Your Log House
The On-Site Manual For The Do-It-Yourselfer
What's the book about?

Illustrated Glossary of Terms

  1. Introduction
  2. Why a Log House?
  3. House Design
  4. Traditional Principles & Contemporary Design
  5. Log Acquisition
  6. Getting Started on the Building
  7. Organizing the Site and Equipment
  8. Foundations
  9. Timber Layout
  10. First Logs & Floor Joists
  11. The Chainsaw
  12. Setting Wall Logs
  13. Openings
  14. Framing Walls
  15. Building the Roof
  16. Round Log Piece-en-piece
  17. Stair Planning
  18. Thermal Resistivity of Wood

• Includes 15 House Plans!

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The Book: Your Log House

4. Traditional Principles & Contemporary Design

I have learned to trust some design principles, particularly in designing for my region – the rain-drenched forests of British Columbia.

Log Home Guide editor and editor-in-chief, Doris and Allan Muir, articulated my viewpoint in an article they wrote entitled, “Planning Your Log House.”*

“We have one major suggestion to offer you on design. One of the most striking features of most of the world’s oldest log buildings — in Norway, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and Japan — is the wide overhangs or eaves of their roofs and the covered porches that frequently surround the structures.”

“These are not accidental or purely ornamental (though they add a lot of beauty, as well as utility). Centuries of experience in those countries taught the builders that it is supremely important with a wood structure to protect the wood, not only from moisture, but also from the equally destructive ultra-violet rays of the sun. Those houses lasted because those builders learned the lesson the hard way...”

“… Don’t have logs protruding beyond the roof line, such as ridge logs, purlins or rafters. They will rot very quickly.”

The Laftehus of Norway, with its sod roof, employed this overhang principle and stands as an example from the 1300s (Figure 1).

The same buildings dealt with sill log rot prevention in a simple yet effective manner. Note the built-in drip cap (Figure 2).

Visiting Eagle Crest Lodge on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, I was dismayed to see protruding logs with rotting ends. Otherwise the massive, hand-fit logs were still sound on these turn of the century buildings.

Even though I have already long preached the gospel of the superiority of solid timber buildings, I was particularly inspired to write this chapter upon reading an excellent study in the August 1983 issue of Scientific American. Three engineers, Petter Aune, Ronald Sack, and Arne Selberg, surveyed half the stave churches of Norway (dating back to the tenth century) to write, “The Stave Churches of Norway.’’ Their conclusion?

“…it is possible to build wood structures that will last indefinitely if certain conditions are satisfied. The wood must be carefully selected and cured, meticulous design practices must be applied, attention must be given to details that forestall decay, construction methods must be of high quality, and the structure must be maintained continuously to minimize deterioration. The evidence shows that if these conditions are met, wood buildings can be permanent.”

These engineers narrowed the reasons for the longevity of these huge buildings down to five basic reasons, some of a very specific nature, and others, of a more general sort:

  1. Extraordinary care was taken in the selection and preparation of the wood.
  2. The buildings were designed to suit the exposed sites upon which they were located.
  3. Significant structural innovations pro-tected the wood from deterioration.
  4. The structural members were stressed at an extremely low level — about one tenth of what they could easily have handled.
  5. Connections, joinery, and fastenings were done with accuracy.

Timber builders generally, and log builders in particular, can easily appreciate the truth of these statements and identify with them. Granted, we have often been prevented from employing all of them owing to strictures of time, budget, availability of logs, and so forth. It is advantageous for us, however, to look at these principles and apply them to our work.

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