ARTICE LIBRARY: TEN LEADING ISSUES TO UNDERSTAND BEFORE BUILDING A LOG HOME
Log homes really are a dream for many of us, however it pays to become knowledgeable about a
couple of particulars prior to consulting with log home suppliers and builders. The logs themselves have numerous secrets and techniques, so let's hear what they have to say.
- A log home is really a log home, is really a log home, right?
Well, not really. You will find two primary kinds of log homes:
- Milled (produced) log homes
- Handcrafted log homes
The vast majority of log houses are milled. Milled logs are uniform in diameter down the entire length of the log. They can be milled differently to create such styles as Swedish Cope or Double Tongue-and-Groove. Milled logs typically come as 6 or 8 inches in diameter.
A handcrafted log home is produced from logs with random widths. The majority of these logs will vary between 12 to 15 inches. Handcrafted logs are hand peeled and all cuts are made by hand, not devices. This is very labor intensive and therefore more expensive.
- What's a log profile?
The profile of an individual log will differ in appearance across the globe. With a milled log home, you will find 3 primary kinds of log profiles:
- D- Log
- Double D (aka round on round)
- Square Logs
A "D-log" provides the homeowner a flat surface area facing the interior and a round surface facing outside the home. This is the most common log profile. The "Double D log" is round on both the interior and exterior surfaces. Finally, the Square Logs are flat on each side.
Handcrafted log homes primarily use round logs which are hand peeled. These logs are round on all sides. Some hand scribed log homes, particularly classic ones, can be found with a square profile.
- What about in between the logs?
This is referred to as the log stack. The profile is how the inside and outside faces of the log look. The stack is how the top and bottom of a log is shaped.The profile is how it appears both on the interior and exterior of the home. The stack is how the top and bottom of the log is formed.
You will find 4 primary types of log stack for milled houses:
- Flat log profiles
- Single tongue and groove
- Double tongue and groove
- Swedish Cope
The flat log profile is actually a log that is milled flat on the top and bottom. This type of log doesn't provide any overlap in between one row of logs and the subsequent row. These logs depend completely on foam tape and caulking or some type of insulation barrier in between the logs to seal the climate out.
The single tongue and groove is considerably better. The logs are milled to ensure that the top of the log includes a "tongue" as well as a groove to fit that "tongue" at the bottom. The logs are stacked so that the "tongues" and grooves fit together.
A double tongue and groove stack indicates that every log has two tongues at the top and two grooves at the bottom rather than one. Once the logs are stacked they create an even tighter seal by fitting the two rows of "tongues" and grooves together.
Swedish Cope logs are milled so that the top of the logs are round. The bottom of each log is cut concave, in a half moon pattern. When the logs are stacked they overlap one another in this concave region.
- So, which log stack is the best?
Let's review each with greater detail. Regardless of the type of log, some type of insulation such as foam tape should be utilized between the logs to additional seal out the external elements.
Flat logs offer no climate sealant in and of themselves. Often you will find the less superior suppliers offering this kind of log because it is much less costly. The single tongue and groove stack is considerably better; however, it is still often regarded in the industry by builders as in inferior log.
Swedish Cope logs provide great overlapping; however, they can be problematic. When stacking these logs, it is more difficult to obtain a perpendicular wall. Because of the roundness, the logs tend to shift back and forth.
The double tongue and groove logs stack extremely straight simply because there are no rounded surfaces between the logs. The double tongue and groove is your best option. The logs stack up straight for a more perpendicular wall in the end and are the best at keeping the exterior elements from penetrating the wall.
- How do handcrafted log houses stack?
A Scandinavian Complete Scribe technique is utilized between the logs. If you look at the end of a log wall, you will see a slight almost Swedish Cope cut to the logs. The full scribe method allows for the logs to cleave even tighter together as the logs settle. Handcrafted log homes shrink six inches or more in the very first year. The shrinkage is typical so it is predicted and planned for when the building drawings are made.
The best hand crafted log homes have all cutting and through bolt drilling done before it leaves the mill. The through bolts go from the bottom of the wall to the top. This keeps the logs straight.
- What about log measurements?
Log diameters will differ based on the type of log you select. For milled log homes, the 8x8 inch log will be the most common. For every inch of log added there is an increase in thermal mass acquired throughout the house. A 6x8 inch log is also a good choice but with it's reduced thickness it also reduces the thermal mass for insulating the home. Many suppliers offer an option to upgrade the log package deal to an 8x8 log on any home for approximately $3,000 to $6,000 for an typical sized house. (need to state a size 1500 sq ft or something, typical size for one person is very different for another)
- What are handcrafted log diameters?
Our handcrafted logs possess an ample diameter of 13 inches. They vary in diameter from roughly 12-15 inches. Milled logs, also referred to as produced logs, possess the constant diameter throughout the log. However, handcrafted logs differ in diameter not only throughout the duration of one log, but also within the numerous logs utilized to create a wall. This gives a much more rustic feel to the house.
- What's the difference in log corner profiles?
How your logs intersect at the corner is one of the most defining features of your home. When the corners of a log home are examined you can see the differences.
There are four common types of corners styles:
A Saddle-notch corner means the notch on the bottom of the log straddles the top of the log coming from the perpendicular wall. Then Both logs extend past the corner creating an overlapping criss-cross look. This style is favored by many handcrafters.
For a butt-and-pass corner one log stops where it meets an intersecting log, and the other log extends past the corner. In most, passing logs have a tongue-and-groove cutout into which the butt log fits for a tight fit.
The Dovetail style is used with square or rectangular logs. The corner is cut in a fan-shaped wedge and interlocks with perpendicular logs. This technique is reminiscent of colonial log homes.
Contemporary corners, which can also be referred to as corner posts, use a post at each corner that grooves are cut into to hold the log ends together; therefore, no logs extend outward. It looks similar to post-and-beam construction.
So which is the best choice? It's really up to you. The saddle-notch weathers very well as it leaves no log ends uncovered towards the climate and exterior elements. For insulating purposes alone the butt-and-pass comes in a close second. The dovetail style is beautiful, but is restricted to a certain type of log. The contemporary ends give more of a "finished" look and does not retain as much of the rustic feel.
- What does log joinery mean?
Log joinery refers to where exactly one log ends and another subsequent starts within the log wall (known as a joint or a butt joint) . Joinery is an additional concern, similar to the log stack, that separate top quality houses from low quality ones.
For milled log houses you will find 3 primary techniques of joinery:
- Butt ends
- Spleen system
Butt ends are simply that. The logs are pushed or "butted" together collectively with absolutely nothing apart from some caulking in between the logs.
The spleen technique required the end of each log to be grooved vertically. Then the logs are pushed together and a vinyl or 2x4 spleen is pushed or driven down between the logs.
Finger joinery, our last type, is where the end of each log is cut to look like `fingers'. The fingers then weave together as the logs are pushed into position. This is the best joinery in the industry.
The butt joint logs lack any form of overlap and rely only on caulking or an insulating material to seal out the elements and insects. The spleen method is effective, but a problem can arise when the home is under construction. As the log walls are stacked, the butt joints are cut and the spleens inserted. It can be easy for a crew to forget to install a spleen. Once the next row of logs is stacked there is no way to go back and put in the missing spleen.
Finger joinery is cut into the log ends at the mill. So there is no chance for human error and a spleen being forgotten. Also finger joinery provides several fingers that overlap, whereas the spleen only provides one surface to seal the home.
- Should logs be precut or not pre-cut?
Log homes come either in random length logs, partially precut, or fully precut packages. Random length logs require all of the cutting for corners, door and window opening, and butt joints to be done on the job site. Partially precut homes come with the corners precut, but door and window openings, and butt joints must be cut on site. A fully precut home comes with all openings, butt joints, and corners precut and all logs pre-numbered. The home is fully ready to be assembled when it arrives.
With a log home this is a very true and accurate saying. "You either pay now or you pay later". Many times people try to only consider the bottom dollar on materials. But labor is also a substantial cost. Random length logs may seem inexpensive, but about 3 to 4 months extra of labor costs will be required to dry a home in over a fully precut pre-numbered home of the same size. Another factor to consider is the accuracy of the cuts. Any cuts made on a job site will never be as accurate and precise as ones made by either specialized machinery or master log craftsmen by the log home manufacturer. Cuts made at the mill are always going to be superior to ones made on the job site in less than perfect conditions. The final factor is that a fully precut pre-numbered log home package will assemble much tighter and more `snuggly' than a random length or partially precut home.
We have calculated costs and labor out over several homes that we have built. Time and again we have found that it is less expensive overall to purchase a fully precut package than it is to purchase either the random length logs or the partially precut home packages. And also the homes are much tighter and more sealed against the elements. Two main costs that consume building budgets are extra labor costs and equipment rental. To assemble a fully precut home only 3-5 days may be required verses 3 to 4 months.