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Learning About Log Cabins

Log Cabins in America date back to the early 1600's when European settlers fashioned simple structures from the abundant virgin forest lands of the New World. Utilitarian in their design, these early Log Cabins were long on function and practicality but short on modern day habitability. Yet, over the years, these primitive Log Cabins and their decedents have managed to win a place in the hearts of millions of Americans.

Though, the premise of using logs to construct the cabin's shell remains the same today as it was in the Seventeenth Century, today's Log Cabins have evolved into highly efficient, structurally superior modern-day masterpieces.

Prospective log cabin owners will find there are two main types of log cabins to choose from-Milled and Handcrafted Log homes. Though most log home companies feature only one type of log cabin, Avalon Log Homes proudly offers both milled and handcrafted log cabins.

A milled log cabin is the product of an automated manufacturing process that converts raw logs into a precision milled product of exacting dimensions and profiles. Milled log cabins typically feature an interlocking mechanism that allows manufactured logs to fit snugly when stacked. Likewise, milled log cabins allow for several different corner styles and log lengths.

Unlike a milled log cabin, a handcrafted log cabin represents the time-honored art of logsmithing. These handmade homes are constructed using many of the same practices as those employed by early American and European logsmiths centuries ago. Using mostly hand tools, logsmiths cut and shape logs from carefully selected trees so that each log fits perfectly on top of each other. As such, the logs used in a handcrafted log cabin retain many of the individual characteristics of the tree they once were and are generally more rustic looking than milled logs.

Constructing a home using Log Siding has grown in popularity in recent years. Unlike milled or handcrafted log cabins, log siding is combined with conventional stud framing and insulation to create the look and feel of a log home without using full logs.

When setting out to purchase a log cabin, buyers often mistake a log home materials package for all the components required to construct a finished log home. The reality is that because there is no real standard within the log cabin industry, buyers may find it challenging to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison of competing companies' materials packages.

Avalon Log Homes offers two standard material packages for prospective homeowners to choose from. These include a Log Walls & Gables Package and a Standard Weathertight Shell. To simplify, this process, Avalon Log Homes has created an easy to follow Materials Package Matrix to help prospective homeowners understand and compare Avalon Log Home's materials packages with others.

Log cabins are constructed using a variety of tree species and no one is necessarily better than another. Several factors, including environmental conditions, structural requirements, homeowner preference, availability and cost of course, often combine to create a shortlist of most commonly used species. Avalon Log Homes offers its clients the ability to build using any species of wood, but mostly uses the following species: Douglas Fir, Engelmann Spruce, Hemlock, Larch, Lodgepole Pine, Ponderosa Pine and Western Red Cedar.

Common to all tree species is their susceptibility to shrink, once harvested. Shrinkage in wood occurs when its moisture content reduces to match the humidity of the surrounding environment. Though some species are thought to be less prone to shrinkage than others, all wood used in log home construction will experience some degree of shrinkage.

Though shrinkage is a natural process that often poses no structural concern to logs in their raw form, building with logs that contain high moisture content (or green logs) can present serious structural problems if shrinkage is not properly accounted for. Because shrinkage can cause log walls to settle over time (sometimes considerably), engineers and builders must take steps to manage this settling so that is does not compromise the structural integrity or functionality of the cabin.

As a proactive measure, Log cabin manufactures employ a variety of different methods of drying wood to accelerate the shrinkage process prior to building. Kiln-drying and dead standing are the most commonly used methods. Avalon Log Homes uses the dead standing drying method, which utilizing trees that have been killed but have not been cut down. Because the trees are generally standing dead for a number of years, much if not all of the shrinkage has already occurred and thus less is likely to occur in the constructed log cabin.

Also common to all tree species is their susceptibility to insects, weathering and decay. As organic material, wood in its original state is a product of nature and is subject to its laws. Once harvested, wood naturally begins to decay and without some form of preservation will steadily decompose until it is reduced to organic matter and is consumed by new plant growth.

Modern day wood preservatives allow us to slow this process to a near glacier pace and thus postpone wood's demise for a good century or so. Especially significant to log home owners whose exterior shell is exposed wood, the use of proper preservative treatments throughout the home's lifetime will mean the difference between a home that lasts for generations or a decaying mass of plant food.

Log cabins, if manufactured and built correctly, offer comparable to superior energy efficiency versus conventional framed homes. Numerous independent studies have proven that log walls possess especially high thermal mass which makes them as energy-efficient as any well insulated frame wall and superior to most. Unlike R-value, the traditional measure of energy efficiency, thermal mass is a material's capacity to conduct, store and release heat over time given significant variances in temperature. Most notable of these studies was over a decade long study conducted by Log Homes Council (a division of the National Association of Home Builders). This and other studies have confirmed what many log cabin owners have know for years; log cabin stays cooler in the summer and warmer in winter.

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About the Author

Clarence Pond - Avalon Log Homes, Avalon Log Homes
1801 S. Camas St.
Nampa, ID 83686

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