The appeal of a log home is a combination of common sense and nostalgia, which lets one live comfortably, even luxuriously in a work of art, while keeping a traditional craft alive.
The history of log homes
Log homes are often associated with pioneer settlement, but did you know that West Coast Indians used log frames for their large plank houses long before the arrival of European settlers? Immigrants to the prairie west patterned their first log houses after customary forms of their homelands (e.g., Ukraine). In the subarctic forests, log houses provided comfortable shelter for trappers and woodsmen. Their attractive appearance and thermal efficiency still make them popular not only with summer cottagers across Canada, but among many people with a renewed interest in traditional housing.
The log home builder in Sturgeon County
M&H Wood Specialties has been in the log home building and renovation business in the Edmonton area for over 34 years. They specialize in exterior finishing, structural and aesthetic restoration and new builds. I went on a tour of the company’s building construction site with owner, Paul Murray, who explained the various aspects of the operation and the growing desire for natural homes.
I learned that beyond the rustic ambiance and the strong connection to nature, there are other several advantages for owning a log home.
1. They are long lasting – long homes still in use today date back hundreds of years.
2. Tree are a renewable resource – logs are often sourced from forests that are certifies as sustainable and some builders such as M & H can construct home to green building standards
3. Log homes naturally fit the landscape they are built within.
4. Thick logs make the walls warm to touch. If the home is sealed properly, you could have a home is 20 to 30 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home.
5. Your home can be framed onsite faster than a conventional build, which will reduce the likelihood of weather related damages.
6. Rustic does not mean no technology – log home builders are able add communication technologies and other automated features.
7. If you’re concerned about mold or insect infestation, log homes offer a clear advantage of giving you the ability to notice the issue faster than a conventional home with sealed wall cavities that offer hiding areas.
8. Furthermore whole wood products are less likely to affect people with environmental sensitivities.
9. Logs and lumber used in homes sequester considerable carbon; there is less energy required to turn a log into a finished housing component as compared to drywall, vinyl etc.
10. The lifecycle of log homes that may be centuries are much greater than the typical 75 year lifecycle expectancy of most mainstream construction systems.
A few of many eclectic homes built by M & H – take a tour of their building exteriors
…and their building interiors
How log homes are built
I really appreciate the the work of log builders because – log homes are works of art that require immense patience and physical labor. Although M & H uses more intricate construction processes, log homes are typically constructed in ten steps. First, the logs are individually selected to ensure that they are free of dry rot, cracking, splitting and bug infestation. M&H uses hand peeled, air-dried, Eastern slope, slow growth Alberta White Spruce. The logs can be dried from one to two years.
A proper foundation may be constructed with traditional stone or concrete blocks. Creating a basement involves excavating and creating foundation walls, which is much more work. The foundation pictured above shows an example of what a simplified one may look like.
The logs are then put together using a technique known as scribe, fit, round-notch method. This features semi-circular notches cut in the bottom of the logs to fit over adjacent ones to ensure proper water drainage when it rains. Grooves are also cut down the entire length of the log to eliminate air drafts.
Alignment pegs are then installed at each corner of the structure and around every window and door opening to maintain the stability of the log home. When the logs reach the top of the planned window and door openings, the walls are braced and openings are cut out all at once.
The roof on the cabin shown is a combination of purlin and rafter construction. A purlin is a horizontal beam or bar used for structural support in a roof. Purlins are supported by rafters which are a series of sloped beams that extend from the peak of the roof all the way to the outside walls. Once purlins and rafters are installed, roofing boards are put in place and then either asphalt or cedar shingles are used to complete the roof. The doors and windows are then installed to complete the home.
There is a lot of planning that goes into log home construction to ensure safety and longevity and this is where M & H excels. Besides engineering your tastes and preferences to building code, M & H helps you maximize the energy conservation of your new home by placing it properly onsite. They take the extra step in examining the building envelope through modern energy testing.
One thing I admire about the company is their focus on sustainable forestry. M & H harvests timber from designated forestry areas in Alberta and British Columbia, which are then replanted with five saplings for every harvested tree. So essentially, the company not only provides a lasting product for their customer; they are also in the business of rebuilding our future one tree at a time.
If you’re interested to learn more, check out their office at Pro North Industrial Park - 27 Kuryluk Blvd or their website at: www.mhwood.com.
M&H Specialties makes us #SturgeonProud!