I indicated in an earlier blog that the small bunk house served as a test project for the home build. The bunk house was built very inexpensively mainly because the logs were harvested from dead stand beetle kill Ponderosa Pine from our own property. Harvesting dead stand had several advantages. They were cheap and well on their way to drying before they were peeled. They dried an additional 6 to 9 months after peeling. This has significantly reduced the amount the logs have shrunk in the structure. After 2 years there are still virtually no gaps in the mortar chink joint.
I bring this bunk house project to remembrance for a couple of reasons. From my perspective, it is extremely beneficial financially to acquire land that is already teeming with trees suitable for building. It’s a lot of work, but you can save a substantial amount of money by felling, skidding, and peeling your own logs. In my opinion, it’s also extremely satisfying and rewarding knowing that the bunk house was built in true DIY fashion, just like in the frontier days.
Unfortunately, when it came to our home build, there just wasn’t enough quality trees on our property to complete the structure. A quality tree should be the correct species for your build, be relatively straight, have minimal taper, and be free of mold, fungus, critters, or any rot. Another consideration is the direction and slope of the grain. I’ll spare you all the boring science behind why steeply sloping left-hand spiral grain is bad for log home construction. As it turns out, we have a ton of trees with steeply sloping left-hand spiral grain on our property. Our building location is in a very onerous, code-driven county, and most of these trees would never pass the required log grading certification for structural log elements (beams, columns, girders, ridge pole, and cap logs).
Our house logs came from a mill in western Colorado. They were Lodge Pole Pines and like the bunk house Ponderosa Pines, were dead stand beetle kill. We contracted directly with a log hauler for delivery. We were able to buy all the wall and structural logs for the home, have them hand peeled, certified graded, and delivered for a very reasonable price. This included about 100 logs with lengths varying from 39 to 51 feet, and varying butt diameters from 13 inches to 17 inches. The ridge pole is 50 feet long, has a butt diameter of 2 feet, and is straight as an arrow. I sure didn’t miss all that hand peeling with a draw knife that I had to do for the bunk house!
It is possible to get trees substantially cheaper if you contract directly with a logger and by-pass the mill. The drawback to this strategy is the quality of logs you may receive. Loggers make money by harvesting large tracts of land quickly. Loggers are not too concerned about which ones will work for homes and which are destined for firewood. They harvest from grid A to Z and from grid 1 to 20, and they take most trees in the grid if they can. If you contract with a logger directly, my advice is to build into your budget a lot of labor for tree selection on the front end, or tree sorting on the back end. Be sure to inspect the stand where the logger will be hauling from, and inspect the load before it leaves the area.
I’ve acquired a lot of hands-on knowledge and wisdom regarding logs and trees so far on this project. I look forward to sharing more information with you on future blogs.