You’ve seen the photographs of the old Alaskan trapper’s cabin buried deep in a snow bank, smoke curling up from a stove pipe sticking out of the roof. Inside it’s snug and warm as winter rages outside. It’s the picture of comfort, right? That depends.

Take a look inside. Damp sweaters, socks and mittens are drying on lines hung from the ceiling. Wet mukluks are drying in the corner. On the glowing stove a coffee pot steams away along with a mulligan stew. Moisture is everywhere. It’s damp in the winter, dank and musty in the summer. This is not my idea of home sweet home.

Proper ventilation is a critical part of modern home construction. That old trapper’s cabin may not have it, but today’s log homes demand it.

Start With A Good Plan

Humans produce a lot of moisture. We cook and clean, bathe and breathe — all activities that add moisture to the environment. Removing this moisture from your home is crucial. If you consider your options early, you won’t run into big problems later. Ironically, ventilation is even more important today than it was when that old trapper’s cabin was built. That’s because modern building materials and techniques have created super-efficient structures that are so airtight, moisture and odors can’t escape at all.

As you design your log home, think of the venting that is necessary. Most of us immediately think of venting the bathroom to remove moisture and odors. Next we think of a vent over the range in the kitchen to draw off moisture and odors from cooking. But don’t forget other problem areas. Provide vents for your clothes dryer or spa and don’t overlook ventilation for the drains in your plumbing and roof systems.

In conventional construction, these vents are easily hidden inside stud walls. It’s more difficult to hide ductwork inside a log wall. With a little forethought and creativity, the job is manageable. Early planning is the key.

Venting With Log Walls

Homes with exposed beam ceilings are especially challenging since the tongue and groove ceiling is also the subfloor or finished floor of the rooms above. It leaves no space for ductwork or plumbing. That means the space above the ceiling will need to be enclosed. There are several options. The first is to hide pipes in a closet, chase or stud wall above. This is probably the easiest and most commonly used option.

An elegant, but costly option is to install a false floor with a second set of floor joists above to create a space for plumbing, venting, wiring and HVAC ductwork. With this option comes the added cost of an extra floor and the additional courses of logs needed to get the necessary height. It’s an expensive technique, but it provides the most flexibility.

A third option is to pack out the space between the first floor beams. In other words, you close off the space between floor joists with tongue and groove to match the ceiling above. This creates a chase between first floor beams below the ceiling where you can run ventilation.

A rarely used final option is to paint or decorate the exposed ductwork with dark or contrasting colors. This is more common in commercial structures than in homes.

The full article, which includes room-by-room ventilation tips, can be found in the March 2003 issue of Log Home Design Ideas.

Article by Guy Huenecke,
vice president of the commercial division at Jim Barna Log Systems.