If you’ve been looking for information about loghomes, because you want to buy or build one, then you’ve probably experienced a bit of frustration.
People usually are quick to notice all the conflicting information about log homes on various websites. It happens because kit sales is a lot like used car sales — salesmen say anything to try and close the deal. Stuff like this:
“All logs homes settle, so the expensive work like keyways, slipjoints and screwjacks cannot be avoided.”
“We use the BEST species of wood. Other builders use inferior wood, so our finished homes are better. It’s worth the extra cost!”
“Our kits are expensive because log homes are just MORE expensive than stick frame construction. They have a higher cost per square foot for construction.”
Well, we are going to smash those 3 widespread myths about loghomes, in plain English and with real facts.
1) “All loghomes experience settling.” FALSE
This is an important issue, because any log cabin that settles must use items like screw jacks, slip joints for plumbing, key ways for windows and doors, et cetera.
These are expensive and complicated methods of making allowances for settling, that if not done just right can cause major problems over time. It is certainly true that most log cabins experience settling. The styles that experience settling are all notched styles of log cabin construction and milled log cabin kits (the list includes Scandinavian Chinkless, Canadian Chinkless, Saddle Notch, Appalachian Style Dovetail, milled butt and pass, et cetera).
Below is a picture of spring loaded, “self adjusting” nuts and all-thread used to address settling issues in log cabin kits and notched log cabins. This is exactly the kind thing that adds complexity and expense onto a project.
But it is well worth noting that this myth is totally false, because there’s one style of log home construction that doesn’t experience settling. That is the Skip Style Butt and Pass method of log cabin construction. With this style you do not need to use screw jacks, slip joints, key ways, et cetera. This makes the construction process a lot quicker, easier and less expensive.
2) “One species of wood is better for building loghomes than all the other species.” FALSE
Usually when a manufacturer claims that they use “the best” species of wood for log home building it means only one thing: that is the species that grows locally to them, that they can get for the best possible price, so they can increase their profit margin.
Below is a picture showing a large pile of Douglas Fir logs. Douglas Fir grows like a weed in Washington, so it is very common to build with it here. In other areas you might use Lodge Pole Pine, White Pine, Hemlock, Cypress, et cetera. We have even had members use Eucalyptus, and their homes turned out absolutely stunning.
The truth is there isn’t an ideal species of wood to use for building log cabins. No one species is “better” than the rest. Instead, each species has pros and cons and there are always trade offs made when selecting wood species.
For instance a species that is very resistant to rot, like Cedar, tends to be very weak and won’t support weight in a span. A species that is very strong, like Douglas Fir, is not very resistant to rot. You have that same give and take when it comes to aspects like workability, checking tendency, r-value, and shrinkage rate.
The best thing to do about this wood species issue is to become an informed and educated consumer. You should understand the characteristics of the different wood species that you could use, and understand how wood species can affect a log cabin project (because it really can, in many different ways). To kick start the process we have included this exact information in our log home construction manual (which is free to LHBA class attendees).
3) “Loghomes are more expensive to build than a stick framed home.” FALSE!
Yes log cabins can be very expensive. Most log cabin kits are more expensive than a stick frame home of comparable size and design. Likewise most hand crafted log homes are far more expensive than a stick framed home.
In fact, handcrafted log homes are usually much more expensive than log cabin kits. But log cabins can also be extremely inexpensive, if you have the right attitude and knowledge. For example, one student built his home in 9 weeks and spent just $10,000 on it. Another member sold his home for around $490,000 but only spent $60,000 building it — by the way there is usually no tax on the first $250,000 of profit ($500,000 if you are married and file jointly).
And then there’s Sherrie and Debbie, a pair of woman builders who spent $20,000 building their log cabin. Below is an example of an inexpensive Skip style Butt and Pass log cabin.
There you have it, 3 popular myths about log cabins totally debunked. Really these are just the tip of the iceberg, because there are a lot of other myths floating around out there.
Additional resources for building loghomes:
- The total cost of your log home could be less than the price of a kitchen remodel.
- Save tons of money, use 25% fewer logs by building a Skip style Butt and Pass log home!
- You can build your own affordable log home.
- Are you worried about termites? Here’s the straight scoop.
- Construction costs: stick frame versus log home