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Steve and Moni Rawcliffe
Build a Stone and Log House in France
By Steve Rawcliffe with Thomas J. Elpel

May 2007

Hi Thomas,

      Last summer we put in the perimeter drainage, backfilled outside and inside the foundations, laid the underfloor drains, poured the basement slab and got the basement walls up to 2' all round and about half of them to just under the 4' level. Then winter came. The site is at 4,000' so there's no building between end of November and end of April. Right now, we're collecting huge quantities of rocks from around our land, and once we run out of space to store them we're going to start building!

      As for the system with the 2 x 4s ... yes and no. It works, which is always an advantage to any system. And when you need the forms at an exact height (e.g. when you get to the top of the wall) they're great, as you can insert lag bolts into the bottoms and screw those in or out to adjust the height of the form precisely. That's what we did for the foundation walls, and they were accurate to 1 cm all round (that's about 5/16"). But it is fairly time consuming, as between each lift we have to unscrew the legs from the forms, measure 55 cm from where they were last attached, then screw them back on. Even with my trusty DeWalt electric screwdriver, that's a time-consuming process.

      Luckily, one of my neighbours is also building the lower part of his house right now. We're one of a group of five houses, all of whose owners are construction nuts. Anyway, as Tony's using a more conventional concrete construction technique he's bought a fair quantity of ... not sure what you call them, as I only know lots of construction terminology in French now (one of the guys at the local equipment hire place is half American and we speak English to each other except when we get to the technical bits, where we only know the words in French!). They're a kind of telescopic support used for supporting things like lintels while they're curing. In French the thing's called an "étai". It looks like this: http://www.pointp.fr/catal/jsp/catal_060_010.jsp?artn=1349651. Whatever they may be called, my neighbour's finished with his and is happy for me to borrow them, so I shall be experimenting with fixing them under the forms. Will let you know how it works out.

All the best,

Steve Rawcliffe


December 2008

Hi Thomas,

      Doing well. We've now finally finished the masonry work on the basement. Just have to fill the cracks between the stones with mortar. As we progressed, it got easier and harder -- easier because we became more experienced and hence more efficient and better-organized. Harder because we had to lift every stone and bucket of concrete that much higher.

      The next stage will be to have the log home company place the log home on top of our walls. That will probably be in January, when there's a break in the snow (we're at around 4000 feet).

      Your help and advice have been invaluable. Above all, we'd never have had the idea of building in stone were it not for you and your book, video and website. Many thanks!

      When the house is finished, I hope to get over to the US and attend one of your outdoor courses, but that'll be a couple of years yet.

All the best, Steve

2004: Breaking ground.

2005: Formwork for the footings.

The finished footings.

Starting the stonework.

2006: There is stone on the inside and the outside.

We worked only on weekends.

2008: Formwork for the bond beam.

2009: Logs are delivered for the upper levels.

This beam will support the main floor joists.

Installing floor joists. The boards are yellow because they've been treated to prevent mould.

The log crew placed our joists with their crane. Saved us a job and gave them something to walk around on. Later, we sawed the joists so they end-butted and secured them with scabs and blocking.

Putting the logs up.

A crane lifted the logs into place.

The house is really coming together!

Moni and Anna in the livingroom.

The tufts between the logs are pieces of hemp wool, used to insulate the joints.

The log walls are completed.

Prefabricated gables were installed to support the purlins and ridgepole.

Sapisol. These wood/insulation/wood strips are fitted together and nailed onto the purlins, forming the ceiling, insulation, and roof-decking all in one step..

This side of the roof has received its waterproof sheeting and the laths onto which the steel panels will be fixed that constitute the outer skin of the roof..

The completed steel roofing and skylights on one side of the house.

View from the inside.

The other side completed... it almost looks done!


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