Durability of Cordwood Homes

An expert on cordwood homes provides advice on their durability and maintenance to a couple thinking about building one.
By Jack Henstridge
January/February 1983
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Cordwood homes — like this unit in Camp Morton, Manitoba — will stand for 100 years or more.
Photo courtesy of Bob Patterson

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My wife and I are considering building a cordwood home, but before we invest our time and money, I’d like to find out a couple of facts. First, what is the “life expectancy” of cordwood homes, and second, what maintenance would the walls require? 

I know of at least 20 structures here in North America that are well over 100 years old, and no doubt there are quite a few others waiting to be discovered. Furthermore, there are two European cordwood structures — one in northwestern Finland and one in the mountains of Greece — that are each estimated to be close to 1,000 years old. As long as the footings remain sound and there is sufficient overhang on the roof to prevent the rainwater from running down your walls, you could expect your structure to last at least 150 years.

As far as maintenance is concerned, very little would be required beyond the occasional “tuck-pointing” around any blocks that might have loosened up or in any cracks that might have developed either in the wood or in the masonry. If your logs are seasoned properly before you build, cracks shouldn’t be much of a problem. The simplest way to remedy a severe situation (caused by poor-quality wood) is to staple chicken wire to the outside of the structure and then cover it with stucco.

— Jack Henstridge, author of several books on stackwood construction 

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