On 12th of August, 2013 we have started new construction of a modern wooden house in France. House size – 170 m2 which includes 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, office room, huge living room connected with the kitchen.
Besides wooden house there is installed 200 m2 terrace and implemented swimming pool in it. As a separate building – there is also a garage of 25 m2 next to the house.
Detailed description and a movie showing a log house construction:
Usually we make a wooden house design, build it and leave an interior decoration for the owners. Sometimes they trust their own feelings and taste, sometimes they ask professional interior designers for an advice. Below we represent the best interior photos of wooden homes, which we have received from the owners after they have moved in. Hope it will inspire you!
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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
The house overlooks a valley, it has a magnificent view.
We build two types of wooden houses: traditional log houses, and panel houses. Both have pros and cons, today we want to discuss the traditional log house.
How We Build Energy Efficient Log House
First we build a wall from solid laminated logs, 80-200 millimeter thick, then we add insulation on the outside and finally we cover the outside with decoration planks, usually from larch. The building process is as follows:
Previously we wrote about types of wood (wet, dried, laminated) and the shrinking of log houses and how we deal with the shrinking. In this post we want to show a little more about the actual drying process, and cracks. Because drying and cracks are very much related.
Why Does Wood Crack?
The photo below shows a crack in a wooden disc. Why does wood crack like this? Very simple: drying.
cracked wooden disc
When wood dries, the drying process starts at the outside of the logs. While the humidity goes down from 15% to 12% near the outside of the log, more to the the center of the log the humidity initially remains at 15%. And that is a problem.
We have delivered a truck with a wooden house to a client in Gastes, near Bordeaux in France. This client wanted to build the house himself. It is not what we normally advise, but on the other hand: it’s not rocket science, and with sufficient experience it is possible. Our kits come with good documentation.
For a few days after delivering the house we heard nothing. Silence. And then: a first photo, after a few weeks one more. This client has figured it out Bravo! Check floor plan. Continue reading →