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    Western Log Home Supply Archive Page
    Sunday, December 28, 2008
    The above question is asked by most people before any discussion ensues about log homes in general. The above question cannot be answered unless many questions are asked of the prospective home buyer. As an example, the above question is similar to one asked, “How much does a car cost?”

    A basic consideration of home cost is what part of the United States are you planning to build. Will you be building in California, New York, Arkansas or North Dakota? There can be a great disparity in building costs between these various regions of the country. Costs may be higher in California than in Arkansas due to the fact that living costs may be higher in California than in Arkansas. In some states, there will be greater requirements of the builder and more approvals from various state and local agencies before a permit can be granted to build the home. Some states do not have building codes or stiff building code requirements or in terms of engineering and contractor licensing and thus costs will be lower. Building materials can also be higher in some states and in some areas of individual states than in another location. Thus, where you plan to build is a major consideration when the cost of a log home is analyzed.

    Other considerations to consider are:

    1) The type of log home you intend to build. Will it be a precut package, a custom hand-crafter log home or random length logs from a local sawmill. The price of these various components can vary greatly and thus it is a major variable in the cost of building a log home.

    2) Do you intend to ship logs in from another part of the country so that you can get the home and the home plan that you desire. Shipping can result in extra costs, but should not be prohibitive when one considers the total cost of the home.

    3) Do you plan to have a full basement, maybe completely finished, or are you going to build on a slab or crawl space. There can be a great difference in these various forms of construction.

    4) People must remember that the logs are just a small portion of the costs that will be entailed when building a log home. The type of roofing that is to be used such as exposed beam, conventional 2x rafters, or a truss roof can affect the cost of the home. Do you plan to use a specialty metal roof or use regular asphalt shingles?

    5) The insides of the log home can run up the cost of the finished home. For instance, a stone fire-place, with hardwood floors, custom cabinets, top of the line bathroom and kitchen fixtures, specialty lighting and electrical components, and interior wall finishing. Most people have the misguided belief that once the house is shelled in, they are near completion. This is not true! There is a lot of labor and materials that will go into the interior of the home before it is finished. It is at this stage that many people opt for the better cabinets, lighting fixtures, carpet, etc. and destroy their budget. One a budget is determined, stick to it or you will get intos a lot of trouble with the funds you have allocated to the project.

    6) To get an idea if you can afford a log home, you need to check building costs in the area in which you plan to build. If nice, custom homes are being built in your area for $125 per sq. ft. then you can use this as a guide. However, if this seems feasible, then start shopping for a log package and a builder. A local builder can give you some idea what building costs are running in the area. In the end, you will have to bring a completed blueprint to a builder and tell him exactly what you want for flooring, cabinets, roofing, etc. He will also have to look at your lot to see if it will require more or less work than normal to put in a foundation, septic system, driveway, etc. As a last reminder, if the building costs are in the $125 per square foot range, that does not mean that you can the put in a deluxe bathroom, teak floors, imported crystal lighting fixtures, etc. Keep your feet on the ground when designing your home….unless your do not have financial constraints.

    7) One might hear that a completed log home costs will run 2 or 3 times the price of the log package. This is not an accurate way to judge the cost of your finished log home. For instance, one package may sell for $30,000 and another of $60,000, but the less expensive package may well have fewer materials furnished. Thus you have a range of $90,000 to 180,000 for a completed home which are both the same size. Components that go into a log home (or any home for that matter) can vary greatly in price from the low end to the high end. Which end of the building spectrum that you plan to build will make a big difference in the final cost of the home.

    8) To use a multiplier against the cost of the log package is like getting the price of an automobile by using a factor against the weight of the vehicle. The final, only reliable way to get a finished cost of your log home is have a builder(s) go over your prints after you have them exactly what you want in the house as to materials and components.

    9) Finally always have a buffer in your budget of 5 to 10% to cover price increases or unforeseen expenses. If you are on a really tight budget, don’t just throw caution to the wind and say, “lets build it as it will work out.” It might, but if you are wrong you may or the bank may end up with a not quite completed home.

    10) I have worked with people who what their “dream home” which is going to be a log home with the best of everything that can be had. They cannot get a loan to cover such a project so they eventually went to a factory built convention home because it was “less expensive.” If they had gone to a more realistic floor plan with fewer “bells and whistles”, then they could have had a log home that would have fit their budget. Be realistic when setting goals for your hew log home. Don’t design something that is completely out of your financial range. The belief that log homes are a very expensive way to build is just not true. What happens is that some people put in too many costly features that runs up the price of the home.

    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Saturday, December 27, 2008
    I hope that everyone had a great holiday season! Check out my new blog about military history and my Marine Model Johnson Rifle: Talking with Clyde 


    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Saturday, December 20, 2008
    With its thick walls of solid wood, a log home is one of the best-insulated buildings in which you could choose to live. But the nature of a log home's construction also presents a unique challenge: the opportunity for air to pass through the gaps between the logs.

    Fortunately, air infiltration is a challenge that's easily met, thanks to caulking, the general term for the seals that are introduced between logs. With the right caulking method, or "caulk joint" as it is generally termed, a log home can achieve thermal efficiencies to rival those of any building method.

    Two key elements are essential to effective caulking. First, the caulk used must form a "wet" seal, one that adheres to the wood surfaces rather than just filling the gaps between them. And second, it needs to be elastic (a quality sometimes referred to as "memory"), either stretching or compressing as the shapes of the logs themselves subtly move through natural expansion or contraction.

    With those elements met, four principles govern the most efficient caulk joint design: caulk depth, points of adhesion, a caulk "well," and the conditions under which the caulk is applied. Each principle is fairly simple to grasp, and understanding them all will help anyone buying, building, or restoring a log home make the right energy-efficient decisions.

    Principle 1: Apply the Right Caulk Depth

    In general, the depth of caulk in a joint is more important than the width of the caulk's application. Why? Put as simply as possible, the most critical factor is that the caulk have enough mass at any given point to absorb any movement in the logs.
    As a rule, whatever its width, the depth of a caulk joint does not need to be any more than 1/2 inch or any less than 1/4 inch. (See figure 1, which illustrates how a thinner cross-section results in less stress on the joint.). Also, a deeper joint is preferable to one that is too thin.

    Principle 2: Provide Two Caulk Adhesion Points

    Caulk works best when it adheres only to two elements, namely the two logs between which it is applied, so that the seal will hold if and when any movement occurs in the logs. (See figure 2, which illustrates how this principle applies whether the joint is being stretched or compressed.)

    Adhesion to three or more points, by contrast, would cause the caulk to be pulled in multiple directions, thus increasing the likelihood that the seal will break away from one or more of the points of adhesion. (See figure 3, which illustrates how such ruptures can occur under three-point adhesion.) Placing a backing rod inside the well

    With this principle in mind, any backing materials included in a caulk joint should provide a surface to which the caulk does not adhere. Doing so allows the caulk to remain at its most elastic.

    Principle 3: Create a Caulk Well

    Superior caulks have enough elasticity to absorb 25 to 50 percent of the total movement in the joint they fill. To allow for that movement, caulk joints require "wells," spaces that allow the joint to absorb that movement.

    For a reliable seal, the caulk well should be two to four times larger than the movement that is anticipated for that joint, thus reflecting the 25 to 50 percent absorption properties of the caulk being used. (See figure 4, which illustrates how an anticipated 1/4-inch movement calls or a 1-inch caulk well.)

    Obviously, the greater the movement expected in a particular joint, the larger its caulk well should be. Log homeowners can also take comfort from the fact that high-quality caulks currently being sold are capable of absorbing far greater movement than that for which they are rated.

    Principle 4: Apply Caulk Under Optimum Conditions

    Because logs expand or contract in response to temperature and humidity, the climate conditions at the time caulk joints are applied will affect the seal formed. On a very hot, humid day, for example, a joint will be at its smallest, since wood expands under such conditions; so caulk applied at such a time will later be subject to the maximum stretching. By contrast, a joint will be at its largest on the coldest, driest of days; so caulk applied then will later be subject to the maximum compression. (See figure 5, which illustrates the tension on caulk joints under both extreme and average temperature conditions.)

    With this principle in mind, it is wise to select a caulk with properties that best suit the range of local climate conditions, and to apply it at the most stable, least extreme point in the climate cycle. But smart log home builders will also apply caulk at optimum times; for example, sealing caulk joints on the cooler side of a home will work most effectively on a warmer day, while those on the side of a home that gets more direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight would best be sealed on a cooler day.

    By aiming to apply all four principles described above, you'll maximize the effectiveness of your caulk joint seal. That may require you and your builder or contractor to implement sealing techniques that go beyond the most obvious and simple solutions. (Figures 6 and 7, for example, illustrate how two logs conventionally sealed with caulk applied at their meeting point lead to a triangular, three-point adhesion that can easily rupture; but adding a caulk well with a backing rod to the same log cross-section results in much more secure two-point adhesion.)

    Keep these guidelines in mind, and you'll thus enjoy the maximum benefits of log homes' superior insulation and energy-saving capabilities.

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    by: Western Log Home Supply

    The rotten log dilema

    Wood only rots between a moisture content of 30 to 60%. Thus if you find a log that is rotten, it is due to the wood/log getting too wet. Generally this results from a few basic causes of water reaching the logs in fairly large amounts. Many times I have talked with people over the telephone and told them their problem without them telling me much about their home.

    There are many reasons or wood to rot:

    • The roof is the umbrella that protects the home from the elements. Thus minimal overhangs results in rain drenching the logs.
    • The lack of rain gutters and down spouts allows the water to run off of the roof and be blown onto the logs by the wind. In many cases rain running off of the roof will hit the open deck and splash water against the logs.
    • Finally bushes planted too close to the home can also divert rain water against the logs and this will leave the logs damp for some time as the bushes keep the sun from hitting the logs and drying them.

    Repairing Rotten Logs:

    If you have logs which are rotting (generally the lower courses of logs), then you must repair or replace them and then be prepared to take care of the root cause of water saturating the logs.

    • If the logs have some surface rot, you can chisel out the rotten part of the log down to good solid wood. 
    • Then drench the problem area with a wood preservative such as Penetreat. This wood preservative would be the water soluble type which is a borate compound. 
    • Then use wood epoxy to cover the area in need of repair.

    Replacing Rotten Logs: 

    • First obtain a suitable replacement from a supplier that handles the same log type as found in you home. WesternLogHomesuppy.com can manufacture replacement logs for your home.  Just give us a call and we would be happy to talk with you.
    • Then cut out the offending log using a saber saw with a blade made for cutting metal. This will cut through the spikes or log screws holding the logs together. You will then need to remove the rotten logs using a chain saw and wrecking bar. If the log is badly rotten then this job should not be hard to do.
    • If the logs are tongue and groove type then the new logs will have to have the tongue removed on top of the new log so that it can slipped into the space left by the old log. It can be attached to the solid logs of the home with the use of plated deck screws. 
    • The final touch is to use a good grade of chinking to seal the joints between the new logs and the existing logs in the log home.
    • Now apply a wood preservative to the affected area (preferably the whole home) and then refinish the home.

    As was mentioned earlier, now take care of the problem that resulted in the logs getting wet in the first place!

    For more information about replacing rotten logs, chinking material, stain or log cabin kits contact Clyde at Westernloghomesupply.com toll free at 719-547-2135.

    Westernloghomesupply.com is a distributor of log home chinking, cabin caulking, log stains, wood finishes, knotty pine log cabin siding, replacement house logs & complete log home kits.

    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Friday, December 12, 2008

    The term sapstain and blue stain is used in many articles concerning rot and wood preservation. One should understand this term as a first step in understanding wood degradation and rot.

    What is Sapstain?

    A tree consists of many parts, but for this short treatise two terms, heart wood (physiologically dead wood located near the center of the tree) and sap wood, which are located on the outer periphery of the tree (physiologically active) will suffice.  The sap wood carries water and nutrients up though the tree and thus is a perfect environment for sapstain growth.

    When a board or timber is cut from a log, mold spores can come in contact with the nutrient rich wood with its inherent high moisture content and they begin to multiply and spread over the face of the lumber.

    As they spread they create a stain which is normally blue, but can actually be different colors. Throughout the years I have seen not only blue, but also black, red and yellow.

    If this mold/stain is not checked, it can penetrate into the wood with tendrils and take the infection deep into the lumber or timbers. They will eventually emit enzymes which will break down the wood and then you have the start of serious decay.  We are talking about lumber which is wet (unseasoned) and in a nutrient rich environment. Many people talk of dry rot; but in reality there is no such thing. This is a misnomer. since wood needs to be between 30 and 60-percent moisture content for it to begin the decay cycle.

    Preventing Sapstain

    To prevent sapstain from discoloring the lumber and to prevent further degradation through decay, many mills will dip the product into a fungicide to deter mold from attacking the lumber. This is particularly important in the humid areas of the United States and its use is highly recommended for high quality, valuable lumber.  

    Lumber which has a high propensity of sapstain will not take a finish evenly. The area which has the sap- stain will absorb wood finishes more than unaffected areas. Thus, when finishing a piece of lumber so infected, one will have to use a number of wood finish coats to even out the look. For high quality products such as furniture or mouldings, the lumber infected with sapstain is discarded.  

    If one is installing wood which has mildew present, it should be washed thoroughly before applying any type of finish. We are talking about a surface coating of mildew, not a stain that has penetrated deep into the wood. Use a mixture of three quarts of water, one quart of household bleach, and 1/4 cup of liquid dishwasher detergent which does not contain ammonia. Never mix bleach and ammonia as it will give off hazardous fumes. This formulation can be sprayed on using a pump sprayer. After 15 to 30 minutes, it can be washed off using a power washer.

    Remember that once the stain goes deep into the wood, it cannot be removed with bleach or any other product. It is there to stay.  Always remember not to play chemist and experiment by mixing various chemicals as they could give off hazardous fumes...and more!

    Please check out our section of wood cleaners and brighteners and log home preservatives. As always you can contact Clyde at 719 547-2135 if with any questions regarding wood or log homes or visit our website at www.westernloghomesupply.com

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    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Monday, December 8, 2008


    Differential Shrinkage

    To get right to the point, wood cracks due to differential shrinkage! Differential shrinkage occurs because the outer fibers in the shell dry first and begin to shrink. However, the core has not yet begun to dry and shrink, and consequently the shell is restrained from shrinking by the core. Thus the shell goes into tension and the core into compression. With the stresses from the shell and core pulling in opposite directions the wood fibers break and a crack forms.  The larger the wood member, the more stress is exerted to the wood member.


    Lets take an example of a 1x8 board versus an 8x8 timber

    •          The 1x8 board is only one-inch thick so it dries fairly quickly. The stress are minimal and just a few, small surface checks may result.
    •          The much larger 8x8 (8-inches x 8-inches) timber takes a long time to dry which could be as much as six-months. The inside of the timber will stay wet for months while the outside is dried to well below 20-percent moisture content. The stress that is set up within the 8x8 will eventually result in a ½ inch crack or larger on one face to the timber. This crack will go all the way to the center of the timber and usually be on one face only.
    I have seen people cutting a round, “lilly pad” from the end of a log so that they can use it as a cutting board in the kitchen. It looks nice in the green, unseasoned state but after a few weeks it develops a large, pie crack in the piece. It is eventually discarded as unsightly. After throwing it away they wonder what happened to the wood that allowed this to happen.  

    This is just another reason why wood materials should be properly dried before using them in any mode other than for exterior use such as fence posts, landscape timbers or a rough fence. If they are being used where their final moisture content will be 15% or lower, they should be dried prior to milling and installed into their final end use. In this way the seasoning, stress cracks can be aligned in such a way that they are hidden or discarded.

    Preventing Cracks – Proper drying techniques and PEG

    What can be done to prevent this seasoning degradation in wood? With large quantities of lumber, boards to timbers one can only resort to proper drying following the many details that make up the complete process. This can be done with either a kiln or by air drying but many details have to be followed to have the results desired. It is not the purpose of this short subject to outline what must be done to properly dry wood. This will be covered in another article.

    For small, fairly expensive items such as carvings, another method can be used to prevent degradation due to seasoning checks and cracks. This is done using a chemical called polyethylene glycol-1000 or PEG for short. This material looks like a block of paraffin in the solid state but will dissolve in water. The correct method for using this material is to soak the newly carved piece of wood in water for a month or more depending on its size. After it is completely saturated with water it is placed in a solution of PEG and water. It is kept in this solution for several months for best results. The solution should be warm and can be kept this way with a fish bowl heater. After the carving is thoroughly saturated with PEG, it must be dried slowly in a cool environment and out of the sunlight. The result is a wood carving that will not shrink when it dries and thus will not crack.

    The physical explanation for the above process is this: PEG can only be transmitted through the wood if the wood is thoroughly saturated with water. When the PEG enters the cells, it fills the cell walls and the cell lumen located in the center of the cell. When the wood is dried, it cannot shrink because the cell walls are now filled with a solid (PEG) and cannot shrink. If the wood cannot shrink, it cannot crack or split!

    As a final note, I used this method on a piece of sycamore that was buried in a clay pit for nearly 6,000 years. I had it made into a gun stock and after 30 years of use the gun stock looks like new without the slightest hair line crack in any surface of it.

    P.S.  To treat checks and cracks in wood we recommend that you use our chinking and sealant materials found here. If you have any questions regarding drying wood or wood in general just give me a call at 719-547-2135 or visit our website at www.westernloghomesupply.com

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    by: Western Log Home Supply