Log home experts confront questions that pop up frequently in the home buying decision-making process.
Fact and fiction, popular misconception, and downright erroneous information sometimes surround the process of buying or building a log or timber home. It isn’t that deliberate deception exists; more likely it’s the simple idea that someone did not completely understand one aspect or another during the experience. Thankfully there are proven facts, undisputed truths that stand right alongside.
One of the most persistent myths is the specter of a continual necessity to maintain the property, to such an extent that it goes well beyond what is expected with a conventional home. Wrong!
“We deal every day with myths, if you will, and we hear about horror stories that someone has uncovered, and we have to work our way through that and explain things to our clients,” comments Brad Mercer, sales manager of Timberhaven Log & Timber Homes. “One big myth involves maintenance. In some cases, there may be some truth to that, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. If you allow for any settling, tighten the home up, and do things like caulking to make the structure weathertight, the issues can be solved. There are wet and green log companies, for example, that utilize a settling system, but with a kiln-dried product or preengineered logs you can simply perform regularly scheduled upkeep and that should be the extent of it.”
Sarah Smith of Blue Ridge Log Cabins echoes that sentiment, pointing to the fact that any home requires maintenance. “What I like to tell people is that log home maintenance is the same as maintaining a traditional home,” she reasons. “For all other types of home materials you do maintenance. You pressure wash, paint, make repairs to siding, patch holes, and replace bricks. The same can be said for log homes. Some log home owners choose to restain their cabin every year or every other year just because they like the stain to look fresh, while others might only restain every seven to 10 years. It is all about the preference of the homeowner. Just like bricks can crack and a homeowner has to repair that, logs can check and require maintenance too.”
The actual construction process is sometimes mystifying as well. There are options in the types of logs and timber, some costing a bit more than others, but each offering characteristics the customer may find beneficial and worth additional expense. Commonly, according to Jay Parmeter of Golden Eagle Log Homes, the owner may well believe that all log construction is the same. Further, they may consider the intricacies of wiring and finishing to be problematic because of the log materials. Parmeter says, “Hold on!”
Parmeter continues, “People also believe that every single wall in a log home is solid log. There is usually space between the exterior and interior wall. The customer thinks, ‘How will I run wiring or redecorate?’ But we tell them that there are partition walls like in conventional homes and there are usually very few wiring issues. We also have a system that will go through the logs themselves, so we can get as many as 120 switches in there. Walls, roofs, and subflooring are usually conventional, so it really is easy to run wiring.”
Staying warm is always a concern, right? Log homes can be a bit chilly right? Mercer says, “Not so fast, my friend!”
“We regularly hear that log homes are drafty,” he remarks. “We hear log homes are cold and really dark. But if you end up with a home like that it probably means that you didn’t do your homework. Or possibly you made a selection that didn’t involve quality or the home itself wasn’t built properly. Well, what we have today is not your great grandfather’s log cabin.”
“People like bright, open spaces, and that is very doable,” he says. “Virtually everybody wants that, and we are able to deliver. The drafty part only comes in if the home is not properly sealed, but it disappears if the logs are milled and fitted or constructed properly. Back in the days of the pioneers you would chink and use an ax to fall your own trees, but we have come a long way.”
Sometimes potential buyers and builders begin with a mythical premise on pricing as well, says Mercer. They may compare a log home to a structure that is completely different. A modular home or even many conventional homes may be similar to a log home only in that they provide shelter. The comparison stops there. “Log homes are going to be more expensive than a modular home,” says Mercer. “That’s like comparing apples to oranges. With 20 years in the log home industry, I can’t tell you how many times people have said they are looking at the cost of a mobile home and comparing that to a log home. On the other hand, there are those that think log construction is cheap. But you get what you pay for!”
Wood construction always begs the question of insect infestation. Is a log or timber home a buffet for wood-eating and -boring insects? Probably no more than a conventional home. Every homeowner has to contend with unwelcome creepy crawlies and buzzing visitors sometimes. A regular routine with a reputable exterminator is recommended to ward off most heavily damaging or nuisance insect encounters. Mercer also advises that the belief that log homes are more susceptible to fire than conventional homes is erroneous.
“There is the idea that a wood structure like a log home has a lot of ‘fuel’ available for a fire,” explains Mercer. “However, solid-mass logs probably take longer to reach a flashpoint than other materials, and there is often no fuel between the exterior and interior walls of a log home. Still, it is also a myth to say that any structure is 100 percent fireproof.”
Durability and strength present another myth to dispel. “People often assume that a solid log home might not be as durable as a stick/traditional 2X4-built home,” relates Smith. “There was an experiment done with a log wall and a brick wall constructed right next to each other. To prove a point, the company asked potential homeowners which would break first after being hit with a sledgehammer. Can you guess which one broke first? Yep! It was the brick wall. After a few hits, the brick cracked and crumbled, exposing a giant hole. The log wall stood strong—no cracks and no breaks. There were barely any indentation marks. If a log home is built correctly, it will stand the test of time.”
Separating the myth from the truth is a valuable exercise and removes some degree of doubt and decision making in the buying and building process.