For this, the last house we plan on building, we’ve decided to build using 6″x 6″ four-sided logs. The floor plan is for a two-story 16’x 24′ with an additional one-story nook (approximately 6′ wide and 12′ long) which has the front door and wood stove. We toyed with building using three-sided logs as I had in the past, but after talking to Dave at BST Milling (who owns the nearby lumber mill that we’d be getting our logs from), we found out that three-sided logs are actually more expensive. We weren’t that concerned with four versus three. Either would work well for us. But four-sided logs made more sense in the end because then we could flip them any which way to put the nicer side out or if there was a bow, we could flip it to accommodate that.
Since we own a heavy-duty 10′ trailer, we are in our 40’s (and not as strong as we were 20 years ago), and it was just the two of us building, Mr. Open Sky decided that we would build using mostly 8-foot logs. The logs are green, so they can be pretty darn heavy. We knew we’d have to do a couple 10-footers, but we figured we could wrangle the eights okay.
For the floor, we had Techno Metal Post weld brackets on the top of the foundation posts to attach the 6″x 8″ floor beams to using 3/4″ bolts. From there we used Stimson strong tie bracket joist hangers on 16-inch centers and 2″x 6″ joists. We went with 5/8″ tongue-and-groove CDX plywood for the flooring, at least for now. In a few years, we’ll be overlaying that with actual wood flooring, but for now expediency and cost had us choosing this route. We painted it just to help protect it from the weather. It was a good thought but the jury’s still out as to whether the painting actually really helped, what with all the rain pooling on it. One sheet in particular is so incredibly warped that we aren’t sure it won’t cause problems in the future. For the current deck we temporarily laid rough-cut 1″x 6″s. Eventually, when we build the rest of the deck that will wrap around the west side of the cabin, we’ll lay some composite decking.
In the past, we have used seal-sealer between the logs. It’s kind of the norm, I know. These logs are so perfect though – as perfect, I think, as rough-cut lumber could be – that when we initially lay the seal-sealer down and screwed the first logs down, it actually made the log wobbly and they didn’t sit flat or solid. We pulled those logs up and removed the seal-sealer and lay the logs again. They were solid and stiff. So we are building it with nothing but the logs and 10″ FastenMaster Timberlok log screws. I’ve got say, these screws are awesome to work with. No pre-drilling and they suck up the logs together so well. At about $0.65 a piece, it’s costly but we believe they are totally worth it. This upcoming summer/autumn we are hoping to chink the logs, once they’ve had a year to settle and cure. But honestly, the logs lay so flat and tight, airflow isn’t terrible. There are a some places you can see light through, but it’s just not a concern at the moment. What our goal for this year was walls up and dry.
Each log we measured (if necessary) and trimmed off the ends using a 12″ DeWalt compound miter saw and a DeWalt heavy duty miter saw stand. Then we carried the log up, set it in place, and screwed it down. When the walls got about six feet up we used two six-foot platform ladders side-by-side and walked it up together before setting it in place. That worked really well for us. Even the couple ten- and twelve-footers we needed to use went alright. Heavy, but we managed them.
Once we got to the top of the walls, which we ended up doing to 8 1/2 feet, we notched out that course to tie the second story beams into the walls. For the beams we used 4″x 6″ logs. These, out of necessity, were 16-footers to span the distance. They were done at 24″ centers, since we used 2″x 6″ rough-cut lumber for the flooring/ceiling. Getting the beams up required a bit of finagling, but by the second beam we had a good system down that worked well for us. It required levering up through the 8’x 4′ window opening, me pulling up top while Mr. Open Sky pushed from the ground level, then he climbed up to the floor and together we hoisted up the far end first on top of the 6′ platform ladder and then I set the log on my shoulder and climbed the ladder while he walked the lower end and pushed up onto the top of the wall. Then he set his end on his platform ladder and climbed it. From there we sort of switched where I pushed back toward him while he raised and set down his end. From there it was just a matter of tapping it down into the notch. (My shoulders hurt sooo much after we finished this part! Sixteen foot logs are heavy!)
After that, we lay the 2″x 6″ boards down and I screwed them down. Again, the lumber is so perfect from BST Milling that there are hardly any gaps between the boards. Good enough for our floor. We will most likely lay some carpet down upstairs, since it will be our living room and bedrooms up there. But it looks great and feels good walking on it.
By the time we got almost two feet up on the second story logs we decided to change plans. Initially we were going to do logs all the way. But we quickly realized it just wasn’t going to work out that way. First of all, moving eight-foot logs up there was really hard. Like, I-just-couldn’t-do-it-hard. Mister could, but I’m not as strong as he is and we need both of us to do this project. We lay four courses (two feet) cutting the logs to five feet or smaller. It used, of course, way more screws and was hard work with more trips up and down the ladders. Plus, we were out of summer and into autumn by then, working in the dim or dark after Mr. Open Sky came home from work. I’ve not build stick-frame before, but we decided to do 2″x 4″ stick frame the rest of the way, regardless.
As of this post, we only have two of the four walls up and most of the roof joists on top of them. I’ll write a new post when the second story gets far enough along to actually give you something of substance. But for now, this should whet your imagination and hopefully generate some discussion or questions.