What is the best species wood for log homes or log cabins?
Log Home wood species choice, is something most potential log home owners wrestle with. As a builder, I prefer Cedar or Cypress, over pines, fir, spruces or oaks. Although Cedar and cypress are more durable they sometimes can't be used due to size, budget or engineering requirements. I listed all the species I have experience with below and all their positives and negatives.
Cypress Log Homes
Cypress is a good choice. There are different kinds of cypress. Some types are smaller and have less heart wood. Grading at the mill is very important to limit the pulpy exterior, from ending up in your logs. Moisture content and long term moisture retention are also hurdles that will have to be overcome with cypress. You will need to account for settling and moisture loss in excess with this species in some cases. It can be dried to the point where this effect is minimized but this increases cost substantially. Cypress is also more difficult to fight mold when the logs are new and still loosing moisture. Additives to stains and moisture meter checks before application, can allow this to be overcome.
Once mold grows on cypress it grows deep and can be difficult to sand off. In some severe cases sanding to the point of mold removal causes visual pits to the logs profile. Cypress is also very heavy, so stacking and framing requires more aggressive labor. It also tends to have a variance in the stain absorption. I always recommend a base coat to help make this more uniform. You might be thinking wow that is a lot of negatives. Cypress makes a very durable log home. When cypress is used and built properly it is one of the best choices in my opinion. The wood is also very beautiful and has awesome flare bottoms for columns. Its also a reasonably priced log solution, offering maximum durability.
Cedar Log Homes
Cedar is definitely one of my favorite choices for log cabins. It is very durable. Cedar doesn't score quite as high as some species, when it comes to engineering requirements. Load members tend to be larger. It usually isn't readily available in larger requirements. When larger requirements are requested the price goes up quick. It is very light and easy to stack. It is very dry and stays straight when protected from weather. Its moisture content is minimal, so its shrink factor is also minimal when compared to other species. I think its easier to control mold growth with cedar and stain adheres to better than any other species in my opinion. Cedar does require a base coat to keep uniformity with stain. Overall its at the top of the list if you can afford it.
Fir, Pine and Spruce Log Homes
Fir, pine and spruce are very common log home species choices. They have very large diameter, length availability and are also very strong and rigid. This gives designers and engineers the ability to design large structures with minimal butt joints or breaks. Fir or spruce need to be protected very well (especially in the southern U.S.) and the structure needs to be designed in a way that will allow for protection of your logs. I have repaired a lot of rot in the south over the years from people using these species without the proper build knowledge. Stain adheres very well and mold prevention is fairly easy when the right steps are taken. We have built many residential and commercial structures over the years from spruce, pine and fir. It is definitely a top choice.
There are many log home types out there. These are the ones that I recommend and have experience with. When making your log home species choice,its better to consult a professional to look at your project and help you make the best decision. Guild Log and Timber offers construction services and detailed consulting for General Contractors, Real estate agencies, Architects, homeowners and do-it-your-selfers. We can help give some insight on a broad range of in depth issues with existing log home construction problems and the planning of new log homes. Let our two generations, of log home hard knock experience, be an advantage to you. Contact me for pricing and availability.