'Log homes aren't just built in the woods or in the country -- I've talked to people in Southeast San Diego who wanted to put one down in Logan Heights," says Pam Churness. "You either like log or you don't like log." On Saturday, October 28, Churness is inviting the public to witness the construction of her new log home in Julian. "Our house is going to be a D log -- flat on the inside, round on the outside." The logs will be shipped from Chesterton, New York, where they are farmed and milled. "Our D log is going to be Eastern white pine; it's a denser, straighter pine than what we have on the West Coast," explains Churness.
Churness's home will be built using the "double tongue-and-groove" system, in which two raised sections that run the length of the bottom of a log fit into two grooves that run the length of the top. "There's less chance of something twisting. If you go with a different kind of log system, like the Swedish cope home, then those logs are going to come from the Idaho area. They're a different type of species. Those are cedar and may be lodgepole pine or Douglas fir."
"Swedish cope" refers to the cut of the logs. This log is round but for a groove that runs the length of its base, cut to fit the arc of the log beneath it. Caulking, known as "chinking," is not required for this style of cut.
"If you look at old-style log homes, there's usually white chinking between the logs. The purpose of that caulking material is to keep weather out. By using the tongue-and-groove system, you're putting the chinking on the inside of the log. It's less upkeep -- that chinking is going to wear on the outside of the house, and it would have to be redone periodically."
All log homes require maintenance to keep the wood from deteriorating. According to yourloghomecenter.com, moisture is the primary concern, as it can lead to "wood-destroying rot fungus, mildew, sap stain," and certain levels of moisture contribute to insect infestations.
"Some people have woodpecker problems, but that would be because they have a bug problem and did not carefully care for their home," says Churness. "Logs get cracks, or 'checks,' in them. If you don't care for those, you're going to get stuff in them. You need to fill them with a caulking material that's made for that."
The Log Homes Council (a national organization comprising log home manufacturers) suggests regular visual inspections. Protective varnishes are not entirely effective at preventing checks, and such cracks should be tended to immediately. Also important to look for is discoloration of the wood, which can indicate water damage or fungus.
Churness refers to conventionally built homes as "stick built." She says such homes have a much higher chance of burning than those built of logs. "Think about how you build a fire, with small sticks that burn easily to start with. To make a fire last a long time, you put a log on top of it. There's a four-hour fire wall already built into logs, and there are stories out there about firemen in the woods who hang out in a log cabin until a fire rushes through. In the Cedar Fire we had recently, the brush burned, small trees burned, but when you drove through afterwards, the branches had burned off [of the trees], but the trunks were still there."
Churness's home will include a concrete basement, garage, and workshop space, totaling 2000 square feet. The living space of the house is an additional 3077 square feet, plus a 254-square-foot solarium. To save money, Churness is serving as her own general contractor. Including the grading that has been done on the land (a four-and-a-half-acre parcel), she estimates her home will cost $700,000 when construction is complete. "If you take this floor plan and build it with two-by-fours, it will come out very similar in price. Some people think that a log home is way too expensive or way less, but it's right in the same neighborhood as a custom-built, conventionally built house."
The basement has been built, and contractors are in the process of placing the subfloor, "the part of the house that goes between the basement and the first floor." On Saturday, the first logs will be laid, and workers will be on hand to answer spectators' questions. The gates of Julian Estates, the gated community in which the log home is going up, will be open for the day.
Churness expects the log stacking to take up to three weeks. "If there are no huge delays, and everyone shows up when they're supposed to, we're looking at five to eight months from the time they broke ground to the time we're moving our furniture in." -- Barbarella
Saturday, October 28
1 to 4 p.m.
1068 West Incense Cedar Road
Info: 760-765-1117 or www.loghomecastles.com