Modern log homes embrace 21st Century convenience, energy-efficiency and style

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Log homes are no longer your great, great grandfather's log cabin. Today's log homes are built from precision milled kits delivered from the factory to the building site. Many include everything, roofing, windows Â? even nails. The Log Homes Council of the National Association of Homebuilders sets standards.

Log cabins started out as basic shelter, built from the most plentiful building material around — trees. Though we think of them as being uniquely American, they originated in Scandinavia and Russia — underneath the stucco, for example, the Kremlin is a log building.

Regardless of their roots, the appeal of log cabins, or more appropriately "log homes", has endured for centuries. Their continuing popularity stems from the warmth and security of living in a house made of solid wood. They have even gone mainstream with over 50 manufacturers of log home kits belonging to the National Association of Homebuilders under the banner "Log Homes Council." This organization sets standards for log construction and provides advice to consumers at

At least four log home consumer magazines appear on newsstands, covering everything from buying and building to landscaping and decor. Scores of books have been written on the subject that can be found at an online bookstore run by Log Home Living (

"In addition to online resources," Rich Horn, president of the Log Homes Council of the NAHB," points out, "Members participate in regional home shows, consumer seminars and host open houses and factory tours for anyone who is considering a log home."

From Log Cabin to Log Home

Modern Log homes originated 80 years ago, when Bruce Ward, a Houlton, Maine telegraph pole dealer, built a log cabin kit for himself from surplus cedar poles. Friends and neighbors started asking him for cabin kits too. The advent of cheaper cars and better roads during the 1920's made it possible for ordinary Americans to own a cabin in the woods. Ward's business took off. The company he founded, Ward Cedar Log Homes, ( still manufactures log homes and cabins in the same northern Maine town.

"Surprisingly over 95 percent of all log homes are year 'round homes," says Horn, an executive with Northeastern Log Homes, in Kenduskeag, Maine ( He adds, "Dirt floors and meager windows made of oiled hides have been replaced with today's necessities — home offices, media rooms, spas, even Wi-Fi for internet access."

Designed by professionals, log homes now include brand name double-paned, low-e windows and patio doors, Fiberglas roofing shingles, contemporary kitchens, baths, lighting and energy-efficient heating systems. Most log homes are built by general contractors who take care of everything from building permits to handing the homeowner the key to the front door.


These FAQs will help prospective log homeowners get started on their project.

How do the logs in a modern log home differ from those in a "frontier" cabin?

Frontiersmen felled and notched whole trees to assemble their log cabins, filling in gaps with a mixture of mud and straw or "chinking". Today's log home kits are made of milled solid timbers that use a variety of tongue-and- groove interlocking methods to eliminate air and water infiltration. In addition the joints are usually sealed with plastic caulking and gaskets.

Purists, who lack ample time and biceps to match, can turn to "Handcrafters" who make 19th century log cabin kits the old fashioned way.

What do kits include and what has to be purchased locally?

Log home kits range from "complete packages" with all logs precut and numbered and all components such as roofing materials, windows, doors, interior partitions, stairs, railings, garage doors included. On the other end of the spectrum, "linear log home kits" include sufficient logs that need to be cut to length and notched at the job site. All other components are purchased locally. Deciding between a "complete package," "linear kit" or somewhere in between really depends on how much work the homeowner or builder wants to do on site.

Is one type of wood better than another?

Log homes are made of a variety of woods including white cedar, eastern white pine, oak and douglas fir. Manufacturers typically use the wood species prevalent in their area. All woods work well and benefit from periodic application of a protective exterior stain or finish.

Do log homes settle?

Log home manufacturers have developed systems to either eliminate settling or compensate for it. All the builder has to do is follow the manufacturer's instructions.

What's better "Air Dried" or "Kiln Dried" logs?

Regardless of whether the Logs are "kiln dried" with heat and moisture, "air dried" outdoors or delivered "green", by following the manufacturer's instructions, the home will be trouble free, energy efficient, comfortable and requires minimal maintenance.

Are log homes cheaper than "conventional" houses?

Log homes are affordable and tend to cost the same or just slightly more than a conventionally built quality custom house. Budget-minded consumers can save money by selecting an existing plan and limiting costly features such as high-end cabinetry, designer plumbing and exotic flooring.

What about a mortgage — will banks finance a log home?

Financing is available — either through local lenders or national companies specializing in log home mortgages. Those who own land can often use it as their down payment. Log home manufacturers and dealers can put customers in contact with lenders.

What about energy efficiency?

Tests conducted by The Log Homes Council of the NAHB found log homes to be equal to conventional home construction. Log home owners generally report lower heating and air conditioning costs.

With so many choices, how do I decide?

People who live in log homes love to talk about them so ask for references. Log home magazines are a great resource too. Check out Log Home Living, Log Homes Illustrated, Log Home Design Ideas or Country's Best Log Homes for ideas and plans, as well as seminar and home show announcements. Subscription information is available at

What are the benefits of buying from a Log Homes Council member company?

Peace of mind. All members abide by Log Homes Council log grading standards to assure safety and quality construction. The standards are accepted nationally by both building officials and mortgage lenders to streamline planning and financing. Council members adhere to a strict code of ethics and regularly participate in educational programs on advances in log home technology.

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Dick Pirozzolo
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