What are the differences between the many types of wood used to build log homes?
Although the particular species of wood you choose for your logs is irrelevant to the success of your home, the color and grain of the wood contribute substantially to a certain look. More important than species is the log’s ability to perform its role in your house. Logs that span window and door openings, for example, must be able to support greater weight than logs that are simply stacked one on top of the other.
One way to ensure that the logs destined for your home are up to the job is to buy logs that are graded for structural use. Members of the Log Homes Council (LHC) are required to have their logs graded either by the council’s grading program or by Timber Products Inspection (TPI), an independent company. TPI also grades logs for some non-LHC members and can even be hired to grade the logs in your kit if they are produced by a company that doesn’t grade. Ask about log grading when choosing a company.
Pine has good tensile strength and remains true and straight. Some types of pine have loads of character in the grain, too. Subspecies include lodgepole, ponderosa, red and white pine. This species is among the most prevalent of choices for log homes, because it’s so plentiful, can be found in a wide variety of colors and grains and is often significantly less expensive than competing species.
Douglas fir is a western species whose tones vary from red to yellow, depending on age. Because it grows to majestic heights, it is marvelous for use in lengthy spans. It can be pricey, but high-density Douglas fir is strong and a good choice for structural uses. It holds its true straightness for generations and is ideal for homes that will be passed down to your appreciative children and grandchildren.
Native to New England but also available in the Midwest, South and West, spruce is classified as red, white or black, although there’s little difference in color, which trends toward creamy white or pale yellowish brown. Western subspecies Engelmann spruce is softer and lighter, both in weight and color. Spruce has many construction characteristics to recommend it, as well.
Ah, the wonder of cedar’s marvelous scent! Many are the homeowners who decide not to seal the interior of a cedar home so they can continue enjoying the welcoming aroma. Since its lovely grain and color, ranging from light brown to deep-reddish brown, depending on subspecies, radiate from the center of the log, cedar is often displayed with exposed ends. Because it doesn’t grow just anywhere, cost may vary across the continent. Cedar offers variety in texture and tones, with minimal shrinkage.
The mighty oak has never been more popular. Because of its tensile strength, soothing neutral color and wonderful grain, which can range from light to dark brown, often with a grayish tint, it has long been popular in the building trade. While not as plentiful as pine due to over-harvesting in generations past and also a slower growth pattern, oak’s cost is offset by its durability. One of the heavier species, it’s also very resistant to heartwood decay.
Cypress is a light- to mid-weight species originating predominantly in the South and South Atlantic regions. Ranging from medium yellow brown to dark amber brown, based on age, it features straight grain with fine texture.
More: Exotic Woods for Log Homes.