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Is it cheaper to build a log house or a traditional frame?  RSS feed

 
Zach Darling
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I am building a cabin and I am trying to find the best and most cost effective way to build it! I have some logs but not enough to build my whole cabin, the cabin is 20x28. I had originally wanted to do post and beam, but after much dismay it isnt feasible at this time. So I was thinking log, as then my insulation is basically built in, or going a traditional home with 2x4's. (Not sure what the proper term for the style). I am figuring for the log cabin I can use what I have and order some extra to make up the difference. My logs are on the smaller end on the east, so I may need about 80-90 logs.

Any ideas or suggestions?
 
David Livingston
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I think it may depend on where you are and the relative cost and transport of the wood you want .

David
 
Troy Rhodes
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It also depends on how much insulation you want to end up with.

Log homes are not actually all that well insulated.  Wood is about r-1 per inch.  So, 10" logs gives you r-10.  Sealing them well is also not a trivial problem.

There are some climates where the lack of insulation is well compensated by the fairly large thermal mass the logs represent.  These would be climates that have big daily temperature swings, (which the mass really evens out nicely) but not long periods of cold weather at freezing or well below freezing.


North of the Mason-Dixon line, I would feel underdressed at less than r-24 as the bare minimum.  My personal residence and 30 x 70' shop are both r-50.  The only way you get that with a log house is to build basically another wall inside the log wall and insulate that.  Expensive and you lose many of the advantages of a log house.

It also depends on your purpose for this cabin/shed/house.  Is this a two or three season vacation place, or something else.

And, what's the weather like?  How many degree days?  How much sun?  Good solar exposure?  High winds? 


 
Zach Darling
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Great questions! I had grown up in a log home my dad had built on the West Coast and there the winters were mild, bu damp. THe house was a hot box! It was lovely! I am on the East and we do get winters however the seasons seem to be changing. I would want to insulate but putting up another interior wall would defeat the purpose like you had mentioned. It is a full time cabin/home. I can order a truckload of logs for about 800$. I think I would need two truck loads. A guy is selling a log home ready to be assembled for $16,000. So if ordering three loads I am still ahead. I have tried to price out the lumber from a lumber yard and the cheapest I can get everything is for about $30,000. I am really wanting to try and wither do it myself or resalvage stuff. My logs are not too big here, as most forests have been cut about 30 years ago, so the trees are about 12inches in diameter.
 
Travis Johnson
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I looked into log houses quite awhile ago and what I found was a lot of hidden fees. They all say, "I can get you a log home package for x-amount of dollars", but that is just the logs! Everything else adds up. Then when you take into account the settling that takes place, and a lot of extra work to account for it, there are a lot of hidden costs I think. Not that log homes aren't lovely...they are!

Myself I have a timber frame, but that is another whole topic.

What I have found over the years is that my greatest problem can quickly become my greatest asset. In your case you have logs, but not a lot of them, and some are small. In reverse-thinking this, it seems you just need to get the maximum size cabin from the least logs. Since a traditional home shape is rather inefficient, I would think in your situation you might do well with a "Wofati".

It maximizes logs per square foot of living space
Uses wood in sizes that you have
Uses a lot of natural materials
Is conducive to cold climates
It is cost effective to build

Now if that is not a type of building style you are interested in, I understand, but I was curious if you had considered it?
 
Todd Parr
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No matter the cost, the upkeep of a log house is in no way worth it in my mind.  I may be biased by the fact that my girlfriend lives in a log house that was improperly sealed.  Water got into the logs, rotted them to the point of collapse, and the entire second floor of the house had to be lifted and all the first floor walls rebuilt beneath it.  The job is about half done and the cost so far has been $61,000.  If you want a log house, be very sure that your overhangs are big enough and that you keep it properly sealed.  That means maintenance that many people don't do, whether because of ignorance, laziness, lack of time or money, what-have-you.

Other points made about the lack of insulation also apply.
 
Justice Kelly
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As a log and timber frame builder in MN/WI, unless you are able to procure and prep materials and perform the labor, it may be cheaper to build stick frame. You can go hybrid, with log and timber components around and in stick frame methods.  Our rule of thumb to 'ballpark' a price is $120-200 for log, and 80-200 for stick frame in per square foot prices for turn key operations. And upkeep can be a major headache, unless it is good design and done right ($$$). Figure 4 weekends a year on upkeep, and a 1500 bill every 3-6 years for stain and caulking/chinking.
 
Peter Ellis
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Todd Parr wrote:No matter the cost, the upkeep of a log house is in no way worth it in my mind.  I may be biased by the fact that my girlfriend lives in a log house that was improperly sealed.  Water got into the logs, rotted them to the point of collapse, and the entire second floor of the house had to be lifted and all the first floor walls rebuilt beneath it.  The job is about half done and the cost so far has been $61,000.  If you want a log house, be very sure that your overhangs are big enough and that you keep it properly sealed.  That means maintenance that many people don't do, whether because of ignorance, laziness, lack of time or money, what-have-you.

Other points made about the lack of insulation also apply.


This applies to any construction method - if it's done poorly, there will be problems.
 
Peter Ellis
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Are you building yourself or having it done? Do you have the materials or do you have to buy and bring them in? What level of finishing are you looking for?  I know you said you have some logs on the property, but not enough for the project. If you were going to use conventional framing (stick built aka balloon framing) would you be able to mill dimensional lumber from your logs?  Buying a sawmill and milling your own dimensional lumber from your timber might work out to be lower cost than buying the dimensional lumber.

There are lots of elements to work out in this equation. Consider that professionally built rammed earth homes, using materials dug up on the site that cost, in and of themselves $0 (yes, there's a cost in digging them up, but you are not paying for the material itself), are generally priced on a level with conventionally built luxury homes.  A patient person who is physically sound can build a home from rammed earth using nothing but hand tools and the end result can be quite long lasting, comfortable and aesthetic - but there's a huge investment of time involved

Plumbing and electrical systems? It's common for these to be a substantial portion of the cost of constructing a house, whatever the construction methods employed in the framing.

If you're going to use a builder, the relative cost is likely going to be impacted by how many contractors in your area do the kind of work you are looking to have done.  If everyone does conventional framing, the guy who does log construction commands a premium.
 
Todd Parr
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Peter Ellis wrote:
Todd Parr wrote:No matter the cost, the upkeep of a log house is in no way worth it in my mind.  I may be biased by the fact that my girlfriend lives in a log house that was improperly sealed.  Water got into the logs, rotted them to the point of collapse, and the entire second floor of the house had to be lifted and all the first floor walls rebuilt beneath it.  The job is about half done and the cost so far has been $61,000.  If you want a log house, be very sure that your overhangs are big enough and that you keep it properly sealed.  That means maintenance that many people don't do, whether because of ignorance, laziness, lack of time or money, what-have-you.

Other points made about the lack of insulation also apply.


This applies to any construction method - if it's done poorly, there will be problems.


I would agree with that, but some things inherently need more maintenance.  I have talked to many, many people that owned log houses that say they would never own one again, and many builders that say they would never have a log home.  I'm sure there are many that say the opposite.  Anyway, I have no axe to grind, just reporting an issue that cost us many tens of thousands of dollars, probably near $100,000 by the time it's done.  The problem was caused by the previous owner painting the logs, which trapped the water in and rotted the logs.  I've personally never heard of someone destroying a stick built house by painting it.  That said, anyone can build any kind of house they like.
 
Zach Darling
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Looked up the Wofati house! Very cool!! But I amnto sure about getting the dirt! Lol!! Where I live if I dig too deep, I will hit water. I live in a place in Canada where there is more water than land. And most basements if built flood! My last house was a 200 year old house and actually had a spring running under neath, it was not ideal living with that. But I really like the idea. I have a slight slope as to where I am building and it is sort of aiming the right way of South facing. I need to look into it more nad maybe find someone near me that has built one. I am wanting to build the cabin myself. What ever I can I want to do, and at a last result have someone hired to help out.

As for the lumber, I might have a mill that will mill it for me for the cost of the diesel to cut the logs. I just have tot get the logs to him. I lucked out, an old machinist who has an old old mill has a hobby and offered to help name out. So I shall see if this can for sure happen.

The more I think about the Wofati house I really like it!

I am thinking of going Stick frame too. I had originally wanted to a post and beam. I had a person near me that does the frame and could deliver it. But the cost was just too much for me, and then to add the rest of finishing it was way more than I want to spend.

MY cabin will be as off grid as I can at this time. With composting toilet, and cook wood stove. The electrical I think I have that covered my dad is a retired red seal electrician. The plumbing should be pretty simple as I will only have grey water.  I know even on paper this all simple in reality building the cabin is more complicated then I ever thought. It is a major learning curve!! Lol!! But a very rewarding one.

One of my biggest challenges is where I am located is it is hard finding people with the know how or think building your own cabin yourself being a green horn think it is possible. Lol!! I have a lot of negative feedback here, so places like this are such a blessing!! Thank you for all your guys advice and tips!!
 
Francis Lepage
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Location: Canada, zone 4
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Hi Zach,
I understand you it is hard to find positive feedback sometimes where i am too. Where abouts in Canada are you? I am from Qc maybe i can help you?

In my opinion to isolate a log cabin you need to build around the living place. What i mean is find out where do you think you are gonna spend most of your time when you are inside (kitchen,bedroom, fireplace,etc) and then use this room as the central point of the house and build around it. You could attached a workshop on the east wall, a greenhouse on the south, bathroom west side, shed/wood storage on the north... These are only examples to give you an idea. That way the main room that you are going to live in and heat as well is not going to be next to outdoor temparature. The added rooms add temperature transitions area. If i translate it from french it is called Shell insulation. That is what i should start doing pretty soon. Although, i am going to build my log cabin with a different shape to maximise sun gain.

I understand you might have a limited supply of logs so maybe what i am proposing requires a bit too much logs...Maybe you could build the core out of whole logs and then after build around with a different technique?
 
Zach Darling
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Hi Tibif,

I farther East, in Nova Scotia.Are you building a Wofati home? Or something else similar? It sounds interesting what your building. i like the idea of the greenhouse. I was trying to figure out how I can do it. I remember some time back I saw the Earthship documentary and they have a greenhouse on the side of the house, and I really liked that butt I forget the details. The only part that makes me hesitate for the Wofati is I need a lot of sun in my cabin. I dont do well with limited sun. Also wehere do I gather the soil from? Do I ship it in, but then that could bee damaging to the area, cause soil can harbour tings I do not have and then lead to unpleasantness for the gardening aspect. I could be totally off, but it was a thought. I am not too keen on digging up the land unless I was going to for something but to just dig it up, strikes me as counter productive. But maybe it is just finding a compromise as in most things.

What si the design for you to maximize the sun in your home?It sounds very interesting! Do you have nay links for what you are doing or are you doing it all from scratch?
Tibif Leboeuf wrote:

Hi Zach,
I understand you it is hard to find positive feedback sometimes where i am too. Where abouts in Canada are you? I am from Qc maybe i can help you?

In my opinion to isolate a log cabin you need to build around the living place. What i mean is find out where do you think you are gonna spend most of your time when you are inside (kitchen,bedroom, fireplace,etc) and then use this room as the central point of the house and build around it. You could attached a workshop on the east wall, a greenhouse on the south, bathroom west side, shed/wood storage on the north... These are only examples to give you an idea. That way the main room that you are going to live in and heat as well is not going to be next to outdoor temparature. The added rooms add temperature transitions area. If i translate it from french it is called Shell insulation. That is what i should start doing pretty soon. Although, i am going to build my log cabin with a different shape to maximise sun gain.

I understand you might have a limited supply of logs so maybe what i am proposing requires a bit too much logs...Maybe you could build the core out of whole logs and then after build around with a different technique?
 
Francis Lepage
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Location: Canada, zone 4
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So on my land i have heaappsss of trees. Thats the main reason im building a log house. I prefer to use local material when possible. Ive been changing and changing the design quite a few times but now i think im finaly happy with it. The house is gonna be pretty much square with a lean-to turf roof. The "opening" of the lean-to facing south with lots of windows and a greenhouse in front. And like i told you i will add different rooms all around. The north side is going to be just a little inside the forest edge to protect me from the constant north winds.I have considered the wofati, i really like the idea, but for in case i think i would prefer to stay out of the ground so the house can be dryed by the wind because it is so wet here...

Do you have any ressource on the land where you are that you could use? The fact that you are on south facing slope is amazing. Use that to your advantage. If you are limited in logs you could build something integrated in the ground. An easy way could be just digging into the slope a few meters and use that dirt wall that you would have just created as your north wall. You just would have to manage water properly somehow...probably wofati could tell you more about that. So that could be a good way to use less wood. You would basicaly just need to build a south wall with lots of windows (so even less wood) and a roof. Maybe some part of east and west walls too. That would look nice!

There is also cordwood... I dont know if it uses less wood than a log house? I would say probably because you use lots of mortar... Thats a very cool and warm way to build a house but you woild have to dry the logs first.

And another thing i thought about if you are interested is a Yurt. That could be cheap if you build the frame yourself with the logs you already have. You only would have to buy the tarps or whatever its called.

Anyway just sharing some ideas to help you out. The more you have the better!
 
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