Handcrafted Log Homes Standard Details and Specifications

Sue | November 9th, 2011 - 10:33 pm

This is a list delineating the standard details and specifications for our handcrafted log home shells. Please notice that this form shows the highlights of our packages.

Log Species:

Lodge Pole Pine
White Pine
Engelmann Spruce
Western Larch
Douglas Fir
Western Red Cedar

Log Size:

Approximately 12 to 15 inches in Diameter
Larger Log Sizes Available Upon Request
Character Logs
Western Red Cedar Flared Ends

Handcrafted Log Shell Inclusions: (Depending on Design of the Log Home)

Handcrafted log shells typically include: exterior log walls, interior log wall(s) (as per plan), log floor joists, log roof system, log support posts, log staircase, log railing, log wall assembly materials, and construction drawings.

Log Quality

Premium Grade Logs
TPI Grade Stamp Available Upon Request

Log Finishing

Logs Hand Peeled with Draw Knife Pattern or Skip Peel

Fully Precut Log Shell

Precutting including:
Saddle Notched or Diamond Notched Corners for Full Scribe or Dovetail for Chink Style
Scandinavian Full Scribe or Chink Style
Pitch Cutting Top Wall Logs
Pitch Cutting Log Roof System
Precut Electric Box Holes
Predrilled Electric Wire Holes
Premade Log Trusses with Mortise and Tenon Joinery or Metal Plating
Door and Window Openings Cut and Keywayed
Logs Tagged with Alpha-numeric Code for Reassembly on Site

Log Wall Corner Notches

Saddle Notched Corners
Diamond Saddle Notched Corners
Staggered Corners
Dovetail Corners
Beaver Tooth
Alaskan Wedge
Staggered Flared Ends
Circle Top
Full Arch


Now let me take a minute and work through the details of this list to explain in layman’s terms some of the log home terminology. Currently we have expanded some of our standard offerings, so the changes are reflected in this list.

First is log species. Lodge Pole Pine is typically where we start for a log shell quote. Lodge Pole is a very stable log and works well for handcrafted log homes.

My personal favorite is the Western Red Cedar. For color and quality it is unmatched in the industry. Western Red Cedar is not the same as what is commonly referred to as White Cedar. White Cedar only comes in narrow diameter logs so it is mostly used for milled log homes. Douglas Fir is also a very nice wood. To me it is sort of the ‘poor man’s Cedar’. It is two toned, very strong, and also comes in the large sizes.

Second, log sizes are listed. Log sizes are quoted in a range of size based on the average log tops and the average log bottoms. Sometimes it is also referred to as a mean diameter number.  While we all probably had terms like mean, average, median, etc in high school math class, sometimes it is best to just say what it is. “Mean” is the measurement of the log at the midpoint. A 13″ to 14″ mean diameter is usually gained with a 12 to 15 inch diameter log. The butt ends of this size log are about 15 inches and the crown is approximately 12 inches in diameter. Each log gives the wall a rise of about 12 inches.

On some projects log home customers request a larger size. Basically we can build anything. The larger the log diameter the more expensive. Some extreme log flared in the western red cedar can reach up to 70 inches or more, depending on the flared end. For log lengths, wall logs can be up to 50 feet.

Character logs are made from Western Red Cedar. The flared butts are gained by harvesting more of the stumpege with the tree. All of the dramatic flared bottoms that you see in magazines and in homes are all crafted from the Red Cedar. Rustic character posts are part of a rustic upgrade to the log home shell package. Most commonly character posts and beams are limited to just a few places such as support posts or a special log mantel. The exception to this rule is when staggered flared ends are incorporated into a home.

Third the log shell structure is addressed. The most commonly ordered log home shell comes with all of the log walls plus the logs needed for the roof system. We strive to craft each log completely so there is very little chainsaw work, or none at all needed on site. Log components of the walls, support system for the loft and upper floor, support posts, ridge beams, log trusses, etc are part of the bare bones of what goes into making a high quality log home shell. Very seldom do our customers spend the money for a handcrafted log home and then set standard trusses onto the walls. Instead the complicated roof system adds so much to the home. It is almost a waste not to add this feature to a log home.

The hardware which comes with the log shell is referred to as the ‘log wall assembly material’. The inclusions here are slightly different than what is included with a machine cut milled log home kit. The items provided are the screw jacks and log bolts or screws. The screw jacks are placed strategically in the shell to compensate for the wall shrinkage. The screw jacks are seen mainly under porch support posts and on top of the support post for the loft floor. As the logs settle the screw jacks must be adjusted accordingly.

The black insulating gasket is a black foam like material that is used to line the edges of the scribe channel on the underside of the logs and the notches.

Fourth is the log or timber staircases.  The logs can be either left half round or each step can be custom scribed into the log. Most log home plans we offer have a broken staircase. With the way the roof lines and the high cathedral ceilings in log homes, the broken staircase helps to maximize space. When a staircase is in two pieces a landing must also be constructed for it.

Some of our packages state a “timber staircase”. The difference between log and timber is that log is round and timber is square cut. A solid timber staircase is impressive but not as lovely as the log stairs, in my opinion.

Fifth is the log railing. All of our handcrafted log railing is made by hand. The rails, spindles, and posts and hand peeled and fitted together.

Sixth is log grading. We only use premium grade logs. TIP grade stamping is available upon request and is done by an independent TPI certified inspector. TPI stands for Timber Products Inspection.  By using premium grade logs instead of cabin grade logs, the logs are of a better quality. Cabin grade logs can have more twist, wain, rot, and bow than premium grade logs.

Seventh is log finishing details. All of our handcrafted logs are stripped of their bark with drawn knives. This removes all the bark and reveals the white wood underneath. We also offer a style called ‘skip peel’ were some of the bark is left on the logs. Once the logs are fit together then any blemishes to the logs and notches are sanded smooth.

Eighth is log shells FULLY precut. No cutting has to be done on site. Corner notches are a full saddle notch. Also the beams and joists are cut to fit into place. Traditional joinery is all that we use.

Fully precut includes preparing the logs in every aspect. Outlet box holes, through bolt holes, pitch cuts on the top logs and for the roof ridge beams and purloins are some of the things we do ahead of time. Believe me it saves a ton of headache, labor, and aggravation on the job site when you let us do it first. All logs are marked and labeled in accordance with the log schedule which comes with the log home construction drawings.

Ninth addresses the corner styles. The most common is a full saddle notch. This can be seen in a home because the log ends show on both sides of the corner. A butt and pass does not show on each side. A Diamond Notch is where the top and bottom of each log is cut in a v pattern as the log head into the corner. These cuts are sometimes called scarf cuts. For the full saddle notch I like to actually describe it as a diamond saddle notch. This means that the top of the log is cut with a scarf cut and the bottom of the log is left round.

Another style is the dovetail. This is most commonly used with open scribing or chinked log homes. The dovetail does not work with all styles.

Staggered ends on a cabin is where every other log protrudes out and the next in line only comes out a little bit. When Western Red Cedar flared posts are used this is called a staggered flared end. Staggering it is the only way to fit the fatter ends into the log shell.

Tenth and last is our Scribing to fit the logs together. Each of the Scandinavian Full Scribed logs are custom fit into the shell. No shortcuts of chainsawing log sides flat and still calling it a full scribe home is ever used. There is no tighter way to assemble logs.

For chink style log homes the logs are chainsawed flat on the top and bottom. Then chinking is inserted between the logs. Chink style homes can use round logs or the flat cut Appalachian Style log homes with dovetail corners.

So this is a compilation of our original list. It is always important to be able to see the nuts and bolts of what you are looking for. It should be noted that these features apply to both our luxury log homes and also to small handcrafted cabins.

Cowboy Log Homes

Any projected costs, cost estimates, material costs, and estimated construction/ building costs, are only the opinion of Cowboy Log Homes and are drawn from our experience. Every home is custom tailored to meet our individual client's wants and desires. The construction of a log or timber home is based on two primary costs: material provided by the log home company and construction costs contracted with Cowboy Log Homes as the builder or another builder of the customer's choice. Final costs are obtained and contracted with each respectively. Cowboy Log Homes is simply the "glue" that helps bring these two together to provide a final culmination of a customer's project. * Please note photos and elevations may differ some from accompanying floor plans.
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