Wood log siding is a very popular way to build a log–style home, cabin or garage. In fact, a lot of the structures you think are built from real, solid timbers are probably built with log siding instead. There are a number of different advantages to using siding instead of solid logs.
From the outside, the structure can look just like solid timbers, but it is built on a standard stick-frame design that is much easier to run plumbing, wiring, and ductwork in. You can use regular home insulation, and you don't have the issues of solid logs settling. It is much easier to add on to later if you wish. You also use considerably less wood, resulting in a log-style building at a significantly lower cost than using solid logs.
There are a ton of different options to choose from. Most wood log siding comes in three basic designs: quarter log, half log, and premium.
- Quarter log siding usually comes in 2" thick by 6" wide or 2" thick by 8" wide sizes, and the part you see on the exterior is (you guessed it) a quarter of a log. It looks like the structure is built from timbers that have been squared off with a flat surface on the top and the bottom, and only the very center part was left round. This of course is the least expensive style of wooden log cabin siding.
- Half log siding typically comes in 3" thick by 6" wide or 3" thick by 8" wide sizes. It still looks like the logs have been squared off on the top and bottom, but with more of the round part left. There is more depth to the "logs", making the structure look more realistic.
- Premium wood log siding looks the most realistic of all. There is even more depth than with half log siding, making it very difficult to tell that the building is not made of solid timbers. Every manufacturer has their own pet name for their premium product, such as "Premier" or "Fat Boy". This type of course is more expensive than the other two types of log wood siding.
Among the three basic designs of log cabin siding, there are a number of different options. The "logs" can be joined with either a shiplap joint or a tongue and groove joint. The shiplap joint is typically less expensive, but the tongue and groove joint is generally considered stronger and less prone to drafts. Some manufacturers offer end-matched boards, which basically is a tongue and groove joint on the ends of the boards.
Most wood log siding has a smooth, uniformly round surface that has been created using a machine. Some manufacturers also offer hand-hewn siding that has the variations in thickness and contour that real hand-peeled logs would have. There are also several different corner styles you can get, some of which look like real crisscrossed logs.
Another option is glulam log wood siding. Glulam is an engineered wood product made from two or more layers of lumber that are glued together, sort of like plywood but with much thicker layers. Glulam log cabin siding is straighter, more stable, and less prone to warping, splitting, cracking and checking than regular wood siding.
There are a number of different species of wood available. The most common wood you'll find is pine, because it is generally the least expensive. There are also various different spruce, fir, and hemlock products available. A popular option is cedar log siding. It is more expensive, but is more insect and rot resistant than many other species, and is often left its natural color instead of being stained.
No matter what species of wood you choose, it is a good idea to get the siding pre-finished if the supplier offers it that way. For longevity, the wood needs to be sealed on all sides before installation. The manufacturers are much better equipped to do the sealing - they feed the sections through a machine that applies sealer to all sides (the ends must be sealed at the jobsite), and they have large racks to place the lumber on while the sealer dries. Factory finishing costs roughly half what field finishing costs if you are paying for labor to have it sealed at the jobsite.
Some suppliers also offer different grades of siding, according to how many knots or other imperfections are in the wood. If you are willing to spend some extra time and don't mind the effort and waste of working around these imperfections, you can save a considerable amount of money by using lower grade lumber.
If you are wondering about the installation process, it really is pretty simple. The video below gives you an idea of what is involved:
One last option that I find fascinating is wood siding that looks like old, distressed, hand-hewn square logs. Suppliers take rough cut boards and then hack them up to make them look like they were cut out by hand 150 years ago! The rough boards are then installed on a conventional stick-frame building, with plywood spacers in between the boards. Then chinking is applied between the rough boards to cover the plywood spacers, and you end up with a brand-new stick-frame building that looks like it has been there for a couple hundred years! COOL!!!
As you can see there are tons of options for wood log siding, even more than I have covered here. There are many small, regional suppliers that offer different sizes, styles and species of lumber. You can also get panelized building kits, as well as modular buildings with wood log siding. Read as much as you can and talk to a builder or two before making any decisions.
For more information about log-style structures, take a look at my Log Garage page. If you want the style without the maintenance that real wood requires, you might want to consider steel or vinyl siding that just looks like logs. However, no other material (except for real logs!) can quite match the look of wood log siding.