Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Handcrafted Log homes have significant advantages over Machined Log homes in terms of aesthetic value (looks), retention of thermal mass of the log, and the control of shrinking / settling / cracking in the logs that leads to gaps appearing in between logs and in the corner notches. Handcrafted may cost a little more to construct, but the home will perform better over time and retain a higher resale value, meaning they are better value for money.
Logs used in a Handcrafted home have their outer bark removed by peeling, then either the surface cleaned by pressure washer or the “cambium” inner bark layer removed by a draw knife. The log retains its natural unique shape and characteristics. During construction each log is carefully selected and skilfully scribed and notched to fit together using industry best practice “Full Scribe Double Cut Long Groove” system. This system allows for radial log shrinkage by using compression fit saddle notches in the corners, and the double cut long groove enables control over natural cracking / checking that will occur in the logs over time. In this type of construction, the joins become tighter as the logs dry out and settle.
In a Machined Log home, each log is milled down on a lathe to a uniform diameter, this results in the removal of quite a lot of material from the original log thus thermal mass is also lost. The logs have no taper and lose their natural shape, character, and features such as knots, scars, etc. They look more like a milled piece of lumbar than a real log. A machined notch is not a ‘shrink to fit’ compression notch, and will open-up over time, and a machined long groove has no control over the natural cracking / checking that will occur as the log dries.
Building a log shell using the machined process takes less time and is less expensive than the handcrafted full scribe method, however in the overall cost of finishing the home, they both come out to a similar amount.
When you compare the two methods in terms of aesthetic value, loss of thermal mass of machined logs, uncontrolled shrinking, cracks, and gaps in corner notches of machined logs, performance over time, and resale value – the handcrafted method wins hands down every time.
It is simply a superior product and far better value for money, which is the reason why Alpine Log and Timber Homes only build handcrafted
A traditional Handcrafted Log home offers superior performance and protection in a bushfire over a conventionally built home. The CFA recommends everyone living in bushfire prone areas to have a Bushfire Survival Plan, and have their property prepared. No matter if your plan is to leave early or to stay and fight the fire, a log home is a smart choice and offers very high survivability in both cases.
The thermal mass of log walls protects occupants inside the home from the intense radiant heat of the fire front. Logs can burn, however large diameter logs are difficult for fire to take hold of, take some time to do so, usually just char, and smoulder out once the direct heat / flame has been removed. When the fire front and radiant heat threat has passed, occupants can go outside and extinguish any spot fires etc. A handcrafted log home (unoccupied at the time) near Buxton Vic, survived the full force of the Black Saturday Bush Fires in 2009.
This Log Home survived the Black Saturday Bushfires unscathed.
At Alpine Log and Timber, we use large logs 350mm to 500mm in diameter. Log of this size require a constant flame to be applied for a long time before they would begin to catch fire and burn on their own. We build our ‘full scribe’ log walls with horizontally fitted logs that have no gaps between them, meaning flames cannot take hold easily. In a bushfire, a log wall subjected to flame will be scorched, but this scorching and charring produces a protective layer, the timber underneath retains its structural integrity. This protective char coat is like the effect created by some chemicals used as a fire retardant to protect materials and structures during fires. Damage caused by scorching can be later cleaned up effectively by sandblasting.
Compare this to conventional homes. Independent studies show heavy timber construction resists fire better than steel which can weaken when exposed to intense heat. The radiant heat of a bushfire front can be up to 1600⁰ Celsius, enough to cook brick mortar into powder, and collapse a steel structure. It is known that structural steel begins to soften around 425°C and loses about half of its strength at 650°C. Put simply, conventional construction can fail due to the radiant heat, regardless of whether it catches fire or not. Log Structures insulate effectively from radiant heat and take a long time to fail structurally if they do catch fire. The use of Full Round logs for the Log Trusses, Roof Beam’s, Veranda Posts, and Walls makes log structures a top choice for Safety.
Analysis conducted in Canada, United States, Germany, Finland and the Czech Republic subjected a ‘full scribe’ Log Wall 2.4 m high x 4.0m wide to a vigorous test, by placing it into a burning furnace at a temperature of 1100⁰ Celsius for a test time of 3 hours with a simulated roof load of 15kN per/m. The results speak for themselves. After 1 hour there was no recorded temperature change on the inside of the wall and after 2 hours the inside wall temperature had risen to only 48⁰ Celsius. Near the end of the test, at 2 hrs 54 mins, the wall (under simulated roof load) compressed by only 5mm in height. At the end of the 3-hour test, the fire had caused a maximum of only 25mm of charring at the extreme outer edge of the log wall. This test clearly established the capacity of a log wall to withstand intense heat and its capacity to retain structural integrity in fire conditions.
Alpine Design’s Plans and Alpine Log and Timber’s Structures are scrutinized by Building Inspectors, Engineers, and Council Planners to meet all their requirements and comply with the Australian Standard AS3959 (construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas). We generally experience no problems building in BAL (bushfire attack level) 29 and lower, please contact us if you have questions about building in BAL 40 or BAL Flame Zone areas.
STUDY’S AND REPORTS UNDERTAKEN ON FIRE RESISTANCE OF LOG HOMES
Click on the links below for further information …
We believe a log or timber post & beam home is a responsible choice when considering environmental sustainability. We only use logs certified by the FFC (Forestry Stewardship Council) from managed timber plantations, which are a renewable resource. From an Environmental, Economic and Ethical point of view, Building Green is the right thing to do, and the use of renewable timber resources achieves this.
Log homes have provided sustainable, locally-built housing in many parts of the world. In Russia, Europe, Scandinavia, and North America, log homes have been the traditional construction for millions of people for thousands of years. Log homes work well, are affordable, and sustainable because they use local building materials, and provide employment to local craftsmen.
We use logs from New Zealand, where it requires less than 40 years to grow excellent Douglas Fir building logs. In the traditional localities of log construction, the same trees require 100 to 300 years to get to the same size. Life-cycle cost of log homes is also extremely low. A well designed and constructed log building incorporating good maintenance, can last for 60 or more years, allowing more than enough time for the forest to regenerate those logs originally harvested to create the building.
Log homes do not “waste” trees. An average ‘stick-built’ home uses about the same volume of trees to produce the same size house. A house that is 200 square metres in size would require about 67 cubic metres of logs to produce the framing timber and cladding to build it, where as a log house of the same size would require less than 65 cubic metres of logs. This difference can be attributed to the inefficiency of even modern sawmilling. In terms of volume produced, there is more “waste” produced at a sawmill than “timber” produced at a sawmill.
Log homes have very low embodied energy. The logs are minimally processed (the bark removed, and some wood for joinery) and the trees come from local plantations. On average, processing each log requires about 2 litres of petrol in the chainsaw and the yard equipment (loader and crane). There are often less than 60 logs in each home. Log homes are air-dried. Conventional timber-framed homes have significantly higher embodied energy in part because of kiln drying and machine surfacing and sizing – approximately 4700 Megajoule per cubic metre.
The walls of log homes are composed of natural materials. Logs do not off-gas formaldehyde or the other volatile organics that are found in other processed timber sheeting and in wall claddings like plaster board. Log homes do not require as much synthetic materials to construct, thus reducing the industrial footprint of pollution, energy consumption and waste.
Because of their tightly fitting joinery, and large log diameters, log homes are energy efficient to live in and operate. The high thermal mass and insulating properties of solid log walls helps reduce the amount of energy need for heating and cooling, thereby reducing the burning of fossil fuels.
When judged by life-cycle cost, embodied energy, and operating energy (annual costs), Handcrafted Log homes provide significant and meaningful environmentally friendly alternative housing.
Handcrafted Log Homes are some of the most Thermally and Energy Efficient homes being built today and are great insulators. Easy to maintain warmth during winter and keep cool in summer. Conventional walls (brick veneer / weatherboard) with insulation batts and interior lining, have an insulation R-value varying from R2.5 to R 4.5, compared to a Log wall that has an insulation R-value of R8 or higher. Logs offer better thermal performance based upon their mass – but R-value of itself is not the only determining factor when it comes to your homes insulating efficiency.
R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material. In theory, the higher the R-value, the greater that resistance. Unfortunately, R-Value has taken hold in the consumer’s mind as a universal method for comparing insulations – but not all R-Values are created equal, because they measure only one of the factors that determine how insulation will perform in the real world. Insulation is, first and foremost, meant to stop the movement of heat. The problem with using R-Value as the sole measure of an insulation’s effectiveness is that heat moves in and out of your home (or about any other structure) in four ways: by conduction (which R-Value measures), and by convection, radiation and air infiltration (none of which R-Value measures).
You may have already read about how well log walls protect from radiant heat in the Fire Protection FAQ. Our Custom Home floor plans, designed by the team at ‘Alpine Design’ using latest technology architectural computer programs, take into consideration such factors as the location on your land of the building envelope, north facing aspect, roof overhang, veranda roof angle, and location of windows to optimise the design. Having the Sun’s rays able to warm the walls during the day in winter but then keeping the Sun off the walls in Summer is one way to achieve solar radiation optimisation.
Our ‘full scribed’ log walls have joins between the logs that are so tight that you cannot even slide a cigarette paper in between them. Not only that, but the long grooves are insulated and gasketed, so air infiltration through the walls is totally non-existent.
We insist on using double glazed windows (mandatory requirement for new dwellings with most councils these days) and our method of window installation also completely negates air infiltration.
The roof of the home is a very important area to consider when it comes to thermal efficiency, because the most heat loss in a home occurs through the roof. Unfortunately, some people tend to overlook this fact, to the detriment of their home and this should not be so. It does not make sense to build a home of good thermal design, with walls that are so efficient, only to lose that advantage by having a poorly insulated roof. We insist on using ‘Air-Cell’ or equivalent brand of R2.5 roof sarking, as well as recommending high quality insulation such as polystyrene in the roof, just to bring it up to par with the rest of the building.
In conclusion, Alpine Log and Timber’s standard of excellence in design and construction will ensure that your home exceeds all expectations in terms of Insulation.
This can be a tricky question to answer because there are just so many factors that come into play. Some of these factors include… the number of logs needed, size of logs, the detail of the plan, the number of corners, the intricacy of the floor plan and roof system, as well as any other unique features you might want to incorporate into your home.
In general terms, the price per square meter to build a Handcrafted Log or Timber Post & Beam Home is equivalent to any other high quality custom built home. The cost of the ‘Log shell’ / Timber structure typically contributes to approximately 1/3 of the overall cost of the finished home.
At Alpine log and Timber, we complete our ‘lock up’ and ‘finished’ home packages to the highest standard and quality and will not compromise on materials used or quality of work to save money.
If you have a floorplan in mind or know roughly the size of home you want, please contact us to schedule a meeting so we can discuss your dreams, lifestyle and budget requirements.
Our homes are truly Hand Crafted by ‘Artisan’ Craftsmen and finished off by Experienced Tradesmen to the highest standard and as such we believe they offer exceptional value for money.
Of course you can. All our home designs can be customized, using our standard floor plans as a starting point. By working through the Integrated Process with our experienced team at Alpine Design, you will be able to adjust design concepts and make any changes you require. Using the BIMx model of your design enables us to send any ideas, changes and updates to you immediately for your consideration.
You may also submit your own concept plans or plans from another designer for us to use as a starting point. However, as all our log and post and beam structures require specific and detailed working drawings for the construction, we are still required to do draw the plan ourselves.
Browse our Floor Plans for inspiration and design ideas.
The process of building a Custom Log / Post & Beam Home can be separated into three basic stages.
Stage one is the design and planning stage which varies in time, depending on the complexity of the design, and the time taken to gain local council approval / permits. This process takes on average 6 to 8 weeks.
Stage two is the construction phase, during which we construct your handcrafted log shell / post and beam structure in the yard – and the foundation / subfloor will be constructed on your property. On average it takes 12 weeks to handcraft the average size log home.
Finally, we get to Stage three, the re-erection – this being the most enjoyable stage for you the homeowner. We will erect the handcrafted log shell / post and beam structure on your foundation, which usually takes us 3 to 4 days for the average home and 5 to 7 days for larger ‘lodge style’ homes. This timeline also depends on the logistics of the building site and the complexity of the project.
Once the home has been re-erected, our team of expert tradesmen will complete the project to ‘lock up’ (roof, external doors/windows, and internal wall framing) or to completion. It takes on average 4 weeks to get your project finished to lock up.
We use Douglas Fir logs grown and harvested in New Zealand from managed plantations that are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). All logs are graded and warranted to be free of insects, insect holes, or decay. Douglas Fir is recognised as being one of the strongest log building timbers in the world, having high durability that is far superior to the Radiata Pine logs grown here in Australia.
We use large logs that measure 280-350mm in diameter at the tip and 450-500mm at the butt, in lengths up to 12 metres long. The logs have a natural shape and taper and are generally gun barrel straight. They all have knots, and some will have interesting scars and other character features that we usually like to make sure will be seen in the finished home.
Douglas Fir is classed as a softwood timber, this is the preferred type of timber for log wall construction. This is because softwood only shrinks about 5% during its drying process whereas hardwood can shrink up to 15%. Also, the softwood provides better insulation because its cellular structure has many tiny ‘air pockets’ through the grain.
Harwood timbers found here in Australia are not ideal for log wall construction, because they crack and shrink too much and tend to twist as they dry.
The logs arrive in the yard with their bark still on – having protected the surface of the log during harvesting and transportation. Once in the yard each log is measured and added to the inventory, noting any unique characteristics. The outer bark is removed with a ‘spud peeler’ then the inner bark is carefully removed by either pressure washing or draw knifing.
We also use Douglas Fir in our Post & Beam Homes, it is very strong and works well for large spans and has a beautiful reddish pink colour in the middle when milled.
If you would prefer to use recycled Australian hardwood timbers for your Post & Beam Home, then we can help you source it if you have not already done so. Large recycled hardwood timbers are becoming rarer and are not cheap, but they are massively strong, and timbers such as Iron Bark exhibit beautiful colours and grain feature if the surface is cleaned up correctly.
If you happen to have a supply of suitable trees on your block of land, or you can get some, then we can mill this timber into suitable members to be used in your project. Be aware though, that hardwood timber must be milled correctly, stacked correctly, and allowed to dry (2-3 years) before it can be used. Using green milled hardwood straight away as large posts and beams in your project is not a good idea, as it will shrink and move about too much. Indeed, when milling large posts or timber members, they are often milled oversize to allow for shrinkage, and some will need to be re-milled back into square after they have dried. This process can be sped up if the timber is kiln dried, but once again this can be expensive.
A well-designed home incorporating adequate roof overhangs, built on proper foundations and cared for with adequate maintenance will serve for centuries. There are many log homes situated throughout Europe that have stood for over 300 years, and some up to 800 years.
Insect and termite problems of the past are now virtually eliminated with modern construction practices such as the use of mechanical and chemical barriers. The proper use of these barriers will prolong the life of your home. A solid handcrafted log home has no more, nor less, problems with termites compared to any other form of timber construction.
All our Douglas Fir logs come from managed plantations certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). Once the logs have been delivered to the yard and had their bark removed, they will be treated with Anti-Sapstain spray (Copper-8, EPA-registered, water-based, FDA-approved for food contact) and Baimol anti-mould fungicides, to prevent mould, insects, and blue stain. Whilst logs remain in the yard, during the construction of a handcrafted log home, they will be periodically treated again to keep them in top shape. After the log shell is completed it will be given a final clean and treatment (if needed) then when dry will get a first coat of stain.
‘Full Scribe’ is a method used to fit logs stacked horizontally in a wall. During wall construction the next log to be fitted is set up over the log below, and the top shape of the log below it is scribed to the underside of the log above it. This log then has a long groove hand cut on its underside, so that once it is placed back on the wall, it will fit exactly and securely to the log below. At Alpine Log and Timber, we use industry best practice ‘double cut long groove method’ to construct our ‘full scribe’ log walls. The corners of the log walls are interlocked with notches, we prefer to use the ‘Saddle Notch’, as it works well for the Douglas Fir logs we use.
‘Chinked’ is another method used to fit logs stacked horizontally in a wall. During construction it is similar in set up to full scribe, however, no groove is cut in the log, rather the logs are adjusted to fit well together, and will rest on each other in some places and have small gaps in between everywhere else. To seal up the gaps, first a foam backing rod is pushed into place, then ‘chinking’ – a special flexible filler – is applied between the logs on both the outside and inside of the walls. The chinking averages to be about 25mm wide and gives the appearance of mortar between the logs. The corners of the log walls are interlocked with notches as before, to provide a very secure structure. We build chinked homes periodically on request, they take just as much work to build as full scribe homes.
‘Post and Beam’ homes are constructed using vertical posts supporting horizontal load bearing beams and / or roof trusses, to create an impressive structure of beautiful exposed members.
Logs used in Post and Beam construction can retain their natural round shape and character, or they can be milled into square lumber – this would then commonly be known as a ‘Traditional Timber Framed home’, or they can have a mixture of both.
Have your own trees on the property? We can mill these into suitably sized members to be used in your home. We can also help you source Recycled Australian Hardwood timbers if you prefer.
We can construct using all manner of joinery, from plain and simple through to more traditional mortise and tenon secured with timber dowels.
The external walls of the Post and Beam home are typically framed in between the posts, so that the structure is visible from both the inside and outside of the building. However, if extreme weather conditions are of concern, then the external wall cladding can cover the structure on the outside to protect it from the elements. Post and Beam construction allows for so many available options for internal and external cladding such as plaster, timber, shadow clad plywood panels, brickwork, rockwork, Colorbond steel, or render, to name just a few.
When constructing a handcrafted log home, the corners of the log walls are interlocked with notches. At Alpine Log and Timber, we use the industry standard ‘Saddle Notch’ for this purpose, as it works well with the Douglas Fir logs we use. Notches are integral to the structural stability of the building. The Saddle Notch is a ‘compression fit’ notch that allows for the radial shrinkage that will occur in all logs as they dry out and settle in the first few years.
There are other notches that we use, such as round and square notches – which work well for log bearers and floor joists.
To protect the long grooves and notches from the weather we use gasketing. We use a flexible gasket resembling a three-bladed wiper on the outside groove, and a self-adhesive foam strip on the inside. The outside gaskets are stapled into position as the log shell is being disassembled in the yard, whilst the internal foam gasket is stuck on during reassembly of the shell on site. Treated wool insulation is also used in the long grooves and notches during reassembly.
All these measures ensure a tight seal to protect from water, air infiltration and insects.
Yes, we most definitely do. All logs will shrink radially (in diameter) as they dry out and this results in the log walls settling in total height by up to 75mm in the first few years of the home as it dries out and stabilizes.
Most species of logs will also crack open slightly as they dry, the crack can go as deep as 1/3 the diameter of the log but does not compromise the strength of the log in any way. Within the industry, this cracking is known as ‘checking’. At Alpine Log and Timber, we use the industry best practice of ‘double cut long groove’ and ‘saddle notches’. This method of construction works well for Douglas Fir timber, which, although it is one of the strongest timbers, is also prone to checking as it dries.
The double cut long groove method enables us to control any checking in the log to be where we want it to be, that is in the top of the log – where it will never be seen, and where it will also cause the long groove joins to tighten up.
The saddle notch allows for the radial shrinkage in the logs, as well as for compression of the wood under the load of the logs stacked above. Saddle notches lower down in the wall, are ‘under-scribed’ more than those above, to allow for the extra compression they will have due to the weight of the logs stacked on them.
We have specialized methods of construction to allow for shrinkage over the windows, doors, all the support posts and internal stud wall frames in your home.
Windows and doors can be timber, aluminium, or plastic and supplied by the manufacturer of your choice. Most councils require the use of double glazing for all new buildings these days. Sizes should be worked out and agreed upon by the final draft of the plan, as changes to window and door sizes or locations once the log shell construction has begun may not be possible.
Once the log structure has been re-erected on your site, Alpine Log and Timber will install all the windows / doors, as part of our ‘lock up’ service. Installation of windows / doors in log walls is a specialised job, as settling of the log walls needs to be allowed for.
Our design team ‘Alpine Design’, produce extensively detailed shop drawings that show the exact schematic layout of all the plumbing and electrical details of your home. This ensures that our craftsmen working on your log shell in the yard, as well as any tradesmen contracted to do the plumbing and electrical work on your slab or footings, are both following the same instructions.
We try to design most of the plumbing and electrical wiring to run through the internal stud walls, but there will always be some plumbing or wiring that needs to be run through the log walls. This is where accurate adherence to the plan becomes particularly important. It is almost impossible to fix incorrect plumbing / wiring location mistakes in the log wall after reassembly. We don’t leave things to chance and insist that all trades follow the plan to the letter.
We only recommend one product for the outside finish of a log home, that being CD50, a water dispersant oil stain. Anything else that creates a build-up on the wood surface that prevents the wood from breathing should be avoided. Moisture trapped inside an impermeable finish can cause damage. CD50 is an excellent product and comes in a range of colours and finishes.
The cost of transporting your home is included in the contract. The average size Log Home fits into two 40 ft shipping containers.
Log buildings can flex a surprising amount without the structure failing and are therefore considered a safer building to be in during an earthquake. In the 2016 earthquake at Kaikoura on the South Island of NZ, one couple inside their log home survived the epicentre that measured 7.8 Mw on the Richter scale, the home was damaged beyond repair however had they been in any other building they would not have survived. Our Log and Timber Post & Beam Homes are built to withstand high annual rainfall, snowfall, severe winds and extreme climates.
Simply contact us to make an appointment. We are more than happy to answer your questions.
To start the concept design process, you will need to enter into our preliminary design agreement.
Please check out the Design page to read about the process.