When you’re talking about adding on to an existing log home, the most important thing is to check that the type of material you use will tie in with the logs that are already there. For example, the log profiles that manufacturers use today may be different than ones used 20-plus years ago.
Not to mention that the original log structure has been exposed to the elements, and the wood will take on the characteristics of that exposure. Trying to match new logs to old is not impossible, but it can be tough. You might have to modify your exterior finish a bit to achieve a cohesive look.
One approach is to use different materials altogether, albeit ones that are log home appropriate. Board-and-batt, cedar shake and even stone are all great options. The key is to then incorporate some of these materials into the finishes of your existing house, like on a gable or along the foundation, to tie the whole thing together. This also gives you an opportunity to freshen up the look of the main part of the house.
Another challenge to a log home addition is to tie in the end of a log wall as a continuation of the structure. Using a rectangular ranch-style house as an example, if you want to add an extension to that rectangle, it’s difficult to effectively connect it at the corners. The solution is to set the addition in a foot or two from the existing perimeter wall or set it out so that the new portion is larger than the original rectangle.
This approach makes it easier to effectively attach the addition to the house and can save you a lot of money. In any kind of add-on, the roof structure is a big factor that you need to consider. Pay close attention to where roof loads tie into log walls and make sure that the structure can support it.
For instance, if you are simply inserting a 3-foot door that serves as a pass-through, you don’t have a lot to worry about. But if you are contemplating creating a bigger interior space by opening up that “end” wall by 10 to 12 feet, then you need to ensure the remaining structure can carry the load. Adding on perpendicular to the roof ridge may be more structurally feasible than going in line with it.
And raising the roof on the new addition will not only make the design look more intentional, tying in the existing roof to the newly built wall will help ease the load. If you’re in the process of planning or building a smaller log home with the goal of adding on in the future, two of the smartest things you can do to prepare is to design that addition as you’re planning your house and dig your foundation footers for that future expansion now.
With the footers in place, you won’t have to come back and excavate all the way around your house to tie it into the existing footer (required by code) down the road. Plus, the footer for the addition will be uniform and at the right elevation to the existing house when you’re ready to start. If possible, also line up your electrical, plumbing and HVAC chases, whether they’re in the subfloor or a second-floor cavity, so that they can be easily connected to the addition when the time comes.
And size your electrical panel accordingly: It’s easier to make the panel bigger on the front end than have to retrofit it to meet code later on. Whether your log home is an antique or brand spanking new, planning for an addition can be a satisfying way to increase your living area and long-term enjoyment of your home.
Dan Mitchell owns Eagle CDI
in Tennessee and has built close to 100 log homes in his 30-year career. He’s the Knoxville Home Builders Association
2015 Builder of the Year.