Roy Trembath Log Home Building Course

Why build log homes?

Why use logs?

To be specific: If you build a house out of logs, then you use just that - logs - as nature grew them - 'in the round' so to speak. We do not machine, saw, plank, turn or cut the logs.
We do not cut the logs flat in any way.
Logs are probably one of the only truly renewable resources available for building.
Logs are the ultimate 'composite' material, exceeding concrete and steel in terms of strength to weight ratio.
Logs do not require any energy to convert into usable material.
This is called 'embodied energy'. Building materials such as bricks, Cement, steel, glass, etc have to be processed, and therefore have high embodied energy, which adds to the financial and environmental cost.
Cheap! Trees are at their lowest value when standing in the forest.
Solid, un-machined logs have a natural flowing grain structure which gives them great strength and resistance to moisture penetration and beetles.
Solid log homes have a very long lifespan, with minimal maintenance if built correctly.
Humans have a long history of building with timber, log homes have been around for thousands of years.
1000 year old standrews church, greensted, essex

A good example is St. Andrews Church, Greensted, Essex, England, built out of oak logs in 1060AD and still holding regular services in the original log structure, claimed to be the oldest wooden church in the world. Yes, there have been some renovations done over the last 1000 years, however the original structure remains in daily use.
How would you look at this age?
This is a good testament to the durability of log structures, still in daily use over 1000 years later!
Consider that this church was built long before toxic timber treatments, paints and sealers.
How did it last so long?
The fact is that they used very simple principles.
These are principles which I like to teach everyone and have used to preserve my own log home, if my log home lasts 1000 years, I will be very happy, knowing that many generations have the use of this shelter.

Thick log walls make excellent insulation.
Your log home stays a comfortable temperature all year round, which saves energy, heating, cooling, money, environmental pollution, etc.
A few simple concepts including architecture are used to preserve buildings, which do not involve toxic chemicals.
No part of the log is wasted when building a log home 100% of the tree can be used. Even the off-cuts can be used for firewood and Borate treated sawdust for garden mulch.
Butt and Pass log homes require almost no maintenance, besides the painting of window frames and doors (which you have with any building regardless).
No special skills are required to build a Butt and Pass log home.
An important distinction must be made between log homes and timber frame buildings.
The average log home uses less timber than an equivalent sized timber frame house, due to there being no losses due to milling and processing. Milling logs into planks and kiln drying and treating them to build a timber framed house is not only wasteful, but requires a huge amount of energy and toxic chemicals, after that, you end up with a structure which requires you to add insulation due to the fact that the walls are so thin.
Timber framed homes tend to have a short life span of only 25-35years (incidentally, just long enough to pay off the mortgage) generally it is not the timber that gives up, but the fasteners and fixatives which hold them together, which means that the planet earth's resources have to be consumed again to replace the structure.

It is far better to build a log home that is designed to last hundreds of years, many generations can use that home without costing the earth.

All of this will be covered in detail on the course.

Environmental sustainability

Whether log homes are truly environmentally friendly is a debatable issue, it all depends on your perspective and what alternatives are available.
Sustainable? Definitely yes!
The trees can re-grow many times over during the lifespan of the house.
When compared to other building materials, such as bricks and mortar it most definitely is environmentally friendly.

In South Africa the majority of building is done with bricks and mortar. To produce 1 ton of brick and mortar building material consumes something like 800kg of fossil fuels to produce. This is called 'embodied energy' ie. the energy that is used (or embodied) in the creation of the material
Estimates available on various web sites vary between 5% and 8% of total global Carbon Dioxide emissions are produced by the cement industry. The UN claims that up to 40% of green house gasses are produced by the general construction industry alone. This is the industrial sector that can have the greatest effect on reducing green house gasses.
A sobering UN draft document relating to the built environment states that "It is clear that continuing with business as usual will jeopardize the future of all human societies…" Replanting trees will help leave a better planet for future generations. I must admit, sometimes I lose control, I get all carried away and plant hundreds and hundreds of trees every year (just for the fun of it). In comparison to bricks and mortar this certainly is more environmentally friendly. No doubt about it. Where does the tree come from?
So where does all the food come from that the tree uses to grow? The answer is - it comes from the air. Trees carry on the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants utilize the energy from the sun to make sugar from carbon dioxide in the air. The next time you look at a tree think about the fact that what you see was once nothing but carbon dioxide gas.
At risk of getting too technical, the equation for photosynthesis is:
CO2(carbon dioxide) + H20 (water)---> C6H12O6 (sugar) + O2(oxygen) 

The tree absorbs Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere throughout it's growing life, it is filtering the air that we breathe, a small amount of natures favorite solvent 'water' carries a small amount of minerals into the system, which becomes sap, which acts to transport all the goodies around. Through an amazing natural process which we call photosynthesis, the leaves, natures 'solar panels', the Carbon and Oxygen are split, the tree gives off the Oxygen (handy for us) and retains the Carbon (also handy for us), which is used as the 'building blocks' of the timber. The Carbon is stored in the logs your house is built out of while it stands.
Therefore, by planting many trees you remove many tons of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere.

discussion in a class
Planting a seed
If you build it according to my directions, your house should stand for 100+ years, during which time the trees will re grow many times over. Which means that your log home will provide shelter for generations, reducing the need to replace it, further saving the environment.
Replanting the trees with new saplings after felling is a great way of sustaining this valuable resource for our future generations. Or even go really crazy and replant ten times as many.
One more thing, I advocate using alien (to South Africa) species of timber, such as Pine and Eucalyptus which is often invasive, reducing our own indigenous bio-diversity in South Africa.
There's more!
The log walls provide excellent insulation, which means we need less fuel to keep our house warm or cool, which also saves you money, which saves you time, which saves you work.
Stored solar power
"When you burn timber to heat your house, the heat which you feel from the fire is the sunlight heat which has been stored while the tree was growing."
Then of course there is always 'Greenwashing'

The practice of calling something 'green' or environmentally friendly, when in fact it isn't. Slapping a solar panel on a concrete and steel building does not make it green, the only way to make a concrete and steel building 'green' is by painting it green.

A house built from air and water.

  1. Plant some seeds in some nice healthy compost and soil, add water.
  2. saplings
  3. When they outgrow their seedling trays, move them to growing bags, so that they may stretch their legs a bit - allow them to establish a good strong ground anchorage and plumbing system!
  4. planted trees
  5. Stick them in the ground somewhere and wait. Be patient. Very patient.
  6. tall trees
  7. After filtering the Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere for several years they should wind up looking something like this.
  8. debarked logs
  9. Cut them down and unwrap the protective bark packaging.
    Enjoy! They are beautiful! It's just like unwrapping a great big Christmas present!
  10. early stages log home building
  11. Get a few friends and family to help you stack them.
    It ain't rocket science, it's just stacking timber!
  12. complete log home
  13. Voila! you have successfully extracted your log home out of thin air! Just like that. Not so difficult was it? Maybe we should call it an 'air home', ultimately that is what it is made from, besides the fact that no one will know what the hell you are talking about, log home sounds better.
    Ok, there are obviously more technicalities which you will need to know, which is the reason I hold the log home building course. This is so that I can explain all those special techniques which will make your life easier and your building project a success. You will have to Book a place on one of our weekend log home building sessions to allow me to explain in detail.
  14. "We do not inherit the earth, we borrow it from our kids."

    We have got to get away from this idea that it is wrong to cut down trees, if you re-plant the trees that we fell (or more), we are providing building material for a future generation. Someone in the past planted the trees which we are felling today, let us respect the fact that our children will also need material for building their homes and plant more trees today.
    The only way that we will ensure that it is economical for them is to make trees plentiful...after all, nature does the work for us.