The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

11 Ideas for Cooking up the Perfect Kitchen for your Dream Log Home

Posted on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 @ 11:30 AM

diningLog homes are renowned for their informality. Mealtime is no exception. The question is where to eat. Few log-home floor plans show dining rooms. Usually the eating space is identified as a dining area, often carved out of the great room.

Many families want a big kitchen with either a breakfast nook or an eat-at island or counter, making a designated dining space seem superfluous. Don’t let it be. If you have a log home, you may find yourself nominated to host holiday meals with families. Or volunteering.

Here are 11 ways you can create the perfect dining area.

  1. Place the space. Unless you want an enclosed dining room, pick a spot convenient to the kitchen. In an open layout, it can be adjacent to both the kitchen and living areas. Novel but effective arrangements are between the living room and kitchen or isolated altogether, such as in a turret or other bump-out that allows windows — and views — on three sides.
  2. Decide how much log. Dining areas along the perimeter wall will include logs, or you may want log walls on three sides. Or no logs at all. A formal dining room might work better with framed, painted walls.
  3. Lay out the space. Dining tables usually are in the center of the space, but if yours opens to the living area, consider off-centering the table to strike a balance. Then arrange other furniture to promote the flow between the two spaces. If you want a more defined break, add a tall furniture piece between them. A two-sided fireplace makes a dramatic divider.
  4. Make the connection. Wide-open layouts let the dining space flow from and into other areas, but you can define the territory without enclosing it by carving a wide archway in a log wall that would otherwise separate it from other rooms.
  5. Choose your style. Formal or informal? The former calls for a more dignified decor, whereas informality allows for more fanciful furnishings.
  6. Start with the table. Get the right shape for the space: square, round or rectangular. For a small table in a space that allows more seating, buy a table you can expand. Coordinate the chairs and other furniture around the table to fully define the area.
  7. Illuminate the setting. Dining areas need natural and artificial light. A ceiling fixture over the center of the table is common, although it doesn’t always have to be an antler chandelier. Don’t forget windows, or at least borrow light from neighboring spaces.
  8. Focus on the floor. Wood is the most common dining-area flooring, usually matching that of the living area, although sometimes it’s the kitchen. Food, drink and perhaps wax from candles will eventually fall to the floor, so choose a material that’s easy to clean and care for. Or cover wood with an area rug.
  9. Create overhead interest. Many dining rooms share the cathedral ceiling that tops the great room. If yours will, embellish the space above the table with a truss. If your ceiling will be lower, consider log beams supporting a tongue-and-groove ceiling.
  10. Full or part time? Will you be eating all or most of your meals in the dining area, or only when company calls? For occasional use, especially in a compact home, consider devoting only a section of the great room for the table and chairs.
  11. Stay in character. If your home is decorated in North Woods style, avoid a cowboy dining room. Link your dining space with the rest of the look, even if it’s fully enclosed. But do look for opportunities to give the dining area its own identify.

When you're ready to start planning or designing your dream log cabin home remember to contact your local Log Home Building Consultant to help you with your ideas.

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This article was reproduced from and would like to thank Roland Sweet for his article.

How to Choose a Builder for Your Dream Log Home

Posted on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 @ 11:30 AM

Finding the right building professional to turn your dream of log home living into reality will take time and research.


When you buy from Appalachian Log Structures, a Log Homes Council member, they will provide graded logs and timbers, as well as construction drawings or a construction manual and 8-hours of on-site technical assistance, to help builders become familiar with their building system.

Although a few log home producers offer construction services, the vast majority of council members like Appalachian Log Structures leave construction to independent builders and contractors. It’s up to these individuals to turn that log home package into a comfortable and well-crafted home. Choosing the right professional for this job can be a daunting task. But that’s why the Log Homes Council created this Buyer’s Guide, to help consumers make educated decisions when making their dream home a reality.

Identify Your Role
Before you can move farther along The Perfect Path to Your Dream Home, you will need to identify your role in this construction process. This decision will affect a host of issues, including your budget. With the downturn in the housing market, the cost of labor accounts for three-fifths or 60% of the total cost to build, according to a recent reports from the National Association of Home Builders. You may be able to save some of this cost by doing some of the work yourself. Essentially you have three options, all discussed here at more length:

Professionally Built
When choosing this path, you will work with Appalachian Log Structures, a Log Home Council member, and a builder/contractor or a builder/dealer to finalize the design of the home. Then the manufacturer cuts the log home package while the builder performs infrastructure improvements, including installing foundation, driveway, water, sewer or septic and more. Once the log home package arrives and is inventoried, construction begins. When the home is finished, the builder obtains a certification of occupancy from the local building inspector and you move in. This is the easiest path and it’s often recommended if you want to have a home completed on time and on budget.

This is a more difficult path. As the owner-contractor (general contractor or GC), you will be responsible for hiring talent to do the work. However, this is not without risks or long hours. In fact, it’s a full-time gig.

You will have to prepare all the specifications for each trade (specifications are the instructions for what materials to use and description of the job they are expected to perform), locate subcontractors, obtain bids, prepare cost estimate and budget, maintain a comprehensive construction schedule and finalize all contracts. (Hint: Have an attorney familiar with construction review all contracts before signing.)

You will also to educate yourself on all local building codes, insurance rules, safety regulations, plus attend to a raft of other details. This includes obtaining building permits, dealing with building inspectors and your lender, ordering and inventorying building materials and managing the job site.

Another duty that you will have to reluctantly perform as a GC is make mistakes. It could be scheduling errors, building materials broken or overlooked, a bad choice in a subcontractor or any number of other drop-the-ball blunders. Even professionals make mistakes, from time to time. But if you are new to construction, it’s nearly guaranteed you will make far more. This will cost you more in time and money.

This is the most difficult path. Think of it as several full-time gigs. This means you will likely be working days, nights and weekends. You will be responsible for everything the general contractor is responsible for, plus you will perform much of the labor yourself.

Work for Your Builder
Yet another option is to find a builder who is willing to be flexible and allow you to perform some of the labor yourself. If you have some home improvement skills, you can tackle any number of construction tasks and eliminate the cost of that labor. Scores of log home buyers have saved on thieir building budgets by installing landscaping, staining logs, cleaning up the jobsite and more.

Lender May Decide For You
Unless you just arrived here in a hot tub time machine, you already know that lenders and banks are much more conservative. In this new lending environment, they may require a veteran log builder construct your home. Explore your options with your lender.

Which Role is Right for You?
How much time do you have in your life for this project? Reviewing your schedules can bring some clarity to the decision of whether to tackle this job or hire a pro.

Budget for A Pro
Even if you are going to tackle some of the construction yourself, you should budget the project as if you were having it turnkeyed by a builder. This creates a safety net that ensures your project will get done. If you get hurt on the job and can’t finish the project, you will have enough to bring in a professional to finish the job.

Shopping for Builder/Contractor
The company you have chosen to cut your log package will likely have lists of builders they have done business with before. You can also contact building associations in your area. Select several to consider and evaluate each carefully.

Check References & Rapport
Review each company’s standing in the building community. Also weigh their communication skills and whether you have good rapport. After all, you will be spending anywhere from a few months to a year interacting. You want a good working relationship.

Tour Completed Homes
Visit log homes the builder has built before. Closely inspect crafting and sealing at corners and around doors and windows. A three- to five-year-old home is probably the best example of a builder’s art.

Check Official Channels
Contact the local contractors’ board or similar state or regional authority, to see if the individual is in good standing. Make sure the builder is licensed and bonded. Check online with your state’s Attorney General’s office to see if the builder has been involved with litigation or judgments in the past. In today’s litigious society, don’t expect a spotless record in a career spanning decades. But multiple incidents in a shorter time frame can be an alarm bell.

Trust Your Intuition
Interview each individual, to get a feel for their communication style and customer service. Talk with their past clients to see how they performed in real world situations. It’s likely that at least one individual will click with you.

When you are ready to begin the process of building your dream log cabin home be sure to look up your nearest Log Home Building Consultant and schedule a meeting with them at your job site.  We're excited to assist you and get you in your log home as soon as possible.

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This article was taken in part from the Log Homes Council web site

8 Strategies for Reducing Log Home Construction Costs

Posted on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 @ 12:30 PM


custom log home constructionIn addition to being a motivation for much of what we do, money is energy. It enables us to go places and do things, including taking care of our families or buying and building a new home. Most of us have a finite amount of this energy, mainly through long years of hard work, patient savings and perhaps the sale of a conventional home.

Now you’re ready to use all that energy to create your dream log home. But is it enough? Where can you conserve? That’s why the Log Homes Council created this Buyer’s Guide, to help consumers make wise choices on the Perfect Path to Your Dream Home.

Begin by sitting down with a lender who specializes in log homes to discuss financing options. By being pre-qualified by your lender, you will how know exactly much energy you have to work with on your dream log cabin home.

How Much Do Professional Builders Spend?
What do the pros typically spend on new home construction? Are there any ballpark figures out there that can help you see if anything is out of line? Indeed there is.

The total cost of an average new home in the U.S. breaks down thusly, according to the 2004 Cost of Doing Business Study: The Business of Building, published by, a division of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
• Finished lot costs 20-25% of the total selling price, with half of that reflecting infrastructure costs, such as utilities and driveway.
• Building materials, everything from foundation and flooring, to porches and roofs, cost 25-30% of the total.
• Onsite labor costs 20-25%.
• General overhead is about 6%.
• Financing costs are about 2%.

Thinking of being your own general contractor to save money? Small-volume builders (constructing an average 4.9 homes a year) who built exclusively on their clients’ land had average gross profit margin of 18.9% and an average net profit of 4.8%, according to the study.

If you decide to build your own log home, you won’t earn all of that 4.8%. You will pay far more for labor, since subcontractors will see you as a one-time job and price their services accordingly. You will also pay more for specialty tools needed in log construction. Professional log home builders pro-rate their tools costs over several jobs. You will also pay more for insurance, since insurance companies will see you as a greater risk. It’s also almost guaranteed you will make costly mistakes that pros won’t, which will cost you more in time, materials and labor.

Value Engineering
Want to do more with less? This is called value engineering. Your log home producer and builder have an assortment of cost cutting tricks. Use their expertise. Simply communicate that you need to save money on your budget. They can provide all kinds of helpful advice, including:

1. Reducing Square Footage
One way to dramtically reduce costs is to just reduce the square footage of the entire home. Think small and cozy to slash costs. Another smart strategy is to build upward with a two-story design rather than outward, such as with a ranch design.

2. Choosing a Stock Design
Custom designs cost more in design time, materials and labor. Most log home manufacturers have dozens of stock plans that they have built time and time again. Many errors have been eliminated in these designs, which makes them go up smoothly, saving you time and money.

3. Reducing Lineal Feet of Logs
Adding decorative stone, cedar shake or stucco can actually accent logs and reduce costs.

4. Opt for a Simple Roof System
The roof is one of the most expensive material and labor line items in your budget. This is why the simpler the roof system, the less expensive it will be. The most inexpensive roof is a simple, single ridgeline with a shallow pitch. More complicated roof systems, called hips and valleys with a steeper pitch, are more visually interesting. But they are also a lot more expensive.

5. Use Drywall On Interior
Pine paneling on the interior of your partition walls looks great. However, it’s roughly twice the cost of drywall—and cedar paneling is even more expensive than pine.

6. More Modest Kitchen
If your marriage can take the heat, down grade your kitchen appliances and amenities. Almost everything in a kitchen can be upgraded later, including flooring, appliances and cabinetry.

7. Don’t Take A Bath on Your Bath
Much like kitchens, bathrooms have a variety of materials that can be upgraded later. If you want that jetted tub in the master bath but can’t afford it now, specify a soaking tub of the same size from the same manufacturer. Swapping it out in the future will be a snap.

8. Avoid Change Orders
Last minute changes in design or materials are called “change orders” and they can quickly take a toll on your budget. Save these for correcting any serious errors.

For more insight in to cost saving ideas when building your dream log home, be sure to contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant for an appointment and to visit their model home.  We're all here to assist you.

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This article taken in part from the Log Homes Council library.

10 Simple Ways to Save Energy and "Green" your Log Home

Posted on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 @ 12:30 PM

custom log homeAdopting a “green” philosophy is easier than you think and it does not require wind turbines, solar panels or wearing extra sweaters in January. Here are 10 conventional, easy to implement suggestions from the Log Homes Council on ways to reduce energy costs, increase comfort and make your dream log home a little greener.

 Passive Solar

Situate the home to take advantage of the sun. In colder climates, a southern exposure for the family room and kitchen is ideal. Rely on existing trees to lower energy costs. When clearing the site for construction, maintain fir trees as a barrier along the cold and windier north and west elevations. Plant or preserve existing deciduous trees along the south and east elevations. The leaves will provide shade in summer and in the winter; the bare trees will let in plenty of sunlight and warmth.

Energy  Star 

ENERGY STAR© is a government-backed program helping businesses and consumers protect the environment through greater energy efficiency. Look for the Energy Star label and rating on products you buy for your home.  The distinctive yellow label gives consumers guidelines for a wide range of components and savings can be significant. When compared to single pane windows, Energy Star rated low-e glass with solar shading, cut energy bills by $110 to $400 while increasing comfort, protecting furniture from sun damage and reducing condensation.

 The Kitchen

 Again, ENERGY STAR rated appliances such as refrigerators; dishwashers and vent fans incorporate advanced technologies that use 10% to 50% less energy and water than standard models -- more than making up for the slightly higher costs of these products.

Tip – old refrigerators are energy hogs; so keeping that extra fridge to occasionally store beverages and extra food is wasteful.


 Compact Fluorescents cut energy by 70 percent. Wherever possible install fluorescent fixtures and switch lamps to compact fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs have been improved in terms of ambient color, but if you still have trouble getting used compact fluorescents, start with utility areas such as the laundry and basement. Combine compact fluorescents with incandescents in bedrooms and living areas.  In addition, automatic lighting controls, ranging from outdoor light fixtures with built-in photo sensors to motion detectors to whole-house programmable controls eliminate waste.

 Heat Pump Systems

 For climates with moderate heating and cooling needs, heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. During the heating season, heat pumps take advantage of the outdoor “heat” and move it into the home.  During warm weather, the process is reversed. Because they move rather than generate heat, heat pumps can deliver up to four times the amount of energy they consume. In moderate climates, air source heat pumps use the ambient air. In severe climates, geo-thermal heat pumps, which are more costly, take advantage of the heat below the ground, which remains above 50 degrees.

 Hot Water

 Consider an on-demand heating system that eliminates having to keep an 80 or so gallon tank of water warm around the clock.  In addition to natural gas or propane, units that have to be vented or installed on an outside wall, on demand hot water heating systems are available in electric models that can be installed anywhere.  Additionally, solar water heating can be considered.

 Indoor Air Quality

 Consider incorporating a HEPA filter to the heating system. A HEPA (High- Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration system, removes up to 99.97% of small particles - pollutants that standard disposable filters simply do not touch.

 Ceiling Fans

 Ceiling fan and light units circulate warm air in the winter and make occupants feel cooler in the summer. Look for ENERGY STAR rated models, as they are 50 percent more efficient than conventional units. This saves $15-$20 per year on utility bills to say nothing of the air conditioning and heating savings gained.

Tip: In the summer, use the ceiling fan in the counter-clockwise direction to create a wind-chill effect. In the winter, reverse the motor and operate the fan at low speed in the clockwise direction to produce a gentle updraft, which forces warm air near the ceiling down into the occupied space.

Keep these tips in mind when designing your log home and be sure to contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant for more insights in to the design of your dream log cabin.

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This article was taken in part from the article "Today's Log Homes Go Green" by the Log Homes Council.

16 Secrets of Affordable Log Home Design!

Posted on Thu, Mar 5, 2015 @ 12:30 PM

affordable log homeYou Can Create Your Dream Home for Less!

It’s a rare these days to hear the phrase “money is no object.” No matter what your net worth, chances are you’re interested in making smart investments—and getting the biggest bang for your buck. Building a log home is no exception.

Designers and builders can offer dozens of ways to cut costs. This can be called value engineering. Working with the pros, like Appalachian Log Structures, that belong to the Log Homes Council will help you decide where you want to save money—and where you shouldn’t skimp. (Opting for cheaper windows and insulation isn’t usually recommended.) Here are 16 tips from Appalachian Log Structures and the Log Homes Council.

1. Use Proven Design
Instead of a custom design, opt for a stock plan from a log home producer’s catalog. Stock designs have been built many times before, so construction errors have been eliminated. When you opt for a stock plan, you’re getting all engineered and cost efficiencies built into that log home design. This strategy will save you both time and money.

2. Think Rectangular
Whether stock or custom, a rectangular design is the most economical shape to build. Add more than four corners and you’ll add more costs. For example, it takes 18 feet of logs to create a single Traditional corner with an eight-foot wall height. More corners, equals more coin.

3. Open Flexible Floor Plan
How much house do you really need? Keep square footage down with an open floor plan that eliminates unnecessary hallways. Look for innovative ways to use traditionally wasted space. Our favorite trick: adding a closet or built-in shelves under a staircase.

4. Trim Your Width
Keep your home’s width under 30 feet. Once you go over 30 or 32 feet, you have to beef up your support beams substantially. The longer the logs, the more they cost.

5. Think Long Term
So you’re envisioning a log home, guest house for the in-laws and perhaps some out buildings to house your hobbies and toys? But in this economic climate, you are concerned about affording the full tab? The solution is to plan your construction over several years, which will give you some financial wiggle room. Start by building the log home the first year, followed by the wraparound porch in Year 2 and the garage with breezeway in Year 3. Add out buildings, such as a guesthouse or barn, in subsequent years.

6. Clearing Land 
As much as 35 percent of your budget will go to clearing your home site, excavating a foundation, creating a driveway and installing utilities. These are fixed infrastructure costs that simply can’t be avoided. However, you can save on this portion of the work by performing some of it yourself, or hiring workers and supervising their efforts. Get started by clearing the land. Save any materials you can re-purpose during construction, as well as saving lumber for firewood.

7. Full Basement
A full basement with roughed-in plumbing and electrical lines is one of the most affordable ways to add extra living space to your log home. If you can afford it another 20% in concrete costs, add 10-foot high sidewalls to add volume to a space that can seem closed in.

8. Stacked Baths
Putting two bathrooms back to back—or above and below in a two-story design—will reduce your plumbing contractors work, which can save you substantially.

9. Mix & Match Exterior Finishes
To save money, you can opt to incorporate a variety of exterior materials such as stone, board and batten, cedar shake and even stucco. These materials can add character to the home and actually accent the logs.

10. Driveway Strategy
From a privacy perspective, locating your home far off the main road may be appealing. But you could save thousands in grading and compacting if you keep the driveway short. You can also delay your driveway installation for a few years. That time allows the soil to settle, so you’ll end up with a more stable driveway with fewer repairs over time.

11. Simple Roof Line 
Keep your roof simple with a single ridgeline instead of “hips and valleys” or multiple roof planes. Extreme angles, such as turrets or an angled prow under an A-frame, cost more in materials and labor.

12. Ceiling Height
If you worship cathedral ceilings, go ahead and enjoy them one in your great room. But keep the ceiling height in other rooms lower (in the 8-foot realm). Not only will you save on construction costs, but lower ceilings make your home easier to heat and cool.

13. Opt for Conventional Roof System
It can be quite expensive to put large, structural timbers with tongue-and-groove decking overhead in the great room. To save money, use a conventional truss or rafter roof system in the attic, with smaller, decorative timbers and non-structural tongue-and-groove decking. You’ll reduce your costs by a third without sacrificing aesthetic appeal.

14. Consider Solar Tubes
If you can afford dramatic skylights, go for it. But also consider solar tubes. They bring in natural light and cut down on installation and materials costs. They also make a great addition to master closets. Bonus: many of these modern money-savers also have venting capabilities for a breath of fresh air.

15. Hunt for Bargains on Appliances
If you’re craving an epicurean range but can’t stomach the price, check out “scratch and dent” sales centers run by manufacturers and retailers. New units are usually half price—a sweet savings for a few nicks you’ll hardly notice when it’s installed in a brand new log home.

16. What Hasn’t Worked in the Past? Now’s the Time to Fix It!
Often it’s the little things (extra lighting in the master closet, a quiet exhaust fan in the bathroom, or a computer workstation in the kitchen) that make life easier and more convenient. Think about what hasn’t worked in your past homes—along with how and where you want to spend time in your new one. Then invest a little more money in the spaces that mean the most to you.

When you're ready to start your affordable log home please contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant to help you with these and other GREAT money saving ideas in the design of your dream log home.

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Parts of this article were taken from the Log Home Council's website

Are ALL Log Home Logs Created Equal?

Posted on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 @ 12:30 PM

log cabin home log profiles

There are some that think the logs used in log homes are all created equal.  That's why many potential consumers think all logs should all be priced the same.  As with any product, there are differences in quality, thus differences in price.  Let's take a look at a few of these differences.

THICKNESS - Most log home companies will advertise 6", 8" or 10" thick logs.  When you go and actually MEASURE these logs you'll find they are 5.5", 7.5" or 9.5" thick.  Appalachian produces FULL THICKNESS logs for our log cabin homes, thus more wood AND more insulation.

GRADE STAMPED - Know the difference between a graded log and a grade stamped log?  A grade stamped log guarantees that your log home building materials are structurally sound and approved to meet building codes.  Building inspectors will be looking for this stamp on each of your logs to verify that they meet the ASTM specifications.  Many log home companies talk about "graded logs" - BEWARE - these are NOT GRADE STAMPED logs.  Graded could mean a visual grade (not structural) or just that the guy running the mill thinks it looks good so he gave it a good grade.  Quality is the difference - you'll pay less (and get less) with a non-grade stamped log.

SPECIES - Still believe there is one wood species better than the rest?  Do some research and you'll find that besides some color and grain difference they are all about the same.  Think cedar or cypress is impervious to rot/decay or wood digesting insects?  Think again and start doing some research for yourself.  You'll soon discover that these species, just like all the rest of the wood species, need to be protected with preservatives for great looks and longevity.

TREATMENTS - What is the optimum way to protect my log wall?  Research pressure treatment and see why it is the only way to go.  Research Borates and you'll soon learn why we pressure treat with this organic (non-chemical) product.  In the 35+ years we've been providing log home building materials, not one of our homeowners have had to replace/repair any of their pressure treated materials we've provided.

Now that you begin to understand that not all logs are created equal, you'll start to understand some of the differences in QUALITY and pricing.  When creating your dream log home think about the type of products you want surrounding you and your loved ones as well as the quality of materials you plan to use in one of the largest investments you'll be making.

Don't forget to contact your local Log Home Building Consultant to discover more about our log home building components and how they can save you time and money not only today, but for the lifetime of your log home.

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The History of Log Homes

Posted on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 10:40 AM

Norway_old_log_homeThe origin of the log structure is uncertain. It is probable that it began in northern Europe (photo is a log structure in Norway)  sometime in the Bronze Age (c. 3,500 B.C.). By the time Europeans began to settle in America, there was a long tradition of using logs for houses, barns, and other outbuildings in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Northern Russia. These regions had vast stands of softwood timber that could easily be worked with simple hand tools. According to C. A. Weslager, whose book on log cabins is considered a classic, the Finns, as well as the Swedes, had a "close attunement" with the forests, and both groups had well-developed forest industries. Weslager goes on to say:

"The Finns were accomplished in building several forms of log housing, having different methods of corner timbering, and they utilized both round and hewn logs. Their log building had undergone an evolutionary process from the crude "pirtii"...a small gabled-roof cabin of round logs with an opening in the roof to vent smoke, to more sophisticated squared logs with interlocking double-notch joints, the timber extending beyond the corners. Log saunas or bathhouses of this type are still found in rural Finland."

When the Finns and the Swedes began to arrive in New Sweden (along both banks of the Delaware River into modern Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland), they brought their knowledge of such wood construction with them. So did later immigrants from Germany. The Scots, Irish, and Scots-Irish had no tradition of building with logs, but they quickly adopted the technique. The log cabin suited early settlers and later pioneers. It would have been nearly impossible to carry building materials across the ocean in the small sailing ships of the time. It would have been equally difficult to transport building materials on horseback or even in the wagons or river barges pioneers used to cross mountains and valleys in their search for their own land. So, wherever there were forested areas, the log cabin became the preferred type of initial dwelling. Log cabins did not even need nails or spikes to hold them together. Until the 19th century nails were made by hand by blacksmiths, which meant they were quite expensive, and like lumber, they were also heavy.

Log cabins were relatively easy to build. Weslager reports that a record was set by three men who cut down trees, trimmed them, dragged the logs to the building site, notched the logs, and built a one-room cabin with chimney and fireplace in two days. For most people it took a bit longer, but it was possible for a man working alone to build a cabin in one to two weeks. However, a man alone faced some problems. Because it is physically difficult to lift a heavy log above one's head, most men could build cabins only six to eight logs high. With help, it was possible to build several logs higher--even two-story log houses were possible. First, skids of two logs were placed against the wall at an angle to serve as an inclined plane. Then forked sticks or ropes were used to position the logs.

Most log cabins had a single room, or "pen," some 12 to 16 feet square. There was one door, and usually no windows. If windows were cut into the walls, animal skins or boards fixed to slide across the openings were used. Some builders used paper greased with animal fat, which made it both translucent and waterproof. Most log cabin builders placed the fireplace at one end of the cabin and built the chimney of wattle. Stone or clay was used for the hearth and the interior of the fireplace. As these were not very safe constructions, later builders used brick or stone if they could be obtained. Fireplaces provided warmth, light, and fuel for cooking. Back bars and cranes made of forged iron were used to hold cooking pots. Not until the 1840s were cast-iron ranges available that would burn wood or coal, so cooking over a fireplace did not seem a hardship.

Inside walls were often chinked with clay or cloth. Most floors were simply beaten earth, although some cabins had floors of puncheons--logs split lengthwise and laid close together with the flat sides up. A family often built a sleeping loft if the roof were high enough. The loft could be reached by pegs pounded into the walls or by a ladder built from tree limbs. The loft also was used to store foodstuffs.

Log cabins were never meant to be permanent, but many log houses were. The difference between the two was primarily one of size and attention to detail. Most pioneers preferred "flat" walls to rounded log walls, and so most used hewn logs for building. These not only made the houses look (from a distance) more "real," but also withstood the elements much better, since the bark and the decay-prone outside wood were removed from the logs. When milled lumber became available either from a local sawmill or by railroad transport, most people chose it for their homes.

It seemed that as the frontier disappeared, so would the log cabin. However, at about the same time the Finnish homesteaders were, of necessity, building their first homes of logs, Easterners were rediscovering the log structure. William A. Durant, land developer and president of the Adirondack Railroad, pushed the idea of Great Camps in the Adirondacks. These camps were enclaves where the very wealthy could escape the summer heat of the cities and retreat to the "simple life" of log-cabin living in the country. Such "cabins" were hardly simple. Designed by architects, they were huge structures with many rooms and fireplaces and porches. But their log exteriors recalled the "good old days". National park structures also fueled the revival of log cabin living. Many park lodges were made of logs so they would fit their surroundings. The Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park is a prime example. Built in 1904, the inn has an eight-story lobby some 185 feet high. There are 140 guest rooms and three sets of balconies.

Another factor that kept the tradition of log building alive was the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service to build thousands of log structures throughout the national forests and parks. Had it not been for these the log cabin might have disappeared, but because people saw the log structures and liked what they saw, many began to build modern log cabins and log houses. These homes seemed to represent all that a family could want: a sturdy shelter from the elements and a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle. The log cabin remains a popular building style.

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Special thanks to the National Parks Service the provider of this article and C. A. Weslager, The Log Cabin in America: From Pioneer Days to the Present (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1969); Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984); visitor's guides to several western national parks; and other sources on the history of the western frontier. 

Log Home Construction Bids - How do Builders Charge?

Posted on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 @ 12:27 PM

Sorting out the differences between ‘fixed bid’ and ‘cost plus’.

log home constructionEven if you plan on doing some or all of the work on your log home yourself, you will still need specialty contractors, including plumbers, electricians and HVAC installers. This is why you need to understand how these trade professionals charge for their services.

You will be contracting with a builder or subcontractors to provide labor and materials in one of three ways.

1) Fixed bid
2) Cost plus (also known as time and materials or an hourly rate)
3) Combination of the above two

Which is better? Read on to discover what to expect when you are making that dream log home a reality. This information is provided by the Log Homes Council, an association of log home manufacturers. Their goal is to enable you to make the most informed decisions when buying and building your log home.

Fixed Bid

Builder or subcontractor furnishes you with a bid that tells you exactly how much you will pay to have a finished home by such and such date. Sounds straight forward, right? You get what you want, the contractor gets what they want and everyone goes home happy. Just like the rest of life, it’s more complicated than you might think.

Fixed Bid Advantages:

• If there’s no surprises, fixed bid can be a good option
• To keep their bid competitive, contractor will be looking for the best deal on all materials
• The contractor will try to get the job done as fast as possible, so he can move on to the next job
• Fixed bid employed by trade contractors, such as electricians, HVAC installers and plumbers
• Common contract clause is “per the plans, in place and to code”
• Once it passes inspection, the trade contractor expects to be paid
Fixed Bid Disadvantages:
• The contractor has to ensure he or she doesn’t lose money on a wide range of challenges that may—or may not—come up
• Example scenario: Mountainous terrain.
The builder may need to factor in the blasting of bedrock and excavation to install the basement. This can increase yours costs by thousands of dollars—and that’s all before concrete is poured for the basement.
• You may not get the most competitive price with a fixed bid, because the contractor will have to add in contingency funds for what-if situations

Cost Plus

• A contractor will base their estimate on the amount of time and labor it will take to construct your home, plus a percentage markup on all material that goes into your home
• This tactic is used on projects where costs are harder to predict
• Many log home builders use this formula, largely because there are so many unknowns in log home construction

Cost Plus Advantages:

• If you and your builder keep track of your budget and avoid change orders, this can be the most competitively priced way to get your home built

Cost Plus Disadvantages:

• No incentive to do the job as fast as possible
• No incentive to wisely purchase materials, since everything that goes into the home is marked up

Combo Deal

A combination of these two is increasingly common in log home construction. Some parts of the house are done on a fixed bid, some on an hourly rate and other parts on a time and materials basis, plus a percentage.

Combination Advantages:

• If you invest your time in choosing cabinets, why should a builder take a percentage for ordering them
• A combination bid can help make the process easier for both builder and buyer, while building trust

Combination Disadvantages:

• Not all builders will offer this
• Log home builders are specialists
• If you find a reputable one who is available, you may need to compensate them for their expertise in whatever manner they see fit 
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This is a re-printed article from the Log Homes Council library (

Tags: log cabin home, log cabin kits, dream log cabin, log cabin homes, log and timber homes, log cabin, dream log cabin home, log cabins

What's New in Heating and Cooling Technologies for Log Homes

Posted on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 04:01 PM

log home solarFrom a recent post on the Log Home Council's Web page - another great and timely article that is relevant and informative.

New advancements in heating and cooling will enable you breath easy while spending less on energy. Here’s a primer on the plethora of choices for your new log or timber home.

Wouldn’t it be great if new homes came with stickers on the windows that predicted its energy performance, just like today’s automobiles? This would come in handy, especially in this era of higher fuel costs. Then too, our expectations of comfort have changed drastically in recent years. Today we not only want to be perfectly cozy whether it’s frigid or scorching outside, we want our indoor air to be clean and germ-free, with just a kiss of humidity.

Fortunately all this is achievable in your new log and timber home, provided you create a heating and cooling strategy long before you build, advises experts with the Log and Timber Homes Council.

It’s important to think of your home as a total system. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be super energy efficient. That’s why one has to approach heating and cooling strategy on a whole-home basis. Rather than just cobble together a furnace, water heater and air conditioner after the home is built, one has to plan a comprehensive strategy of how the home will operate if you value your comfort and energy costs.

Start With Where Will You Be Building?
A log and timber home in the Southwest desert will need a far different heating and cooling strategy than one set along the coast of Maine. Is your area prone to power outages, wind or snow storms? Your local climate will influence the design of your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

Site Orientation
Simply orientating your home properly on the building site can reduce your energy bill by up to 30 percent, say the experts at the Log and Timber Homes Council, part of the National Association of Home Builders. Although it is best to face windows directly south, it can be oriented up to 30 degrees away from due south and lose only five percent of the energy savings.

Design Do’s & Don’ts
The volume of space can affect your heating needs, as can the number of windows and doors. Cathedral ceilings, in particular, take more energy to heat and cool since it creates more volume.

What’s Overhead
A home’s biggest culprit in energy loss is the roof. At issue is insulation and how effective it is. Discuss with your log and timber home producer how your roof will be configured, its cost and how it will affect the home’s energy performance.

Power Up
Your selection in HVAC system will be influence by fuel and its costs. Natural gas is the predominate fuel in the West, fuel oil is common in the Northeast and propane is often used in areas when one can’t easily access either. If you’re building site is located far from the power grid, you’ll likely have to employ alternative technologies, such as wind and solar power.

The Benefits of Thermal Mass
Logs are an excellent insulating material, thanks to thermal mass. Log walls collect and store energy, then radiate it back. One can increase energy efficiency by adding more thermal mass—upgrading the diameter of your logs or installing tile floors in front of south-facing windows. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home.

Choices in Windows
To help keep your home cool in summer and warm in winter, window manufacturers offer “low-e” coatings that block ultraviolet rays. Compare performance with U-value ratings, which range from 1.20 to .20. The lower the number, the better the energy performance. In cold climates, a U-value of .3 to .5 is worth the extra you’ll pay for it.

Be Cool
Recently the Department of Energy (DOE) raised the minimum Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for central air conditioners and heat pumps by 30 percent, from 10 to 13 SEER. You’ll pay from $400 to $1,200 more for the 13 SEER. However, the good news is it will pay for itself in energy savings in 10 years. Other air conditioning options include ceiling and attic fans, and evaporative coolers (also known as swamp coolers). The latter is only used in low humidity environments.

The Heat Is On
Here’s a rundown on your heating options:

  • Forced Air Furnaces: Powered by either propane or natural gas, these units deliver warm air through floor registers. Compare performance with the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating, a yellow tag on the side of the unit. Least efficient 78 AFUE; most efficient 98.6 AFUE. Builders recommend a 90 AFUE or greater. Pro: They are inexpensive and most contractors are familiar with installation. Plus, they can be paired with air cleaning systems, including filters, ultraviolet lights, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, to kill germs and airborne bacteria Con: They’re noisy and offer poor comfort because of temperature variations within the home.
  • High Velocity Forced Air: Air delivered to a room enters at a higher velocity (typically 2,000 ft/sec), creating better comfort. Pro: The ultra quiet, two-inch insulated tubes can be installed nearly anywhere. Plus, these systems cost less than conventional forced air. Con: Not all HVAC contractors have experience installing them.
  • Radiant Heat: Hot water radiators were the first example of this. But now the concept has been updated to in-floor units, a system that offers unparalleled comfort and energy efficiency. Pro: It minimizes heat loss by keeping heat at floor level. Plus, the boilers can also provide your hot water needs. Con: It’s slow response time for temperature changes make it impractical for infrequently visited vacation homes (which can be mitigated with Internet-enabled controls).
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps: Ground-source heat pumps use the earth or groundwater as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. Pro: Energy is inexhaustible and it’s energy efficient. Con: Requires a significant parcel of land for underground excavation.
  • Hearth Products: A toasty fire on a winter’s night goes together like butter and popcorn. Pro: Factory made units are certified as clean burning. Plus, a plethora of fuels are available; firewood, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, electricity, corn and wood pellets. Con: Are impractical as a primary heat source.
  • Combo Systems: Experts recommend combining two or more systems to provide the ultimate in comfort. Mike at Seven North, for example, often recommends a radiant heat system on the basement level, with a high velocity forced air system for the upper floors, which can deliver both heat and air conditioning for summer months.

Air Quality Control
Since log and timber homes can be super tight, experts recommend a triple approach to maintain healthy indoor air.
1) Air-to-Air Exchangers: These mechanical units, which attach to a forced air system, regulate indoor air quality by drawing in fresh air and ejecting stale air. Plus, they transfer 70 to 80 percent of the heat .
2) Humidifiers: Indoor air humidity in the winter can drop to as low as five percent, drying out your skin, lips and respiratory system not to mention damaging your home. A whole house humidifier is the solution, which range in cost from $400 to $800.
3) Ventilation Fans: Bathrooms equipped with motion activated or humidity sensitive controls exhaust steam from showers and unwelcome odors.

Instant Hot Water
Today’s gas or electric storage tank water heaters are becoming much more energy efficient. Another option can be tankless hot water heaters, which produce hot water on demand. Tankless units are available in propane (LP), natural gas, or electric models. They come in a variety of sizes for different applications, such as a whole-house water heater, a hot water source for a remote bathroom or hot tub.

Light Up For Less
Energy efficient lighting fixtures can now be found at most home centers (look for the Energy Star label). These can significantly save you money in direct lighting costs, as well as in cooling needs in the summer (lighting fixtures produce heat).

Going Green
If you’re looking to tread super light on the planet with your new home, you have more options than ever. What’s more, many states are offering tax incentives to those who opt for these alternative technologies. They include

  • Wind Power: A new generation of wind turbines can allow you to meet most of your electrical needs. Pro: If you’re on the grid, you can sell excess energy back to the power company. Con: Some consider them unsightly, which could be a problem in areas governed by covenants, including resorts or subdivision developments.
  • Active Solar PV systems
  • Wind Power
  • Geothermal
  • Fuel Cells

Home Energy Costs
Just where does the average $1,400 each homeowner spends on energy go every year? Approximately 45 percent goes to heating and cooling costs; 11 percent for water heater; 10 percent for washer and dryer, seven percent for lighting, six percent for refrigerator, two percent for dishwasher, two percent for computers, two percent for TV/DVD/VCR. The remaining 15 percent can be attributed to appliances that use electricity even when they’re “off.”

Appropriate Appliances
When buying an appliance, remember that it has two price tags: what you pay to take it home and what you pay for the energy and water it uses. Everything from refrigerators and computers to freezers and TVs now comes with an energy rating, detailing how much it will cost to operate annually. Energy Star-rated appliances can save you anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your energy bill.

Home Sense & Science
To create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment is a science. The addition or subtraction of one method can affect the home’s system as a whole—sometimes adversely. Members of the Log and Timber Homes Council can provide an analysis of what’s right for your local climate and give you advice on how to get the most bang for your buck.

Thank you Log Homes Council (LHC) for another GREAT article to share.  Be sure to visit the Log Home Council's web page ( to learn more about this and other relevant topics.

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Tags: log cabin home, log and timber home, dream log cabin, custom log home, log and timber homes, log and timber products, log cabin

NC Log Home Owners use Strategic Planning

Posted on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 @ 12:41 PM

dream log cabin home

Good strategy, communication, vision and hard work eventually pay off for two homeowners who used all of the planning tools in their tool belt to build their dream log home.

It was not planned or executed overnight but over several years.  Cultivating the dream, envisioning the finished product and working towards a common goal all paid off in the end.  Now this beautiful log home is the Shaffer's dream log home come true.

A lot of their own blood, sweat and tears went in to their retirement home in Western North Carolina and it really shows.  For the protection of their investment, they chose to use logs pressure treated with borates to guarantee against wood digesting insects and decay.  In addition, they also liked the advantages that the spring loaded thru-bolt offered - keeping their log cabin home tight and energy efficient over the years.

Now that it's complete - they enjoy their time on the porch looking over the picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Their home was featured in Country's Best Log home magazine and you can CLICK HERE to see more photos and read about their experiences.

When planning your dream log home, take your time, think it through and don't forget to work with a Log Home Consultant that has your best interest at heart.

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Tags: log home, dream log home, dream log cabin, log home building consultant, borate pressure treatment, borate pressue treatment