How to build a butt and pass log home
If you are considering building a log home, specifically a butt and pass log home and you don’t really know what is involved, then here I will try and give you a simple introduction.
First we will talk about planning your home
This is the most important stage and requires the most investment when it comes to time and thought. Before you start planning your log home I am sure, like me, you have already drawn up grand elaborate designs, incorporating all your hearts desire. If you intend not to build yourself and have unlimited funds then please go proceed with your dream home. However if you are looking to self build and keep the costs as low as possible then you need to follow this simple rule.
Build a square log home between 30 – 40 feet square
The design of your log home will in part I hope take in to account local conditions. When you are planning your log home most people will have already decided on a location. Please take some time to “recce” your location to better understand the lay of the land and take in to account your log home orientation, slopes and tree lines. You will also need to consider driveways, parking and other building that are either there or your intend to build later.
Now you need to submit your plans to your local planning department for approval. Before that ask them for guidance and a list of the codes you need to comply with. Ask around and talk to locals that have self built their homes for any tips regarding the local authority, land and utilities. Getting to know your neighbours and making friends is a great way to access local knowledge that could help you save time and money. Once you have your design, you will need it to be drawn and then checked by a structural engineer before submitting it for approval. Once approved you will get your building permit and you can get started.
Time to start collecting the tools you will need to build your log home
- Log dogs
- Drill and bits
- Large hammer
- Tape measure
These are the basic tools required to build your log walls
You will of course need other equipment to build your foundations, install septic if needed and lift and move the logs. You will require other tools for the building of the roof, floor and interior walls. These tools are general “handyman” tools and you will either need to buy them as you progress with your home build or your contractor will have what is needed if you go that way.
Tip: Buying tools for your log home build does not have to be expensive. Check out local markets and online and you can pick up what you need for a fraction of the cost of buying new.
Now you need logs
When it comes to what logs you should use to build your log home I like to use this simple principle.
What can I get locally!
Logs and the transporting of the logs could be your largest expense so it makes sense to try and source your logs as close to your build as possible.
You can use almost any species of tree for your build as long as the logs are straight. Of course every species of tree will have its pros and cons and you will need to do a little research to be sure you are happy with the logs you choose.
Talk to landowners and loggers in your area and talk to them about what you are looking for. Like anything, logs can be bartered for and with a little “flexibility” loggers can provide logs at much lower prices than conventional sources.
Tip: Standing dead trees are a great source for logs for your build. They are usually unwanted and anyone willing to take them can often negotiate a very low price to remove them.
Wood rots and you will need to treat your logs to prevent fungus, rot and insect infestations.
Borate wood preservatives are made from of naturally occurring minerals that are useful to prevent fungus, rot and wood boring insect infestations. Borates are considered safe for humans, and they are even used in some laundry detergents to clean clothes.
You should treat your logs with a borate solution after peeling and again after the walls are up. Stain is optional and can help your logs maintain their colour. Stain with UV protection can prevent UV rays from turning your logs a greyish colour over time. If you choose to apply stain, you will need to apply additional coats of stain every few years to maintain the colour.
Tip: Each stain will look a little different depending on the species of log on which it is applied. Use a bit of scrap log from your pile and coat it with different stains to see how they look after they dry.
Your foundation needs to hold up the weight of a log home and as long as that condition is met, any type of foundation will do.
When building your foundation the main consideration is that the logs are high enough from the floor (grade) not to be splashed with water so I recommend against using a slab on grade foundation because the lower logs are too close to the “splash zone” where water can hit the ground and splash back onto the logs. Water is bad for logs and anything you can do to protect them will help your house over the long run.
One of the biggest factors to consider when you build a butt and pass log home is deciding on a foundation type and whether you will build it yourself or hire a subcontractor to pour your foundation. If you are doing it yourself, or if you are building in a very remote location (without concrete trucks) then the foundation you want is probably pier blocks. These are poured concrete blocks that stick up out of the ground a minimum of 18 inches. These can hold up the weight of a log house and also get the logs up away from splashing rain. These are my personal favourite 🙂
If you plan to hire a concrete subcontractor, look at foundations which are the most popular in your area. The most popular foundations to subcontract are a traditional stem-wall and crawlspace foundation, or a full basement. Either of those will do the job and can be designed to lift your logs up 18 inches above the ground.
Now it’s time to start building the log walls
This step takes some work and coordination, but by now you are starting to truly build your own butt and pass log home. Laying the logs is mostly a question about how to lift your logs into place.
Logs are heavy and take a lot of work to get into place. If you are building in a remote area without access to rental equipment, or if you want to build for the lowest cost, you will probably use pioneering tools such as a block and tackle to lift your logs. A few blocks and tackle combined with a towing hitch on your car can lift relatively heavy logs without too much difficulty.
If you want to speed things up and you are close enough to civilization to rent heavy equipment, you should consider renting a telescopic forklift. Rental could be anything from $1000 to $2000 per month.
Now you are building up your log walls, you will need to secure the logs in place. Building a butt and pass log home will require tightly pinning your logs together by fastening each log in place using short pins of rebar. Your structural engineer will approve the locations and sizes of your pins to produce a strong log home that meets earthquake codes, snow load requirements and building codes.
As soon as the walls are up, it is time to add the rafters and ridge pole (sometimes called a ridge beam). The ridge pole (your biggest and strongest log) holds up the rafters, and the rafters hold up the roof. Rafters can be any size as long as they are strong enough to meet snow load requirements in your area.
Traditional “stick frame” builders will usually box in the rafters, fill them with insulation, and put roofing material on top. For a more traditional look, it’s better to leave the rafters exposed, and build up the roof on top. Regardless of which one you choose, you will end up with a beautiful cathedral ceiling all through your house.
The roof will be a question of cost vs. longevity and should be decided before you build a log cabin. If you want to do it yourself and save the most amount of money, you will probably go with a traditional three-tab shingle or rolled asphalt roofing. Those are very inexpensive and give you a reasonable lifetime of service length but for me they do not look that great.
For me the best looking roof is a standing seam metal roof. These cost a little more but last much longer and come with much longer warranties than asphalt products. Talk to local roof manufactures and you might be able to pick up a roof cheaply because they have some extra stock they want to get rid of 😉
The floors in your butt and pass log home are secured to the walls unlike kit homes that are built on to the floors. You can build them out of traditional lumber or engineered i-joists. Your finished flooring material should go in last to prevent it from being damaged during construction.
Kitchens and baths
You will be amazed at what you can pick up online in the way of kitchens and bathrooms. With just a little time spent you can save yourself thousands of dollars. For example, save money by installing a used / display kitchen and bathroom, and replacing it later when the opportunity presents itself. Building a log home can be expensive and you will have lots of other items to purchase.
Finishing and moving in
In a tight-pinned butt and pass log home, none of the interior walls need to be load bearing. So you can build ordinary stick frame walls to partition rooms inside as well as hide your plumbing and wiring. Most first time builders will subcontract plumbing and wiring, but you can do those yourself if you have the skills or the time to learn.
Whatever level of finish you require can be accomplished inside and outside. You can build a beautiful show home or basic accommodation. Your decks, windows, doors, and trim all contribute to both the cost and the final value of your home.
One of the advantages of being an owner builder is that you can save money by moving in when the house is liveable, but continue finishing at your own pace and budget.
Welcome to your butt and pass log home!
This is only a basic introduction on how to build a butt and pass log home and only introduces elements of each step of the building process. What I hope you get from reading this is that building your own butt and pass log home is achievable and with a little help you can realize your dream of building and owning a gorgeous log home.