If you are seriously considering purchasing a log home, you owe it to yourself to review this section in its entirety. A log building system is composed of many different components. By reviewing this section, you will have a more complete appreciation for what makes a #1 milled log building system, why it is such a strong system and what value you the customer will receive by purchasing a Trout Creek International Homes log package.
Any superior building system begins with the quality of their input — i.e. the logs. Some companies use pulp or other lower grade logs because they are cheap to buy and they figure the customer will not be any the wiser. The danger to the customer in this scenario is that they may receive various kinds of rot in their logs, unacceptable spiral checks, large diameter checks, logs that are not dry, logs that have heavy blue stain, etc. The impact of receiving such logs is potential structural problems, excessive maintenance issues — both immediately and longer-term — and a home that simply does not look the way it could and should look.
The log grading standards Trout Creek International Homes (TCIH) implements are the highest in the industry. Our log suppliers know and understand the high quality standards we expect. Not only does this contribute to our customers receiving a beautiful and sound home, it also gives them an invaluable comfort zone and peace of mind.
The logs we use in any log structure are standing dead, “dry” trees. Aside from the environmental advantage where no live trees are being cut, these dry logs immediately create a benefit in the log package because these logs are more stable and they assist in minimizing settlement. The settlement area is typically the number one area for potential problems in log structures. Settlement related problems can arise in many areas of your home including walls, roof, windows, doors, staircases and cabinets.
Utilizing dry logs, as opposed to green logs, also means that we have an opportunity to cull out unacceptable logs after the major portion of the drying process is complete and before the logs go into production for your new home. Dry logs also mean reduced checking in the logs after the home is completed plus it allows for almost the total elimination of any sap residue concerns as the sap has pretty well completely drained out of the tree while standing dead.
From a raw log, a cant — a processed, rectangular version of a raw log — is produced. The value of this step is that it forms the basis for being able to supply logs of a consistent diameter, which as noted below, offers significant benefits in the house construction. A cant also ensures that we are working with a straight log as opposed to one with a major bend or sweep to it. In addition, the value of this step is that it allows a further primary screening stage for culling out logs that do not meet our high grading standards prior to the logs going into production.
From step three, the cant is now profiled into a round, consistent diameter log. In this manufacturing step, not only is any remaining bark removed from the log but more importantly, the outer sap ring of the tree is removed. This sap ring is the approximate outer 2” of the tree and it is the softer, punkier wood in the tree. By eliminating this softer layer of wood, we are again reducing the amount of potential settlement in your log home by reducing the amount of compression that is taking place in your log walls. The removal of this sap ring also helps to reduce the degree of checking in the logs as you are getting closer to the heartwood of the tree which is the best part of the tree to use in building a log home.
There are a couple of other very important advantages that come from the log being profiled. First of all, the profiling of the log generates a consistent diameter log for the entire length of the log. Secondly, we produce full length logs. Consistent diameter logs are produced in 8”, 9”, 10”, 11”, 12”, 13”, 14” and 15” sizes. This allows our customers a full range of sizing options to suit the scale of the log structure they are building plus it allows a flexibility to accommodate different budgets. Our consistent diameter logs can be produced up to 60’ in length which gives us added design options to opening up your house interior and making it lighter in feel and appearance.
While TCIH’s log packages have the least amount of settlement of any log package in the marketplace, they still have some. With a full-length — not butt-jointed system where shorter logs are joined together in the same horizontal course — consistent diameter log, it means that any movement in your wall will be consistent throughout the wall. You receive a consistent diameter log in combination with a full bearing, lagged fit (see Step Nine below) to the log immediately below it. This results in a very stable wall system that does not have any uneven, irregular movement, there are no points of wall sag and your corners are not getting hung up while your wall is moving in another direction. The structural integrity of this type of wall system is very high. Maintenance issues such as adjusting settling jacks and taking trim down and re-cutting are also drastically reduced or eliminated entirely.
A full-length wall log also gives you several other advantages. By not having butt-joints, you do not have locations throughout your wall system where air, water and bug infiltration issues can become a problem. It also means that with no butt-joints, your house is going to be more energy-efficient because you do not have to worry about areas of thermal break throughout the walls. Working with full length logs during the actual construction phase is also much more efficient than working with multiple short logs and their butt-joint connections. Finally, a full length log approach gives you an immensely more attractive look to your log walls because you are not looking at butt-joints all along the wall. With our system, if you have for example a 40’ long section of wall, you will not have any visible butt-joints in this section of wall.
After the log is profiled to a consistent diameter and the required length, the normal wall log is then machined to add what is called a “Swedish Cope”. This is a precise groove which creates a curvature to the bottom of the log and it runs for the full length along the base of the log. The advantage of this step is that when you place this precise groove on top of a perfectly consistent diameter log below, you get a tight, true, full-bearing structural fit log to log along the entire length of the log. There are no gaps or cavities anywhere along or between the wall logs — this contributes to our very stable wall system.
Related to the Swedish Cope in step five is the creation of a keyway in the center of the coping groove and this keyway runs along the entire length of the base of the standard wall log. This keyway is cut into the log, above the coping curvature. During construction of the log walls, the keyway is filled with an acrylic gasket that has a permanent, elastic memory and this gasket fits tightly between the keyway and the log immediately below. The purpose of this gasket is to provide a very effective air infiltration barrier at the internal mid-point of the wall system. It is one more component in ensuring that your home is energy efficient and comfortable.
Following the grooving and keyway detailing of the logs, notches are then cut into the logs. Notches can be corner, end, wall or special notches depending on what has been specifically designed for that particular log — every log in your log structure is designed to go in only one location in the structure and each log is designed and cut for that one location.
There is no hand variability associated with the production of our wall notches, it is a manufacturing approach that ensures a consistent, precise cut in every notch. Corners are a key area of a log home and a tight fit is extremely important to avoid air infiltration issues and for the structural integrity of the home, both initially and long-term. Not only does TCIH provide for a precise manufactured fit in the corners, they further support this connection area with a double seal that is applied internally within the notch. Therefore, once again we are supporting one of the key objectives in your house construction and that is to achieve an energy-efficient, comfortable house.
The corner notches that we use are called a “saddle notch”. This is a traditional log home notch that has been a tried and true performer over generations of log home building. It provides for a beautiful detail to the home as well as performing an integral function in the overall structural integrity of the structure. This style of notch perfectly complements the diameter of the log beneath resulting in a precision fit.
Similar precision fits are also achieved with end notches to upright posts, loft beams, joists, and log roof components.
Once the notching is complete, our customers have an option on how they would like their logs finished. Logs can be left with a “machine finish” which will save some money on the log package cost or customers can choose a “hand-hewn finish” (See photo above under Step Five). Most customers choose to go with a hand-hewn finish which costs a little more because they feel the enhanced attractiveness of the logs more than compensates for the additional cost. This is especially so when you consider that this is an investment that will pay aesthetic dividends for decades to come.
This step pertains to the actual erection part of the building process rather than the manufacturing phase. However, it is an integral part of the building system and therefore, needs to be addressed. With our construction approach, lag screws are used to tie logs to one another. In our wall system, every 4’ on a horizontal line, a lag screw of varying length — depending on the size of the wall log — is inserted in every log in the entire structure with the lag going through the upper log and penetrating approximately half way into the log immediately below. This lag screw is countersunk and torqued down to at least 250 pounds.
When you have a consistent diameter log and a full bearing structural fit along the entire length of the log as described above, the torquing down of the lag screws every 4’ just drives your entire wall system together to give you a very tight, exceptionally strong and stable wall system. What is even better is that with this approach, you do not have any springs or nuts that have to get adjusted over time and you do not have to worry that these mechanisms could break or fail at some point in the future.
As with step nine, step ten is also an important component of your building system but it occurs after the manufacturing phase when your house is erected. Logs, as with any wood, require protection, particularly from the UV rays of the sun as well as from whatever elements Mother Nature decides to throw against your house. The best way to achieve this protection is to apply a good quality stain that has been specifically formulated for log homes.
The stain should be applied to the logs as soon as possible after the structure is up and ideally before the finished roof and windows are installed. TCIH will be happy to assist you in this step both with the provision of the stain and the co-ordination of its application.
After the staining is complete, we also recommend that a high quality, flexible, textured caulking — some people refer to this as chinking — be applied to the logs. This is a narrow — approximately ¾” — strip, that runs along the seam of the logs. At the very least, the caulking should be applied to the exterior of the house but we would normally recommend its application to both the exterior and the interior of the home. The value of this caulking is that it provides a further barrier to air, water and bug infiltration into the home plus once again it serves to enhance the energy efficiency of your home resulting in a no draft, warm and comfortable environment to live in. Occasionally, you will hear someone make a comment that caulking or chinking is not required on a log home. While it is the customer’s option to go this route, conversations with existing log home owners will quickly confirm that the vast majority have gone with chinking or caulking even when they started out thinking that it was not necessary.
The above summarizes what Trout Creek International Homes’ #1 Milled Log Building System entails and the tremendous advantages if offers prospective log home owners. It is a proven time-tested system that provides superior structural integrity and stability, minimal maintenance, enhanced energy efficiency plus a beautiful and comfortable home for you and your family to enjoy for many decades into the future.