9 Tips for Building a Log Home in Snow Country

When the weather outside is frightful, the most important thing is to have a strong structure around you, especially if you’re building a log home in one of the country’s chillier climates. Here we share 9 building tips to keep your home warm and wonderful year round.


Photos courtesy of Pan Abode Cedar Log Homes building a log home

1. Local building codes will dictate how much snow load your new roof can safely support. This can vary from more than 130 pounds per square foot in some mountainous regions to up to 360 pounds in extreme conditions. Hiring a structural engineer (or working with the engineer at your log home company) will ensure you building a house that can handle the stress.

2. To create flexible outdoor living spaces — and minimize your home’s maintenance requirements — consider covered porches, decks and balconies to protect you and your home’s logs from the elements. To further protect exterior logs from driving, rain, snow blizzards and sun damage, include larger eaves or overhangs in your roof design.

3. A metal standing-seam roof with a simple, steep pitch will help snow slide off easily. Also consider installing a snow guard — an 8- to 12-inch fence set back from the edge of the roof that prevents the snow from falling in lethal chunks. To keep the melted snow from pooling at the foundation of your home, make sure your design team and builder slope walkways and driveways away from the house and your logs.

4. By simply orienting the long side of your log home toward the south, you can reduce energy usage by 30 to 40 percent. With the right configuration, the sun’s lower position in the sky will enable its rays to penetrate deep within your home during the winter months, keeping it warm long after sunset.

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5. To heat your house and keep your energy bills low, you still want to invest in high-quality insulation. Choices include structural insulated panels (SIPs), fiberglass batt, spray foam, blown-in cellulose, rigid foam and wool. Local building codes may dictate the R-value, which gauges insulation’s resistance to heat loss that your area requires. In addition to cutting utility bills, quality insulation will prevent ice damming, a buildup of snow and ice on the roof created by the freeze/thaw cycles of night and day.

6. For the ultimate sloppy-weather abode, choose a design with a large mudroom for drying and storing wet winter gear. In addition to a garage, also consider a portico to keep you and your guests dry when unloading luggage, groceries or gifts outside the front door. Be sure to specify an insulated garage door for added warmth and efficiency, and consider an outbuilding to store firewood and extra fuel for the fun stuff, like snowmobiles.

7. The longer your driveway, the more costly snow removal will be — either in dollars or in backaches. So you may opt to site your log home closer to the road. Choose a driveway design that includes an area to put snow after plowing, as well as guest parking spaces. Also plan for plenty of landscape, walkway and porch lighting fixtures to prevent slips and falls.

8. The weakest link in any home’s thermal envelope is the windows. For better energy efficiency, invest in windows with a low U-value rating (around 0.33 or 0.34), which is worth the premium you’ll pay for it. Insulated window cladding will also dramatically improve performance.

9. Cold nights and a warm fire go together like butter and popcorn. But your choice of hearths will depend on which fuels are accessible — and permitted by local building codes — in your area. There are eight basic fuels to choose from: wood, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, electricity, corn and wood pellets. You can burn these fuels in fireplaces, stoves, masonry heaters or inserts. For dual-power sources, try a natural gas fireplace in the great room and a wood-burning stove in the basement recreation room.

Pan Abode Cedar Homes, since 1952, has brought Custom Cedar Homes & Cedar Cabins of Post and Beam, Timber, and Log to life with innovative designs, cutting-edge engineering and Three unique Building Systems featuring Western Red Cedar & Douglas Fir.