House Logs: Frequently Asked Questions
What products do you make?
We're a custom-order business. We sell whole round logs, peeled or unpeeled. We can make house logs milled flat on two, three, or four sides. The round sides are left un-milled and are peeled with a power hand tool. This is a more authentic look that other milled logs in which the round sides are produced by planing a slight radius into a square cant. Longest length is 24'. We do not sell logs which are coped (shaped with hand tools into a moon shape to conform to the log underneath them). For those with less experience building log homes, we recommend logs milled flat on three sides.
What kind of log shape should I use?
There are three basic ways to use logs in home construction:
1) Stacked round logs. In this method, whole logs are stacked atop each other and held together at the corners with saddle notching, carving a saddle into the upper log so that it fits snugly over the log below it. Logs are held together at door and window openings with steel rods or thick planking. Stacked round logs need to be chinked to improve seal and insulation value at the point where logs touch. Stacked round logs will settle, so it's best to allow for that with space above windows and doors and slip joints wherever interior walls meet log walls. One popular myth is that the settling can be avoided by using dead trees, kiln drying, or air drying the logs before assembly. These methods will eliminate some of the settling due to shrinkage of logs, but they won't eliminate settling due to compression. The weight of the logs on top of it slowly compresses each log to a more oblong shape. This method economizes on number of logs used because the wall rises the full diameter of each round log. It requires a crane or other equipment for lifting the logs into place, and skill in crafting proper saddle notches.
2) Coped logs. With this method, logs are carved into a moon shape with edges which conform to the contours of the log below it. Chinking is not required, but sealant between logs is still necessary. Like round logs, coped logs settle whether or not they are pre-dried. These also require a crane or machine for assembly and considerable skill and time in carving the logs. Saddle notch corners, vertical planking, and steel rods help keep the logs from shifting out of place.
3) Milled logs. In this method, logs are milled flat on two, three, or all sides and are stacked one on top of another. Since the meeting point between each log is flat, there is less tendency for the logs to slip out of place, so corners can be completed with or without saddle notching or dovetailing. Walls can be stabilized with lag bolts driven through a log into the log below it. As with coped logs, chinking is optional, but a sealant is needed between each course of logs. Dried milled logs settle very little. The length of milled logs is limited to the length the sawmill can saw, so on long walls, the logs butt up against each other. Most milled logs can be lifted into place by a two-man crew. Also, the stability of the wall eliminates the structural need for logs to span the entire distance from one corner to another.
What species should I use?
The only species we offer are Ponderosa Pine and Black Hills Spruce, and we avoid criticizing other species, except to warn customers to beware of companies selling "standing dead timber". Some dead timber has insect infestation and larger cracks than a properly-cured live log. We also caution about companies selling logs which resist rot. While some species are less prone to rot, every species of wood will rot if it is not properly maintained.
What diameter should I use?
The industry standard is 10" for round or coped logs. Anything in the range from 8"-12" is workable. For milled logs, we recommend 8"x8" logs, which require a raw log of more than 11" diameter. 6"x6" are also common. Prices rise dramatically for dimensions greater than 8"x8". Remember that for round or coped logs, a log with 10" diameter on the top will have around 14" diameter on the butt if it's 40' long. If you're not accustomed to working with logs, it's very common to underestimate how massive a 10" x 30' log really is.
What does it cost to ship logs?
About $2 per mile per semi load. A semi can haul about 25 logs measuring 10" x 34'. Always order extra logs. If you're one or two short, you'll pay the same to haul 2 logs as to haul 25.
Do you have sample floorplans?
Yes, but the best source for these are your local bookstore. You'll find several books of sample plans, and most of the time, it doesn't matter whether the plans were drawn for log home construction or not. In some locations, your planning department will require your blueprint to show specific information which isn't included in a generic blueprint anyway.
Do you sell kits with exactly the right lengths and number of logs for a given structure?
We can assemble a kit, but there are benefits to cutting the logs on-site. If a log develops a bow between the time we cut it and you assemble it or if you accidently gouge it while handling it, you're stuck with using that log in a kit situation. A steady hand, a square, and a sharp chainsaw are all you need for cutting on-site.
How long will I have to wait for my logs?
We keep only a small quantity of house logs on hand, and we don't start assembling an order until we have payment. During periods of mud and deep snow, we're not able to harvest timber. In normal weather, we can assemble a semi-load of round logs in 2 weeks. For peeled logs, allow 6 weeks. For milled logs, allow 6 weeks. Milled logs will dry after 40 above-freezing, rain-free days.
How can I learn to build a log home?
If you're using the coped or stacked method, we recommend you attend a log home building school. Remember that most round logs are extremely heavy and prone to roll and slip, and we don't recommend that you work with them without good training and heavy equipment. If you're using milled logs, we're available for technical support on the phone and you're welcome to watch us build one. In less than a day, you'll have all the pointers we've learned along the way.
Do I need kiln-dried logs?
We can kiln dry for an extra fee, but we don't recommend it. In the long run, kiln drying will not change the moisture content in your log. Logs are like delayed-action wicks and will absorb whatever moisture will bring them into equilibrium with their environment. Kiln drying will not make a log which is prone to bow or twist into a straight log. Kiln drying will conceal these defects, and after the bands are loosened and the logs absorb moisture, the bows and twists will show up. It's better to let your logs air-dry at our mill site. We look for any bows and twists which develop during drying, and throw them out rather than ship them to you. The best way to avoid bows and twists are to start with straight timber and saw the house log out of the center of it. Another benefit of kiln drying is that it kills any insects in the log. Since we use only healthy, living trees for house logs, that doesn't apply to us. Please see our article: What's the best way to dry wood? "Kiln vs. Air Drying" Find out here...
Do I need tongue-and-grooved logs?
T&G is only beneficial for small dimension (less than 8"x8") milled logs made from crooked, inferior timber. T&G allows you to force a bowed log into conformity with the wall, but that only works if the log is thin enough to have some flexibility. We've often seen them pop back out as the log absorbs moisture and ages. T&G has little sealant benefit. Every structure we've seen made of T&G logs eventually gets caulked or chinked to provide a seal. If you're determined to build with logs prone to bow out of the wall, lag bolts are better than T&G.
How many logs do I need?
Unless you're paying a kit price, we don't make those calculations, but we're happy to tell you how to do it: Determine the perimeter, including pass corners, of your structure. Determine the number of courses of logs needed to give you the wall height you want, and multiply that by the perimeter. Order 10% more logs than you need to allow for error and mis-cuts. Remember that if you're building with 10" x 40' long round stacked logs for example, your rise for each course is about 12", the average diameter of the logs. When you order 10" logs, that's the top diameter, not the average diameter. Also, you always get a little larger diameter than you pay for. If we cut a tree down for a 10" order but it measures 11.5", we send it to you for the 10" price.