Soapstone stoves functioning in homes in order, in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
Our Hearthstone Soapstone Master in the great room of our $15,000 dollar, mortgage-free cordwood home. A 16-foot tall cordwood wall with a large Soapstone Stove at Daycreek in Minnesota. Eastern Red Cedar and a Soapstone Hearthstone Stove in southern Oklahoma.
Are there any books available? Here are two, I have not read either of them so I can’t really give a proper review. 1. The Rocket Mass Heater Builder’s Guide: Complete Step-by-Step Construction, Maintenance and Troubleshooting by Erica Wisner. 2. Masonry Heaters: Designing, Building and Living with a Piece of the Sun by Ken Matesz and Albie Barden
How to proceed with planning? Find two or three stoves that you like and then do your research. The least expensive way to go is with a free-standing stove. They can be found used for a tenth of the price of a new one, on eBay, Craig’s List, in the local paper, and at flea markets. The larger thermal mass heaters require a professional mason and are more expensive. Like with any budget decision, it is important to consider the cost/benefit ratio of the product. When we decided to build mortgage-free, our guiding principle was: Don’t buy what you can’t afford. It took longer, but the rewards were worth it.
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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 check-out the Online Bookstore to see all the cordwood literature available in print, digital and ebook format.
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 the 2005 2011 and 2015 Cordwood Conferences and provided consultation for cordwood builders. Cordwood Workshop DVD (2018), Cordwood Construction Best Practices (print 2017) and Cordwood Conference Papers 2015 are the newest publications available from their Cordwood Bookstore. The books & DVD are also available as ebooks for a quick and easy shipping free download.