Lincoln Logs have delighted the young builder in generations of American kids. Today, many grown-ups are making those construction games a reality by building their own log homes.
Whether built by hand or assembled from a kit, log homes are growing in popularity. The National Association of Home Builders says there are currently more than 400,000 log homes in the U.S. and Canada. It sites a survey by the Log Home Living Institute that found annual production of log home packages increased 41 percent from 1988 to 1995. The industry represents 6.5 percent of the custom-built housing market.
Who’s buying these homes? The NAHB says the “typical log home owner is married with family income of more than $50,000, has a college degree, and uses the home as a primary residence. The top ten states for construction of log homes are: Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Minnesota.
Gene Clore, of Log Homes by Clore Brothers, builds log homes in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, area. He says many people come to him for a log home because “they have always wanted one, or the husband does and wife isn’t sure.” He says some buyers think of log homes “as going back in time, which they find appealing.”
Clore says log homes also provide some advantages over more typical wood frame construction. “Heating and cooling is easier. The log is both the exterior as well as the interior wall. “
The NAHB says solid log walls, which range from 6 to 15 inches in thickness, can be as energy efficient as conventionally insulated walls. However, much depends on the type of wood used and the quality of the construction. The U.S. Department of Energy Consumer Energy Information Briefs offer information on R-value of wood, air leakage and water problems associated with log homes.
The DOE says a log’s R-value, the rating of its resistance to heat flow, depends not only on thickness, but whether it’s a softwood or hardwood. Climate is also a factor. The department says in mild, sunny climates, logs can act like “thermal batteries,” storing heat during the day and releasing it during the night. That can have the effect of increasing a log’s apparent R-value.
The DOE warns “log houses are notorious for large air leaks.” Since logs are about 15 to 20 percent water when a house is built, the logs shrink as the water evaporates. Proper sealing of the joints is critical.
Water in logs can also lead to wood rot and insect infestations. Water-proofing and insecticide treatments are available.
Clore says log homes “can be cheaper to build if you do all of the work yourself or at least are your own subcontractor.” The Log Home Living Institute finds the average log home package sells for $42,000 while the finished product averages $149,000. That doesn’t include the price of the land.
If you’re interested in a log home but don’t know where to begin, check out the web site of the Log Homes Council. The national organization which represents log home manufacturers offers log home designs and the names of Council members.
Carol Ochs is a Washington-based reporter who covers new home trends.