Log homes find popularity among home buyers for a plethora of reasons. They offer comfort while simultaneously manifesting an innate sense of strength and rustic beauty. Many styles of log homes exist to suit the differing tastes of potential owners – from simple affairs to proverbial mansions. The most pertinent question faced by those interested in having a log home contracted however, is what species of wood is the best choice for their home? The answer is dependent on several factors, including the size and design of the log home, the environment or location of the home, and the specific needs of the project.
Although technically speaking, any variety of wood can be used for construction, some species will exhibit more desirable characteristics in this particular endeavor. For this reason, wood is unique from any other building materials due to the diverse properties possessed by each species. The goal is to choose a wood that will rise to the occasion, producing a log home that artfully showcases its natural qualities while still acting as a sturdy and reliable building material. Thus, although aesthetics are high on the list of features considered by log home buyers, the overall cost and strength of the wood must also be taken into account.
With regard to the appearance, different species of wood will produce drastically different effects depending on the style of the log home. Log home buyers ought to keep in mind that although wood is often chosen for its initial appearance, the wood will naturally change over time as well as with any preservatives or stains that are applied. Therefore it’s best to choose a wood knowing what the finished product will look like.
Another determining factor that many log home buyers look for is the wood’s resistance to decay. Certain species of wood are prone to decay faster than their counterparts. Because of these differences, it’s important to consider the environmental factors the home will be facing at this juncture. If you live in a more arid climate where excess moisture is not a primary concern, woods that might otherwise decay faster will have a better chance at withstanding the local elements. Conversely, those in wetter climes should consider how the heightened presence of water will wear at the wood. Be that as it may, don’t be dismayed if the wood you’ve had your eye on isn’t always recommended for your specific area. Preservatives have come a long way in increasing the effectiveness of the protection they provide against decay, whether weather or pest related.
Types of Wood
In conjunction with the decay resistance of the wood is its durability. The level of durability possessed by a given wood is again species specific, although certain regions of the log itself – specifically either the sapwood or the heartwood – also show decreased or increased durability respectively. Sapwood, as its name would suggest, is defined as the softer, outermost portion of a log or branch which contains the functioning vascular tissue. As a result of its softer composition, sapwood experiences higher rates of deterioration in certain conditions. Heartwood, the innermost and therefore densest section of any log, holds up better against deterioration making heartwood the preferred portion of the log to use in construction. The true decision then comes not in deciding between sapwood or heartwood but in choosing which of the heartwoods is most durable. Although numerous varieties of heartwood can be purchased for construction, few are native to the North American continent with the exception of Baldcypress, a naturally water-resistant member of the conifer family, several species of cedar, and redwoods.
The wood should also be chosen based on its energy efficiency. Typically speaking, wood is a great natural insulator but as with the other characteristics, some wood species will prove to be more effective than others in terms of how much energy they retain. A material’s ability to resist heat flow is known as its R-value. Softwoods average an R-value of R-1.41 per inch while hardwoods average an R-value of R-0.71 per inch. As a general rule, the higher the R-value, the greater the material’s resistance is.
Resulting from wood’s naturally porous nature (the degrees of porousness between species notwithstanding), wood is subject to shrinkage and warping once felled. Its ability to resist those effects is known as its stability. Thankfully these negative reactions can often be counteracted by correct and careful processing of the wood before being sold, even in species where shrinkage is more problematic. Kiln drying and closely monitored air drying are two such preventative methods against shrinking. Certain woods have an elevated chance of warping or twisting once dried as well, earning themselves the right to be considered the more unstable species. In light of this, processing mills not only grade the wood based on its inherent tendency to warp, but on its post-dried composition, rejecting any logs deemed too unstable to be used for construction.
Cost is the last but easily one of the biggest influencing factors when choosing wood for a log home. The price of wood can vary greatly depending not only on the species but on how well it was prepared. Circumstances that can affect the price of wood include whether or not it’s a slow-growing species as well as the ease with which it can be produced in large quantities for commercial use. Regardless of the price and whether it’s marketed as the highest quality or simply midgrade, wood purchased for a log home should always be thoroughly inspected for any compromising flaws before being used.