MOTHER's Low-Cost Home-Building Contest: Winner IV

Winner number four in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Low-Cost Home-Building Contest are the Fletchers, who built a 1,536-square-foot home for under $14,000.

| November/December 1986

Glen and Rhonda Fletcher built their low-cost home building with salvaged barn timbers for under $14,000. 

MOTHER's Low-Cost Home-Building Contest: Winner IV

In the past three installments covering MOTHER's Low-Cost Home-Building Contest, we've shown you an earth-bermed Maine saltbox, a traditional Iowa log cabin, and a Massachusetts timber frame—each built for well under $15 per square foot. If you had a chance to read those articles, you know that the success of those projects always hinged on clever use of low-cost local materials. This issue's owner-builder triumph is no exception.

Glen and Rhonda Fletcher salvaged old barn timbers to frame their post-and-beam house, but cut local cedar logs to fill the spaces between the posts. They stacked the 12 inch-long rounds and packed them with mortar to form a thick wall of decay-resistant cedar and cement, using a technique called cordwood-masonry construction. Stackwood, as it's also called, is one of the least costly building techniques, and is especially suited to people with lots of timber and time.

Low-Cost Home-Building Planning

In order to dry the cedar before using it, Glen cut and bucked (trimmed to the 12 inch-length) the logs 2-1/2 years before starting to build. This prevented the gaps that would have developed as the green wood shrank during curing.

Salvage work turned up a variety of other useful materials for the Fletchers. Siding from the barns worked well for exterior trim, old bricks laid in a wood frame formed the stove platform and backing, tongue-and-groove provided the subfloor, and about nine tons of rock eventually were used in landscaping.

Getting all the loot to the building site was a job, but once everything was on hand, construction went quickly. Glen and Rhonda started work in June of 1983 and had the place livable by November, unusually quick work for typically short-handed owner-builders.

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