Handcrafted log homes are a very unique type of log homes. If someone is just looking for a home made from logs, then typically they choose a milled log or a manufactured log home. These logs are uniform down the length of each log. But for those seeking something with more character, individuality, and charm the handcrafted log homes are the key.
Handcrafted log homes were originally introduced to the United States in the early days of the settlers. One of the very oldest log structure standing is in New Jersey and was built around 1640. These homes utilize all of the logs. The wider bottoms and narrower tops of the logs are crafted into the log wall. Also all of the logs are hand peeled with a drawn knife, leaving the characteristic ‘multiple flat sided’ or draw knife skid finish to the round log.
Many times you hear the term Scandinavian Full Scribe in reference to these homes. To fully explain the Full Scribe method it should be contrasted against its counterpart, the Chink Style log homes. When a log wall is stacked utilizing the Scandinavian Full Scribe the bottoms of each log are measured with scribes and custom cut to fit over the log under neath it. The overlap is a slight Swedish Cope curve to the bottom of the logs. Also the log craftsman cuts a V channel into the under side of the log. Then as the log home settles the logs cleave even more tightly together. The Swedish Cope half moon shaped curve on the bottom of the logs provide an overlap of wood on wood between the inside and outside of the home. In recent years we also have incorporated the use of two additional insulating materials; the first being a mineral based insulation, called Roxul, which is inserted into the log channel. And the second is the use of the insulating gaskets between the rows and in the lateral notches. This insulating gasket is a black flexible foam type material the is installed along each side of the full scribe channel. The incorporation of these makes a tight home even more weather tight.
Now let’s look at the Chink Style homes. Chink Style are also referred to as Appalachian Style log homes. Either round or squared logs can be used. The logs are stacked one of two manners. One method is where the tops and bottoms of the logs are chainsawed flat. Then the logs are simply stacked on top of the other. Then chinking and sometimes insulation is used between the logs to keep the weather out and make the home airtight. The other method is where the logs are stacked to leave wide channels, up to an entire log width, between each row of logs. Very commonly for the corners either butt and pass or dovetail is used. How does this affect the homeowner? The choice between these two styles is found in the fact that a Scandinavian Full Scribed log home will have much more craftsmanship and skill showing in every log. And the second way it affects the homeowner is the owner is purchasing a much better quality home that will remain airtight. Chink style homes require half of the labor during the crafting of the log shell than does a full scribe home. Also chink style log homes do not offer any overlap log to log. Instead they rely solely on chinking, insulation, and caulking to keep the heat into the home and the weather and insects outside. Sometimes homeowners like the look of chinking, but don’t want the advantages gained by Scandinavian Full Scribe homes. In this case the homeowner can simply apply chinking between the rows of logs.
Handcrafted log homes are also thought of as Big Log Homes. With large diameter logs there is not doubt that they qualify as big logs. Other times people think of big homes — large floor plans, so in this case big log homes would mean a big 8,000 square foot mansion. Conversely all of our large square footage homes are handcrafted log homes. So no matter how you look at it, big log homes are typically always handcrafted.
Another characteristic of a handcrafted log home is found in the corners. Above butt and pass and dovetail corners were mentioned briefly. The top of the line homes, such as ours, utilize either a Diamond Saddle Notch corner or a Diamond Cut Notching Pattern. Both use the traditional style of saddle notching were the end of each log is visible on both sides of the corner. But the beauty is found in the corner itself. For a Diamond Saddle notch corner the top of the log is cut with a scarf pattern. This is a diagonal type cut with a curve to it. Then the bottom of the log is left round. The theory behind this is that part of the heart of the log, which shrinks less is exposed on the top of the log while the outer part is left intact on the bottom of the log. Then the settling can occur across all of the home. The Diamond Cut Notching Pattern crafts the scarf cut onto the top and bottom of the log. So as the log goes into the corner a “diamond” is formed. Both styles can be found in our homes, but currently the Diamond Saddle Notch is most commonly requested. The reason being that the top and bottom of the log is cut away so as the outer part of the log settles the corner is already cut back to closer to the heart of the log. Simply put, a Diamond Saddle Notch corner probably allows better for the settling that a handcrafted home will do than does a Diamond Cut Notching Pattern. We offer both and styles in our homes for the same cost. So it is totally up to the home owner which they choose.
As the logs are stacked each is pre-drilled for though bolts. A 5/8″ through bolt is included with the package with nuts and washers. These through bolts keep the log wall straight and tall as they settle. A handcrafted log home can shrink up to six inches within the first year, but this is planned for in the blue print stage. In order to work with and craft a log it must be a little bit greener than the logs used for a milled log home. We use a system of pinning the logs at intervals to keep the logs tight. Door and windows are protected from the shrinkage through the key ways installed in each opening. A key way is a vertical channel that is cut into the log and runs from the top of the opening to the bottom. Then a 2×4 is cut and inserted into the channel and the door and window is installed. Over time the logs will rest on the spleen instead of on the door or window.
Logs used for the walls have a mean diameter of about 13 inches. The ends of the logs range in size from 12 to 15 inches on average. An average home has a wall height of about 10 feet which is accomplished by 10 rounds of logs. Larger log widths can be ordered upon request. One home we did recently the home owners wanted extra large logs with mean diameters of 15 to 16 inches. This in turn yielded log tops of about 14 inches and log bases of up to 22 inches. Those are some large logs! Some log home companies offer huge 24″ diameter logs. We are happy to supply logs in this range. If choosing really large logs a few things should be considered. Larger logs take up more interior space of the home, reducing over all usable square footage. Also larger logs require fewer logs to reach the typical wall height of about 10 feet. In order to gain several rows of logs the home may need to be designed with higher walls. And the other consideration is that a log 24″ in diameter in the middle that is up to 50 feet in length must be handled very carefully in order to not harm someone during the building phase. Over all most of our customers are well satisfied with the 13″ mean diameters.
Wall log lengths can be up to 50 feet. All wall logs are full length logs. There are no butt joints or end joints in our handcrafted log homes. This is accomplished by using door and window openings, corners, and intersecting interior log walls to calculate the difference and working in the full log lengths. Even when we construct log lodges or home with wall spans longer than 50 feet, there are no end joints. Instead a ‘corner’ is woven into the side. If you look at the long wall of a home and see log ends protruding somewhere in the middle of the length of the wall, then you know its secret. There is a interesting interior log wall at that point or there is simply a small log tail worked into the wall itself.
For handcrafted log homes all of the electric box holes and wire holes are pre-cut and pre-drilled. This has a few benefits to the home owner. The first benefit is that all of the cutting to the home is done before it ever arrives on the job site. This allows the craftsman to fashion them and keeps a subcontractor from cutting and drilling on your brand new home. The outlet holes are also recessed to receive the switch plate covers. And then all of the logs surfaces are hand sanded. If this process is not done before the logs arrive, it can be very upsetting to the homeowner to see a contractor chainsawing away at the new home. Many times I have taken switch plates off of the walls in existing log homes and seen the mess left behind as a result of the contractor not having the proper jigs and templates to cut the logs. Some homeowners even have had to choose wider switch plate covers in order to conceal the cut marks. And also the electricians will be much happier when they do not have to do all of the drilling that most log home require for installation.
When purchasing a handcrafted log home the most common log species are Lodge Pole Pine, Engelmann Spruce, Western Larch, Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedar. Price wise, the Lodge Pole Pine and Engelmann Spruce are less expensive. Douglas Fir is more expensive, and Western Red Cedar is the most expensive. From a color stand point, the Lodge Pole Pine has some bluing to it. The Englemann Spruce is a very white log. The Douglas Fir as a honey colored gold to it, and the Western Red Cedar has a reddish rose colored hue. All five species are fine for hand crafted log home construction, but the Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar do stand out. Douglas Fir has integral structural strength that is unmatched by just about any other wood. It is also used for such things as train rustles and bridges. One creative person even built a light aircraft from it. Fir is many times used in log homes for trusses, log and timber staircases, and ridge beams. Douglas Fir also has the lovely color which the pine and spruce species lack. Western Red Cedar is the most luxurious of all of the wood species. With its natural cedar oils it has integral defenses that help prevent against rot and insects. It also has the best thermal insulator properties of any commonly used softwood.
With almost every handcrafted log home there is a log roof system. In our little Bridger log home plan there is one handcrafted log ridge beam, a simple king truss on the end, and a log ridge beam on the dormer. With our Bear Creek plan there are two handcrafted log king trusses over the great room, a log ridge beam, two log purlins, and also extra pulins over the bedroom wings. For effect some homeowners also choose to incorporate extra trusses into the great room, over covered entry ways, and in a portico. We offer all of the various log truss styles and modifications. The king truss is the most common. Scissor trusses are used for areas where the height of the room is being show cased, such as in a gazebo or multi sided dining room or other space. Queen trusses, web trusses, and other styles can also be suited for a plan and custom ordered.
If someone is exploring the handcrafted log homes they will also come across the style which uses more of the stumpage of the logs. To gain this effect more of the base of the tree is harvested and kept intact. These logs are referred to as character logs, flared logs, fluted logs, or flair posts. When used within a wall, the flared end is exposed on the corner, then the rest of the log is incorporated into the wall. When a flared log is used vertically it is referred to as a flair post. A log home package will range anywhere from about $5 to $10 more per square foot when flared logs are used for both the walls and the posts. For those who like the flared with out quite as much cost increase, a nice alternative is to use flair posts whenever possible in the floor plan and use the standard 13″ mean diameter logs for the walls. Due to the taper from one end of the log to the other Western Red Cedar is the only wood species we use for character posts.
While we are discussing flair posts, another style is the gnarly logs. These have the bubbles, twisted, wood look. These posts can be dramatic when used for accents. Care but be taken to evaluate the strength of them if used for support posts.
Within the walls of the stacked log home, the logs posses a few more secrets. For our homes all the door and window openings are recessed to receive trim and framing materials. Ledge cuts and tuck cuts are used to bevel back the openings so that the trim is installed flush with the walls. sometimes logs homes have the trim mounted right on top of the round logs. The roundness of the log is visible when someone looks at the window from an angle. It takes much more craftsmanship to provide the homeowner with a recessed log. Also all of our log walls are pre-notched for interior wall partitions. Anywhere in the floor plan where an interior wall intersects a log wall, our log artisans cut a vertical channel into the wall. The then framing lumber and finish material are inserted into the slot. This also reduces cutting time on site and leaves the home with a highly professional appearance.
For homes with log roof systems we supply all of the posts, purloins, ridge poles, and log trusses. Log posts support beams over covered decks, the ridge poles, second floor loft systems, and other structural places in the home. Log ridge poles or beams are the main beams that are set at the top peak of the log home shell. Purloins are the logs which run horizontally on each side of the ridge pole. All of the roof beams with pitch cuts to follow the contour of the roof. This sloping of all ridgepoles, purloins, and top logs for rafters makes construction of the home much easier.
All of these items can grow technical in nature, but the beauty remains. The use of intricate crafting, shaping, and working of the logs lends to the quality that we strive to lavish on each and every handcrafted log home project. So whatever your log or timber home style or dreams, we are ready to turn them into reality. One quote I read once said, “Houses are built of wood and beams and homes are built of love and dreams.” I think the motto of log homes would have to be, “Houses are built of wood and beams and log homes are built with wood, beams, and dreams.”