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Logs 101

Everything you need to know to choose the right logs for your home
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When choosing logs for your home, don’t take the decision lightly. Appearance is a big factor, but your decision should be based on more than aesthetics and emotions. Choosing logs isn’t like choosing paint. In a full log structure, logs are used as structural components. If the logs aren’t sound, neither is the home, and not all logs are created equal, so shop around.

The Basics
Budget and the type of log home you plan to build factor into the type of log you use. Important considerations include log species, milling procedures and drying techniques.

Choosing A Log Species
Log species will determine several factors, including appearance, strength, workability and decay resistance. When it comes down to it, any log species commonly used in the log home industry is more than adequate — assuming the home is built right and properly maintained.

Softwoods are cone-bearing trees (commonly known as evergreens) and hardwoods are broad-leaf trees. Because softwoods are usually easier to work with and since they’re more readily available, they are the popular choice for log construction. They are also lighter and taper less than most hardwoods. Following is a list of wood species commonly used in log construction.

Softwoods:

  • Cedar is primarily found in northern states and Canada, as well as along the coastal plains of the eastern United States and the Pacific Northwest. It is reddish brown and known for its aromatic quality. It is relatively soft and has a high resistance to decay, insects and mold.

  • Fir is found in the Rocky Mountain region from Mexico to central British Columbia. One of the largest timber trees available, it is valued as a great structural material.

  • Hemlock is found in northern states. It is strong and straight, tight

  • grained and tall. It is light in color and it accepts finishes and preservatives well.

  • Larch is among the strongest and hardest softwood species. Larch is found in the northern U.S. and British Columbia and is not widely available.

  • Pine is found throughout the U.S. and Canada. It is easy to work with and has little shrinkage and less checking than other woods. It absorbs stain well but has low resistance to decay if untreated.

  • Spruce is found in northern North America and in the Rocky Mountain region. It is fine grained, light in color, lightweight and durable. It is also available in large diameters.

Hardwoods:

  • Oak grows throughout the United States, is strong and decay resistant. Color ranges from light to dark reddish brown. It is heavy and hard and features dramatic grain patterns.

  • Yellow poplar is found mostly in the eastern U.S. and along the Gulf Coast. It is a large

  • growth tree that grows straight and tall. It is relatively soft and finely textured with uniform straight grain. It dries quickly and is easy to work with. It has a low resistance to decay when untreated, but it takes stains and preservatives well. It’s a plentiful and inexpensive hardwood.

  • Black walnut is found in the eastern half of the United States. It is heavy, hard, strong and known for it’s beautiful color and grain. It grows straight and tall, is decay resistant, easy to work with and has little shrinkage.

For more information on log species, drying techniques, peeling options and much more, check out the January 2004 Log Home Design Ideas.

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