Monday 7 November 2016

Choosing House Logs is a Serious Business

Many considerations go into choosing the right wood for a log home....or choosing the right home plan for the wood that is available to you...

Kanga-Doodle picks house logs: click for video
Choosing house logs is a serious business; it goes without saying that the wood must be sound and of a suitable size for both the plan and the geographic location of the building (insulative value of the wood species and compliance with the new energy code as well as local building code.)
People often wonder which species of wood is preferable for timber and log homes - the answer to that varies;  locally available wood is often the best choice - for example - if building in North Carolina or Ontario using a local log builder, the home will likely be built using Eastern White Pine.
Lodge pole pine is also an option for many Northern log builders accross the continent.

Here in south central British Columbia we have a wider range of log species to work with including Engelman spruce, Western red cedar, Douglas fir and Alaska yellow cedar.

My personal preference for house logs are Western red cedar, Doug fir and Alaska yellow cedar, so a customer (local or from far afield) who has chosen a BC log builder to work with has quite a few more options.

Early on we favoured Engleman spruce - primarily because our Japanese market had a preference for it's pale sap wood. Spruce was also easy to access and easy to peel, but on the down-side, we struggled with how spruce checks (or cracks) as it dries (typically one LARGE check running the length of the log) and spiral grain twist is also more pronounced in spruce, thus narrowing the selection of wood that met our specifications.

Douglas fir, while a brute to peel, is a more stable wood. Checks tend to occur frequently around the circumference of the log, but barring radical spiral checks are quite regular and narrow. Douglas fir is stronger than spruce and is a better log for load bearing.

The insulative values of Western red cedar surpasses both fir and spruce, so is an ideal wall log. Cedar tends to be less mobile as it dries and also shrinks less. (One drawback with Western red cedar are it's load bearing qualities - in roof systems the required size of a cedar log would often be out of scale with the wall structure, which is why we generally use Doug fir for the roof system. The warm reddish tones of both are very similar, so the variation of species is vitually unnoticeable.

Alaska yellow cedar (also known as Cypress) can be difficult to source, given that the calibre of wood we require is highly prized by the Japansese temple market,  however we have been fortunate to secure a source of Alaska yellow cedar and offer it as an option to our customers.

Douglas fir is the most economical of the species that we build with, but some styles of structures - such as dovetail log homes -  I prefer to build using cedar. Round post and beam log homes require very large diameter wood - averaging 18 to inches in diameter for the posts. Any of the species that we build with are suitable for post and beam as long as the diameter is met. Square post and beam requires that we start with wood of at least 20 inches in average diameter, and our scribed log homes are built with a minimum diameter of  14 inches at the top of the log. Timber frame homes offer more latitude in wood size, as they are typically wrapped from the outside using either SIP's (Structural Insualted Panels) or conventional framing and insulation.

Wood shrinks as it dries and while log homes can be successfully built using green wood, we prefer to use drier material.  Regardless of the species we are building with, we insist or wood that is either air-dried (under 19% moisture content) or kiln dried.

So which species of wood should you choose for your log home? The above really just scratches the surface of house log selection - so please feel free to contact me for more in depth information on this topic - or watch our video featuring the Nicola LogWorks mascott: Kanga-Doodle as she demonsrates her log selection style...

Tuesday 23 August 2016

John thinks he has discovered the elusive Sky-Hook

A Cool New Tool! John thinks he has discovered the elusive Sky-Hook... this video tells the story of how the Ludwig Hook saved us time, reduced leading edge exposure for the crew and minimized the energy they required to re-set the new ATCO Headquarters Building in Calgary Alberta this summer.

(Engineered wood supplied by Western Archrib. Contractor: Cana Construction. Fabulous Crew of Heavy Timber Experts). See for yourself and decide if there is anything else out there that comes as close to the Sky-Hook as this innovative tool from Germany.

Monday 27 June 2016

Award Winning Log Post & Beam Home

It's all about governing design features.
We are (finally) making use of the many photos collected on projects over 26 years of log and timber building! (see link to video at the end of this article).
Every home is unique and each has it's own tale to tell; this most recent video tells the story of a post and beam project that captivated us right from the beginning and remains one of our favourite projects some 8 or 10 years later.

Here is some of what we liked (and still like) about this project:
  1. The governing design feature of the building was the vanishing edge pool  - so this feature dictated the layout and design of the home.
  2. The land was quite vertical - which also dictated what was possible. (We believe that constraints are where creativity is born).
  3. The wood specifications were very tight and highly defined. (Western red cedar with a mositure content of between 14-16%). This feature narrowed the wood to either kiln dried or dead standing wood. Dead standing was preferred for a smoother finish. Given that the builders who were being considered for the project were all of similar calibre it might have been a harder decision for the customer if it had not been for those tight wood specs - because in the end it pretty much came down to whoever came up with the wood first was likely going to land the contract....(obviously it was Nicola LogWorks who found the wood...and with a surface moisture content of 10 - 12 %!)
  4. The design was the work of Tom Hahney (Designing Change - out of Washington State). Tom is a talented designer with the bonus of also being a log builder and colleague. His specifications were informed and well purposed.
  5. Tom made sure that the log builders who were competing for the contract could build to the level of quality that the customer was expecting. He narrowed the field for the customer by communicating with local log builders and giving the customer a short-list of three builders to interview prior to narowing it to two candidates.  (A much appreciated courtesy to those of us bidding the building, and despite the competetive aspect of the bidding process - we much prefer to compete against colleagues who offer similar quality and services.)
  6. As a final bonus, the project was an hour and a half away from Merritt BC where our production site is located. (As much as we enjoy setting up our log homes all over the world - a job in one's own back yard is much appreciated.)
  7. Oh - and we liked the customer. But that pretty much goes without saying - because we try to only build for folks we like.
This post and beam log home won a Silver Tommie Award in the Kelowna Region. You can learn more about this project by following this link: "Okanagan Lake Post and Beam".

Tuesday 1 March 2016

A Small Dovetail Log Cabin - built with Massive Ponderosa Pine

A Homage to the Ponderosa

As the pine trees of British Columbia fell victim to the Mountain Pine Beetle we had the opportunity to pay tribute to the Ponderosa Pine - that iconic tree of the dry belt region.

Back in 2009 I wrote:
3 courses of logs bring the walls to plate height of 9'4

 "We are working on a very unusual little building using very large beetle killed Ponderosa.
These majestic trees - so iconic of the inter-mountain desert, are fast disappearing and we will never see their like again.
I hope to build one or two local structures that will remind generations to come of these beautiful giants."

 We hope you enjoy this video story of a Dovetail Log Home built with "Denim Pine"

Monday 4 January 2016

Silly Gone to Seed - "Safety Gurl to the Rescue!"

Something light to start 2016. Cartoon number 2: "The Adventures of Safety Gurl"

Contributed by: "The Log Builder's Wife".

Happy New Year and a Safe and Pleasant 2016 
John Boys and the Heavy Timber Team at Nicola LogWorks.
Click here for more "Silly Gone to Seed"