Log homes combine rustic charm with modern design and are highly sought after for their unique features. Frontier Log Homes’ customers can choose from dozens of log home cabin kits and add personalized features to create their dream home. No two log homes are identical, and we can easily include tailored-made designs in our cabin kits.
Log homes can be two- and three-storied if you want more living space. However, some customers are concerned about log settling problems when choosing larger or taller log homes.
Log settling is an expected potential concern for log homes. Trusted log home constructors consider settling issues and adjust for these when building your log home. While log settling is inevitable, reputable and experienced log home companies have the know-how to prepare your log home for any log shrinking and the resulting compression.
What Is Log Home Settling?
Log homes settle because logs are living materials made of fibers and water. When we cut down a tree and prepare it for a log home, we must let the logs dry before installation. Some log home constructors choose kiln drying, while others prefer to let the logs dry independently for several months.
However, no matter how much the logs have dried, they always contain some moisture. Once builders place the logs, natural drying will continue over the following months and years. During that time, several things will happen.
Wood Fibers Shrink
Log settling happens when wood fibers shrink. Fibers are naturally horizontal parallel to the log. Therefore, they make the log settle in width but not length. As the fibers shrink, the log diameter becomes smaller.
Gravity Compresses Logs
Another reason for log shrinking is that gravity takes its toll. Log homes are built with logs stacked on top of each other. External logs are bearing walls that support the roof.
However, logs are hefty. Their combined weight compresses them when stacked against each other, leading to log settling.
What Affects Log Settling?
While log settling is a natural phenomenon that no one can eliminate, the extent depends on several factors. In addition, log home constructors can prepare for it to minimize its effects on the building.
Many things can affect log settling, even before construction. The type of wood, the drying process, the season when builders cut the wood, and even the weather conditions at the time can impact log settling.
For example, we choose to cut the wood used for our logs when the tree is dormant, and the sap levels are at their minimum. Fall felling is thus the best time for wood cutting.
Likewise, chopping trees when moisture levels are high will affect the moisture levels inside the tree. As a result, it will take longer for the logs to dry out efficiently.
Once the log home is complete and you begin living in a beautiful log home, internal heating will affect the moisture content of the logs. As the logs continue to dry, gentle settling will occur.
The type and intensity of heating in the house will affect the level and speed of settling, as will the type of cooling in the summer.
If you live in an area of high humidity, the logs will constantly breathe in the external moisture and it will take them longer to dry out completely.
Similarly, if your log home resides in an arid area, the logs will dry faster, and complete settling may occur within a few months.
What Happens When Log Homes Settle?
When log homes settle, you may observe small changes in the look and feel of your home. Of course, all these changes will be mitigated if your home has been built by a skilled company such as Frontier Log Homes.
Cracks and Splits, Warped Floors
In extreme cases of log settling, and unless your builder took specific steps ahead of time, windows can display signs of cracking around them, and doors may not open properly—or they may even jam. Stairs may be uneven, and floors may feel slanted and warped. Roof lines may look warped, and you may also notice gaps between a wall system and the roof system.
External walls are the load-bearing walls in a log home and carry the weight of the full house. Internal walls are typically decorative and used to separate rooms and organize the floor plan.
If log settling is extensive, the weight can shift to the internal walls, which are not supposed to carry any weight. This may cause structural and safety issues inside and outside your home.
Log Settling Is in Width, Not in Length
The wood fibers are parallel to the logs and shrink in width but not in length. So, you won’t see any shrinkage in the length of the walls but in their height: your walls won’t be smaller but may be shorter.
Log homes are estimated to shrink up to three-quarters of an inch because of log settling.
How to Control Settling with Your Log Home
Thankfully, experienced log home constructors such as Frontier Log Homes anticipate log settling and shrinkage.
From choosing the best type of wood for a log home to installing screw jacks and steel posts, we know how to mitigate the effects of log settling.
Screw jacks and steel posts are necessary to support the floors above the ground floor, including the roof’s weight. Since the weight of the roof lies on the external bearing walls, you need to supply extra support to pull the weight away from the external logs. The screw jacks will keep the weight stable as the external logs settle and shrink.
Screw jacks are usually found in interior walls. Every 6 to 12 months, particularly right after construction, we can adjust the screw jacks periodically to compensate for the settling of the logs as part of your usual log home maintenance schedule. Specifically, screw jacks will be gradually lowered as the logs settle and shrink. As a result, the second floor and the roof will be lowered, lining up with the external log wall.
Steel posts support the weight of floors and the roof. We cover them with trims, so they blend in with the log design of the home and don’t stand out. Since they don’t suffer from log settling, they form a steady frame around which we can raise the internal log walls.
As long as you keep the steel posts intact, you can rearrange the internal layout of your log home because the walls are decorative and not load-bearing.
Settling Space above Doors and Windows
Professional and experienced log home constructors such as Frontier Log Homes will leave enough space above the building’s doors and windows to allow for log settling. They will also use slip joints and other tricks of the trade to ensure that log settling has no adverse effect on your home.
Slip Joints around Doors and Windows
Slip joints are placed around doors and windows to maintain their rectangular shape. This way, the slip joints will protect the door and window frames from warping even if the logs start to shrink and settle, thus ensuring that the doors and windows won’t jam when opening or closing.
We attach any cabinets to a single log to ensure that all internal features are safe. If cabinets link to more than one log and the logs shrink, log settling may affect the screws and the attachment of the cabinet to the wall. In extreme cases, the cabinet could break, fall, or lean, creating further problems for your kitchen or bathroom.
Does Log Settling Stop?
Log settling is not permanent. It occurs right after construction and typically lasts for one to two heating seasons. The logs dry out entirely during this time, and the fibers shrink. That is when you can observe the effects of log settling in your log home. For this reason, you must usually adjust screw jacks for the first one to two years after construction.
Log settling stops when the moisture content of the wood equals the humidity level of the environment around it. This is called the Equilibrium Moisture Content, also known as EMC. This equilibrium is usually found within two years after construction, as long as no extenuating circumstances exist.
After that, minimal settling occurs because all the logs’ water evaporates, and the fibers have dried out.
How to Prevent Extreme Settling
A trusted and experienced log home company such as Frontier Log Homes anticipates log settling. Extreme settling should not occur if logs have been dried properly and the construction process is meticulous and precise.
You should always hire log carpenters and specialists with excellent craftsmanship skills. They know how to join logs, how much space to leave around windows and doors, and how to install screw jacks.
As log home builders, we are very selective about the quality of our logs. The quality of the wood is crucial because it determines the quality of the final log home.
In addition, we apply best practices honed by years of experience when building a log home. Frontier Log Homes have created dozens of log homes around Montrose, Colorado, and beyond. Our customers recommend us for our attention to detail and our dedication to delivering the finest log cabin kits and homes.
The log homes we built withstand time and testify to our experience, professionalism, and outstanding craftsmanship.
Please contact us at 970-249-7130 and let us build the log home of your dreams.