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Choosing Lumber for Your Cabin

When it comes to building a log cabin, you must think about the kind of logs to use. With the much debate surrounding whether to use dead standing or green logs, kiln or air-dried logs, it is easy to get confused. You may personally want a certain species of tree, or live in a climate that is better suited to certain types of logs over others. Below we’ll go over some pros and cons of the major lumber categories!

Green Logs

These are trees which have been harvested and cut into logs while still alive. They are usually high in moisture content. When used immediately for building, the logs tend to warp, shrink and twist which causes the log cabin to be less structurally sound. Therefore, they need to be dried before use through kiln drying or air drying. Green logs may look cool when they dry, but you really want to avoid them at all costs structurally speaking.

Pros

  • The quickest way to build cabins since their no drying process to wait for.
  • Good for testing or experimentation as a builder.

Cons

  • They will shrink sooner rather than later, leaving you with a home that needs intensive repair or total refinishing.
  • This cabin won’t be long-lasting, you’ll have to make heavy repairs very soon if you use green lumber.
  • Conclusion: You don’t really want to use these.

Dead Standing Logs

These are trees which have died through aging, infestation, forest fires, fungal diseases or any other similar problems. The cause for the death of the tree will determine whether it is suitable for log cabin building. A piece of wood with structural damage from a disease will, of course, be no good and be thrown out right off the bat. The best are trees that just died of old age and are sitting there untouched, but they are rarer.

Pros

  • They don’t need to be dried, at least not as much.
  • They are ready to use immediately after they have been debarked.
  • Dead tress usually have a couple of years to naturally dry out.

Cons

  • They could be insect or fungus infected, even worse if you don’t see them and only find out after you’ve used the wood.
  • They might not be structurally sound for building, it may be hard to find natrually dried wood that is.

Air Dried Logs

Live cut trees have a high moisture content and because cannot be used for building stable and long lasting log cabins in the state they come in. These logs need to be dried. Air drying is allowing the logs to dry out naturally over a long period of time. The logs are usually stacked with spacers in between to allow air to flow between them and dry out. The species and the age of the logs will determine how long they take to dry out and their strength afterward.

Pros

  • Logs should have little to no internal tensions since they are completely dried naturally.
  • They retain their original color and grains.
  • It is not a labor intensive process.
  • It allows the wood to dry slowly and naturally.

Cons

  • It takes longer to dry out the logs, months or even years sometimes.
  • It takes up more space overall to lay everything out and get it drying.

Kiln-Dried Logs

These are logs dried in a kiln. A kiln just speeds up the process of leaving them out to dry. The fans in the kiln circulate the heated air which forces the moisture out of the logs but doesn’t cause any damage. Yes it is just like your pottety kiln, the high heat draws out moisture and makes the wood harder and more rigid.

Pros

  • The high temperature ensures all fungus, eggs and insects in the logs are killed.
  • It speeds up the time of building a log cabin from start to finish.
  • Creates durable and long lasting logs that you can count on.

Cons

  • Kiln drying can bake a little bit of tension into the wood.
  • Can be fragile and chip easily when worked on with tools if overheated or overtreated.
  • Can lose some color and grain through the drying process.
  • Logs need to be kept in controlled environment after drying or they will reabsorb some moisture, it’s also an expensive process overall.

Every log cabin builder has different opinions on which lumber to choose. It all falls down to which method you prefer. Each one has its own positives and negatives and none is perfect. If you’re looking for real grain and depth in your wood you’re going to want something more natural. If you want strength, you want something with a bit more human touch. Check out our logs and materials here!

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