Want to start a lively conversation among log-home aficionados? Suggest one style of log corner is superior to another.
Almost without exception, from the corner-post minimalist to the diehard dovetail devotee, the log-home owner is going to have a passion for what he or she has chosen. And the prospective homeowner may be left wondering what the hoopla is all about.
But trust us on this—style isn’t something strictly for a Paris runway. It’s an integral part of the design for your home.
How do companies market the corner? By educating the consumer on the possibilities. You need to know that a log home corner system will be one of five possible types or a variation of them. These include:
One of the most popular corner systems of all time, butt-and-pass has been utilized on buildings for centuries. In this style, the logs of adjoining walls appear to be at the same level. At one course, one log extends beyond the corner and the meeting log butts into it. On the next level up, the opposite log is longer and the adjoining log abuts it. In a full-log structure, this allows for a symmetry of courses on the interior that can have a very pleasing and proportional appeal.
This style features corners in which the logs run at a half-a-log height difference. Unlike the butt-and-pass system, there is no gap between the logs beyond the corner (alternating courses). Instead, the log ends appear without interruption because each is notched and half the bulk removed. This gives a sense of logs nestling into each other, and beyond that comforting appearance is the knowledge that it can be, indeed, a very sturdy and tight fit when done properly. Like butt-and-pass, interlocking corners are frequently featured in round or D-shaped log profiles.
Stylized to pay homage to the pioneer cabin, dovetail features beveled cuts top and bottom on a log, with the logs slipping into place as you might see in the ends of fine furniture. However, dovetail logs usually feature overlapping ends. This style is normally used with square or rectangular cut logs, and it is particularly appealing to prospective homeowners who wish to team the log system with chinking, whether that is decorative or functional. The ends of the logs are finished so that they resemble a dove’s tail, and that’s how the system got its name.
Similar to interlocking, the saddle notch is usually less intricate. Each log has a half-circle cut at the bottom so that it can fit snugly to the course below. Saddle-notch is used in conjunction with the Swedish cope finish to the logs.
While most log homes feature an extension of the corner beyond the intersection of log walls, there is a style in which the logs meet in a corner post that provides a squared corner with no extension. This is a more formal look that can also be adapted into the post-and-beam corner system in which log or timbers are integrated with other building materials. However, a corner post system can feature all-log construction. This system is often found in dormers or second story log siding, when used in concert with other corner styles.
Nearly every log-home manufacturer builds with a corner system preference, although there are companies that can provide any type corner. What those who specialize will tell you is that they have perfected their system through repetition. In fact, many companies offer patented or trademarked corner systems featuring something special that they have learned and developed. As far as which is best, it’s really a matter of taste, choice, and research by the individual buyer.
When deciding upon a system, prospective buyers should also bear in mind other factors, including:
a)the drying system and how that impacts shrinkage over time as it will impact the fit of logs where they join;
b) the joinery system, beginning with the basic stack and whether it’s tongue-and-groove or Swedish Cope, along with the mechanical connection;
c) the rest of the home’s styling and how well the corner system integrates and reflects on the log profile, the roofing system, the landscaping, the windows and doors, and so on; and
d) chinking or lack of. Some log profiles and systems don’t require chinking—in fact, the majority today fit in that category, which means that chinking has become a choice in many instances. But if it is a requirement or if it is being used as part of the sealing system, consider how it interacts with the corners, whether they float or if they are secure.
Homeowners considering half-log with insulation or even log siding are not left out of the decision-making process. Although it requires a different milling process, nearly all manufacturers offer corner extensions that can fool all but the finest expert, with regard to whether a home is full-log or not.
Note that whether it’s the log-home company, or a general contractor, or a local artisan, it’s possible to trim out the ends (or tails, as they are called) in nearly any style. The ends may be vertically straight, or curved, or staggered, or uniquely designed to the homeowner’s specifications. After the cuts, the tails will be hand-scribed or machined to match the rest of the log profile.
Whatever the choice, remember that the corner system something you’ll live with for a very long time. Aesthetically, it’s important that it be pleasing and appealing. Unlike many aspects of the home where decisions have to be made with regard to structural integrity or utility to the overall function of the home, with the corner systems, the prospective homeowner is looking at an investment whose return is always just around the corner.
The article first appeared in the May 2007 issue of Country’s Best Log Homes. Call (800) 258-0929 to order this issue, and click here to subscribe.