Log homes are a dream of many, but it pays to be informed about a few details before you begin looking for a log home. The logs themselves possess many secrets. So let’s let the logs tell us their story.
#1) A log home is a log home, is a log home, right?
Well, not quite. There are two main types of log homes:
1) Milled (manufactured) log homes, and 2) Handcrafted log homes.
The vast majority of log homes are milled. Milled logs are uniform diameter down the length of the log and they are milled on the top and bottom for different stacks such as Swedish Cope and Double Tongue and Groove. Also milled logs tend to be between six and eight inches in diameter. A handcrafted log home is made from logs with random widths. Most of those logs will range between 12 and 15 inches. Handcrafted logs are hand peeled. And a handcraft home has all cuts made by hand, not machines. #2). What is a log profile?
The profile of a person is the way their face looks to the world, and so with a log. For a milled log home, there are three main types of log profiles:
Double D (aka Round on Round) and
A D-log offers the homeowner a flat surface to the inside of the home and a round surface on the outside of the home. This is the most common log profile. The Double D log is round on the inside of the home and round on the outside. And the Square Logs are flat on both the inside and the outside.
Handcrafted log homes mainly use round logs that are hand peeled. These logs are round on both sides. Some hand scribed log homes, especially vintage ones, can be found in the square profile.
#3). What about between the logs? This is referred to as the log stack. The profile is how the inside and outside faces of the log look. The stack is how the top and bottom of a log is shaped.
There are four main styles of log stack for milled homes: Flat log profiles, Single tongue and groove, Double tongue and groove, and Swedish Cope The flat log profile is a log that is milled flat on the top and the bottom. This type of log does not offer any overlap between one row of logs and the next row. These logs rely entirely on foam tape and caulking, or some sort of insulation barrier between the logs to seal the weather out.
The single tongue and groove is somewhat better. The logs are milled so that the top of the log has a tongue that sticks out and the bottom of the log has a groove. When the logs are stacked the tongues and grooves push together.
Double tongue and groove stack means each log has two tongues on the top and two grooves on the bottom instead of one. When the logs stack there is a double row of tongues and grooves that are sandwiched together providing a double seal to the log wall.
Swedish Cope logs are milled with the top of the logs round. The bottom of each log is cut concave, in a half moon pattern. As the logs stack the logs overlap one another over the concave area.
#4). So, which log stack is best? Let’s look at this in a little more detail. No matter what style of log, some sort of insulation, such as foam tape should be used between the logs to further seal out the elements.
The flat logs provide no weather sealant in and of themselves. Many times the less expensive or the less advanced company will offer this type of log. The single tongue and groove stack is somewhat better, but still considered to be an inferior log by many builders.
Swedish Cope log offers good overlapping, but has a few other issues. When stacking the logs, it is harder to get a very perpendicular wall with the Swedish Cope logs. Due to the roundness, the logs like to shift back and forth. The double tongue and groove logs stack very straight because there is no rounded surfaces between the logs.
The double tongue and groove is the best. The walls stack up straight and the logs themselves offer a double row tongues and grooves to keep the weather on the outside.
#5). How do handcrafted log homes stack? Between the logs a Scandinavian Full Scribe method is used. If you look at the end of a log wall, you will see a slight almost Swedish Cope cut to the logs. The full scribe method allows for the logs to cleave even tighter together as the logs settle. Handcrafted log homes shrink 6 inches or more over the first year. The shrinkage is normal and is anticipated and planned for in the construction drawings.
The best hand crafted log homes have all cutting and through bolt drilling done before it leaves the mill. The through bolts go from the bottom of the wall to the top. This keeps the logs straight.
#6). What about log sizes? Log diameters can vary depending on the style of log home you choose. For manufactured log homes, the 8 inch x 8 inch log is the most common. For each inch of log more thermal mass is gained by the home. A 6×8 log is good as well, but simply has less thickness to each log and thus less thermal mass for insulation. Many times the home owner will choose to upgrade the log package to an 8×8 log for anywhere from about $3,000 to $6,000 for an average sized home.
#7). Handcrafted log diameters? Our handcrafted logs have a mean diameter of 13″. They range in diameter from approximately 12 inches to 15 inches. Milled logs, a.k.a. manufactured logs, have the consistent diameter throughout the log. Handcrafted logs vary in diameter not only in the length of one log, but also in the various logs used for a wall. This lends even more of a rustic feel to a home.
#8). What does “full saddle notch” mean? Full saddle notch refers to the corner of the log home. Log homes typically have one of about four different styles on the corners.
Full saddle notch
Butt and pass
When the corner of a log home is examined closely, these various styles are vary noticeable. If a home has full saddle notch corners, then the end of every log is visible on the corner of the cabin.
Butt and Pass homes have every other log showing on the corner. Dove tail corners are most commonly found on square log, log homes. This method is reminiscent of colonial log homes.
And modern corners is when a corner board or post is installed on the corner of the home and no log ends extend outward.
Which is the best? The full saddle notch is very good because there are no log ends left exposed to the weather. The modern ends don’t retain as much of the log home “feel”. The dovetail are lovely, but are primarily limited to a square log home
.#9). What is log joinery? Log joinery refers to the joint where one log ends and the next begins (sometimes called a butt joint) in the log wall. Joinery is another issue, such as the log stack, that separate high quality homes from low quality. For manufactured log homes there are three main methods of joinery.
Joinery systems include: butt ends, spleen system, and finger joinery. Butt ends is just that. The logs are cut and pushed together with nothing other than some caulking in between the two logs. The spleen technique required the end of each log to be grooved vertically. Then the logs are pushed together and a vinyl or 2×4 spleen is pushed or driven down between the logs.
Finger joinery, our last type, is where the end of each log is cut to look like ‘fingers’. The fingers then weave together as the logs are pushed into position. This is the best joinery in the industry.
The butt joint logs lack any form of overlap and rely only on caulking or an insulating material to seal out the elements and insects. The spleen method is effective, but a problem can arise when the home is under construction. As the log walls are stacked, the butt joints are cut and the spleens inserted. It can be easy for a crew to forget to install a spleen. Once the next row of logs is stacked there is no way to go back and put in the missing spleen.
Finger joinery is cut into the log ends at the mill. So there is no chance for human error and a spleen being forgotten. Also finger joinery provides several fingers that overlap, whereas the spleen only provides one surface to seal the home.
#10). Should log homes be precut or not pre-cut? Log homes come either in random length logs, partially precut, or fully precut packages. Random length logs require all of the cutting for corners, door and window opening, and butt joints to be done on the job site. Partially precut homes come with the corners precut, but door and window openings, and butt joints must be cut on site. A fully precut home comes with all openings, butt joints, and corners precut and all logs pre-numbered. The home is fully ready to be assembled when it arrives.
With a log home this is a very true and accurate saying. “You either pay now or you pay later”. Many times people try to only consider the bottom dollar on materials. But labor is also a substantial cost. Random length logs may seem inexpensive, but about 3 to 4 months extra of labor costs will be required to dry a home in over a fully precut pre-numbered home of the same size. Another factor to consider is the accuracy of the cuts. Any cuts made on a job site will never be as accurate and precise as ones made by either specialized machinery or master log craftsmen by the log home manufacturer. Cuts made at the mill are always going to be superior to ones made on the job site in less than perfect conditions. The final factor is that a fully precut pre-numbered log home package will assemble much tighter and more ‘snuggly’ than a random length or partially precut home.
We have calculated costs and labor out over several homes that we have built. Time and again we have found that it is less expensive overall to purchase a fully precut package than it is to purchase either the random length logs or the partially precut home packages. And also the homes are much tighter and more sealed against the elements. Two main costs that consume building budgets are extra labor costs and equipment rental. To assemble a fully precut home only 3-5 days may be required verses 3 to 4 months.
The logs have many secrets. We’d love to tell you more manufactured and handcrafted log home secrets.
Thanks for reading! Mike and Sue Lemmon Cowboy Log Builders LLC
Contact Information: Mike and Sue Lemmon Cowboy Log Builders LLC 7359 Raven Dr., Belgrade, MT 58714 406-388-3458 / 406-490-7220 cowboyloghomes.com