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

2. Why A Log House?

North American settlers did not expect to live in their cabins very long. As soon as they could get the sawmill working, the cabins became barns and ultimately pigsties. Consequently, few North American log cabins were built with any precision, unlike our European and Russian counterparts, which built theirs to stand for ten generations. My parents were born in Siberia, so it has been interesting for me, once becoming an adult, to notice log buildings in old family pictures. Today, like the old European craftsmen, builders are building houses that will stand and be liveable for generations.

In writing a book essentially on self-help housing, I make the assumption that the builders who use this book will not be looking forward to the coming of the sawmill and the purchase of manufactured building materials. I am concerned about building with available timber. Log building as an industry and a revived form of home building has its pitfalls. There is much untrodden ground. There are no text books or experts on estimating costs, time schedules, or amounts of timber and other manufactured materials required. Unlike the frame, trailer, or aluminum and plastic house builder, the log builder cannot pick up the telephone and order a specified number of logs of particular lengths, species, diameters, and so forth. It can take months in some circumstances to simply accumulate the necessary wood for the building. The home builder in the more remote parts of the country is increasingly going to be left on his own with no one to turn to.

The actual construction of the building is a reasonably straightforward operation. Again, there are unknown quantities and problems. In the summer, on a flat, large building site, those 1,000-lb. logs can be placed with ease using limited machinery. Let the site be small, hilly, wet and boggy and that half-ton piece of material cannot be carried onto the building like a piece of framing lumber. Time drags; winter approaches. With the specialized direction building has taken in recent years, there can be difficulties for the log builder. Tradesmen tend to only see their own little corner of the project and thus contribute to one another’s inefficiency. A solution to this problem is for the log builder to do as many of the trades related to his building as possible.

As will be shown in further chapters, it is essential that he be somewhat knowledgeable in related building trades since many of them occur concurrent with the erection of the structure rather than when it is almost finished.

Log building is a form of building, as mentioned in the introduction, that allows the builder to learn as he goes. It is a form of building that can involve the whole family, friends, and anyone else foolish enough to drop over to the job site on a sunny weekend. Every builder will find that he makes discoveries in techniques as he goes. Each builder becomes an inventor and innovator in his own right, often rediscovering techniques that have appeared in the craft throughout history.

My favorite architect-philosopher, the Egyptian Hassan Fathey, author of Architecture for The Poor, revived mud-brick construction in his homeland, thereby breathing new life into a tradition thousands of years old. Having established a building tradition and getting it accepted, he felt it was the individual artist/builder/craftsman’s duty to keep the tradition going. Each contributor brings to any building tradition his own inventions, insights, and aesthetic discoveries. He thereby strengthens the tradition and hopefully saves it from extinction. Equally important, the true craftsman freely shares his discoveries with others. When an artist hits upon a technique that sells, and then jealously hoards the secret, he ceases to be an artist and simply becomes a hack with a gimmick. So it is with log building. As time goes on, refinements and innovations find their way into the design of good log buildings for the benefit of larger numbers of people.

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