Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 20

Pine planks were laid first so that we have a beautiful ceiling of interesting knots and grains. They give a warm and cozy feeling even in the main rooms where the ceiling height reaches about 26 feet. Over the planks they nailed 2 x 12’s and between these channels they insulated with an expanding foam that hardened to give an extremely high R-value. An air space of a couple of inches remained – just enough to hear the pitter-patter of flying squirrel feet as the little buggers took up residence the first winter. We later put up screens at suspected entry points.

The thick insulation has been worth its price, keeping the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. People ask us what kind of insulation we use in the walls. That’s funny because the logs are the walls. The thickness of the walls averages about a foot and a half. Where they join the thickness is only about eight inches, but the log guys put natural insulating wool between each course and before the walls were caulked my husband and I stuffed pink insulation in anywhere we could see daylight. A pine log has an R-value of 1.25 per inch so from narrowest to thickest our walls rate between R-10 to nearly R-30. We used a laser sensor to check for cold spots on a below zero winter day and our biggest heat loss is from the windows, not the logs.

The first winter we lived here the walls were not caulked (some log homes use chinking because the logs don’t fit as tightly as our scribed logs do). We had a few drafts, mice, bats, and even snow. But we had to wait a year for the logs to settle enough before caulking inside and out.


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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 19

Time to cut out the windows and doors and doorwalls on the first floor. If we thought there was a lot of sawdust each day (we swept up several trash cans worth every evening), there was even more sawdust when they took their chainsaws to the walls. In the top picture he’s cutting out one of two tall windows in the south-facing kitchen. We were asked how low we wanted each window, how high, how wide, and in a couple of rooms we changed, added, or eliminated windows from our original plan. The flexibility was wonderful.

In the second shot you can see one of the logs as it plummets to the ground from the great room. As they chain sawed out a section they would kick the piece free. It made a terrific boom as it hit the earth. My husband was ready with his tractor to ferry the pieces away. Since then he has turned a few of them into benches for around the campfire, but we have tons (literally) left.

You might notice in the second picture that there are only a couple of feet between the great room windows. By cutting out the openings the narrow strips of remaining logs could have teetered out, but before cutting they hammered some 2 by 4’s up to hold them in place. Later the window frames were strong enough to keep the structure intact.

The windows were another challenge that we researched well. Because we knew there would be maybe six inches or more of settling we had to leave air pockets above each door and window. We filled them with insulation and screening to keep the critters out. As the house has settled those pockets have disappeared and the upper framing boards have slid over the lower ones. If we hadn’t done that all the glass would have cracked the first year.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 18

Some of the longest logs were the ones that spanned the entire house. You can see that they had been planed flat on one side so that the ceiling boards could be nailed to them. Some have channels as well so that wiring could be run for fans and lights.

The young man who is sitting so precariously on the log used his chainsaw to cut each of the 32 ends off to the same length. I don’t know how he didn’t cut his legs off in the process, but he didn’t. He was like a monkey as he climbed from one to another, measured, sat, cut, and moved on. He did, however, ask me not to show this picture to his wife.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 17

Portions of the second floor were built in the airplane hangar as panels and lifted into position. These were the only places where the windows were framed in since they didn’t want to be swinging those chainsaws that high up off the ground.

In the second picture you see a section that was built without the logs. They had to use some pretty tall ladders later on to nail up half logs to either side. That was a very time consuming job, but the weight of the heavy logs demanded that such a large section be done in place. The poor guys went up and down the ladders multiple times for each log as they measured and scribed and cut, and then fit and re-fit each log. On the second floor the logs were nailed into the frames. On the tall walls that span two stories you cannot tell where the full logs stop and the half logs begin unless you look for those nails. As I said in an earlier post, the first floor logs are butted closely together and there are no nails.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 16

Here you see an end truss swinging into position to go above the front porch. Three more match at the front and in the back off the great room, filled with custom windows.

Here’s a close-up of the beautiful carving work that they did to indicate the year the house was started. We had seen this feature in many of their homes. Some customers had their last names carved in and others had a date. We opted to use the year our dream began rather than our name.

We thought that maybe we would have the name we gave to our place, Big Pine Lodge, carved into the fireplace mantel, but instead my husband made this beautiful sign. It greets folks as they pass between two rather tall and imposing pine trees, just before they make the last curve and drive up the hill.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Prophet Without Honor

The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus wondered, or was astonished, or was amazed except for two times:  when he was amazed at the faith of a centurion and when he returned to His hometown of Nazareth. The Bible tells us that people were constantly amazed at him. They were astonished at him. But only two times was he amazed at them. Read Mark 6: 1 – 6 to see why he says “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

The unbelief in his own hometown is astonishing to me, too. Their unbelief obscured the obvious. They heard his preaching, saw the miracles, recognized the wisdom, but still asked “Where did this man get these things?” Duh. Isn’t it obvious? But no, they’d rather believe it came from the devil.

Their unbelief brought to the fore the irrelevant: they threw up a smoke screen of immaterial facts, mentioning his family – mother, brothers, sisters. They even slurred him in a backhanded way by calling him “Mary’s son”. (It was customary to use the father’s name so they were alluding to a suspected illegitimacy.)

Their unbelief was a “stumbling block” to them. The Greek word is “skandalizo” from which we get “scandal”. I can just hear the gasps and gossiping.

Their unbelief caused them to spurn the supernatural. They knew of the miracles and yet rejected him. What was the purpose of miracles? To attest to the truth. If you’ve rejected the truth, there’s no need for the miracles and so verse 5 tells us “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.”

We see a huge consequence to their unbelief. They rejected the facts and shut themselves off from all divine power. Did he ever go back to his hometown of Nazareth? No.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 15

It took a few weeks for the first floor to get erected on site and then the crew went back to the airplane hangar in the U.P. to work on the second floor. That took about five weeks and while they were gone we measured and planned for furniture, cabinets, kitchen cupboards and such.

The staircase was craned in and another crew put in the floor boards that would act as both ceiling for bathrooms, closet, and laundry room on the first floor and floor for the loft, bridge and bedroom upstairs. All of the other rooms on the first floor, bedroom, great room, kitchen, and sunroom, would have to wait for their cathedral ceilings.

The staircase was built to fit exactly, but after a couple of years the settling of the house required that the guys come back and refit them. That meant sawdust and blue chainsaw smoke in my nice house. We didn’t mind, though, because it was a treat to see the workmen again and the fresh pine scent overcame the exhaust fumes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 14

The men that worked for North Arrow Log Homes were the nicest craftsmen we’ve ever come in contact with. I can’t say enough good things about this crew. All of the tradesmen that worked on our home were fantastic, but these guys have come back several times to check on things, lower posts, refit the stairs, and caulk inside and out.

They were like gymnasts on balancing beams, walking along logs as if they were sidewalks and not treacherous round timbers. They joked and talked with us, shared meals, and prayed. They were all very active in their churches, one as a pastor and two as youth pastors.

The company has passed now from founder Lyle Kelley to Alex Rivers, a wonderful man who worked for Lyle for many years and was my personal favorite on the crew. If we ever were to build again we would hire Alex in a flash. Here’s his Facebook page.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 13

Can you figure out what the plumber is doing in this picture? Because we were on site every day we were constantly thinking ahead and coordinating the sub-contractors. We almost missed one important thing, though, and that was how to get the oversized shower stalls in when the doors and windows hadn’t yet been cut out of the logs. We called the plumber and he hurried out before the second floor was started. He climbed on a ladder to lift the heavy shower up and over 15 courses of logs. We could have opted for a custom tiled shower, but with an expected six inches of settling we didn’t want to chance the cracking. We saved the fancy shmancy stuff for where people would see it.

Since plumbing comes up from the basement there weren’t any problems dealing with log walls. The shower enclosure was mounted on a framed wall which in turn was bolted to the logs but allowed for the shrinkage with sliding bolts. We needed air vent chases to run up to the second floor and through the roof; we hid the chase runs in our closet. The second floor has a bridge between the loft and the guest bedroom, but a full guest bathroom is on the first floor.

I designed the house to live both small and cozy for my husband and myself, when it’s just the two of us, and large and open when we have family and guests. Essentially it’s just a two bedroom house with 2950 square feet, but a third bedroom and bathroom is in the finished half of the walkout basement. So, with three bedrooms and the sleeping loft in the lodge, two bedrooms in the guest house and more in the bunkhouse we can sleep 22. But no, we are not a bed and breakfast, though it might be fun someday to offer a weekend getaway for other authors.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 12

The guys at North Arrow Log Homes
used extremely long drill bits to bore down through several logs at a time. People always ask how you put electrical wires in a log home and this is one way. We took our plans to a lighting place before construction and spent hours marking the blueprints up with every possible outlet, plug, light, pendant, and sconce. Thus, the guys had to drill long channels in some places, short ones up from the floor in other spots, and they also made nifty hidden conduits along doorframes and then drilled sideways in to where light switches were needed. And, thanks to wireless remotes, fans and a few lights got to avoid some extra wiring.

They also ran wiring in the channels between logs in a few places. Even though we were meticulous in the planning there turned out to be one spot we missed. We discovered this only after it turned out that our kids liked to use the loft to play cards and games. We hung a light over the table and ran the cord along the logs which were later caulked. Ta da – invisible.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 11

In this picture you can sort of see the white stuff that they laid across the tops of each log. Can you guess what it is? North Arrow Log Homes is in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where there are more than a few farms. What better natural insulator could they use than wool? Straight off the backs of those perky, bouncy sheep.

As each log was scribed to fit the one below it there would naturally be some pits and craters and hollow spots. The wool was crushed flat where the logs fit snugly, but stayed fluffy and filled the indentations where air might infiltrate. The tricky part was not letting it get wet or the mold would grow. Mold and mildew was a problem several times during the summer weeks of construction before the roof was put up. It was my husband’s and my job to scrub down the logs and apply a mildew killing spray if the black or green stuff showed up. Plenty of sunshine helped, too, and once the roof was on we had the logs sprayed outside with a honey colored stain followed by a clear coat. Inside we used a clear coat only so the natural look of the wood grains isn’t hidden.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 10

With the help of those bits of paper stapled to the ends of each log, A-1, B-2, and so on, one guy was responsible for finding the next log needed. He stood on the stack of logs, directed the crane operator, and hooked the appropriate strap to the cable. Lifting the log from the stack was sometimes noisy and always dangerous as the logs shifted. Then, swinging the cumbersome log out and into position, the crane operator had to watch both ends, avoid a few live trees near the house, and lower the log delicately.

The two guys who set the logs carried on conversations yelling to each other from their separate positions. They often seemed to ignore the looming menace, but then ducked or stepped aside, patted the lowering beam, and easily coaxed each end into its scribed spot.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Jesus Calms the Storm

Mark 4: 35 – 41 Storms were and are common on the Sea of Galilee. This sea is an unusual body of water in that it is relatively small (thirteen miles long, seven miles wide), 150 feet deep, and the shoreline is 680 feet below sea level. Because the Sea of Galilee is below sea level and is surrounded by mountains, it is susceptible to sudden storms. Winds that sweep across the land, coming up and over the mountains, create downward air currents over the lake. Combined with a thunderstorm that appears suddenly over the surrounding mountains, the water can heave into violent twenty-foot waves, calm one minute and brutal the next. In this scripture, Jesus and his disciples did not set out in a storm and they did not expect one either. The text tells us there were other boats with him.

Read the story in the gospel of Mark and then tell me if this sounds like a good summary with a hint of historic flavor:

"Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they've seen the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep, for He spoke and raised up a stormy wind which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens. They went down to the depths. Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man and were at their wits end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven."  

Do you think that was a pretty good synopsis of this event where Jesus calmed the storm? Well, guess what? That was 107th Psalm, verses 23 - 30, written hundreds of years before the event. Further proof of the amazing awesomeness of the Bible.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 9

This was probably the most exciting day so far. The giant crane managed to swing the hefty logs into position and two men guided the monsters into place. What took them a week to accomplish in the airplane hangar was re-erected in hours and we had the beginnings of our dream home taking shape before our eyes.

When all of the perimeter logs were set they took sledge hammers and knocked the corners until they were satisfied that every wall would be square. The corners locked together and not a single nail or spike was used. The weight of all the logs, so tightly interlocked, will keep the house on the foundation for a hundred years, probably more.

The logs are mostly Red Pines with a few White Pines mixed in. They were harvested from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and inspected to be sure they were free of disease and insects. The bark was peeled and they were dried for a year or so, but they still retained a certain level of moisture. The log guys told us that each log would shrink in circumference and the total effect of that shrinkage, aside from the loud cracks and pops we would hear for a couple of years, was that the entire structure would settle about six inches. (More about that later.) The effect of the shrinkage would tighten up the whole structure, making it stronger and stronger. The corners would lock so snugly that even if the house were swept off the hill by a flood it wouldn’t come apart. So who needs nails?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 8

When the first floor was completed in the airplane hangar, a little piece of paper with a letter and number was stapled to the end of each log. One of the log guys coordinated the letters with the corners and wrote them in on the blueprint. Accordingly, a corner might have log P-1 overlapped with log Q-2 which had log P-3 above it and then Q-4 and so on. Once that was checked and double checked they disassembled the logs and placed them all on long flatbed trucks. The ones they would need first would be on top.

As I told you before, our driveway used to be an old logging trail, so . . . shouldn’t a log truck be able to make the curves? Leaving nothing to chance we had the owner of the log company and his truck driver come out a year in advance to see what they thought. We wanted plenty of time to widen the tight spots or create a straighter way in. Both assured us that there wouldn’t be any problem for the experienced driver and we could keep our picturesque lane as it was.

See this picture? It’s the log truck sitting off in a grassy spot at the beginning of our drive. A new and inexperienced driver had replaced the old-timer and this guy couldn’t get up the nerve to take the turns, squeezes, or the final hill. Solution: off load each log onto a smaller truck using the crane they brought with them. This killed a day, but they got the logs on site after several separate trips.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Building a Log Home, chapter 7

The blue or yellow straps were used to maneuver the giant logs into their places several times. The first setting allowed the guys at North Arrow Log Homes to scribe the log to fit the one beneath it. Then they used the crane to move the log back to an open area where it sat at work level. Next they used their smelly and loud chainsaws to work their magic. Sometimes the logs had to be craned back and forth for re-fitting, re-scribing, and re-cutting several times until the fit was tight and to their satisfaction. You can see the straps hanging in the photos, ready for the final lift when they would be carried to the log trucks for transport to our site.

My husband is standing in an arch that leads from kitchen to hallway. We had arches carved into other openings as well, where doors weren’t needed. In the other picture I have my hand on the corner logs that were cut in an in-and-out effect as opposed to the ones at my back which were cut flush with one another. The two styles were used to define particular spaces.