Building a Barn With Cordwood

Building a barn with cordwood produced a farmstead outbuilding that could protect livestock in the winter and handle a whole slew of other duties.

| November/December 1981

  • 072 building a barn 7 finished barn2
    Building a barn using a combination of post-and-beam and cordwood construction cost a little over $8,000.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 building a barn 1 foundation
    The barn's foundation consisted of poured concrete, with 12" block laid over the footers.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 building a barn 2 concrete reinforcement
    Every fourth core of the wall was poured with concrete for reinforcement.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 building a barn 5 laticework
    The latticework for the sheet-metal roof was nailed onto the arched rafters.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 building a barn 4 floorboards
    The floorboards of the loft were squared up by ripping them the full length of the building.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 building a barn 3 post and beam framing
    The post-and-beam framing goes up.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 building a barn 6 window
    Windows were framed into the cordwood with rough-cut poplar. 
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 building a barn - diagram
    Diagram shows the ground-level floor plan of the barn.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 072 building a barn 7 finished barn2
  • 072 building a barn 1 foundation
  • 072 building a barn 2 concrete reinforcement
  • 072 building a barn 5 laticework
  • 072 building a barn 4 floorboards
  • 072 building a barn 3 post and beam framing
  • 072 building a barn 6 window
  • 072 building a barn - diagram

As a part of the development of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Eco-Village research center, we began—in the spring of 1981—to gather a small collection of homestead animals. For the most part, the critters are either allowed to roam or are tethered (or fenced) for pasturing in whatever field has reached the appropriate stage of growth. (Our pigs, for example, have spent most of the past summer in the woods, while the sheep and our new cow have been moved around from one pasture to another.)

But when the air grows chill, animals (like people) need protection, and—even in our fairly mild North Carolina climate—a shelter is a necessity for anyone who's keeping livestock. Fortunately for limited operations such as ours, though, a barn can do more than simply serve as an animal house. We've recently finishing building a barn that combines post-and-beam and cordwood construction, and think it's a good example of do-it-all outbuilding design.

Multipurpose Facility

When we began to sketch out what use we hoped to get out of our barn, we had to face the fact that we'd likely never dedicate the entire structure to the care of one kind of livestock, nor would we be storing just one variety of feed. And true to our projections, the new barn houses critters ranging from horses to rabbits, serves as a milk-processing center, and holds hay, wheat, buckwheat, anal straw in its loft. Consequently, you should probably consider our multiple-duty floor plan as a general example of barn use. Folks who decide to employ the basic construction techniques that we'll outline here may want to arrange their own layouts to suit their particular needs based on the ample footings we've included in our design.

The Structure

At 32' X 45', our barn is larger than the average outbuilding but considerably smaller than a full-scale dairy barn. Furthermore, its 10"-deep, 24"-wide footings offer the possibility of dividing the ground floor into stalls as small as 10' X 10', but the interior could easily be left more open (though the posts are an integral part of the load-bearing structure).



The 45-foot back wall and one 32-foot end wall are earth-bermed and were erected from 12" concrete block, mortared and stacked to a height of 10 feet. To withstand the pressure of backfilling a core of every second block was reinforced with two lengths of No. 4 rebar and filled with concrete. Before the backhoe pushed the earth against the walls, we tarred the exterior of the block surface, and laid on 15-pound felt and 4-mil polyethylene. In addition, we placed 4"diameter plastic drain tile ( over a 4"thick bed of gravel) against the footers, and poured another 8" of rock atop the ABS pipe to prevent it from plugging with mud.

Both 3 X 8 and 8 X 6 posts (rough-sawed from oak, hem pine, and white pine) make up the second-story support framework, and angle braces are used to connect the posts to concrete block stands built up from the footers. The connecting beams are also 6 X 6 rough-sawed timbers, and are supported by both the 6 X 6 posts and the 3 X 6's that brace the gates. The beams are tied to the posts with 1/4" X 6" X 18" steel plates and 1/2" bolts, as well as by bolted 3 X 6 diagonal beams. Longer 3 X 6 diagonals also span the boxed-in sections at the open end of the building to add strength.






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