For the Winter 2015 issue of THE NEW PIONEER, Richard and Becky Flatau described how they came to build their own cordwood home in Wisconsin in pursuit of living mortgage-free. After looking into a number of building styles, the Flataus settled on cordwood because the necessary materials were cheap and plentiful.

“The realization dawned on us that by using cordwood construction we could finally build a home that met our goals. Wasting no time that winter, we gathered previously harvested cedar, and peeled, cut and stacked it in a single row to dry. In the spring we poured our frost-protected shallow foundation on top of a Frank Lloyd Wright rubble trench system. Simple post-and-beam framing with cedar posts commenced in June.”

The Flataus, who have since become experts on the subject of cordwood construction, continued describing the building process by saying, “The cordwood infill took two months of sweat-equity labor during July and August. Then the woodstove chimney was erected, the room-in-the-attic roof trusses hammered in place, and the doors and windows were installed. By the first snows of winter, we were enclosed and subsequently worked every weekend to finish the interior. Being novices, we hired professionals when we were ‘in over our heads’ for the plumbing, electrical, foundation and trusses. We were able to do the framing, the cordwood infill, all the interior rooms, walls and ceilings, cabinets and plumbing fixtures.”

The low cost of the project was ideal for the Flataus, who were looking to sell their existing home and live more rurally. “With precise planning, hard work and patience, we were able to ‘shell up’ our home for $5,000 and finish it for another $10,000, which we made from the sale of our home in town,” said the Flataus. “So, $15,000 coupled with the sweat equity of our labor enabled us to move into our mortgage-free cordwood home in October of 1980.”

To read the full article, check out the Winter 2015 issue of THE NEW PIONEER, available on newsstands and digitally on October 21, 2014. To subscribe or purchase, visit


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