From the simple, utilitarian log cabins of frontier lore to modern luxury living, log homes have been part of the American landscape for over two centuries.

Because log homes are synonymous with America’s pioneering roots, they are more than just a type of construction — they conjure an emotional reaction and nostalgia for a simpler time in a way that no other form of housing can.

The National Association of Home Builders has designated July as National Log Home Month to celebrate these timeless homes.

Seven presidents have been log cabin residents — most notably Abraham Lincoln. However, a log home can be more than a simple cabin.

Today’s log homes can be as complex, versatile and luxurious as your imagination allows. They can include the latest amenities and options to fit your lifestyle, such as: open floor plans, multimedia rooms, master suites, garages and more. With hundreds of log home producers in the U.S. and Canada vying for business, when it comes to design, the sky’s the limit for the consumer.

There are two distinct kinds of logs that make up most homes today. Milled logs that are pre-cut to fit a particular home design are the most popular choice, with 90% of homes constructed with this technique. The other 10% use handcrafted logs, which are debarked and cut into the right size and shaped by hand. While logs from a mill can be identified by their uniform shape and size, handcrafted logs will vary, giving them that signature rustic appearance.

Energy savings

What many don’t realize is that log home construction is also one of the most efficient ways to build.

For example, log home construction earns points for certifying to the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard for the many ways it saves energy and protects the environment.

Full logs are one of the greenest ways to build. Waste is kept at a minimum during the milling process because manufacturers use all portions of the log. Wood that isn’t used for the home is made into mulch or wood scraps that become the raw material used in carvings and other home products.

The log home manufacturing industry is also a staunch supporter of reforestation, typically funding the planting of an average of six trees for every one they fell.

Log homes can be sold as kits or packages with the bulk of building materials delivered at one time. This method reduces fuel costs and carbon emissions compared to traditional site building. Additionally, pre-cut log home packages go up quickly and leave less waste on the job site than conventional construction.

From a livability perspective, modern log homes are highly energy efficient when constructed and sealed properly. Full log walls have something no stick-framed home can claim — thermal mass. Like a stone that’s been left in the sun for a few hours and then brought indoors, logs soak up the heat energy during the day and release heat slowly and evenly, using less energy over the life of the home.

In the winter, thermal mass can help reduce heating bills significantly. In the summer, the conditioned air inside the home doesn’t pass through the logs easily and stays right where it should, ensuring the comfort of those inside. Homes built with solid log walls are typically 2½% to 15% more energy efficient than standard stick-frame construction, according to a study by the National Association of Home Builders.

And finally, if off-gassing and living among man-made materials are a concern, you won’t have nearly as much of that in a log home. These houses are about as natural as you can get. And they are as striking as they are efficient.

Christina Thrun is the executive officer for the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. House Calls is submitted by members of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. For more information please call 715-835-2526 or email info@cvhomebuilders.com.