A log cabin can be made from virtually any tall trees… However, a log cabin that lasts must be made from a narrow selection of wood types that have the characteristics needed to craft a sound, visually appealing structure that will retain its strength, value and appearance for decades and beyond. The following describes the common and not-so-common types of logs used in log cabin construction.
The fact is that the logs used in construction of your log cabin by a local company will offer as its most cost-effective option logs drawn from regional sources. Ordering and transporting logs from great distances is expensive. Most consumers will rightly flinch at the cost when locally sourced timber can provide the right quality logs at an affordable price.
The wood from these trees found in the lower Southeastern portion of the country have a fairly solid reputation for resistance to rot and infestation.
However, this resistance is pegged to its deep interior or “heartwood” of the tree. A tree’s heartwood is usually visually distinct from its outer sapwood, which is typically lighter.
The sapwood of Cypress is very light and nearly white. Its heartwood ranges from light yellowish brown to dark brown or reddish brown. A Cypress log for use in a log cabin may not be milled sufficiently to expose the heartwood. Therefore its self-preserving properties remain trapped in the log itself. When this happens a customer has paid more than 2 times more for the log but their log cabin does not have the protection that they hoped to buy.
Cypress logs offer strength and durability. The prohibitive drawback of Cypress is cost – and availability. A Cypress log cabin can cost as much as 2 times the cost of a Pine log cabin. And, it is so difficult to gather in sufficient quantity, a builder often has to compromise on which logs must be used.
For most prospective buyers, the sticker shock of a log cabin constructed from Cypress logs is enough to send them shopping for a cost-effective alternative.
The Douglas Fir is perhaps best known as a Christmas tree in cabins across America. Full- grown stands of Douglas Fir provide provides strong and durable lumber for construction purposes, including plywood and high grade veneer, interior trim, cabinets, pallets, boxes, ladders and flooring. It is also a good and plentiful tree for log cabins. The tree is plentiful and moderately priced when locally acquired, i.e. the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest up into Alaska.
As seen here, the sapwood is white to pale yellow. The heartwood is orange-red with a definitive contrast between earlywood and latewood. Overall the wood is straight grained and moderately hard. It is a good building material but delivery costs to the Eastern states are prohibitive for most customers.
White Pine is an eastern tree that is also sometimes decorated outdoors as a Christmas tree. As one of the fastest growing northern forest conifers, it is frequently used in reforestation projects and remains one of the most widely planted trees in North America. Eastern white pine is found across southern Canada from Newfoundland south to southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa; east to northern Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; and south mostly in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia and northwestern South Carolina. It is also found in western Kentucky, western Tennessee, and Delaware.
Its color is very light, shading from white to a pale yellow color. It darkens toward a tan color within a few months of installation. As a construction log, White Pine holds its shape well and can be effectively milled. It also is easily stained. Mature trees typically have no branches on the lower half of the trunk, meaning few or no knots. “White pine wood has medium strength, is easily worked, and stains and finishes well,” accords to the U.S. Forest Service.
Like its White Pine cousin, Yellow Pine is easy to work with but is stronger even though it is more prone to shrinking or warping. Yellow Pine makes good floor joists and Flooring. When you visit 250 year old house museums, it’s common to see original yellow pine floors. The U.S. Forest Service agrees, noting that yellow pine is “less susceptible to dents, scratches, and other signs of wear. To consumers, that means that it is better suited for such uses as flooring, furniture, and other applications where durability is important.”
Yellow Pine is also decay resistant. As its name suggests, it is darker and has a distinctive yellow hue. It is less accepting of stains. Yellow pine is relatively inexpensive.
Other Log Varieties
An evergreen that is a heavy hardwood that provides good strength and shape rigidity. Cost is a factor for shipping outside its habitat in the American west.
Strong, durable and typically cost prohibitive.
Widely known as the fragrant wood used in chests and closets to prevent moth infestation, Red Cedar has a trademark pink-to-brownish-red hue. It is light but durable, especially in wet climates. It is moderately expensive.
A moderately strong hardwood resistant to rot and insects. White cedar is a great wood for porch railings and posts. If one were to use a wood other than cedar in the lower rail of a deck rail shown in the photo below, it is unlikely to last more than a year before it rots.