Free Log Home Information
On this page you will find technical information, some hard-to-find information, and LOT of practical stuff.
I update my on-line log-building-library from time to time, so check back to this page now and again to see what's new.
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MISPRINTED Illustration in 2021 Book
There is a misprint on page 55 of the most recent (2021 version) of the Revised Log Construction Manual. Earlier printings of my book did NOT have this printing error. If you own the 2021 book, please download this Corrected Figure for page 55
*** NEW*** I have written a new book about how to build full-scribe dovetail homes. It is Book #3 of my Log Cabin Secrets series.
"Log Cabin Secrets: Dovetails" is available on paper, or as an eBook from Kindle or Apple. Visit ROBERT's Online Store to see all his books
Back in 1991, Robert wrote two articles about full-scribe, full dovetail, hewn-log construction for Joiner's Quarterly magazine. These used to be available from JQ as back issues. There is plenty of other info on chinked dovetail construction in print, but these are the only detailed articles I know of about full-scribe (chinkless) dovetails. Click here to go to the Fox Maple website where you can ask to order back issues # 13 and # 14 (it's a 2-part article), but I've been told they are not available. Click this DOVETAILS link to download a large (9 Mb) pdf that contains both of Robert's JQ dovetail articles. Dovetails.
There is also an article written by Robert for Fine Homebuilding magazine, Issue #34, about a large dovetail project that Robert built. This article is interesting, and has a lot of great photos, just not as much technical information on "how to do it" as the JQ article mentioned above. Back issues of Fine Homebuilding #34 are not available from Taunton Press (sold out) -- so please try finding it at your local library, or used book stores, or search at Amazon.com
Underscribing (1.9Mb) Chapter 8 from my 2016 full-color book, the Revised Log Construction Manual. I re-printed my book in winter 2016, and made extensive revisions. This file is the full chapter on Underscribing. All owners of my book (2014 and before) should download this free upgrade because it includes new information. Underscribing (invented by Del Radomske 30 years ago) is a super way to keep corner notches tighter over time. Proven and effective.
Spiral Grain in Logs
Spiral Grain—The Inside Story (270Kb) a 3-page article from Log Building News 63 (July 2007) about what spiral grain is, where it comes from, and how it affects logs in log walls. Lefthand spiral is one of the leading causes of badly fitting corner notches and grooves in log homes. Written by Robert W. Chambers, this is a good introduction to the problems caused by left-hand spiral building logs.
Log Notch Selection Calculators
Download one of these files to figure the "Desired Shoulder Heights" for your set of logs. These are Microsoft Excel files, and you can open and use them if you own a copy of Excel software. If you do not have Excel on your computer, then they will NOT work. One file is for metric builders, and the other file is for imperial (feet-inch) builders. Download just the one file that you will use. These files are copyrighted by Robert Chambers and they are free for you to download and use. You will need a copy of my book, the Log Construction Manual to understand how to use the numbers this spreadsheet produces. Contact me with questions, bugs, problems, compliments (!) Note that both spreadsheet files contain "Macros," and they are virus-free, if downloaded from this link. To use the spreadsheet you must "allow Macros."
1) LOG SELECTION CALCULATOR -- Click on this link to download the Log Selection Calculator
2) METRIC LOG SELECTION CALCULATOR -- Click on this link to download the Metric Log Selection Calculator
Log Building Video Clips *** My DVDs of how to build with logs are for sale in my webstore, or at Amazon. To learn to dance you have to see people dancing! And to learn log building skills, video of people cutting notches, saddles, and scribing will be a goldmine for you.
Free clips available on my YouTube Channel LogBuildingDotOrg
1) How to SCORE a saddle notch with a chisel and mallet
2) How to CUT a saddle notch with a chainsaw. Illustrates cutting and brushing techniques.
3) Accelerated Log Building - my patented method for making handcrafted homes faster and more safely
4) Corner Order: BBTT, a great video clip from my DVDs explaining corner order, and the importance of getting the sill logs right.
"Natural Log Homes" Technical Sheets Thanks to Natural Log Homes (www.NaturalLogHomes.com) for permission to post various information from their production manual from time to time. Feel free to download and print and use this info for yourself, or email the files to friends. But please do not post these files on another website, they are copyrighted by Natural Log Homes.
Windows and Doors in Log Openings 1 (100Kb) a 1-page sheet on the choice between flanged and non-flanged window styles for log homes, the difference between Carpentry Rough Opening and Log Rough Opening, and how to frame bucks into openings. Photos and drawings as well as helpful words of advice. Feel free to download and print and use this information.
Windows and Doors in Log Openings 2 (100Kb) a 1-page sheet including detailed head, sill, and jamb drawings of installing doors and windows, how to flash the opening, how to air seal it, and using settling boards and settling space a safe way. Photo and drawings as well as a description. Feel free to download, print and use this info. Architects and designers may find the drawings useful--and carpenters and DIYers definitely will.
Gasket Material, Design, and Installation (180Kb) a 1-page sheet about the gasket (rubber seal), that Natural Log Homes uses inside their grooves and notches. NLH uses a rubber seal that they designed, tested, and that they have made just for them -- it is not an off-the-shelf item available anywhere else. Good close up photos of how it is installed in logs.
Effective Practices & Methods, Log Building Standards (Old) , ILBA Log Building News, and more . . . . . The International Log Builders Association (ILBA website), produced the original log building standard and it is filled with useful and great information. The Committee that wrote the Standards were many of the most experienced and highly regarded log home builders in North America. The members of the ILBA adopted the new Effective Practices & Methods to replace the old Standards. (Robert Chambers wrote the Commentary for the EP&M that describe in ordinary language what the Practices & Methods mean.)
"2020 Effective Practices & Methods for Handcrafted Log Home Construction" (we call it the EP&M for short)
The brand-new replacement for the Standards. 72 pages, Full-color. Greatly expanded coverage. Loads of helpful and practical information on logs, notches, settling, gaskets, air infitration, flashing, foundations, roof beams, electrical, plumbing, chimneys, doors and windows . . . the list goes on. In some industries this is called "Best Practices" document -- the ILBA calls it "Effective Practices."
You can buy either an immediate PDF download ($22.50) or a paper copy ($28.50) from the ILBA store
Or click here to buy a paper copy from Amazon.
Click on the photo below to download a free sample from the EP&M book. You'll see what a great new book this is.
Click on this photo to download a PDF (about 1.7 Mb) -- a small sample of pages from the book. Open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader, not in any other PDF reader app. Only Adobe Reader will display the interactive functions.
Log Building News #38 (1.1 Megabytes) One full copy of the ILBA newsletter, 20 pages. Issue #38 is from August 2002. This newsletter (Robert Chambers was the editor) is sent to all members of the log organization. Contact the ILBA to become a member and receive LBN 4 times a year.
Log Builder Interview Form (28 Kb) A 3-page form that can be used when you call or talk with log builders - - interviewing them as possible builders for your home. The questions are good, and it's also a way to organize your knowledge of several log building companies to make comparing them easier for you. This is an excerpt from the ILBA booklet, "From Land to Lockup."
European Union Log Standard A document called "ETAG 012" -- 48-page PDF (180Kb) of the 2002 draft of a log home kit construction code. This document is in English. Some EU countries are using this code, but some are not. This copy says "draft" but it is being used as "code" in some EU member countries. You will need local advice in the country you are going to build.
Log Building Code
ICC Website For sale by the International Code Committeee, this is the 2017 residential building code for log homes— the world's first building code for log homes. It will go into effect in your area only if your local (state, county or city) government adopts it. For some places that could be soon. For other places it could be years from now (or never, since there are places in the USA that do not use any building code). It is called "ICC 400 Standard on the Design and Construction of Log Structures" and costs about USD $39 plus S&H. Also available as a PDF download or as an eBook. Please note that revised 2022 edition will be available soon.
Forintek review of log home energy codes. 2013, 4 pages. Includes some excellent recommendations for designing and building energy-efficient log homes. Considers Rescheck and EnerGuide software.
R-Value and Thermal Efficiency of Log Walls
Energy Performance of Log Walls --2013 research by the BC Log & Timber Building Industry trade association. Several important reports and downloads for free from their website
Research paper on laboratory testing of logs walls for air and water infiltration, and modeling log wall energy performance. Also blower door tests of entire houses. 54 pages, with lots of photos (also infrared photos, and pressurized tests with smoke), and charts. Good information on non-log leaks in log homes (windows and doors, tongue and groove). Testing was done by RDH Building Enterprises, in BC, Canada in 2013. Very useful information. 4Mb PDF file.
Energy Performance of Log Walls (600Kb) a 29-page booklet copyrighted by the Log Homes Council website that has information on the thermal efficiency of log walls. The Log Homes Council is an organization of companies that build milled or manufactured log home kits, but much of this information also can be applied to handcrafted log homes.
Forintek review of log home energy codes. 2013, 4 pages. Includes some excellent recommendations for designing and building energy-efficient log homes. Considers Rescheck and EnerGuide software.
R-Values of Log Walls (260Kb) A 3-page article by Dalibor Houdek of Forintek Canada, that first appeared in Log Building News #38.
Infrared Study of Log Homes (1 Mb) 9-page 2005 study by two engineers that used a blower door combined with infrared thermal imaging cameras to study air and heat leakage of log homes. The blower door is used to reduce the air pressure inside the house, this makes cold air leak into the house quickly, and the camera "sees" the cold air, and identifies where air leaking is happening.
Maintenance and Preservation of Log Homes
Maintenance and Preservation of Log Walls (200Kb) a 14 -page article copyrighted by the Log Homes Council including information on insects, decay, removing iron stains from wood, and more.
Finishes for Log Walls (570Kb) A comprehensive 16-page booklet on finishes for log homes-- penetrating stains, water repellancy, mildew, and much more. A very valuable resource. How to protect log homes during construction, how good design helps protect logs, your choices for chemicals and finishes, wood cleaners. (Skip Ellsworth seems to be spreading some mis-information about drawknife-peeled logs and their ability to withstand weather - - if you have heard what Ellesworth has said, then you better get a copy of this independent and objective information.) Produced by Forintek Canada website , a top government research institute for everything about wood.
Mildew and Finishes (50Kb) A short article about mildew and finishes for wood. Some information about mildewcides that can be added to a finish; about finishes that are manufactured with mildewcides in them; and how to prepare a wood surface before you apply a finish to avoid mildew problems.
Log Home Tips About Insects written by the Georgia Forestry Commission. (800 Kb) 23-page brochure that includes advice on preventing insect attack, avoiding bluestain and decay—advises use of deep roof overhangs, some chemicals (borates), and the like. Some very good color photos of bugs that attack wood. The emphasis here is on bugs--which makes sense, in Georgia.
Hands-on Log Cabin Preservation-- 2015 book about old log cabins, produced by the US Forest Service. The focus here is as a training manual for Forest Service staff in how to preserve historic cabins. The title of the book says"dovetail," and there are some dovetail and lap-notch cabins, but many of the buildings are round log scribed and round log chinked. Information about how to assess condition and find hidden decay...and how to repair. How to jack up foundations, and repair floors walls, and roofs. How to replace logs without taking walls apart. Lots of hands-on information about roofing (especially with cedar shingles and shakes). Doors and windows, chimneys. I learned a few things, and saw a tool I had never seen before: a "band clamp" (Figure 63). Big file: 52Mb PDF.
US Army Rigging Manual - - or, "How to Lift Things (the low-tech way)"
Gin Poles (400 Kb) Chapter 5 from the army field engineer's manual, this chapter shows you how to build and rig lifting devices like gin poles, derricks, A-frames, and more. Simple, practical information. There is not much about gin poles that is in print, and this is some of the best that I have uncovered - - 19 pages of free information. (Please note that the ILBA's Log Building News also had an article about a gin pole .. please email the ILBA for a copy of that back issue, it is not available on this, or any other, web site.)
Anchors & Guys (480Kb) Chapter 4 from the field manual on how to build anchors (stakes, deadmen, tree wraps) and how to guy them to support a gin pole, derrick, etc. Also, how much you can expect each sort of anchor to hold.
Hoists (520Kb) Chapter 3 from the field manual on how to rig for lifting and pulling. Includes block & tackles, mechanical advantages, and more.
The Wood Handbook
The Wood Handbook is an encyclopedia on wood as an engineering material. It has chapters on engineering specs, drying and shrinkage, decay, gluing, preservation, fire resistance, glu-lams, fasteners, finishing, wooden bridges, and plenty more. Totals more than 400 pages. Written by the USDA, Forest Products Laboratory website in Madison, Wisconsin. Each chapter can be downloaded for free as a PDF. The whole book (hardcover) can be purchased from the US Government Printing Office. This has a lot of great information, and much of it de-bunks the half-truths and misunderstandings that are widespread. There is also a new (2021) edition of the Wood Handbook available for free download.
Index to all chapters that can be downloaded . Not a download, this is a web-link to the Forest Products Laboratory (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) site where you can see what's in each chapter, and then choose to download chapters one at a time. All chapters in the book are available for free download from this web site.
Decay & Insects (620Kb) Chapter 13 from the Wood Handbook deals with deterioration of wood. Mold, mildew, decay -- what it is and how it happen. Clicking on this link will download this one chapter onto your hard drive.
Drying of Wood (500Kb) Chapter 3 from the Wood Handbook deals with the drying of wood -- what is "green" wood?, how does wood dry?, what about fiber saturation point and equilibrium moisture content? This is very important information-- even some log home builders do not understand how their logs actually dry, and how long it takes, or that shrinkage may not have even started when their logs weigh half as much as they used to. "It's so much lighter in weight now, so that means it is dry" . . . . Wrong, no it doesn't!
Round Timbers and Ties (400Kb) Chapter 18 from the Wood Handbook has information on logs, poles, timbers, and ties -- durability, strength, and grading standards.
Alaska Log Building Construction Guide
Written by Mike Musick for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation in 1999, this book is not copyighted. Mike has good chapters on foundations, energy standards, scribing and cutting notches, plumbing, venting, insulation, and more. The focus is on Alaska's need for energy-efficient homes, but there is plenty of material here about other log building topics. The entire book can be downloaded as one file (20 Megabytes), for free.
Download the book (20 Mb)
Fire Resistance of Log Walls This file is copyrighted by the ILBA. Written by Dalibor Houdek, PhD, and first published in Log Building News #35 (September 2001), this is a reprint of a 3-page article about scientific testing done on scribe-fitted log walls and their resistance to fire. (Log walls come out great, by the way.) This download is courtesy of the International Log Builders Association.
Fire Resistance of Log Walls from Log Homes Council (104 Kb PDF).
Equilibrium Moisture Content
Equilibrium Moisture Content Equlilbrium Moisture Content, also known as EMC, is the moisture content of wood in your area when air drying has come to an end; in other words, the wood has come to equlibrium with the local climate. This article (270 kb PDF) from the Forest Products Laboratory lists EMC for many USA cities, and many locations outside North American as well. Essential for figuring out how much your logs will shrink. 14 pages of tables and graphs and formulas.
Triangle Solutions This is a 2-page 'cheat sheet' for figuring out triangles -- lengths of sides, angles, etc etc. Very useful for roof design and layout.
Building Log Homes (1945)
Building With Logs (6 Mb) a wonderful old 1945 US Forest Service booklet called "Building With Logs," by Clyde Fickes and Ellis Groben. A classic. A few of the highlights are:some floorplans for simple cabins. Measured drawings for log furniture. Instructions for how to building a log cabin without a chainsaw. And probably the first-ever drawing of a log scriber with a bubble level attached to it (on page 5). It is interesting that they used the bubble scriber only for the corner notches. They used a scratch-scriber for the long grooves. This booklet is rare and out of print.
Structural Engineering of Log Walls
New Zealand Earthquake -- This 3-Mb PDF is a survey of damage to log homes caused by the 2016 New Zealand earthquake. "Must" reading for structural engineers, and for people building in an earthquake zone. I believe that one of the major causes of damage to some of these log homes was that the owners did NOT keep the throughbolts ("hurricane rods") tight as the log wall settled. I have been in contact with the authors of this article about this. Many of the rods in these houses were loose (some by 3" to 6" , 75mm to 150mm), and when the vertical earthquake waves hit the houses, there was a tremendous mass (the walls) moving upward. This could have easily snapped some of the steel rods. Two big lessons to be learned: keep the throughbolts tight, and use large, thick washers!
Lateral Loads on Log Walls An article by Tom Hahney from Log Building News #32 (ILBA) of interest to structural engineers and to anyone building a log home in an earthquake or high-wind zone. NOTE that the ILBA has a special reprint of several articles about structural engineering for log homes - - please contact the ILBA by email: email@example.com
Lateral Resistance of Handcrafted Log Walls (4 Megabytes) A 33-page report of research published by Forintek Canada. Technical, and probably of interest only to structural engineers. Very hard to find a copy of this, but if you need to calculate wind or earthquake loads on notched log walls, then this is what you're going to want! This research was done at the request of the ILBA. They built log walls and log corners and tested them to the point of destruction in the laboratory. Ground-breaking stuff. Very large file.
Lateral Resistance of Log Walls, an article by Leichti, Scott, Miller and Sharpe, from Structure Magazine, March 2006. 5-pages (305 Kb PDF file) Good stuff. Every engineer should have a copy in their library—technical work with finite element analysis for seismic resistance, and more.
The Response Seismic Modification Factor for Shear Log Walls. A 113-page Master's thesis (2010) in Civil Engineering from Kansas State University by Samantha Kessler. Technical, and probably of interest only to structural engineers. The result of her research a proposed R factor (response modification factor) of 6.0.
Strength Values of Softwoods -- "Allowable Property Values" (500 Kb) A 30-page report of many softwood trees, and the values allowed for bending (MOR, F-sub-B) and stiffness (MOE), shear, compression, and more. Published by the West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau, File APV-2 (website has more free downloads). This download includes many species from Europe that are tough to find information about, but has many of the common softwoods, too. Meant for engineers—it is a booklet full of tables of numbers that are used when designing structures. Here's another web-link for similar info, though not nearly as detailed: http://www.hobbywoods.com Also, the "Wood Handbook" (see above) has design values for a large number of hardwood species from around the world, and a few of the more common softwoods.
American Wood Council -- This website has many useful downloads including "National Design Specification for Wood Construction" which give the engineering Fb, E, Fv, and etc for most North American log home species -- make sure you use the "large timber" tables called 4D (pages 44-50). And one of my favorites, the "Wood Structural Design Data" (a book of 264 pages) has easy-to-follow formulas for all sorts of wood beams, but the BEST part are the span tables. The tables are written for rectangular timbers (so you use the "inscribed timber" method when using these tables for round logs) but it is very fast and easy way to figure out about what diameter log will work for your ridge, purlins, joists and other beams. A goldmine, and it's free. All the free downloads are on this library page. Scroll down to "NDS" (highlighted in green on the webpage); and to "Span Tables" "Wood Structural Design Data." It's a bit hard to find these, but they are there. You'll also find free design info for lag screw connections, fire resistance, wind and seismic loads on wood structures, plank flooring design and loads, and more.
Tool & Book Specials from others . . .
One of my all-time favorite log home books is the 1938 "Park and Recreation Structures" by Albert Good. It is a wonderful picture book (1,200 or so B&W images) of some of the greatest log buildings in the USA--the national and state park log structures built by the CCC and WPA in the Great Depression. The logwork is fabulous, the designs are wonderful, the scale of the building is perfect. If you are designing a log home, use this book as your guide and you'll be on the right track. It is available hardcover for about $54 as "Park and Recreation Structures," and with really good paper and photographs reproduced like they are artwork. But it also available for the bargain price of less than $19 in paperback with a different title "Patterns from the Golden Age of Rustic Design," with photo reproduction and paper quality that is not nearly as good. 632 pages. These are the same book with different titles and different publishers. An encyclopedia of great log buildings, and more.
Patterns from the Golden Age of Rustic Design ($19)
Park and Recreation Structures ($54)
Mitered Truss Downloads
Spreadsheet and Map for using Adjusted Mitered Angles. But you will need to have a copy of my new Log Cabin Secrets book called "Advanced Mitered Joinery" to understand and use these two files:
Excel spreadsheet of angles
PDF Map of truss angles
Mold on Wood, and in Houses
"Mold, Housing, and Wood" An article by Robbins and Morrell (226 Kb pdf) is a good introduction to mold, health, wood, and homes. Includes some very basic tips for cleaning and killing mold. More mold links are available on the Western Wood Products Association website. But there are tens of thousands of links to information on mold in homes on the Internet, and this is by no means complete! It's a place to start.
All pages, photos, files, text, video, and drawings are Robert W. Chambers © 2020. This page was posted December 2021.