Monthly Archives: November 2016

Laminated Wood

We build our wooden houses mostly from laminated wood. Laminated wood is wood that has been cut into long boards, then glued again to form one massive log. It may sound a little strange to first cut wood into pieces and then glue it back again, but this cutting and glueing has distinct advantages.

massive wood by the roadside

massive wood by the roadside

No Cracks

Wood dries over time. Immediately after cutting wood has a moisture content of 50%, and within a few months by the roadside the moisture content has already dropped to 30%. But before we can use the wood in house construction, the moisture content should be lower than 20%. And when the house is finished, over time the moisture content will drop to somewhere between 5% and 15%, depending on ambient temperatures and relative humidity of the surrounding air.

cracked wooden disc

cracked wooden disc

And with the drying comes the cracking. A little crack here and there may not be a problem, but big cracks are not good for the insulation properties.

And there is little you can do about it. Except laminate: laminating results in wood with minimal to no cracks. More info here. So that is reason no. 1 why we use laminated wood.

Less Shrinking

Standard massive wood can have a moisture content from 20% to 30% at assembly time, and the drying not only makes the wood crack, it also makes the wood shrink. And shrinking can give you a few headaches.

Here we go: the height of your house goes down from say 6.00 meters to 5,50 meters. Yes, massive non-dried wood can shrink that much! No problem, you say? So what about the doors and windows? They don’t shrink, so how will they still fit in the walls? And what about the raingutter downpour pipes? They get pushed into the ground, or they rip of the roof. Vertical copper pipes inside your house for hot or cold water, what do you think will happen where they connect to the sink or the crane?

glulam beams for roof

glulam beams for roof

Laminated wood is much drier (below 18% moisture content) when we use it to assemble our houses. It still shrinks about 1% in size, but we can easily deal with 1%, we have standard solution for that.

Stronger, Longer Spans

Massive beams come in standard dimensions, with a maximum length of about 6 meters and diameters of up to 30 centimeters. You need something longer, or thicker? Well ehh… sure you can buy it, but it will cost a fortune. I car terms: more like an Aston Martin or a Bentley. But our houses are more like Volvo.

laminated timber

laminated timber

Laminated wood you can produce in any length or diameter. And that is what we do. Thanks to laminated wood, we can have overlay ceilings that span 12 meters instead of 6 meters, without a column in the middle. And that is: 12 meters in Norway, with a substantial snowload. Serious stuff.

bridge from laminated wood in Sneek, Netherlands

bridge from laminated wood in Sneek, Netherlands

Actually we could go further. With laminated wood you can easily build bridges that carry 30 tonne trucks. But we still need to transport our logs, so 13 meters is about the maximum length that we use or they will not fit in a truck.

How To Laminate

So how do we laminate? We could try to explain, but it is far easier to take a look at this Youtube movie.

A Wooden Skyscraper

We build houses from wood. From wood you can build gardening equipment, cupboards, airplanes, kitchen utensils, children’s toys, bicycles and wheels. Wood is really a nice material to work with. But skyscrapers? Is wood suitable to build a skyscraper?

Architect Michael Green says yes, he wants to build sky scrapers from wood. You may think Michael is a dreamer, but actually in the city of Amsterdam Dutch architect Tom Frantzen built a six floor thirty meters high wooden building. Not exactly a skyscraper, but not your average two storey house either. To be honest it is not entirely wood: there is a concrete elevator shaft and some floors are partly steel and concrete, but the load bearing construction is all wood.

Michael Green wants to go higher: thirty floors, he says…

A Terrace For Your Wooden House

When designing a house, terraces very often are an afterthought. They are not really a part of the house, and also they are somehow not a part of the garden plan, so they end up in the middle. No budget. No plan. No terrace.

terrace at wooden house by day

terrace at wooden house by day

And that’s a pity. A terrace adds a lot to a wooden house. To start with, it makes almost every wooden house look a lot better. A terrace somehow works as a pedestal, as an extended foundation, that visually separates the house from the environment. Simply put, a nice terrace makes a house look better.

Secondly, a terrace adds living space. Obviously not in winter, but in summer you just open the terrace doors and voila: double sized living room. No more kids running in and out from the grass and the mud: there is always the terrace first.

terrace at wooden house in evening

terrace at wooden house in evening

And a terrace is not that expensive. Your house will cost somewhere between 1400 and 1800 euro per square meter (turn-key, so including foundation, kitchen, bathrooms etc.). But a terrace you have for less than 100 euro per square meter.

Finishing The Interior

Last year we finished a project in The Netherlands. Usually after we leave it takes a client a few more weeks or months to finish the house: install kitchens, bathrooms, curtains etcetera. The time it takes depends on various factors such as: the size of the house, the amount of time a client can spend on his project, and on the level of perfection a client wants to reach.

Here we had a client that is an absolute perfectionist. For example, after we left he polished all inside walls, then varnished them. Took him two full months.

interior wooden house Bloemex Riethoven

interior wooden house Bloemex Riethoven

We came back last week for a quick look, and we were truly impressed. Roof tiles from Germany, lighting from Italy, a tiled floor from France, and an interior designed and meticulously put together by a local company Bloemex (www.bloemex.nl, interior designers). Super nice, with attention to each and every detail.

The Price Of An Old Log Cabin

Wooden houses come in sizes and shapes, but there is one special breed: the traditional American log cabin. Actually these were first built by Swedish and German settlers, so maybe we could say they are European designs? Whatever, they are iconic, and special, and we love them.

log cabin in Virginia, USA

And today, they are not cheap. Here is a website that lists just three of these log cabins for sale, and you can have them for ehh…. US $750.000 US$, US$ 825.000 and US$ 1.375.000. And the cheapest has only four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

We build for less, that’s for sure. More info here:

https://www.curbed.com/2016/11/10/13585586/old-house-for-sale-log-cabin

Russian Wooden Houses

This post is about wooden houses from Russia. Traditional wooden houses from Russia are a little different from the houses that we build, both from a design point of view as well as technically.

wooden house in Russia. Photo by Maxim Shemetov.

wooden house in Russia. Photo by Maxim Shemetov.

The design and style of the traditional Russian wooden houses obviously is different from what we are used to in West Europe. Generally speaking the materials are a little rougher, while at the same time there is a lot of fine hand-crafted woodwork in the details.

Technically these houses often have little in the way of a foundation. Many are built on permafrost terrain where it is difficult to dig a hole and build a foundation, so the house is built on top of the permafrost. Then once the house is built, the heating makes the permafrost a little less perma, and the house starts moving.

Many of them are built using round logs for which you will have a problem getting a building permit here, unless you are high-up in the Alps and also they use non-dried non-laminated wood. Non-dried non-laminated wood shrinks and cracks, but otherwise it is not that bad, and it certainly has a lot of charm. It’s a matter of preference.

There is no additional insulation on the outside or the inside. Even with the excellent insulation properties of wood (compared to brick or concrete), these houses will never meet today’s West European insulation requirements. Walls have Rc-values around 1.5, no higher than 2, compared to our walls having anything between 6 and 10, and these houses are not airtight: there will be drought in every corner and around every door and window.

With the low cost of energy in the outback (plenty wood) such Rc-values are not really an issue. Mind you, until recently these Rc-values were quite the norm in Europe as well. Also a little drought works like ventilation which is always good against condensation.

The photo on top was taken by Maxim Shemetov, a Russian photographer from Moscow. Maxim’s work with more images of traditional Russian wooden houses can be found here:

https://designyoutrust.com/2016/11/russias-traditional-ancestral-architecture-is-pretty-amazing/

Wooden House In The Evening

We recently finished a house in France. Nothing special, we build in France all the time. Until you see the house in the evening. This owner wanted big windows, and no shutters. Shutters are somehow obligatory on all houses in France. They are even specifically mentioned in a law on insulation, the RT-2012. But this owner wanted nothing of it, he wanted big windows and no shutters.

big windows, no shutters

big windows, no shutters

The house overlooks a valley, it has a magnificent view.

And in the evening it looks pretty cool.