SENTY Handcrafted Log Homes

Building with Logs

 

Considerations when choosing log species start with size and log appearance. After that, there are several ways of cutting a scribe fit log which affect joint tightness, air and weather seal, and cost. We can advise you on these decisions after discussing your project with you.

We often build with red pine and some white pine. Both grow locally and run in the 14" to 18" butt size. Smaller sizes are available for the more traditional old north woods look, and occasionally logs in the larger 20" butt size for a more massive look. For the most cost effective project that maintains lasting quality, red pine or white pine is a good choice. For summer cabins and year round residences, both requiring lasting quality and joint tightness, the double scribe lateral cut and scarfed saddle notch, with an underscribed notch, gives lasting quality.

Periodically log home design issues, local traditions, or the comfort level of our customers, knowing their home will shrink from three to five inches, has us recommending a dry log. For this purpose we recommend western red cedar, and when available, either lodgepole pine or Englemann spruce. Although log buildings constructed of dry logs do shrink, the movement is less than that of green logs. We ship the raw logs in from the west. These logs are obtained through several major industry log suppliers, whose volume and size gives us reliable sources. 

Of all the logs we offer, western red cedar is known as the best building log available anywhere, because of its structural stability, low shrinkage, and insect and rot resistance. Cedar is available in several size classes, and comes graded to ANSI standards. It is a beautiful wood and takes a stain with a beauty all its own. If you are planning to build using the best logs available anywhere, this is the choice of preference.

 

Do you build the log shell only or the whole house?
We do both - depending on the location of your house, available subcontractors, our work load, and other factors. Our first priority is that your house is built correctly. Problems with your house, even though caused by other contractors, do reflect on us, the log builders. We think log houses are the best dwellings in the world, and we want you to feel that way too. Your satisfaction, both after your house is finished and for years to come, is our best advertising.

Locally, within 80 miles of Grand Marais, we will general contract your home to any stage of completion you wish. We are a licensed Minnesota contractor, and work with numerous suppliers and subcontractors, who have worked with us on many of our log homes. We not only have log builders on our crew, but we also have a carpentry crew on payroll. In this manner, you are assured of Mike and Laurie being involved in the complete construction process, and that their experience, plus the experience of their crew will assure you of a log home of lasting quality and well thought out detail. We have also worked with numerous local carpenters, and can recommend several carpenters to complete your log home, if this is the approach you prefer.

Away from Grand Marais, we generally work with you and your general contractor to provide the best possible quality at the lowest cost. Any work that requires the unique knowledge of a log builder is handled by us or a knowledgeable log house carpenter. If you prefer to finish the house yourself, or to hire a certain carpenter, we will make sure critical areas of the finishing are understood by all involved. We can provide details, shop drawings, and reprint information to help you. Typically our blueprints include detail drawings addressing critical areas of the construction. On some out of town jobs, we have even been contracted to return after the logs are set up, to help the carpenter finish certain details of the project.

We also maintain contacts with other craftsmen who can provide you with custom doors, custom cabinets, stained or etched glass, wood carving, stone masonry, and ironwork. No matter if you have us build the log shell or the complete structure, I am sure you will find our experience, resources, and knowledge to be very beneficial to your experience of the construction process.

 

Log Construction Methods:
All logs are clean peeled by hand, using a razor sharp draw knife. We remove all the outer bark from the logs, plus the additional step to remove the specks of cambial bark from all the seams and depressions in the log. There are no red stripes on our logs, which not only is locally unacceptable, but also makes the logs prone to rot. Logs are then sprayed with an FDA approved preservative to control sap stain and mold growth. If requested, we will also complete a borate salt treatment to the logs prior to finishing.

We have a strong commitment to providing clean logs to the job site. The logs you see on the building at our prefabrication site are what you will see at your home site.

  1. Building Systems

    Logs are excellent insulators in themselves, so the most critical area of heat loss in a log house is air infiltration in the corner saddles and lateral groove. We recognize this fact and offer the following systems of sealing the logs. Our experience, including training in energy efficient construction methods, says that log home builders must not only address the issue of keeping out air drafts but, as importantly, address the issue of sealing joints from wind driven rains. This applies to both wooded and open building sites for all well fitted log homes.

    Our log construction performs as an integral part of a super insulated building system. Our building experience is in the severe northern Minnesota climate, where temperatures of minus 30 degrees and minus 40 degrees occur every winter. Our sealing systems perform very well in this climate. We will be glad to talk over the following log sealing and fitting options, and make recommendations for you and your particular project.

    • Chinked Lateral

      Chinking is the first of our building systems and the least expensive method of log construction using hand peeled logs. All the corners are saddle notched, such that the faces of the upper log and lower log just touch along their length. The saddle corner is sealed with glass wool packing, plus several foam gaskets. After assembly on your foundation, the log lateral is sealed both inside and outside using a synthetic chink that looks and feels like mortar. Because of the elastic properties of the chink, it is a permanent seal that stays air tight throughout the life of the house. You can chink the logs yourself, or we can arrange to have the work completed for you. Second floor joists of log or timber, along with open beam trussed roof systems are available with this construction.

    • Scandinavian Scribed Lateral

      This is the most traditional method using hand peeled logs. The log lateral is fit to the log below using a log scribe. In this way the lumps and bumps of the lower log are transferred to the log above, and the wood is carefully removed to create a perfect fit. A saw kerf is made to the top of the log to aid with drying and checking control. In addition, we drive wedges into the saw kerf, encouraging the checking in the kerf. For this method to work well, a shallow cope is required in the lateral groove cut. Deeper V cut or channel cut laterals do not maintain joint tightness for year round log residences. A shallow cope cut lateral can be fabricated with either hand tools like a scoop adz or scorp, or by using chainsaw techniques we have developed over the years. Logs are sealed with fiberglass and caulk, or with a saturated open cell foam gasket plus fiberglass.

    • Double Scribed Lateral

      This method of fitting the lateral is a refinement of the Scandinavian Scribed Lateral, and is the preferred method we use for all log fitting. It is patented as a hand scribed tongue and groove cutting system, of which we have the rights to use the method. The outward appearance of the lateral is the same as the traditional Scandinavian scribed method. The difference is that the lateral groove is scribed and cut in a way to form a double tongue and groove. This method gives the best control available for checking and log fit. The cutting style does an excellent job of addressing the internal timber bind and natural forces in a log, forces that are released from fitting logs together. In addition, it addresses the added forces created by exposing the logs to both an interior heated environment and at the same time, a frozen exterior environment. Logs are sealed with fiberglass and caulk, or with a saturated open cell foam gasket plus fiberglass.

    • Piece 'en Piece

      A French Canadian building system historically used during the fur trading period, and has use and examples locally. It is a modification of the post and beam construction systems, using logs or hewed timbers as the in fill between the posts and beams. We have used piece 'en piece under special conditions where settling is undesirable. It can be used in conjunction with a walkout basement or as part of a log gable system where settling is undesirable. A whole house can also be built using this system. In fill logs can be fitted using scribed or chinked laterals. Corners can be either vertical corner posts or saddle corners.

  2. Corner Joining Systems

    We employ only locking, self draining saddles, in that this is the only way to insure tight corners for the lifetime of your house. All of these joints can be combined with any of the log building systems described previously.

    • Scarfed Saddle Notch

      Many of our log houses employ scarfed saddles. We utilize this notch in many of our homes built with dry logs or cedar. In combination with an underscribed/overscribed cutting system, we have found this notch to work well with green log construction.



    • Shrink Fit Notch

      We offer the shrink fit saddle notch, which has a wedge formed across the scarfed surface. The wedge is used on the quarter of the notch exposed to the interior heated environment. Because of the generally lower humidity of the interior house environment when compared to the outside air, variations in log shrinkage occur. The shrink fit notch wedged surface allows the scribed over log to shrink and move up on the wedge, thus compensating for the unique log shrinkage of corner notches.

    • Full Round Saddle Notch

      This is the most traditional system of joining log corners. Many of the old log cabins of the area have been built this way. The method has deficiencies, in that the methods of coursing logs on top of each other creates a recurve situation in the corner of the notch, which leaves a void to the fit. Shrinkage of the logs also tends to open the notches. Within the international log building industry, this is largely an outdated notching system.

    • Overscribed/underscribed log fitting

      Because of the way logs shrink, we have employed a method of fitting logs that uses several scribe settings to fit the same log. This is commonly referred to as an overscribed cutting system. The process uses one scribe setting for the lateral groove of the log, a slightly smaller scribe setting for the saddle notch, and a slightly wider scribe setting for the log flyways or saddle extensions. It creates an initial loose fit to the lateral groove, and transfers a majority of the wall weight to the saddles. Over time, the saddles loosen up and shrink in a manner different from the laterals, closing the gaps in the lateral groove. Cutting systems that do not follow this process tend to have openings in the saddles after drying is completed.

    • Load Bearing Joints

      All load bearing joists, roof purlins, rafters, and truss tie beams employ one of several special load bearing notches. These include the square double scribed notch, dovetail joints, several mortise and tenon joints, and others. The notching of loft joists and roof members require concern for the shear and bending strength of the members, along with resistance to outward thrust of the wall logs caused by the roof loading. A full understanding of the outward thrust caused by the numerous roof framing systems used on log houses is essential to a structurally sound log house. Our experience general contracting our log homes and completing the roof carpentry gives us the experience to produce a roof system that works.

  3. Ceiling Joists & Roof Systems

    We believe a handcrafted log house should be built with a statement to its uniqueness. In addition to the scribed log walls, the materials chosen for beamed ceilings and the rendering of the log aspect of the roof system become a statement of the tastes of the owner and the skills of the craftsmen who built it. Well built trusses are the crowning jewel of your home. They become the signature of the craftsmen who built your home, and they forever associate your name with the log home you built.

    We have built both simple and complicated roof systems. Our experience includes factory scissors trusses, and decorative logs under the structural lumber trusses. We have also built many log structural roof systems. These include many styles of log trusses, with structural log purlins over the trusses. We employ trusses and purlins both inside the home and outside the home, including exterior or in the gable glassed trusses. We also know where these roof systems tend to leak air, and have methods of construction to insure a tight seal throughout the roof. We have also built log framed hip roofs and prowed gable trusses. We have experience timber framing in log, and know all about hip rafters, backing angles, and jack rafters. Examples of this work are available to view in our local area.

    • Simple Roof Systems
      Roof systems need to support the snow and roofing. This is the primary function. The cost of the roof system is controlled by both the log builder and the carpenter. For a simple system that has maximum efficiency for both the log builder and the carpenter, a structural scissors truss system with structural log purlins is very effective. This can be employed for both a single floor and lofted plan. We have many samples of this type of roof locally. Log structural purlins can also be utilized, employing bearing ends located within the gable framing.
    • Trusses and Purlins
      Many lofted plans, and a lot of single floor plans employ a structural roof system of log purlins and log trusses. We like to show off our talents when building this style of roof. Walking under a log framed roof system is a thing of awe and beauty. I am sure you will never fail to feel the strength and beauty, when you walk under a well framed log truss that is designed to hold up ten tons of roof and snow, and free span a thirty foot room. We have built many of these trusses, and will be glad to discuss and show you the options.
    • Complicated Roof Systems
      We have the skills and experience to build any style of log framed roof system available. We offer log post and beam and log roof framing systems, and locally will general contract the complete structure utilizing log post and beam as part of conventionally framed residential or commercial construction. Examples of this work, including a complicated log hip roof, are available for viewing locally.

Building with green logs

There is a lot of debate about building with green logs, partially seasoned logs, or dry logs. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. We have built many homes with green logs and partially seasoned logs, especially native Norway or Red Pine. This construction is one of the most challenging types of construction, and requires a company and crew who have a lot of experience and understanding of the fabrication methods and wood characteristics. Over the years, we have always worked with this challenge, perfecting our construction methods. As of now, we are consistently getting the quality of fit we experience with dry log construction, using green logs. Proof of that is in our seasoned buildings.

Lasting joint tightness is the greatest challenge to green log construction. It is also potentially the greatest drawback to green log construction. The joints are easy to fabricate tight, initially. What is difficult is to fabricate joints that will be tight after the logs are dry.

We are one of the few log builders who are able to accomplish this. Our double scribed lateral, our overscribed/underscribed cutting system, our saddle notching methods, and our use of through bolts, are all part of the success of our green log construction.

Although we have recommended timing the construction, if at all possible, to allow your house to be under construction heat for the first winter, this is no longer a critical issue. We have numerous green log houses, heated the first winter, that are now settled and dry, with excellent fits.

Our challenge for the consumer is to inspect buildings that are heated year round, and have been through at least two winter heating seasons. Inspect the interior of the log building. Look at the lateral fits, where the log above has been scribed to the log below. After that, look at the saddle corners. Look for loose fits. Do this inspection on the inside of a building that is always heated, and compare our work to that of any other builder. I am sure you will be impressed with the results you see from our work.

An added advantage unique only to our methods of green log construction is the lack of checking in the logs. On inspection of one of our seasoned red pine buildings, you will notice a lack of checking on the interior and exterior faces of the wall logs. Upward facing checks on the exterior log wall face can catch rain water and cause conditions that promote deterioration of the logs. Any type of construction using dry logs cannot offer this advantage. Proper execution of our cutting methods is what prevents the checks from forming on the log faces.

Of course, the settling for all horizontal log construction, whether green or dry, requires accommodations for settling while framing interior walls, or installing windows and doors. We use these methods for all our log buildings, as should all log builders, and provide skilled carpenters or technical assistance to accomplish this work correctly. Settling is a fact of all horizontal log construction, handcrafted or milled, and needs to be addressed. When comparing the shrinkage of green and dry logs, the issue is not whether there is shrinkage, but it is just a matter of how much settling to accommodate.

Gables of Full Length Log

We periodically receive requests for log gables. To properly build a log gabled house, the settling of the logs has to be taken into consideration when designing and rendering the roof system. The reason for this is that as logs in the gables shrink, a properly built roof system will have to drop in pitch during the gable log shrinkage. We have constructed log gables, and when we constructed the roof, we created slippage in the roof connections at the wall logs and purlins, which allow the roof to drop or slip with the gable log shrinkage. It works well if done correctly. It limits the design to a lower pitched simple roof, using the style of the traditional old log cabin designs.

The method we employ on steep pitch roofs with log gables utilizes vertical posts under the purlins, and log in fill between the vertical posts. This method has the look of log gables, but not the shrinkage issues which limit the roof designs. Shrinkage of the log in fill requires springed connectors, to maintain constant pressure. A frieze board and sealing system is utilized to accommodate the log settling at the roof line.

Other options for gable ends include log trusses within the gable, with glass infill or framing. Gables can be framed with lumber as a contrasting material to the logs, with excellent effect. Trusses outboard from the gables add a nice touch. In addition, a framed gable can utilize not only many of the rough sawed siding lumber options, but also vertical log siding, or even a sunburst design, similar to our logo.


Log Accents

As log builders, we have been called on to construct log accents for conventionally build homes. Accents include the log roof, log stair, and log railing details of a log home, which are combined with conventional construction materials. The construction creates a unique style that is seen in all types of construction. We have furnished log accents for steel and concrete commercial work, plus wood or dry wall residential construction.

Several styles of roof detailing and accenting are typically seen. The first utilizes log columns supporting a log roof system. The construction has a timber framed flavor, but is constructed of log. Roof logs can be either log trusses supporting log purlins, log posts supporting log purlins, or even a log hip roof with hip rafters, jack rafters, and purlins.

A second style of roof detail uses log purlins alone, sitting on framed walls. Sometimes log posts are used to provide an attractive intermediate support for the purlins. This is a simpler construction, and creates an inexpensive accent to give a rustic appearance to a framed home or cabin.

To become familiar with what is available, we encourage the home owner, designer, or builder to contact Senty Log Homes to discuss the options.

What kind of finishes are used on a log house?

Most of our customers prefer the natural exterior finish which allows the wood grain to show through. We have used and researched many of the natural finish products, and have settled on three different products that we recommend. We can help you with these choices and decisions.

 

The Planning and Building Process

Building is a step by step process with thousands of steps to it, each of which has generally one order or location. Often times it is tempting to change the order of these steps to accomplish a certain short term goal in the building process, but usually skipping the interim steps ultimately lengthens out the complete building process. Not fabricating the electrical device box openings and wireways into the logs during the log prefabrication process will save time during log construction, but it will ultimately make the simple task of wiring the logs into a very difficult project after the logs are set on the foundation.

In the same manner, the initial steps of the planning process start with developing a budget and a plan, all of which must meet the conflicting functional, aesthetic, and financial requirements of the log home owner. The accurate way to get a firm cost on a building requires a good set of blueprints. All the construction team members require accurate prints to develop an accurate budget. At the same time, blueprints cost the owner money. You want to have a good idea the plan will come into budget before you hire someone to draw the blueprints.

To facilitate this process, we initially provide you with comparable costs from similar construction we have general contracted locally. In this manner, you will have an idea of the total cost of your home. If everything is in budget, it is time to develop the blueprints. With an accurate set of blueprints, we can then provide you with an accurate construction cost.

To make a log building project move along efficiently and in budget, like any construction, it takes an experienced professional general contractor. The building process is long, expensive, and complicated. Choosing a good log builder is important, as is choosing a good carpenter and a good general contractor. We are a licensed Minnesota contractor, and have general contracted many of our log homes locally. Although we would like to general contract all our log homes, we cannot provide the quality and service of a good general contractor outside the Lake Superior north shore area, so we limit our general contracting to within about 80 air miles of Grand Marais. This area includes all of Cook and Lake Counties. We will deliver and assemble a log shell anywhere in North America.

For the home owner who wants to do his own general contracting, we will be glad to answer your questions and provide experienced advice. For the home owner who has never built or general contracted a home before, you must understand that any construction project has pitfalls, and you should be prepared to have patience and an open mind. You will find it both challenging and rewarding.

How much does it cost?

Log is more expensive than conventional drywall construction. If it were less costly, everyone would built in log. It is however, competitive with similar custom wood construction.

  • Prices vary a lot depending on size, difficulty of the project, and features of your home. We can design to meet any realistic building budget.
  • As a general construction rule, the more floor space you put under one roof, the lower your square foot costs.
  • A simple one floor building with eight foot tall log walls and no log joists or log roof members will be the least costly.
  • A simple rectangular plan will cost less per square foot than an L or T shaped home.
  • Long skinny plans raise your square foot costs.
  • Roof dormers and multiple roof pitches add to the cost, but create more usable space.
  • Depending on your design and what you have us provide, a log shell runs between $20 and $60 per square foot.
  • Lock up (roof, foundation, windows, doors and sub floor) runs between $60 and $120 per square foot.
  • Turn key (ready to move in) runs from $90 to $200 per square foot.
  • Use this information to help you decide how much area you can get for your budget. All square foot numbers are based on the area of the main floor only. The lower numbers reflect single floor design costs, the higher numbers reflect the added cost of a second floor loft design. If you have a sketch in mind, send it to us for a preliminary estimate. With a set of blueprints, we can provide you with a construction bid and a firm price.

 

Building Codes

Although there are no building codes in the U.S. that specifically address log construction, we follow the internationally recognized building standards of the American Log Builders Association and Canadian Log Builders Association International. These building standards are currently being incorporated into the Canadian building codes. Copies are available on request. We believe they are good building standards, and that all log builders and designers should adhere to them. Any good log construction contract will note the construction to meet or exceed the Building Recommendations of the American Log Home Builders Association/Canadian Log Home Builders Association International. Building codes that refer to stair sizing, head clearances, railing spindle spacing, and related issues can be properly addressed. These and any special requirements of building codes can be incorporated into the construction design. We can also provide graded logs if required. All our cedar logs are automatically graded to ANSI pole standards.

Planning Services

  • Free consultation with you to develop sketches, specifications, and preliminary costs for the log home of your dreams.
  • We will spend time with you to show you pictures and ideas, and show you our work.
  • Provide you with local references who you can meet with and talk to one on one.
  • Meet with you and our designer to develop plans.
  • If you want to have us general contract your home, we will work with you to develop specifications and costs for the total construction of your home.
  • With a workable plan and blueprints, we will provide you with a firm bid or cost plus construction contract.
  • We have drafting and architectural services available, or can work with your designer.
  • With the completion of the above steps, you will be ready to meet with your lending institution for their review and approval of your loan.

Typical Log Shell Package

  1. Consultation with the owner, designer, general contractor, and subcontractors.
  2. Detailed set of drawings.
  3. Written contract with specifications, price guarantees, payment schedule, and delivery date.
  4. All logs, hand peeled using a draw knife.
  5. Treatment of the logs with an approved FDA preservative.
  6. Fitting of all joints and laterals at our log building lot in Grand Marais, Minnesota.
  7. Pre-drilling for all through-bolts and fasteners.
  8. Pre-drilling all in log wireways and fabricating mortises in logs to fit electrical device boxes.
  9. Rough cutting of all windows and doors.
  10. Log floor joists as chosen and specified. *
  11. Log roof support system of purlins and trusses. Logs are load rated for local conditions. *
  12. Loading, shipping, and assembly of the building onto your foundation.
  13. Installing pull wires in the in log electrical raceways during assembly.
  14. All pins, dowels, through-bolts, tensioning springs, glass wool packing, saddle gaskets, and assembly materials required to set the building.
  15. Sanding all chainsaw cuts, rough edges, and knots.
  16. Cleaning logs of abrasions and marks created during transportation and assembly of the building.
  17. Final squaring and leveling of the gables and roof system after assembly.

    * Floor joists and purlin roof systems can be deleted for a basic wall package.

Options

  • Final cleaning of the logs after assembly using a pressure washer or filament power brush.
  • Red pine, white pine, dry lodgepole pine, dry Engleman spruce, northern white cedar, or western red cedar logs.
  • Log walls using the overscribe/underscribe cutting system, double scribed lateral, and scarfed or shrink to fit saddle notch.
  • Jig cutting all door and window openings, plus a splined keyway, and bevel cuts and sanding of all log openings.
  • Complete installation of the doors and windows into the log walls.
  • Fitting the first stud of the interior partition walls to a skip joint, cutting a slot in the log wall to accept the partition materials, and fitting the first board or panel into the slot.
  • Various stair and railing systems including settling accommodations.
  • Various roof systems in log or squared heavy timber using numerous types of trusses and support systems.
  • Squared heavy timber trusses or floor joists of rough sawed, planed, or hewed members instead of log.
  • Arched doorways.
  • Gables of full length log, log trusses, or short log piece 'en piece.
  • Finishing options including custom doors, stained or etched glass, custom cabinets, wood carving, mantels, stone masonry, and ironwork.
  • Other carpentry and finish work as requested, including general contracting.

 

 

 

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Senty Handcrafted Log Homes LLC
P.O. Box 969  Grand Marais, Minnesota  55604
Phone: 218-387-2644

Free color brochure available on request
Minnesota Contractor License #20317029

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