When prospective homeowners are about to build a conventional home, they often discuss the finishing of the kitchen cabinets or the look of the bathroom. When it comes to log homes, however, homeowners have one extra feature to consider: the choice of wood for the logs.
There are more than 300 types of wood in the United States but not all of them are good for sturdy log homes. Indeed, most modern log homes are made out of seven types of wood currently found across the country.
Each wood type has its pros and cons. Before you make your choice, you should check what type of wood best fulfills your expectations, location, and budget. For example, some types of wood are more insect-resistant than others while others are more widely available and thus more affordable.
Here is a guide to help you understand the wood choices available and decide which one fits your dream log home.
Most Common Types of Wood for Log Homes: Benefits and Drawbacks
Pine is the most common type of wood in the United States. Pines grow across the country and you are bound to find good pine logs near your location.
Red pine is sturdy and stable and withstands the test of time when it is maintained consistently against the elements and insects. White pine and yellow pine are more decay-resistant than red pine—but cost more.
A drawback of pine is that it is softwood and therefore prone to shrinkage after cutting. Your pine logs should be well-dried and settled before they are installed otherwise your logs could show signs of cracking, shrinking, splitting, and warping.
Oak is a hardwood with more heartwood than sapwood. Like walnut or poplar, oak is very sturdy but more expensive than more widely available types of wood. It is relatively insect-resistant and, like pine, should be well-dried before installation.
Cedar displays good resistance to moisture, insects, fungi, and overall decay but is scarcer than pine or oak. Its strong scent is due to the fact it is brimming with toxins that serve as natural deterrents to bugs and insects. Cedar logs are chosen for harsh environments with extreme weather conditions because they resist water better than other types of wood.
Cedar has a low shrinkage rate, which means it requires less drying than pine or oak before installation. You also risk less cracking and warping.
Spruce and Fir
Both spruce and fir are used for log homes. They are not very resistant to decay, fungi, and insects, which means they must be treated before installation and properly maintained to retain their properties.
Cypress is mainly found in the southeast and is not widely available, which means it will be more expensive than other woods. It is prized for its sturdiness, stability, and resistance to bugs and the elements.
Redwood is insect- and decay-resistant and displays low shrinkage. It is less common than other woods but has great qualities when it comes to log-building.
How Do You Choose the Wood Type for Your Log Home?
If you are confused by all the types of wood out there, here are some criteria you can use to make a more informed decision.
1. Type of Wood
What matters more to you: appearance, cost, sturdiness, or resilience to insects? Prioritize your criteria to see which matters most to you.
If cost is an issue, you should go for mainstream types of wood. If you will be building your home in a location that regularly experiences heavy snow and rainfall, perhaps cedar or oak are better choices.
Pine is the most budget-friendly type of wood. Red, white, and yellow pines are found throughout the United States and are common types of trees. You are bound to find good-quality pine logs in your locality.
If cost is not a concern, you can opt for oak, cedar, or redwood.
Something that will influence the cost of building is the availability of logs near your location. If you choose pine, your transportation costs will be minimal because pine is common.
However, cypress, cedar, or oak may need to be transported from somewhere else. In this case, you may have to pay a transportation premium.
3. Where Are They Coming from?
Trees that grow in high altitudes have more heartwood than trees growing in lower altitudes. Therefore, high-altitude trees will be stronger and more stable. If you have the choice, opt for high-altitude trees.
To get a picture of tree-growing patterns in the United States, the East and Northeast have an abundance of white and red pine as well as cedar.
The Southeast grows white and yellow pines. If you are looking for cypress, the Southeast is the place where you can find it.
Central states have all types of pines, cedar, oak, and hardwood such as walnut.
Finally, the West and Northwest grow pines, cedars, firs, and spruce. If you are looking for redwood, northern California and southern Oregon are the only states producing it.
As you can see, pine is found everywhere, which is why it’s so common and readily available.
4. How Old Is the Tree?
The age of the tree is also important. Older trees have more heartwood than sapwood. This matters because heartwood is what builds a tree’s resistance to insects and moisture. As a result, trees with more heartwood are more stable and durable.
Younger trees haven’t had the time to build their heartwood. They will be less stable than older ones.
These days, a lot of trees for log homes come from tree farms. Some tree farms grow trees fast to provide logs. Such trees may not be as sturdy as 100-year-old trees that have grown at their own pace.
5. Look of the Tree and Overall Appearance
You may like the look of a particular wood. Cedar, for example, has a beautiful reddish hue, while white oak is darker than red oak. Yellow pine, as its name suggests, is more yellow than white pine.
While you can always stain your log home with a color that matches your expectations, you may also choose a specific type of wood if you already have a picture in your mind of how you want your log home to look.
6. Resilience to Insects, Moisture, and Fungi
You may also need to consider where you are building your home. Excessive moisture and harsh winters and summers ask for resistant types of wood.
If you choose a type of wood that is vulnerable to fungi, decay, and insects, you must make sure the wood is treated, maintained, and stained properly and consistently.
7. How Were They Dried?
A very important aspect of logs is the drying process. As the wood dries, it shrinks due to the loss of humidity inside the logs. You can’t, therefore, use fresh logs because they are prone to shrinkage as they dry. In addition, some wood types are more prone to shrinkage while others contain very little humidity.
You want your logs to have lost all excessive moisture well before they are installed in your home. To achieve this, some log home manufacturers air-dry their logs for 1 to 2 years, letting the air absorb the moisture. Others prefer to kiln-dry the logs by placing them in a kiln with very low heat to absorb the humidity from the logs.
Whichever method your log cabin construction company prefers, make sure your logs are properly dried before installation. Hiring an experienced log-building company, such as Frontier Log Homes, will ensure that your log home will display the least possible shrinkage, cracking, and warping.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Aside from the type of wood, there are a few more things to remember when it comes to building your log home and ensuring the health of your logs for years to come.
Quality of Assembly
The quality of assembly is a testament to the craftsmanship of the log home builders. Careful assembly minimizes the risk of shrinkage and warping and respects the beauty of each and every log.
Here at Frontier Log Homes, we build handcrafted, chink-style homes using only dry logs and allow the wood to compress naturally over the first year. No screw jacks, no settling problems, no drywall cracks, and no hassle!
During the designing phase, we include wide roof overhangs and porch areas around your log home. These will protect your external logs from rain and the elements. The less the logs are exposed to the environment, the less maintenance log home will require.
The best time to fell trees is in winter, when the sap content is at its minimum. Less sap means lower humidity, so ask your log-building company about the time of the year when they cut their trees.
The Parts of the Tree
Trees are thick and tall. You want your log home to be built from the heartwood at the center of the tree, which is its strongest part. Stay away from the sides of the logs, which mostly contain sapwood. You want your logs to be strong, dense, and hard—qualities that heartwood can deliver.
The Best Type of Tree for Your Log Home
Log homes are becoming increasingly popular these days. They offer homeowners a cost-effective, energy-efficient way to create their dream home. And they come with some unique benefits over conventional housing options.
A log home offers several advantages over other types of construction. For starters, it is much less expensive than building a regular house and uses less energy. Additionally, it provides plenty of natural light, and its design allows for open spaces and large windows.
However, before you start building a log home, you should consider the kind of wood you want. Some logs are better suited for certain climates or weather conditions, and some require special skills to build properly.
Hopefully, the tips above will help you better understand the pros and cons of each type of log. Contact Frontier Log Homes online or call us at 970-249-7130 and tell us your needs, so we can suggest the types of wood that will best meet them!