As Mira Jean Steinbrecher has long advocated, “Design Matters”
Many believe that the key to creating a log structure that lasts is good materials and expert construction techniques. While these are certainly important, there is something that comes much earlier in the building process that will have an even greater impact on the long-term stability and strength of your structure…
To create a log structure that can last for centuries, you must begin with a good design. While wood can endure for centuries, it can only do so when it is afforded protection from the elements.
The most detrimental and relentless element at play with log structures? Nature’s oven: the sun.
Thankfully, a good design that protects your structure from the sun’s ultraviolet light will also solve a slew of other issues related to the elements, all of which that can wreak havoc on your building, such as wind-driven rain, vegetation encroachment, neglecting to maintain clean log surfaces and more.
So, how do you protect your structure from the sun, and in the process, protect it from these other common issues? Let’s take a closer look:
Wrap Around Porches
Protecting your log building from the sun involves creating an “umbrella effect” that casts shade down on your exterior walls.
Wrap around porches are a fantastic (and simple) way to achieve this effect, and provide adequate shade to the walls on the sun path sides. If the walls are protected from sun and rain, much less attention to wood species and finish options will be required. Porches will also deny the opportunity for vegetation or sprinkler systems to inadvertently damage the log walls, and, as an added benefit, allow comfortable use of the protected outside space throughout the seasons.
Extended Roof Overhangs
In lieu of wrap around porches (or in conjunction with them), extended roof overhangs are another great way to provide the walls of your log structure with adequate protection from the sun and other elements.
Overhangs should be 5’-6’ on the eaves and gable ends of your roof, ensuring that the walls are shielded from the sun’s path year-round.
Elevation Above the Native Soil
No matter where your building is being constructed, it is always good practice to have the lowest logs landing at least 18-24” above the final grade. The more the better here, as height will protect the lower logs from rain, snow, flooding, vegetation encroachment, and more, ensuring your structure is always protected
Other Important Considerations
Of course, a great many of other factors will influence the final design needs of your specific build, including access, view direction, geography, prevailing wind, purpose of the building, size and shape, roof design, location of utilities, solar utilization, and more. Choice of tree species and finish applications will also affect your design. But if one keeps in mind the principle ideas outlined above during their design phase, you will significantly increase your chances of building a log structure that can avoid rot, decay, and constant repair and maintenance, allowing it to thrive for years to come.
For further reading, Allen Mackie’s book The Owner Built Log House is a valuable resource that’s well worth the time to read during the preliminary research and study phase of your project. In addition, be sure to check out Cascadian School of Log Building and Design’s other blog posts, or come learn directly from us during one of our hands-on log building courses.