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Buying & Owning A Log Home In Maryland | What You Need To Know

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 at 12:00pm. by Northrop Realty

Three Beautiful Log Homes in Frederick County

Throughout history, log cabins have symbolically represented humble origins. In fact, seven U.S. presidents were born in log cabins.

Log cabins are typically thought of as small structures located in remote places, but today's log homes tend to throw the “humble beginnings” schema out the window as they can venture into the multi-million dollar price range. Like cabins, log homes are sometimes located in remote locations but are much larger and have all of the amenities of any regular home.

Many people are attracted to the idea of living in a log home. Whether dreaming of a rustic cabin in the woods, or a luxurious mountain lodge, these homes are attractive for their natural charm and inviting appearance.

The term "log home" now applies loosely to structures and dwellings built in a variety of related styles. What they have in common is a generally rustic appearance consisting of wooden sections in a relatively un-processed state.

So what makes log-homes so great?

Advantages of Log Homes

  • Environmentally friendly - When made from sustainably harvested trees, log homes are the more eco-friendly option compared to conventional homes.
  • Sturdy Construction - With a structure built from solid tree trunks, log homes can be extraordinarily strong.
  • Natural aesthetic - Log homes are often valued simply for their ability to "fit" with their natural surroundings.
  • Energy efficiency - If built and sealed correctly, log homes can be more energy-efficient than conventional homes.
  • Picturesque - For many, log homes simply look better than the typical suburban house.
  • Easy Inspections - Because of the relatively simple wall design, it's easy to inspect the health of a log home.
  • Quieter - Log walls make for quieter interiors. Enjoy that peace and quiet!
  • Durable - Well-built log homes can last for a very long time. 

Is a log home right for you?

Just like buying any home, its important to put down the rose-coloured glasses and consider what you're getting yourself into.

Log homes have many positive aspects and features, but also come with some downsides as well.

Downsides of log homes include:

  • Harder to remodel - The initial layout or structure of a log home is more difficult to alter.
  • More remote locations - Many log homes are built in rural areas. 
  • Higher maintenance and insurance - Maintenance costs are potentially higher with log homes and insurance costs are usually higher too.

Also, narrowing down exactly what you're looking for will save you time and money in the home-finding process. So, consider the following questions when looking for a log home in Maryland.

Which style of Log Home Appeals To You?

First, there are more than a dozen tree species used for making log homes, each with unique properties and appearance. Chances are that log homes in your area are made from one or two different species, but it demonstrates the point: there may be a lot more to log homes than you thought.

Next, there are different ways of constructing log homes. The main types are:

  • Stacked - Walls are completely constructed from horizontal logs stacked on each other. Can be chinked or chinkless (see below).
  • Square Cut - Similar to the above, but logs are cut to have a square profile
  • Post and beam - Logs are used to frame the house, but the walls themselves may be built in a different style.

Most log homes are manufactured, using precisely milled logs and components. You may also have the option of buying or building a handcrafted log home. These tend to be more expensive, but you would be trading speed and cost-effectiveness for authenticity and uniqueness. 

You can also opt for "synthetic" logs (made either from fiberglass or concrete) or "half-log siding", where log portions are used to give the appearance of full-log construction, but with a more conventional structure underneath. This combines the aesthetic charm of log homes with modern building conveniences. However, some might argue that these don't actually count as log homes at all, and if you still want your interior to have an authentic log-home look, this might not be the way to go.

On top of all these options, there are many ways that log home can be secured and finished. One of the most important differences between log homes is evident in the level of "chinking" - a method of sealing the gaps and contact points between logs.

Chinking: Technique and material used to seal the contact points between logs. These often appear as pale bands running between logs. Some styles of log home construction do not use chinking. Chinking functions as a protective against moisture, heat, and air transfer. Effective chinking makes a log home more comfortable and energy-efficient. 

Log Home Builders In Maryland

Buying A Log Home In Maryland

Before buying a log home, find a home inspector with experience in log homes. Log homes have their own unique challenges and maintenance needs, so it's important to find someone with specialized knowledge.

Here's what an experience log-home inspector should look for:

  • Splits or cracks (aka "checks") in the logs

    These are natural as logs age, but cracks wider than a quarter of an inch or that face upward might present a problem in the future.

  • Settling issues

    Settling and shrinkage is expected with log homes, and good builders take this into account. Inspect structures connected to the main structure for signs of poor craftsmanship. These include sticking doors and windows, and cracks or bowing in the walls, roof, or stairs.

  • Rot

    The biggest enemy for any log home is prolonged exposure to moisture, which causes the logs to rot. Look for discolored, moldy, disintegrating, or hollow-sounding logs.

  • Failing finish or stain

    Logs require a coat of some kind of protective treatment to ward off UV and water damage. A good finish should not be too thick either, allowing the wood to breathe and release excess moisture. Water should bead on the surface, but the finish shouldn't appear overly thick. Subsequent treatments should replace the first, and not be added on top.

  • Improper flashing of windows, decks, roofs, or doors

    Effective flashing is important for preventing water damage. Check the interior for signs of leaks.

  • Overhang

    The roofline should extend past the walls a sufficient distance to prevent water from coming into contact with logs. The optimal distance is 50% greater for two-story homes. Check that nothing (like balconies or awnings) extends beyond the roofline, and nothing around the house that causes splashback onto the walls.

  • Sufficient freeboard

    The lowest logs of the home should be high enough off the ground to prevent them from taking on excess moisture.

  • Insect damage

    The insects that you should worry about in Maryland are only interested in rotting wood. Therefore, they are sometimes a good indicator that you have some rotten wood. Look for small holes with dust around them.

Ask For Repairs

Once you've had all of the above checked, you can use any found shortcomings to ask for repairs from the home seller. The most common repairs required for log homes are installing or replacing flashing, gutters, thinking, and wood treatment. Remember that a good wood treatment will remove the previous coat before placing on a new one.

History of Log Homes

The first log homes built by European settlers in American were constructed in Pennsylvania in the 1640s. These used locally felled and prepared logs set either directly on the ground or on flat stones. Most were relatively small in size, little more than huts or cabins. Many of the earliest techniques were Swedish in origin, as many of the first log-home builders in America were from Sweden.

With the development of modern construction techniques, log homes fell out of favor for a long time, persisting only in preserved structures or where context necessitated them. However, from the beginning of the 20th century, more "authentic" and craft-oriented home styles started to become popular. From the 1970s onwards, log kit homes became popular, using factory milled logs. More modern techniques were used to secure the logs as well, rather than the traditional notches.

Today, many homes use half-log siding to give the appearance of being a log home. This speaks to the enduring aesthetic appeal of log homes in America. Other materials are also employed besides wood, including foam, concrete, and fiberglass. 

However, authentic log homes will always have an appeal to those willing to pay for the unique charm and build features, and few modern materials can replace the specific strengths of all-log construction. As homeowners become more conscious about eco-friendly building materials and techniques, the popularity of log homes is likely to increase in the coming years. 

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