Log home building course

When is a log home not a log home?
Sometimes 'log homes' are not log homes. It is important to understand the difference.

Often, building or buying a house is one of the biggest personal investments that a person makes in their lifetime. If you are considering employing a contractor to build your home, I advise you to attend my course well beforehand so that you will know if the contractor is being up-front and honest with you.

The course fee will most likely be the smallest but most important investment in the entire project.

I cannot stress this enough, there are contractors that do not necessarily have your best interests at heart and will tell you anything that they think you want to hear.
Without having a full understanding of this construction technique, how will you know whether they are doing a good job or not? In the end, it is your money, as the home owner, you are going to personally pay for any mistakes, errors or failures.

Comparing apples with apples

I would like to point out that there is an important difference between 'Genuine solid log homes' and 'Timber homes' or 'timber frame homes', even if a company claims to build 'Log homes', they are often building 'timber homes'.
Why they do this? I don't know...maybe having 'solid log' rather than 'solid plank' or just 'plank' in their name just sounds better?
Maybe 'Solid timber plank homes' just does not have the same ring to it.
A log is the trunk of a tree, 'in the round', before it is processed into timber, or dimensional lumber.
The tree is felled, the logs go to a sawmill, gets sawn up into planks, joists, beams --call it what you like, as soon as it goes through a sawmill, it is no longer a log, it is now timber or lumber.
Some well known manufacturers claim to use a 'HEAVY SOLID LOG SYSTEM', in reality their buildings look like the typical timber home picture below.
The easiest way to tell what type of construction they use is to look at the corners of their buildings, usually found in a picture gallery on their website.

genuine log home
If the corners have thick round logs
sticking out, it is a log home.
plank cladding on a timber home
If the corners are all regular and
machined (even if the planks have been
machined to a rounded appearance),
it is a timber home.
fake logs on a timber home
Sometimes they even go to extremes
in a desperate attempt to make it look solid.
These are just thin cladding planks with
a block of wood glued onto the end.

Don't be fooled. Whatever they claim in writing, usually looking at the pictures on their website will tell you if they build genuine log homes or timber plank houses
Now that you know the difference: Please do not contact me for advice on timber homes, I do not build timber homes and I do not give advice on timber homes.
For advice on timber homes Contact these guys.

The lifespan and strength of a genuine log home is far superior to any 'timber framed home'. I recommend building a genuine log home that has a long lifespan and minimal maintenance.
Timber framed home lifespan
The lifespan of a timber framed home is limited by it's smallest components, specifically the nails and screws that are used to hold it together. The Wiki on lumber states 'Fasteners used with treated lumber require special consideration because of the corrosive chemicals used in the treatment process.
This will be shown to be true in the following example:
A couple of points that are not commonly mentioned: cca treated timber galvanic reaction A galvanic reaction occurs between the copper in CCA treated timber and the zinc plating on the screw (you have created a 0.8 volt battery). When this occurs, the copper in the timber always wins and the fastener always loses.
Moisture is required and acts as an electrolyte. (readily available on an exposed deck each time it rains) CCA treatment is being phased out in many places and is often replaced by ACQ, it is less toxic but has two big problems.

  1. ACQ-treated timber is five times more corrosive to common steel.
  2. ACQ acts as a surfactant (wetting agent) which lowers the surface tension of water, which helps to absorb moisture, keeping that galvanic reaction going more efficiently.
The best practice would be to use stainless steel screws, however these cost a small fortune and most timber home manufacturers probably cut corners to save money wherever they can. So, my advice to you is, if you are going to get a contractor to build a deck for you, insist on Stainless steel screws and be prepared to pay extra for them. In fact, if the contractor does not suggest them you should get another quote.
My favorite South African saying in this regard is 'Goed koop is duur koop' (penny wise, pound foolish).

My advice, now that you know the difference: Do it properly, do it once and do it properly.
If you don't have the time to do it properly, when are you going to have the time to correct it?

Timber home maintenance:
Timber framed homes need constant maintenance, and in some instances require re-painting every 18 months (at great expense to you and an unnecessary waste of time and resources).
peeling paint If you skip this maintenance for any appreciable length of time and the paint begins to peel, you will end up having to sand down the entire house, back to bare wood and begin afresh.
Some timber home manufacturers make light of this maintenance, with comments their website like.."A good scrub with a brush or hard broom and new coat of exterior timber sealant is recommended every 18-36 months.". Sounds easy, no problem, you might say.
My neighbor has an average sized 3 bedroom timber home built by a well known local contractor.
For the last 8 weeks she has had a team of workers sanding all the sealer paint off the house and re-painting it.
Out of curiosity, I asked her how much this maintenance was costing? The answer...R100 000! Every couple of years? Expensive!
How often does it need to be done? "Well, that depends", he said, anything from every 2 years if they use a 'varnish', to every 4 - 5 years if they use a 'timber preservative'. ..as often as that? Are you serious?
I never paint my log home. Genuine log homes do not need paint or sealer on the logs and therefore do not require this expensive maintenance - ever.
Lifespan of H4 treated timber Stilt foundations: I do not recommend timber stilt foundations for log homes. I recommend concrete foundations.
Many timber home builders use timber stilt foundations.
These timber stilts are in constant ground contact, moisture and bacteria, which are the worst possible conditions for timber.
The bacteria that cause timber to rot are present in the ground, all they need is moisture to do their natural work.
rotting cca treated timber
The results of our independent test:
I don't think much of H4 CCA treatment, just 6 years in clay ground, already well advanced rotting.
A recent conversation with SAWPA revealed that the timber stilts which many of the timber framed houses are built on only have a guaranteed lifespan of 35 years, depending on conditions. Upon questioning "what constitutes bad conditions?", damp Cape Town weather, in the winter is considered severe and this would limit the lifespan of the building to 35 years (just enough time to pay off the mortgage).
Cost of Timber homes versus genuine Log homes:
A genuine log home can be built with your own cash.
This saves you a lifetime of slavery to the bank while repaying a mortgage.
A timber home can cost every bit as much as a brick home and usually requires a mortgage.
While you repay that mortgage, you are fully responsible for all the maintenance on a building that you do not own - add that to the cost of ownership.
A home is usually one of the most expensive personal investments that many people make in their lifetime, building a real and genuine log home can be done with your own cash.
I believe in building a house that requires the least amount of maintenance and has the longest lifespan. This has a number of obvious benefits:
  1. The housing stock does not need to be replaced regularly, thereby saving the planets valuable resources.
  2. The investment that you make can benefit your future generations.
  3. The cost of regular maintenance can be avoided by using sound and simple principles at the design stage.

I believe that educating one's self before embarking on a Log Home building project is essential and probably the most important money spent in the entire project.
Why trust someone else with your money, without educating yourself first?
How will you know if they are doing a proper job?
How do you know that they have your best interests at heart?
How do you know if (or more likely where) they hide mistakes?

Healthy building materials!
On average, the South African saw-milling industry recovers as little as 48% of a log when it is milled. The rest becomes sawdust and wood chips, OK, they glue some of the wood chips back together and call it 'chipboard', 'particle board' or 'OSB' (orientated strand board).
This is sometimes used in homes for wall paneling, ceilings, floor boards, cupboards, etc. Typically they use Urea-formaldehyde glue to stick it all back together, which, as the name suggests is made from Urea (piss) and formaldehyde (also used for preserving dead animals).
Urea-formaldehyde glue
"It was first synthesized in 1884 by Hölzer." The word 'synthesized' makes it look all research based. We can take a wild guess at how this discovery came about, Hölzer couldn't make it to the toilet, the beaker of Formaldehyde was the only available container...the rest is history.
weetbix and chipboard
Timber construction tradesmen commonly refer to OSB as Weetbix board. The above picture shows how difficult it is to tell the difference between the two.
I have got no problem with OSB.
It's OK with me if you want to live in a box built out of something that's difficult to distinguish from a popular breakfast cereal.
Be aware that you will need to add good insulation to this type of structure due to the walls being so thin.
osb home While I'm on the subject, a warning! If at any stage your chipboard box home gets damp, not only does that chipboard fall apart, losing any perceived structural integrity, but the glue which holds the wood chips together gives off toxic, carcinogenic Formaldehyde.
At least the breakfast cereal does not have Formaldehyde (I hope).
Am I sensationalizing all of this? Well, I don't know, this is just my opinion. Nobody seems to be publishing much about these toxic building materials. All I would like to be able to do is make an informed choice.
Chinese Drywall
There are cases which have come to light and gained publicity due to legal action, such as the Chinese Drywall issue. Drywall panels imported from China, installed into about 100 000 American homes where found to off-gas volatile chemicals and sulfurous gases including: Many people had no choice but to evacuate their homes. The effects worsen as temperature and humidity rise and lead to serious health problems such as burning eyes, sinus headaches, wheezing, respiratory problems and can affect the nervous system, on top of that, corrosion of copper pipes, plumbing, appliances, air conditioners and metal fittings as detailed here. Apparently they are looking at between 15 and 25 billion US dollars to rectumify the problem.

As another example, there was a time when Asbestos was seen as a 'magic mineral' and was used for many building products, roof sheeting, wall panels, insulation, ceiling boards, electrical appliances, etc...throughout your house. People could not get enough of it.
People simply did not know any better.
Now banned and considered as hazardous waste.
Makes you think...what's next....
It just takes the right person to kick up a stink about it.

old asbestos advert

Hats off to you Roy for a most impressive course!! Just wanted to say your course should be renamed "Personal Empowerment through Log Home Building"!!!! How you manage to cram the principles of efficiency and financial freedom, detailed instructions on exactly how two people can construct a log home from start to finish - with some very impressive engineering lessons generously added to the mix - in such a short time, seems somewhat magical to me. I so appreciate how much research lies behind the your efficient instructions.
You've clearly done all the time-consuming and heavy groundwork and thought through every aspect of log building thoroughly, you've found the safest, most effective ways to build, own and maintain a beautiful home, you teach others how to make extremely wise decisions about money, how to shop wisely which can apply to so much more broadly than just buying building materials.
Thanks also to you and your lovely Cathy for sharing your special home with us and providing inspiration and living proof that Denny and I can, in fact, build our very own log home!!!
Woooo Hoooo!!!!
Love and Light to you, Cathy and Connor