Are you interested in HOMESTEADING LIFESTYLE?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Two Parents, a Kid, and One Tiny Cabin by Martina Kuhnert

Seeing Potential in the Unlikeliest of Places: Turning a 1928 Bungalow into a Farmhouse and Other Misadventures by Norah Messier

Quilting: Recycling Made Beautiful by Bonnie Lavigne

Countdown to the Country: Ten Steps to Your Future as a Homesteader by Bonnie Lavigne

Homesteading vs. Smallholding: Observations from Both Sides of the Pond by Katy Runacres

Homesteading Failures by Magdalena Perks

Learning Curves on Rural Roads by Diana Boeke

Adam vs. the Post Pounder by Sue Dick

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Country Neighbors: a Mixed Bag by Sue Dick

Beat the Vacuum Tyranny by Magdalena Perks

Homesteader vs. Survivalist by Sheri Dixon

A Country Girl's Best Friends (Vinegar & Baking Soda) by Adrianne Masters

Redefining Neighborhoods Back on the Land by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Fergus the Red by Sue Dick

Waste Not, Want Not by Adrianne Masters

Gimme Shelter (And I’d Like it to Look Like…a House, Please) by Sheri Dixon

Homestead Prepping: Buying a B.O.L. by Doug Smith



An Illustrated History of Log Cabins by Doug Smith 

continued from page one

Other Styles Emerge

When you read or hear about a “historic” cabin the picture often comes to mind of a cracker box rectangle structure with a low pitched roof.  In reality, log cabins today can be every bit as complex—and considering the work which goes into them to create the joinery and aesthetics they’re even more complicated—than even the most exotic stone or stick structure.  By the mid-1800s a new style of cabin was emerging out of the wooded mountains of the northeast.  Referred to as “camps”, getaway spots for the wealthy sprouted up around lakes and rivers using locally-grown timber.  Using native trees to provide whole or split logs for framing was a financial consideration—it was much cheaper than hauling milled lumber into the remote, often difficult to reach locations.  The camps often relied on larger than normal fireplaces made of native stone to ward off the frigid northeastern chill. 

A warm and welcoming modern log home.

By the late 1800s the “Adirondack” cabin style was gaining popularity.  The rustic beauty and simplicity of materials combined with the architecturally appealing angles made it a popular choice when the federal government established the first national park, known then as a public reservation, at what is now Yellowstone National Park.  It would take another 44 years before President Woodrow Wilson would sign into being the National Park Service in 1916.  But by then several log and stone buildings had been erected in Yellowstone, including the Old Faithful Inn built in 1903-1904, and still touted as the largest log structure in the world.  The building was built from lodgepole pine and rhyolite stone, both native to the region.  In the more than 100 years since being completed, the log structure has played host to millions of tourists. 

Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park

By the early 1930s the economy in North America was faltering.  The stock market crashed, the Great Depression began, and thousands upon thousands of jobs dried up.  As a way of jumpstarting the economy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a plan to put men back to work building public buildings and infrastructure.  He created the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, in 1933 and for the next nine years thousands of workers built log lodges and other public-use buildings throughout the west for the National Park Service and Forest Service. 

By the latter part of that decade the government formed yet another back-to-work program titled the Works Progress Administration, later changed to the Work Progress Administration, or WPA.  Once again, unemployed workers were given paid jobs building schools, park buildings and bridges across the nation.  This time rustic log influence was infused with board, batten, and stone construction in park housing, administration and information buildings.  The WPA did projects in every state in the nation, with many buildings still in use today.   

A Real Topper 

Whether a log home or outbuilding for personal use, or a majestic hotel or visitors center for a national park, most log buildings share one of two roof structures—purlin or rafter.  A purlin roof uses additional courses of horizontal logs to tie into the gable logs.  Older log homes often used low pitched roofs with only two or three purlin logs in addition to the main beam.  But in areas of heavy snowfall, and as square footage of living space became more important, the pitches of roofs increased to allow a true second floor living space.  Now a half dozen or more purlin logs to create a high gabled roofline is common.   

Large beams can be used to tie walls together and serve as roof support purlins and rafters.

As with any construction method, a high-pitched roof handles heavy snowfall better.  Also, a higher pitch to the roof can be beneficial in warding off leaks depending on the roofing material used.  The purlins support the rafter logs, which in turn traditionally supported smaller roofing purlin strips onto which hand-split shingles were nailed.  Later on roof sheeting and composite shingles came into being and replaced the roofing purlins holding the individual runs of wooden shingles.  But composite shingles just don’t carry the same warmth as wooden shingles, or even metal roofing.   

With a true rafter roof, sawmill cut boards were used to build rafters supported by a main beam.  The rafters were placed closer together to eliminate the need for larger supportive purlin logs.  If anything, supports made of sawn boards were used in place of log purlins.  Roofing purlins would then be nailed horizontally in courses onto the rafters to accept shingles made of pine or cedar.  As alluded to in the previous paragraph, roofing purlins are used today to support runs of corrugated metal.   

If the cabin or home has an open, or cathedral, ceiling and will be heated it’ll be necessary to insulate the underneath face of the metal.  Otherwise the temperature difference between the cold outer and heated inner surfaces will cause the metal to develop condensation and “sweat” in the winter.  No one wants to sit inside a warm cabin and be rained on from a sweating roof.   

Log walls and a metal roof make for a timeless look.  Metal roofing has been used on log homes since it was first invented.  A metal roof is still an ideal practical and aesthetic choice.

As with every other aspect of log construction, the process of insulating between the logs has undergone major improvements in the past couple thousand years.  History shows the first substance to be used for sealing openings between logs was mud.  Eventually someone thought to mix dried moss with the mud to provide additional insulating qualities and help hold the mud together.   

As time marched on, the filler between the logs was given the name “chinking”.  The use of mud eventually progressed to more of a mortar mix.  Then in the latter 20th century, with the discovery and improvement of plastics, the preference turned to materials that stay somewhat elastic despite heat or cold.  Several companies now offer products with names like “Perma-Chink” which offer a better seal, less prone to drying and cracking.   

With the development of D-style logs, the need for chinking was reduced drastically.  Instead of courses of logs being dovetailed or otherwise notched and joined, which leaves large gaps between each course, now walls could be stack in an almost solid horizontal stack.  Every other course extends past the corner locking the logs together with the walls attaching at both ends.  The next layer of logs falls just short of the corner while the same course of logs on the two adjoining walls extends past the corner this time.  Then the process repeats itself until a solid structure is built.  Joints at the corners are sealed with a permanent chinking or silicone sealant.  As the logs complete the drying process and settling it will be necessary to seal the joints every few years.

Where D-style logs meet at the corners each alternating course will extend past the corner. The next course will be cut flush. Walls can be built first with the ends trimmed afterward for uniformity.

With logs now tightly stacked to form a wall, what are the insulating properties of the logs?  The generally acceptable “R” value, or ability to ward off cold, is one unit per inch of log thickness.  If logs were square, then a 6-inch log would have an insulating value of R-6.  But logs are not usually cut square.  So you have to estimate the thickness somewhere between where the surfaces of the logs touch and the rounded faces.  If a D-style log was cut eight inches tall and 10 inches thick at its thickest, then the R value might be 9—the difference between the 8-inch mating faces and 10-inch thickness at its widest curvature.  The beauty is that if you purchase sawn logs from a mill or log home supply company the R value math has likely been done for you. 

Instead of dovetailing this inside corner, the builder chose to use a quarter-round cut cedar log. His wife added the cute bear touch for added effect.

Long gone are the days when building yourself a log cabin meant heading out into the timber dragging a crosscut saw and broad ax … and having a strong back.  Nowadays anyone can enjoy the warmth and feel of living in a log home, and the amount of labor you contribute is up to you.  Log home companies are plentiful on the Internet, and a log house can hold all the creature comforts and conveniences found in any other home.  From wiring and plumbing ran inside specially-cut logs, recessed ducts and lighting hidden with well though out plans, to exterior sealers that let the natural beauty of the wood shine through for decades with proper care, modern log homes offer it all with a look that remains forever timeless.



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