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If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance.- Derek Bok

Warnings about timber homes and manufacturers.

Often, building or buying a house is one of the biggest investments that a person makes in their lifetime. If you are considering employing a contractor to build your home, I advise you to attend my course so that you will know if the contractor is being up-front and honest with you, the course fee will most likely be the most important investment of the whole project. I cannot stress this enough, there are contractors that do not necessarily have your best interests at heart and will tell you anything that they think you want to hear, and nothing that you don't.

Comparing apples with apples.

I would like to point out that there is an important difference between 'Genuine solid log homes' and 'Timber homes' or 'timber frame homes, even if a company claims to build 'Log homes', they are often building 'timber homes'.
Why they do this? I don't know...maybe having 'solid log' rather than 'solid plank' or just 'plank' in their name just sounds better?
Maybe 'Solid timber plank homes' just does not have the same ring to it.
A log is the trunk of a tree, 'in the round', before it is processed into timber, or dimensional lumber.
The tree is felled, the logs go to a sawmill, gets sawn up into planks, joists, beams --call it what you like, as soon as it goes through a sawmill, it is no longer a log, it is now timber or lumber (depending on which continent you live on).
Some well known manufacturers claim to use a
'HEAVY SOLID LOG SYSTEM', in reality their buildings look like the typical timber home picture on the right below.
The easiest way to tell what type of construction they use is to look at the walls and corners of their buildings, usually found on a picture gallery on their website. If they are all regular and machined (even if the planks have been machined to a rounded appearance), they are timber homes.
If they look solid and round, like the picture on the left below, it is a genuine log home.
Don't be fooled. Whatever they claim, simply looking at the pictures on their website will tell you if they build log homes or timber homes.
Corner of a typical solid log home
typical log home corner
Corner of a typical timber home
typical timber home corner

The lifespan and strength of a genuine log home is far superior to any 'timber framed home'.

I do not recommend building a home that has a short lifespan.

Lifespan of timber framed homes:

Timber homes need constant maintenance, and in some instances require re-painting every 18 months (at great expense to your pocket and an unnecessary use of valuable time and resources).
If you skip this maintenance for any appreciable length of time and the paint begins to peel, you will end up having to sand down the entire house, back to bare wood and begin afresh.

The lifespan of a timber framed home is usually limited by it's smallest components, specifically the nails and screws that are used to hold it together. The Wiki on lumber states
'Fasteners used with treated lumber require special consideration because of the corrosive chemicals used in the treatment process.'
This will be shown to be true in the following example:
A couple of points that are not commonly mentioned:
A galvanic reaction occurs between the copper in CCA treated timber and the zinc plating on the screw (you have created a battery). When this occurs, the copper in the timber always wins and the fastener always loses. Get the full tech here.
Moisture is required and acts as an electrolyte. (readily available on an exposed deck each time it rains)
CCA is being phased out in many places and is often replaced by ACQ, it is less toxic but has two big problems.
1: ACQ-treated timber is five times more corrosive to common steel
2: ACQ appears to act as a surfactant, which helps to absorb moisture, keeping that galvanic reaction going more efficiently.

The following picture is a result of our own test conducted under real world conditions.
New Yellow passivated screw
After 4 years  in a CCA treated deck
yellow passivated screw
rusty screw

The 4 year old screw has lost all it's plating and is already visibly thinner at the neck, within a couple of years, I guess that this screw would cease to exist, except as a rusty smudge on your deck.
Now imagine if your house was held together with these things.

The best practice would be to use stainless steel screws, however these cost a small fortune and most timber home manufacturers probably save money wherever they can. So, my advice to you is, if you are going to get a contractor to build a deck for you, insist on Stainless steel screws and be prepared to pay extra for them. In fact, if the contractor does not suggest them, I would say that he is a joker and you should get another quote.

My favorite South African saying in this regard is 'Goed koop is duur koop'. (buying cheap is more expensive)

Regular maintenance.
Timber framed homes need constant maintenance, and in some instances require re-painting every 18 months (at great expense to you and an unnecessary waste of time and resources).
If you skip this maintenance for any appreciable length of time and the paint begins to peel, you will end up having to sand down the entire house, back to bare wood and begin afresh.
Some timber home manufacturers make light of this maintenance, with comments their website like..
"A good scrub with a brush or hard broom and new coat of exterior timber sealant is recommended every 18-36 months.".
Sounds easy, no problem, you might say.

My neighbor has an average sized 3 bedroom timber home built by a well known local contractor.
For the last 8 weeks she has had a team of workers sanding all the sealer paint off the house and re-painting it.

Out of curiosity, I asked her how much this maintenance was costing? R45 000...HUH? thats not cheap!
How often does it need to be done? Well, that depends, anything from every 2 years if they use a 'varnish', to every 4 - 5 years if they use a 'timber preservative'. ..as often as that? You gotta be kidding me!

I never paint my log home.

Genuine log homes do not need paint or sealer on the logs and therefore do not require this maintenance.

I do not recommend timber stilt foundations for log homes.
Many timber home manufacturers use timber stilt foundations.
These timber stilts are in constant ground contact, which are the worst possible conditions for timber.
The bacteria that cause timber to rot are present in the ground, all they need is moisture to do their natural work.

Lifespan of H5 treated timber Stilts:
A recent conversation with SAWPA revealed that the timber stilts which many of the timber framed houses are built on only have a lifespan of 35 to 50 years, depending on conditions. Upon questioning "what constitutes bad conditions?", damp Cape Town weather, in the winter is considered severe and this would limit the lifespan of the building to 35 years (just enough time to pay off the mortgage).

Cost of Timber homes versus Log homes:
A log home can be built with your own cash, saving you a lifetime of slavery, repaying your mortgage.
A timber home can cost every bit as much as a brick home and usually requires a mortgage. While you repay that mortgage, you are fully responsible for all the maintenance on a building that you do not own - add that to the cost of ownership.

Your home is usually one of the most expensive investments that you make in your lifetime, building a real and genuine log home can be done with your own cash.

I believe in building a house that requires the least amount of maintenance and has the longest lifespan.
This has a number of obvious benefits:
    1. The countries housing stock does not need to be replaced regularly, thereby saving the planets valuable resources.
    2. The investment that you make can benefit your future generations.
    3. The cost of regular maintenance can be avoided by using some sound and simple principles at the design stage.

I believe that educating one's self before embarking on a Log Home building project is essential and probably the most important money spent in the entire project.
Why trust someone else with your money, without educating yourself first?
How will you know if they are doing a proper job?
How do you know that they have your best interests at heart?
How do you know if (or more likely where) they hide mistakes?

Often the quality of service that you receive is far below your expectations.


Comparing apples with apples.

Some timber home manufacturers give out misconceptions, by warning you about 'misconceptions', which is a misconception itself.

Who should you believe?

This is where it is important to realize the difference between timber homes and genuine log homes.

The article below is factually correct if applied to genuine log homes, as stated, the misconception is that the company does not produce genuine log homes, they produce timber homes.

Now that you understand the difference you know that there is no comparison.

The 6 misconceptions article below appeared in SA Timber Homes magazine, issue 11, January 2008.

Click on the image to load a full sized readable copy.

6 misconceptions about log home building
6 Misconceptions mentioned in this article.
Comparing the facts:
Facts about genuine log homes Facts about Timber homes
They are expensive and difficult to maintain
Inexpensive and easy to maintain, do not require external or internal paint.
Need constant maintenance.
They decay faster than brick an mortar
If built correctly, they last hundreds of years.
Lifespan limited by small and large components.
They are a fire risk
Large diameter logs are very difficult to ignite.
Thin planks and sharp edges easy to ignite (you use kindling to start your braai don't you?)
They have excellent thermal characteristics.
Thick logs give the best insulation and thermal mass.
Much of the material has been removed during milling, therefore insulation is reduced and must be added by synthetic means.
They follow stereotyped designs
Most log homes are designed by the  owners themselves
Many companies offer standard 'catalog' designs, which they adapt for you, this makes production easier and cheaper.
They require highly skilled erectors
Log homes are intrinsically simple and can be built by a single person after attending a 2 day course.
Timber homes require a trained crew for erection.

South African Log Home

Builders Association

Teaching people to build their own quality mortgage free log homes.