As American history's most fundamental architectural expression, nothing says "country" more completely than a warm, welcoming, well-designed modern-day log home. Early renditions of log homes held the status of "cabin." Prominent American historical figures, such as Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln were born in small, rustic log cabins. Many of today's log homes have lavish designs and distinctive floorplans, with only the finest appointments and finishes. Anyone with the misconception that log home construction is a more affordable category of housing will be sorely disappointed, as log home construction is at least as costly and, oftentimes, more costly, than conventional home construction.
There are a great many little known facts about log homes:
Log homes are enegy efficient. The thermal mass capacity of a log wall is higher than of a brick or concrete wall of the same thickness. Logs have the ability to store heat, and then release the heat as it becomes cooler. The reason is that wood is not as dense as it looks. Its cells contain millions of tiny air spaces, and air is one of the best insulators known. Wood insulates six times better than brick and fifteen times better than concrete.
Log home construction is relatively fire retardant, and the fire rating increases with the thickness of the logs. Frame construction creates air space within the walls, which allows oxygen to move throughout the wall construction and "feed" the fire. The density of the log wall has no ventilation to feed the fire. Furthermore, there is a charring characteristic that occurs when a large log is exposed to fire that actually creates a protective coating over the surface of the wood, retarding the rate at which it will burn. It takes a significant amount of time for a log wall to burn to the point where it loses its load bearing capacity.
One of the most surprising qualities of logs is their incredible strength. Pound for pound, wood is actually stronger than steel. A wooden rectangle with a 1-inch width and height, and a 2 1/2 inch length can support 10,000 pounds. Wood is also a valuable acoustical material. It can reflect or absorb sound waves and is used extensively in churches, auditoriums, and schools for sound control.
There are some interesting testimonies as to the durability of log home construction. A log home was the only beachfront home in the Carolinas to remain standing during Hurricane Hugo, and there are other examples of log homes that endured through hurricanes and floods in Florida, North Carolina, and Vermont. Log homes have been known to remain standing in areas of California during earthquakes where other dwellings sustained damage. And timbers nearing 3000 years in age have been found in ruins in the Near East.
Various types of logs are used to build log homes. White Pine is one of the more affordable varieties, and is a widely used and popular type of log. Pine is lighter in weight than the Cedars or the Douglas Firs. The more expensive Red Cedar log has a naturally occurring fungicidal compound in the wood and is highly resistant to insect attack. It has has a very low shrinkage factor and is superior to all other coniferous woods in its resistance to warping, twisting and checking. Cedar is considered an excellent choice for wet climates.
All logs contain moisture; they naturally absorb and/or release moisture into the air around them in order to maintain an equilibrium with their environment. Since the moisture content in a log is an unstable feature which can result in shrinking, twisting, and settling after the log home is constructed, many manufacturers pre-treat the logs to reduce the amount of moisture in the logs and create greater stability. Seasoned logs are logs that have been stored for a period of time of from six months up to two years, so that they have become "air dried." Some manufacturers derive their logs from dead standing timber. These logs have been dried naturally while standing through time. Another popular method for producing logs with relatively uniform and stable moisture content is called "kiln-drying." Removal of the moisture content greatly reduces the weight of the logs and makes them easier to handle. Pre-shrinking logs through kiln-drying has benefits of minimizing settling, killing eggs and larva of insects, and crystallizing pitch in the log so that there is minimal seepage to the surface later on. For the larger logs, kiln drying can be far too expensive to be an option.
Some manufacturers claim that kiln-drying is not a panacea and prefer to let the logs settle naturally. They claim that as soon as a log is removed from a kiln, the log will begin to absorb moisture from the air around it in order to reach a new equilibrium with its environment, and that therefore, the best approach is to allow the logs to settle naturally after construction, which eliminates the need for chinking, and reduces the amount of checking in the wood, producing an extremely weather-tight home.
There are many different methods of construction used to build a log home. One of the biggest considerations for which construction method to use will be based on how the logs have been pre-treated prior to construction, taking into account the moisture content in the wood. The moisture content of logs can be measured, and some manufacturers provide a measure of the moisture content of their logs as part of their service. A skilled log home builder will anticipate shrinkage, and compensate for the settling that will likely occur. All log homes will shift and settle to some extent regardless of the species of wood chosen, the moisture treatment method used, or the construction method used. All types of log homes must be treated after construction in order to seal them and keep them free of the varying moisture conditions that will inevitably occur through time.
In rural America, no other home construction style offers the warmth, the beauty, the style, and the harmonious blend with the environment that a log home gives. Some rural areas report that log homes are more in demand and that they command higher prices than other home styles. The proliferation of architectural styles, choices of packages, and construction options continues to increase. In the country, a log home is a superb home choice any where, any time, in any season.