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Where some still think of the log cabin as a rustic, primitive shelter in a deep woods setting, log and timber homes have come a long way since their initial usage as a practical way for early American settlers to build a home simply using the natural resources found around them. 


Modern log homes have proven themselves to be exceptionally energy efficient, sturdy against Mother Nature’s worst, and entirely long-lasting.

When thinking about constructing your home out of logs, you might wonder how it could be at all environmentally-friendly to use felled trees as your primary building material.


Trees, being renewable resources, are sourced by many log home builders from certified sustainable forests and from recycling harvested dead trees that had succumbed to insects. 

Even better, once the log walls are raised and placed, you effectively have the exterior, interior, structural, and insulation elements of your home completed altogether in one, managing visual appeal and function simultaneously.  This results in a home predominately built with natural, renewable materials. 


The total construction process requires less energy than building a conventional home, and it is also significantly faster.

Photo by MMOH 

Except mostly for better building materials and proven methodology, the main components for building a log home haven't changed much over the years.  


After foundation is laid, all that is needed are treated logs for the frame, additional wood for the rafters, and roofing materials.  From there, that only leaves the interior pieces to work on  floors, kitchen, bath, decoration, and finishing.  

In comparison, a traditional frame home requires wall studs, exterior plywood, roofing felt, and siding - and that's just for the exterior. For the interior the home must be insulated, then wall vapor barriers and sheet rock are installed, and finally the painting to finish it off.  And that's only the structure itself!

Some useful tips and things to keep in mind:

•  When selecting logs, check with local loggers, foresters, and related companies to find what types of trees are plentiful in your area, which will be less costly to source than non-native logs.  Even builders usually go with whatever is local and inexpensive, and as a general rule of thumb, you can build with whatever grows tall and straight.

• Stain is not required, but occasional UV stain treatments can protect your logs from UV rays and are recommended to prevent the logs from turning grey over time. 

•  Rafters can generally be any size, as long as they can bear whatever snow load requirements that may exist in your region.  Leave them exposed and build the roof on top so that you can enjoy the high, cathedral ceilings!

•  As an owner builder, a key advantage is that you can save some expenses by moving in when the home is livable, and then continue finishing the home at your own pace.

Photo by R. Chambers / CC BY-SA 3.0

As for energy efficiency, the tight fit and the inherent thermal mass of the wood logs create an intriguing combination for insulation quality. 


The logs naturally collect energy, then store or release it depending on the season, translating into 15 20% gains on energy efficiency over a conventional home, and even more savings on heating and cooling costs, which can average nearly a third less overall than a conventional home. 


Today, several builders regularly build log homes to meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Energy Star” standards, meaning they are 30% more efficient than building code requirements.  Certainly, these add up to tremendous savings over the life of the home.


8 suggestions on how to build a log home quickly from building professionals at Log Home Living.  Their Plan, Design & Build section is also very informative.

The non-profit Log Home Builders Association has a helpful guide on how to build a log home.

The Buyer's Guide from the National Association of Home Builders Log and Timber Homes Council is a thorough and enlightening guide all facets of the building process.

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