Myth Busters

What is True and False About Log and Timber Homes

Log Homes
Contact: Devin Perry
Executive Director, Business Improvement Programs
(202) 266-8577

The 1970s. It was an iconic decade that gave us mood rings, lava lamps, green shag carpeting, bell bottoms and mutton chop sideburns. Thankfully, it also gave us something much more attractive and long lasting: the modern log and timber home industry.

It’s worth noting that log and timber home industry sprung entirely from consumer demand. Inspired by the Great Camps of the Adirondacks and the Great Lodges built in our national parks in the 1930s, architects and designers in the 1970s began to combine stone, logs and timbers to create new designs with a rustic elegance. Scores of lumber companies scrambled to meet demand.

In 1977, the forerunner to the Log and Timber Homes Council was formed. Today, the council’s membership requirements protect home buyers during the buying and building process.

Countless cabins were built in mountain communities and alongside lakes nationwide in the 1970s and 1980s. Although this firmly entrenched the romance of log and timber home living in the minds of many baby boomers, it also gave rise to some unfortunate myths that endure to this day. Let’s examine these to determine what’s real and what’s not.

True or False: Log homes are not energy efficient.
Today’s modern log and timber homes can easily meet or exceed the performance of conventional construction. Indeed, a host of scientific studies have proven this. Homes built with solid log walls are typically 5% to 15% more energy efficient than standard stick frame construction, according to studies conducted by The National Bureau of Standards, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Research Center of the National Association of Home Builders. For details, download “Energy Performance of Log Homes” in our Log Home Library.
Answer: False.

True or False: Log homes are dark and gloomy.
It is true that wood absorbs light. This is why log and timber homes need twice the amount of lumens as conventional drywall homes. The log cabins of yesteryear had smaller windows, allowing less daylight to enter. Combine that with not enough electrical lighting to compensate for the wood absorbing light and one had — a gloomy interior. But as window energy performance improved dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s, so did the amount of glass in log and timber home designs. This enables more day lighting capabilities. Designers now use a variety of lighting strategies to highlight the beauty of the logs and timbers.
Answer: True back in the day. But not true today.

True or False: Log homes are expensive.
As the log and timber home industry grew from weekend cabin to primary residence and then lavish luxury retreat, a perception began to grow among consumers that log and timber homes were only affordable for the wealthy. Log home magazines and websites (including this one) often showcase luxury log and timber homes, which reinforces the perception. Then too, log and timber homes are often a dream for the homeowner. Because of this, they tend to outfit them with dreamy amenities. But are they only for well-to-do buyers? As a building material, logs are more expensive than 2x4s at the local lumber yard. But this can be offset by a far faster construction time and less labor costs when compared to conventional construction. The walls of a log and timber home are completed both inside and out with the stacking of the logs. Compare this to conventional construction, which requires far more trades to complete the walls, including framers, insulation crews, exterior siding and sheathing applicators, drywall hangers and painting inside and out. This can take weeks, compared to the two to three days it takes to stack pre-cut logs for an average-sized home.
Answer: False. Although log and timber homes can be luxurious, the bottom line is that logs are a competitively priced building material that often saves on labor costs in the field.

True or False: Log homes require more maintenance.
Oddly enough, in the early 1970s log and timber homes were sometimes marketed as “maintenance free.” Combine this with the fact in the industry’s infancy there weren’t a lot of products specifically geared toward preserving and protecting logs and we have the making of a myth with pernicious staying power. But the truth is today’s modern log and timber homes don’t require any more maintenance than conventional homes. A number of companies that belong to the Log and Timber Homes Council have scientifically formulated log preservation products that provide excellent protection from the elements. But it does bear mentioning, one should only use products specifically developed for the log and timber home industry. Many of the products used today to preserve logs from Mother Nature are also eco-friendly, which is a nice bonus. Ask your log and timber home manufacturer and builder for suggestions on the products they recommend to keep your log and timber home looking beautiful.
Answer: False.