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Pros and cons of log building over other natural methods?  RSS feed

 
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Hi, we have a small red pine plantation that is ready to be harvested soon in southern Manitoba (Boreal Shield/Lake of Lakes ecoregion). We have a sawmill and can saw to square ttimbers, stick lumber, etc. We can also do cob perhaps, stackwood, etc. I'm thinking, maybe because the logs require less processing and provide insulation and we have access to so many, that this is the best way to build. Is it? Is something else more appropriate for our region?
 
gardener
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A few pros that come to mind with log homes are natural insulative qualities and the strength of the walls especially if dovetail corners are used. A few cons are the need to let those logs dry and season before being stacked so the walls don't twist and rack and also insects that want to make a meal out of a log home or burrow and nest in the logs.
 
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In my opinion there is far more cons to log building than pros, but other people's experience may vary.

First, I dislike the poor insulating qualities of log homes; a scant R value of 1.7 R per inch of wood. That means a 6 inch log will only give you a R factor of 10. With a conventional 2x6 wall with batt insulation a person can get twice that. With green building like strawbale...even better insulating qualities. A log home does have mass factor, which means once all the wood is heated up, it retains the heat, so R values are difficult to compare; but for other reasons they are difficult structures to heat.

Part of that comes from the settling requirements. Logs do not dry in tree length form, so a builder has to account for settling. That can mean almost 4 inches of clearances above windows and doors. And as the house settles, drafts increase. Other methods of green building construction do not have this settling and draft issue.

Another drawback is the shear amount of wood it takes to build a log home. This was the reason the pioneers in New England moved from log homes to boarded homes, and ultimately stick built homes; far less consumption of wood. I have plenty of forest, but it was nice to build a 30 x 48 barn using only 15 trees. They were big, but useless for log home building. In your case Red Pine are ideal for log homes because they are tall and straight, but those same trees could produce timbers or framing lumber using less of them to build the same sized house. While right now a home is what you are looking for, what about down the road when you might need a barn for potential animals, or a woodshed, or other homesteading needs; will you have enough wood for that?

Building is often the easy part of log homes; the actual logging part can be the most difficult. Moving heavy logs through a forest can be tough if you do not have the right equipment.

Adding on to a log home can be more difficult than other forms of green building. That is important today where small homes are in vogue...and I agree...start small and build on as is needed. I am not saying it is impossible, but look at log homes while driving around; you can tell the additions on log homes instantly because they typically are not log additions, which says A LOT.

The greatest advantage of log homes is that the wood is round, yet you mention sawing the logs into timbers. My thought on that are pretty straight forward, if you plan to do that, why not just build a timberframe? You would use less trees, have better insulating qualities, and have no settling issues. What green methods you use to sheath and insulate those walls with I think would be a better use of materials and times for a far better home.

But keep in mind, it is really easy for me to spend other people's money, especially when they are doing the work!
 
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I have a couple of red pine plantations, one that my father planted before I was born and another I helped plant at around 6-7 years old. Although they grew well, with clearing low limbs to make good timber, we were told 15 years ago when the plantations were 40-45 years old that red pine was susceptible to borers and no longer used for log building, and the only value of the trees was for pulp. The price we would get for that was not worth the scarring of the land that commercial logging would cause.
 
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