My family has a place in Middle Tennessee that we’ve owned since 1987. We call it simply, “The Farm.” Twenty years ago this December, the 100-plus-year-old log cabin original to the property burned to the ground. Being avid outdoorsmen and loving the log home lifestyle, my brothers and I were eager to get it back. So we built a modern but rustic log house to replace it. At the time, I had some experience building and restoring log homes and had recently begun working for a manufacturer of log home sealants and maintenance products. Since one of my brothers is a lawyer and the other is an artist, it fell upon me to design the home and do most of the construction.
Most of my customers were (and still are) manufacturers and builders of log homes. They explained to me how log homes are constructed, but they taught me an even more important lesson – to protect them right and do it right from the start. I took these experts’ advice to heart, and I’m proof that their advice works, because after 20 years of log home ownership, I am about to re-stain one side of our cabin for the very first time.
You might ask me how I did it. The answer is really fairly simple when you understand a few things about wood and the forces of nature that affect it. Logs can last virtually forever if properly protected from sun, rain and insects. Wood exposed to those same elements will require frequent maintenance to maintain its beauty. Design, site positioning and routine log home maintenance are the three key elements in building a beautiful home and keeping it that way.
The design of your home should first and foremost take into account the living spaces you want to occupy, but also should ensure that you get the time to enjoy those living spaces by reducing maintenance on the exterior of the home.
If you’re hoping for little to no log home maintenance and your design allows for it, build a covered porch all the way around your home. Or, at least build as many covered porches as you can. The idea here is to keep as much direct sunlight and rain away from your home’s exterior log walls. Let the manmade materials soak up the brunt of the abuse dished out by nature. They are engineered for it.
If the design does not allow for multiple porches, the next best thing is to incorporate wide overhangs or eaves on the roofline of your home. A 30-inch overhang, rather than the standard 16-inch used in stick-built construction, reduces sun exposure on the logs by 50 percent and rain exposure by as much as 70 percent. This simple step also can lengthen the longevity of stains and coatings and even reduce your energy bills in Southern climates.
Gutters, where practical, are your next best friend, as they add an additional six inches of shade to your walls and prevent water from splashing back onto your home’s lower log courses.
Where you place your home on your lot and how it will be oriented will have a major impact on your upkeep. You probably have a view to consider, and you will have to think about access, septic fields, trees, etc., but most people don’t consider the orientation of their home as a maintenance factor, and they should. Positioning it correctly isn’t hard. Here’s how: