3 Things To Think About Before Choosing A Log Home

If you have always loved the idyllic image of life in a log cabin, you'll be delighted to know that these rustic structures are widely available to today's homeowners. Whether you want to spring for a custom handcrafted log home or you're willing to do your own building from a kit, you can enjoy the same kind of homespun environment that housed countless American settlers. But you might also be surprised at the sheer number of options and decisions involved in selecting and building your dream home. Here are three considerations that should go into your decision-making process.

1. Choice of Wood

One decision that may be less critical than you'd expect is the exact type of wood used in the construction of luxury log homes. Historically, frontiersmen used whatever sturdy wood they could find in abundance in their local area. Popular choices have included white cedar, Douglas fir, eastern white pine, oak, and other species. If you're worried about controlling costs, choose a wood that's locally plentiful. Keep in mind that any type of wood you go with will need staining or lacquering to protect it against the elements. The color of the wood may also change over time, so ask the manufacturer or builder what you can expect in this department.

The moisture content of the logs will have a direct impact on the building process. The greener the wood, the more moisture it contains and the more likely the wood is to shrink over time. Experienced builders of luxury log homes known how to factor this somewhat unpredictable property of greener wood into the build. More commonly, the logs are either allowed to dry naturally over a period of months or kiln-dried to a specific moisture level, making them extremely stable as building materials.

2. Structural Styles

If you figured that all log cabins were similar in structure, think again. Not only can they vary greatly in size, shape, and plan, but they also make use of different log shapes, joints, and preparation methods, all of which can have a major impact on the final product's aesthetic effect. 

  • Log preparation - Logs may be sawed down to uniform widths while keeping their lengths unchanged, milled into identical pieces, or hewn into geometric shapes. A handcrafted log home may even use logs that have barely been prepared at all, apart from having their bark stripped away, for the ultimate "back to nature" look. 
  • Profiles and notches - Prepared logs are usually shaped so that they fill fit together snugly. The shapes are referred to as profiles. For example, the cross-section of a Swedish cope profile resembles a circle with a matching crescent cut into the bottom, allowing one log to sit precisely on top of the next. D-shaped or square profiles are notched, with the notches lining up to provide a perfect fit when the logs are stacked. The ends of the logs are also notched to enable the walls to join together tightly.

3. Package Options

How unique do you require your log cabin to be -- and how much work and money are you willing to sacrifice toward that end? A completely handcrafted log home can be created to your ideal specifications, but this level of perfection is expensive, time consuming, and usually beyond the means of a do-it-yourselfer. By contrast, kits may conform to relatively commonplace plans, but they're designed to go up quickly and they may cost little more than a conventional custom home.

Even if you choose to go the kit route, it's worth noting that some packages do more of the work for you than others. Some of them represent a genuine "house in a box," with pre-cut and numbered logs as well as doors, windows, stairs, and everything else you could hope for in a finished dwelling. Others may consist of little more than a set of uncut logs. If you have an expert builder on hand, the more basic option will save you some money and give the builder a freer hand to make changes or adjustments during construction.

Log cabins aren't as simple as they may seem at first glance, but the variety of choices they offer just gives you more opportunities to create exactly what you want. Think carefully about these options -- and then watch the magic take place, one log at a time! For more information, check out a company like Pioneer Log Homes of BC.