An ancient method of habitat building, cordwood masonry has experienced a renewed interest due to modern technique improvements and the positive, beneficial characteristics gained on many levels in respect to the environment, energy efficiency from it's unique thermal mass, simplicity and easy access of materials needed, relative durability and the overall natural beauty. This latest book by Rob Roy is great for the person who is interested in cordwood structures and doesn't know much about the undertaking to building their own home in the same fashion. With this book you'll obtain a general understanding of the process and requirements, which is presented with thorough and even mathematical explanations.
The book is broken up into four parts dedicated to different topic concerns. The first section highlights a little history of the scientific art, including an introduction to the author, his passion and experiences in cordwood masonry, coming from some 25 years. The next section addresses the procedure of construction and touches on some important issues with technique. Also pesented here are some successful solutions learn by others for polygon floor plans, optimum corner strength, using the post & beam method, cement foundations and footings (with brief notes on earthquake endurance to where it may be applicable), and incorporating bottle designs by recycling glass to bring in special touches of color and light. Other fundamental topics discussed include electrical wiring, double wall and general wall thickness, making the Lomax corner, recipes for mortar mixes, papercrete (paper enhanced mortar) and "cobwood" variations using straw, plus pointing the mortar, and patching cracks after wood and/or mortar shrinkage. It also talks about what species of wood are best, how to select, prepare and store the wood and describes a design for making a specialized cordwood cutoff table using a chainsaw. Equally important, the book also touches on a few common sense reminders about construction site safety.
Information in parts two and three overlap some, but it's kept from sounding repetitive. The third group of chapters is primarily dedicated to personal accounts and stories from various cordwood owner-builders from the United States, Canada, Europe and Chile.
The last section hinges on financial matters and business details. The importance of being organized and informed about construction codes, seeking advice from an architect, getting a builder's permit, and how to deal with the building inspector and other paper people. Part four also provides some basic thoughts and how-to ideas for building a cordwood home mortgage free. The useful bibliography includes an overview of related books, videos, magazines, websites and online groups to further your knowledge; these are given with short, helpful descriptions.
In vast majority the photographs throughout the book are black and white, but there's an eight page middle section with beautiful color photos of cordwood buildings inside and out. It's not the only resource you should bank on, but this book is certainly a superb, user friendly introductory to the topic and a nice follow up reference after, or even before workshop participation. For those who are serious about building a sustainable home using the cordwood technique, I highly recommend it. [reviewed at amazon.com by tilley_traveler]