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Choosing the Right Wood Species

For Your Handcrafted Log Home

Wood Species for a Log Home

Choosing your preferred wood species is a vital part of building your handcrafted log home. Some wood species have the advantage of strength and stability, while others have more character for a more rustic look. Another point to consider, especially in certain regions of the country, is if the wood is naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects or pests.

At Caribou Creek we have the great advantage of being located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. We have an abundance of timber in a wide variety of species. With our years of experience handcrafting log homes, we can help you decide what wood species is right for your log home, with the resources to build a custom handcrafted log home in nearly any type of wood you choose. We find that the majority of our clients typically choose between our standard options – Kiln-Dried Douglas Fir, or Seasoned Western White Wood. We offer these wood species as a standard option and can recommend either choice under most circumstances. Western Red Cedar is also available for your log home or accents.

Kiln-Dried Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir has long been renowned for its excellence in load-bearing applications. The high-density fiber and straight grain supply its strength also makes it the premium choice for any log cabin home. Aside from its potential as structural support, the straight logs and minimal taper of the coastal variety delivers a clean, uniform look to a log home. Checks tend to be less of a concern with Douglas Fir than many other wood species. The high quality of Douglas Fir has helped us greatly minimize wasted material. Its lighter character and hardwood fiber make crafting more consistent, with natural pest and rot resistance. The inner grain has a reddish hue that can be seen at the log ends, milled flats, and interior doorways. Choosing Douglas Fir will ensure that your log home will look great for years to come.

Because of the high density fiber we strongly recommend that our Douglas Fir be Full-Depth Kiln-Dried. This not only helps to diminish the future movement of the logs, but also gives the added benefits of destroying any pests or fungus. By speeding up the drying process, kiln-drying helps us select only the best logs, free of spiral grain and warpage.

Bottom Line: Kiln-Dried Douglas Fir is the premium product for the most demanding applications. Requires additional drying time and a higher price point, but yields outstanding results.
Large natural logs connected together over wood stadium style seating
Custom hand railings like this offer a subtle rustic charm.

Seasoned “Western White Wood”

“Western White Wood” is a term we use to describe a mix of light wood species we use to build your log home. This mix consists primarily of Lodgepole Pine and Spruce, and occasionally includes White Fir and/or other pine species. These species have a lower density and strength than Douglas Fir, with a more pronounced rustic character. This can be either a pro or a con depending upon the situation. While many clients enjoy the heavy character, the lighter wood is more susceptible to heavy checking, rot, and pests. Proper design and construction can partially diminish this, but in some cases it may require additional maintenance. Its lower strength also requires larger diameter logs to be used for load-bearing, especially in the roof system. We often recommend Douglas Fir be used as roof support for that reason.

By using seasoned wood rather than kiln-dried our clients can save money and reduce the timeframe required to build. The lower density wood dries at a faster rate than Douglas Fir. This gives us the flexibility to use standing dead, air dried, or if schedule permits, a shorter kilning time. The seasoned wood typically has a higher moisture content than its kiln-dried counterpart and is therefore more prone to checks, twist, and shrinkage. With the naturally heavy character of western white wood this is less critical. As with all our homes, we take into account the future movement and settling, crafting the logs using methods designed to minimize any potential damage.Click to learn more about the different drying methods available.

Bottom Line:

Seasoned Western White Wood is an excellent choice in situations where heavy character is desired, especially in non-structural applications.

Western Red Cedar

Dubbed the “tree of life” by many Native American Tribes of the Pacific Northwest, the beautiful, straight-grained wood of the Western Red Cedar has been utilized for centuries. The natural resilience and usability of this wood species make it a desirable choice for a number of applications, including log homes. It remains a popular wood species for modern “post & beam” style log homes. It has a distinctive character, recognizable by a pronounced convoluted taper at the base. We refer to this as a “cedar flare” – often used for accents. When sawn, you can see the pale yellow sapwood contrasted with the deep red of the heartwood, and smell the aromatic fiber (less pronounced than Eastern “Aromatic” Red Cedar). Many people enjoy the aromatic nature of Western Red Cedar; however, it has been reported as a sensitizer and can, in some rare cases, trigger an allergic reaction.

There are a few other drawbacks with Western Red cedar as well. The chemical composition that makes it weather and rot resistant can also inhibit the application of some stains and finishes. In fact, with modern finishes and proper maintenance Douglas Fir seems to hold up just as well, if not better. It also lacks the density and strength of Douglas fir in structural applications. Strangely, woodpeckers seem to be attracted to the soft, porous wood. They can wreak havoc on your logs in some areas of the country. Finally, cost is the principal drawback of building your log home with this wood species. Due to availability and other factors, the price-point of Western Red Cedar (especially “old-growth”) places it beyond the budget of most buyers.

Bottom Line:

Western Red Cedar makes an exceptional accent with its distinctive heavy character. For the average buyer, this wood species is typically too expensive to build a full log home, especially with stacked walls, but works well for a log cabin.

At the end of the day it boils down to the client’s preference. Whatever wood species you choose for your log home, be assured that our team at Caribou Creek will make it a thing of beauty.