Should I Be Afraid of Logs Shrinking?

Sue | May 21st, 2012 - 4:59 pm

Yes, all logs will shrink some, but with our cabins it is not a problem!

Logs naturally follow two paths: one is shrinkage and the second is compression. Shrinking is when a log is reduced in diameter as it looses moisture content. Compression is the downward force the makes the logs cleave closer together.

Our milled logs have a low moisture content when it is cut into a log home log.  By offering both Dead Standing and Kiln Dried logs (depending on the wood species) much of the moisture is removed.

Handcrafted log experiences more shrinkage and compression than the handcrafted logs, but this is not a problem. In fact a handcrafted log needs a higher beginning moisture content so they can be crafted. But this is planned for in the blue print stage and is not a problem.

For both milled and handcrafted log cabins the movement is planned for in the blue print stage. Things like screw jacks, shrinkage channels above door and windows, and 2×4 spleens in the jambs protect the home. Shrinkage and compression actually help a log home to naturally seal together.

Western Red Cedar Flared Shell

Let’s look specifically at each style-

For our handcrafted log homes we use the Scandinavian Full Scribe method. This is where the top of the log is left round and a V shaped channel is cut into the underside of each log. As the logs dry the the full scribe channel causes the logs to cleave or tighten together as they air dry.  Naturally the tight scribed logs seal themselves against any air seepage. A nine foot wall can move about six inches during the first year.

The milled log cabin see much less movement, only about 1 1/2 inches. Logs are bolted together with either lag bolts or Oly-Log hog screws. To seal against air seepage the logs are cut with a double tongue and groove stack or the Swedish Cope stack. The tongues cleave together to seal the home. Personally I wasn’t too sure this really worked until I experienced it with some of our home show samples. When we travel to home shows we take log pieces that are about 18 inches long. We have different log profiles, wood species, and sizes. After the show season we stacked the log samples in the corner of the garage. Three months later I went to pick up an 8×8 Dead Standing Lodge Pole Pine sample that was stacked on top of another identical sample. As I lifted up they wouldn’t come apart! Over the three months they had shrunk and compressed together. There is no lag bolts, caulking, or sealant holding them together. The tongues and grooves are the only thing holding them together. To get them apart we would have to pry them apart.

Because of the shrinkage and compression of logs there are some very important builder secrets that must be used when attaching a log cabin to a conventional building. Often owners will want to have the solid log for the home but they believe they can save money by building a stick framed garage and log siding it. In our log home Articles page we discuss all sorts of these issues.  Shrinkage and compression can work for you instead of turning your log home dreams into nightmares.

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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