Using timber logs has been a popular method for building homes in the likes of Canada, America and Scandinavia over many years – but here in the UK, our log buildings are usually smaller-scale holiday homes in the form of lodges or cabins. With the potential for a beautiful, hand-crafted home – are log homes a viable option for the UK’s Self Builders? ACA’s very own log home specialist, Robin Gray, has recently been involved in five log home projects, and offers his insight on the subject.
WHAT PROCESSES ARE INVOLVED IN BUILDING A LOG HOME?
Finding an architect for your log home project is vital, and Robin’s advice would be to select an architect who has worked with log homes in the past. It is important that your architect understands the limitations and possibilities of building with logs, and understands the industry’s standards and practices.
In addition to this, any architect you hire for your log home should be familiar with a large number of log building companies, so that they can help in the process of selecting the best log builder for your project. After choosing which architect you would like to work with, Robin advises you spend some time thinking about which construction system you think will benefit your log home design.
In recent years, Robin has designed and helped manage a Log Home in Ratho, Scotland. This house used a ‘Stacked Log’ system, which sees full, naturally-shaped, peeled logs stacked and custom-scribed into and on top of one another. The corners are notched where the logs meet and overlap at the corners, and this notching can be done in a variety of styles. You can see images of this log home system in more depth, by clicking here.
Another log home system involves the use of the ‘Engineered Log’, or ‘Milled Log’. These are logs which are milled to a standard size and can utilise a tongue-and-groove system – aligning each log to form a sealed exterior.
Robin is currently working on a log home which implements the ‘Post and Beam’ system – which sees a series of vertical posts support horizontal log beams. These horizontal logs cover the top half of the building’s walls, before a separate infill panel is inserted to form the lower part of the walls.
The infill panel can be made from a number of materials, but Robin suggests that timber frame panels are typically best for ensuring a good level of energy efficiency. Regardless of which construction system you decide to use, Robin also adds that it can cost quite a lot more on interiors, and that it can be a little bit trickier to install the necessary fittings for your log home.
Should you choose to import a popular Western Red Cedar log home from Canada, or if you would prefer an American one, there are a number of log home importers throughout the UK. Developing a good relationship with one of these companies is important for the smooth-running of your log home project.
Robin points out that the cost of importing a log home from oversees can be very high, and it can be difficult to find companies in the States or Canada who make log homes with the exact equivalent to British building standards. He recommends a British importer called Pioneer Log Homes – a company which has solid connections with companies abroad. For importing a Scandinavian style log home with engineered logs, Robin also recommends Finlog – the only UK company with a Finnish factory.
If you would rather have your log home built in the UK, Robin has worked closely with Caledonia Log Homes, based in Selkirk in Scotland. Most log homes in the UK are made using Douglas Fir timber, but Caledonia Log Homes also provide a range of timbers from different suppliers.
Caledonia specialise in bespoke, handcrafted log homes, and is run by the most experienced log builder in the UK. Once a log home system has been selected, choosing the right company to supply your choice of log can make or break your log home aspirations.
WHAT MIGHT TEMPT UK SELF BUILDERS TO TAKE ON LOG HOMES?
From Robin’s experience, many of his log home clients have fallen in love with the style when abroad in Europe and across the Atlantic. As a construction style, log homes tend to be more expensive than using traditional methods, but, if designed and built properly, the result can be simply stunning.
Depending on the system selected when building a log home, there can often be scope for hand-crafted aspects of the building. The unique elements brought to the project by your selected craftsmen can really add something special to your home’s design.
In opting to build a log home, you are opting to build a house that will last a very, very long time. As one of the earliest forms of homebuilding methods, log homes have proven to be extremely reliable, and comfortable, over many years.
If you choose to build with whole logs, your home can benefit from good levels of energy efficiency, and even superior soundproofing when compared to standard homes. This is down to whole-log construction providing the interior, exterior, structural component, and the insulation all in one. As timber generally has good thermal mass, log homes tend to be naturally warm – so sealing your log home properly is vital to maintaining airtightness and energy efficiency levels.
As timber comes from a very natural source, log homes are very easily integrated into the landscape. In many cases, planning authorities approve of the log homes because of the use of very sustainable building materials. Robin believes that as long as you educate Building Control in the special requirements that come with building a log home, most departments are pleasantly co-operative, and are often very interested in the log home project.
So, if you have always dreamed of building your own log home, contact ACA today! With Robin’s expertise in log homes, your self build dreams are in safe hands!