Log Home Construction
Build Your Own Log Home
It is hard to beat the rustic appeal of a log cabin or a log house. The cozy log cabin shown here was photographed in eastern Montana.
Log Home Construction Articles:
Our own house is built of stone downstairs, with a log upper story. We utilized Skip Ellsworth's exceptionally easy butt-and-pass method to build our log walls, as detailed in Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.
-Log Home Butt-and-Pass Method
-Skip Ellsworth Biography
-Building a House on Limited Means
-Building a Passive Solar Stone and Log Home
-We've Gone Solar!
Building with Logs
A Brief Overview
by Thomas J. Elpel, Author of Living Homes
Traditional methods of log-building have been passed down from a time when people went out into the woods and built cabins with little more than an ax, a saw, and an adz. Those techniques required skill and time to carefully scribe and notch the ends to fit together. The logs had to be notched because it was the only way to tie the pieces together as a stable structure. Some methods included scribing and fitting the entire length of every log. But few people in today's world have the necessary craftsmanship background nor the requisite amount of time it takes to learn this art form. Fortunately you do not have to become a master craftsman to be able to build a high-quality log structure in relatively little time.
Today there are inexpensive modern materials available that greatly simplify the process of log building so you can put up a house with very little in the way of skill, time, or money. With the butt-and-pass method, you use a big electric drill, lots of cheap reinforcing bar (otherwise known as "rebar"), and a sledge hammer to pin the logs together with essentially no scribing, no notching, and no close fitting. The final product is even stronger than a scribed and notched log home.
Structurally, there are many advantages to the butt-and-pass method versus original log-building techniques. For instance, the traditional scribing and notching immediately weakens the logs at the joints and creates vulnerable places for moisture and rot to set in. Also, traditional log houses tend to "settle" over time, potentially wreaking havoc with doors and windows. These log homes have to be carefully engineered with hidden spaces above doors and windows, so that the logs can settle without destroying the openings.
On the other hand, the butt-and-pass method has no vulnerable notches for rot to start in, and all the pieces are so shiscabobbed together with rebar that there is no settling. The window and door frames can be nailed directly to the logs without worry.
My in-laws first learned about the butt-and-pass method through a class with Skip Ellsworth in Seattle. They practiced on our house, then we helped them build their house, as shown here. Complete instructions on the butt-joint method of log-building are included in my book, Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
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More Log Home Construction Books & Tools
The Classic Hewn-Log House
by Charles McRaven
If you want a log house that looks historic from the day you finish building it, then this is the book for you! The Hewn-Log House is a classic of early American architecture, evocative of the pioneer experience and westward exploration. Charles McRaven has been building and restoring hewn-log houses for sixty years, and shares his wealth of knowledge in folksy narration accompanied by photography and illustrations that clearly show every step of the process. Whether you're restoring an old house, building a new one, or indulging an interest in traditional building, you'll find much to learn from McRaven's experience, gleaned from a lifetime of trial and error.
In this book you will learn to hew a log with a broadaxe, make a dovetail notch, replace rotten logs, mix chinking mortar and install it properly, find and use vintage logs, use pioneer hand tools, build a stone foundation and fireplace, and install modern utilities. 1978, 2005. Story Publishing. 198 pages.
"How-to" Build This Log Cabin for $3,000
by John McPherson
Want to build a low-cost log cabin? There is no need to pour a ton of money into something as simple as a cabin. John McPherson shows how to do it with logs from your own property, a simple foundation, plus low-cost or recycled lumber, windows, and doors. "How-to" Build This Log Cabin for $3,000 does not include a lot of detailed text, but it doesn't have to either. The McPherson's are really good and photographing EVERY step of the process, so you can look at the pictures and follow along. There are more than 300 photographs and several line drawings to take you through the entire process. 1999. 140 pages.
How to Build Your Own Log Home For Less Than $15,000
by Robert L. Williams
The Williams family was inspired by a tornado. The tornado destroyed their home in North Carolina and left them with little more than a wasteland of fallen trees. They had no experience with log construction, but learned to become resourceful with what they had. They ultimately built a 4,300 square foot log home for just $15,000!
The book includes coverage of site selection, drawing plans, chain-sawing and squaring logs, tools and equipment, foundation walls, sawing framing timbers, log wall construction, log girders, building floors, roof framing and sheathing, wiring and plumbing tips, chimneys, stairways, and decks, rustic windows and doors, cabinetry and book cases, chinking, insulating, and finishing touches.
The great thing about a book like this is that it helps put you back in the real world after you've heard so many "experts" claim that a new house is going to cost you $150,000. A good house shouldn't cost a lifetime to pay for it. Robert Williams' book should be an inspiration to owner-builders everywhere. 1996. Breakout Productions, Inc. 216 pages.
Log Construction Manual
The Ultimate Guide to Building Handcrafted Log Homes
by Robert W. Chambers
Log buildings are embedded deeply into North American history and culture. For more than one thousand years, builders have been weaving logs into homes, shelters, barns, and churches. Today, however, the buildings where we live and work are rarely handmade from natural materials. In this context, handcrafted, scribe-fitted natural log buildings are an attractive and uplifting alternative to conventional buildings and building materials.
This book tells you what you need to know to build your own log home and also reveals the deep rhythms and patterns of log construction. Author Robert Chambers shows how to take naturally shaped, tapered, round logs and scribe-fit them one to another so that they look like they actually grew together in the woods.
The Log Construction Manual is filled with information available nowhere else, including the Log Selection Rules, Chambers's simple method for choosing which log to use next; instructions for building hip and valley log rafters and roof trusses from full-round logs; step-by-step directions for laying out the sill logs for virtually any floor plan, including hexagons, prows, and more; state-of-the-art compression-fit saddle notches and underscribing to keep fits tight over time; details on scribing and cutting long grooves and corner notches just like the pros; and more.
Chambers also offers advice on organizing and financing a log home project and has loads of experience to share on cutting costs and avoiding common pitfalls. He presents practical ideas for saving money and controlling costs. Although handcrafted log homes are expensive to buy, they are within reach for many as owner-managed building projects.
Written concisely with great care in explaining important details, the Log Construction Manual brings clarity, insight, depth, and even humor to the log builder's craft. This is a comprehensive book for log home owner-builders, beginners as well as professionals.
Small Log Homes
Storybook Plans and Advice
by Robbin Obomsawin
Whether you're planning a starter home or a lifelong retreat, Small Log Homes is an indispensable idea book for planning, building, and outfitting your cabin in the woods or on the prairie.
Lush photographs show how log-home owners, builders, and contractors around the country have achieved the richness and warmth of cabin living within the bounds of economy and space management. And all without feeling cramped or hamstrung. 96 pages. Gibbs Smith Publisher. ISBN: 1-58685-043-1.
The Log Wizard
A Log Home Builder's Dream Tool
The Log Wizard is a one-of-a-kind chainsaw attachment that turns your chainsaw into an an amazing new tool. Simply attach the Log Wizard to any saw and it springs into action as a debarker, planer, jointer, notcher or post sharpener.
We first learned about the Log Wizard when we were building our stone and log house. We ordered a truck full of fire-killed house logs to work with, and the driver brought along this great tool to show us. After he left, we tried debarking the logs with an ordinary drawknife. After about five feet on one side of one log, we put away the drawknife and decided we had to have the Log Wizard. With practice, I could peel a thirty-five foot, 12" diameter house log in about twenty minutes. That was amazing!
The Log Wizard is fitted with two 3 1/4" planer blades to give a wide cutting surface on the log. These blades can be sharpened several times by a qualified facility, or replaced with readily available replacement blades. The Log Wizard's unique drum design allows for the easiest blade transfer possible, saving you time and money. The single construction drum design ensures a lifetime of hard work from the Log Wizard. Here are some of the quality features and benefits of a Log Wizard:
- It's great for debarking logs!
- Uses standard 3 1/4" planer blades.
- Comes complete with a universal spline/sprocket system.
- The sprockets will accommodate all pitches of chain.
- Use it for making notches!
- The Log Wizard is acceptable to all chainsaws.
- Installs in less than 10 minutes.
- Weighs under 3 lbs.
- It works as a planar and post sharpener!
Go to: Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.