6 Misconceptions Of Log Homes

Things To Know When Building A Log Home

This can be looked at from two different view points those that are in the know of log structures and those who have formed an opinion based off the myths that have been has circulated throughout the years. The Scandinavian’s are revered as the most creditable log home builders of all time and certainly the test of time has put them in that category.

The Scandinavian log structures of Scandia have stood for centuries as the marvels of true craftsmen. Here’s one secret of there longevity although there are many. The first being of old growth pine but mainly fir made up of mostly heartwood which is extremely durable and resilient to fungus and insect infestation. The Pine that is used today in construction is fast-growth, fourth and fifth generation trees that are comprised of just sapwood and you guessed it a feeding arena for insects.

The  most well kept secret the craftsmen kept is the process called “Bindende” this is when choice timber  had their branches and tops cut off and left to stand for up to 5 years  before  felling. The reasoning for this process is it allows the natural resins to bleed upwards (Xylem and Phloem) and throughout the severed branches making the entire tree resinous and far more rot resistant than that of a tree cut and dried. The folks of Scandia called this rot resistant tree Orepine.

1. Log homes are a lot of maintenance

It’s always been in the echoes Log Homes are nothing but maintenance, I hole heartedly disagree and here’s why… like with any product building with knowledge and know how are of importance. A properly built log home can last centuries and it’s a proven fact. But you can’t just throw up a few logs and call it good here’s my process to ensure the longevity of your log home to be considered an heirloom for generations.

  1. Like with any structure you need a thought out Design, because design is linked closely with maintenance.
  2. Provide stem wall foundation drainage simple formula of (6”@ EVERY 10’) or per govern IRC enforced codes.
  3. Sill logs should always be at a minimum of 2’ above ground. The closer to ground level the more prone to decay. An example would be piled snow or close to ground also can encourage termites in the subterranean regions.
  4. Keep exterior walls from back splashing hazards. This goes hand I n hand with 2’ minimum rule but also decks, overhangs or look-outs not long enough to properly do their intended purpose. Lawn Sprinklers are another example.
  5. Use a self-Draining Notch at the Stockade Corners. This will be in talked about in more depth on Rule #4 but for now a corner that is notched to shed water will not cause rot.
  6. Provide adequate ventilation. High moisture areas like kitchens and baths need to be properly ventilated. Warm air condensing on ceiling logs and log joists will create a perfect environment for decay.
  7. The most vested in a log home should be its exterior care this is where the whole misconception started….. Every log needs to be bora-care treated this is a Glycol base borate that prevents, fungus and mold and is an insecticide that prevents WDI’s. I use a 3 stage cetol base Sikkens Application sealer on all my exterior logs/wood projects this process I guarantee for a minimum of 8 years before a maintenance coat needs to be applied. Along with this process the on the last coat it is mixed with a 15% insecticide solution that will prevent and entry of WDI’s .
  8. Using a log jam versus using a mortar base chink this will prevent any prone moisture problems. The myth about log homes is a complete bust, like with any manmade product it’s about Technique, and using quality products to ensure longevity. “To understand log homes you fist have to understand wood!”

2. Log homes are drafty

Of course any home that is not properly built will have drafts, due to poor windows, lack of insulation values, lack of sealants around Jambs and lack techniques as I explain in the first item. A remedy with this is to have a blower test evaluation and remedy any of the problems that may exist on your log home.

3. Log homes are not energy efficient?

Log homes in fact can be built to be 33% more energy efficient than any stick frame home. Here’s why Thermal Mass! TM is a phenomenon in which heat transfer through walls of a structure is delayed by the high heat/cooling retention capacity of the mass. This thermal capacitance or time lag the resistance of a material over time to allow a change in temperature to go from one side to the other.  There again understanding WOOD! SO you will want to use a heating or cooling source that will give you the most value with your log home this would be of a Radiant source to work in sync with the value of a log home. You should never use a forced air system on a log home if you are looking to maximize it potential. A simple formula for thermal mass on wood id 1.25 per inch at 15%RH but each species of wood will vary. Lets look at facts for a minute to be more specific, Air-infiltration … There are no tight framed houses did you know, A. the electrical outlets allow 20% air infiltration. B, The sill plates allows 25% air infiltration into a house C, Windows 12.5% D. Duct System 13% basically on a stick framed house air infiltrations are through out the house. Perspective #2 if you take 5 ½ inch insulation which is R-19 and Add 10% humidity on the hottest/driest summer day in western states and R-19 turns into R-8.8.  SO ask yourself what’s the R-Value during a cold wet winter day. 

4. All the Corners/notch-work is the same on the log home.

No they are not Log homes have been Perfected by the craftsmen of Scandia but in other parts the of the country they have their own versions of log homes and techniques. Ill let you decide after I explain some important key facts about each. Lets start off with the Corner Post  Its basically the Log home wanna be, nothing more than a vertical log at each corner that has a mortise along its length into which the logs lock. It’s my least favorite, weakest and most problematic but very simple. The Butt & Pass mostly what everyone thinks of when they think log home. One log stops where it meets a perpendicular log which extends past the corner of the home. Its next in line for weakest corner separation, prone to more decay because of the extended corner logs, causes bird nests and soiled corners. And allows virtually no drainage value so other techniques need to be applied during the building process. The Dove-Tail is where the log ends are cut to produce a fan-shaped wedge. As the logs are stacked the ends of one walls log lock into the perpendicular log wall. This was a common method of building in the Appalachian Range although is has a good value of drainage it’s a technique that has  the most chinking, most cant system and bowed wood issues along with a corner that’s in the mid range for weakest. The Interlocking Corners is when the log is cut from the four sides of a log, recessed to lock into the intersecting log and hold both logs rigidly in place. Its corners are strong if assembled without busting the notched corner which happens when forced and dries out to a large gap which in return creates pour drainage. The Swedish Cope one of my preferred methods a tested and tried fail proof systems that allows an airtight and strong corner. This method uses a Swedish cope profile an additional crescent is cut from the log to allow logs from opposing wall to lock at the corner. The preferred method is the Scandinavian Cut, this is the strongest corner notch, and perfect angled cuts so that water will drain down away from the notch. There are four steps involved with this process Score, Cut, Carve and Brush. 

5. Blue Stain is Rot – Fact or Fiction?

Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, and Blue Stain is caused by microscopic fungi that commonly infect only the Sapwood of trees, using parts of the sapwood (simple sugars and starches) for food. They cannot grow in the heartwood or most wet wood that does not contain the necessary food substances. Blue stain fungi are prone to cause bluish or grayish discoloration of the wood but they don not cause decay. Blue Stain has no effect on the strength of the wood either.

6. Log Homes cost more than stick frame homes.

After everything explained in the list above log homes may cost a bit more than stick frame but you will be paying for techniques that will be a cost savings of the lifespan of your life and the log home you’ve just built. One thing in closing is that it cost less energy in volume to construct a log home than it does any other constructed home.