Exterior Motives

An overview of design options that will determine the exterior look of your log home.

Exterior Motives

Most of the "living" will happen inside of your log home. But, for many of us, the dream starts on the outside?with a vision of our ideal home surrounded by lush valleys or steps away from a favorite fishing hole. Indeed, building a custom home can be one of the most creative and rewarding ventures of a lifetime. As you read this guide, try not to get bogged down in the details. Instead, consider it an overview of design options that you'll have plenty of time to nail down later.

As you discover design elements that you love, add them to an ongoing wish list; create a scrapbook of magazine clippings; or just sketch them on a cocktail napkin. Later in the process, you can share these ideas with your architect or designer.

House of Style
Although many kinds of architecture influence the design of modern log homes, there are a few timeless styles that work quite well?and, as a result, still make up the majority of log homes built today.

Early American Pioneer homes follow a straightforward, boxy style. The logs are harvested from old barns and log homes from the Southeast.

Adirondack style homes balance the handcrafted look of their full-round logs with twig-and-branch railings and other rustic details. Their wraparound and screened porches, gabled roofs and brightly colored trim evoke the Adirondack Great Camps of the late 19th century.

Log homes of the Pacific Northwest style are handcrafted and solid, with linear forms and an Asian influence. The shallow roofs have broad overhangs to protect the home's log walls from steady rainfall.

Mountain log homes are the epitome of "rustic and refined" on the slopes. These large houses mix steep roof pitches with a shallower pitch over the porch. Expansive windows set high in the walls capture those mountaintop views, while ample fireplaces help you enjoy them in comfort.

Ranch log homes capture the rugged look and feel of the Old West. The style looks best on level land, wrapped 'round with a porch that allows several entry points into the home.

Cottages trade big open spaces for miles of charm. These lovely little homes usually incorporate stone, board-and-batten and shingles at various pitches.

Wood Shop

Choosing a log species isn't entirely superficial. In addition to good looks, consider each wood's strength and manageability. Cedar, for example, is renowned for its natural resistance to decay and insects. But thanks to today's wood preservation and maintenance products, most other woods can boast similar resistance.

Get Yourself Together
Now we're getting to the nitty gritty of log home design. In addition to log species, you'll select a log "profile" (or shape). All the profiles are equally brawny, so it really comes down to personal taste.

Swedish Cope logs look round, but have a concave bottom that fits snugly with the log below. Full Round logs are (no surprise) completely round. Rectangular logs feature one side that is longer than the other?and come with or without a beveled edge on the exterior.

Square logs are, indeed, square?and can be cut in a "ship lap" style featuring an angled exterior face.

D-shape logs resemble a capital D. They are flat on the top and bottom and come in three variations: Round and Flat (round only on the inside), Flat and Round (round only on the outside), and Round and Round (round on both the inside and outside).

To further personalize your log home, you'll select a corner style based on those offered by your manufacturer or handcrafter. Overall styles include: Interlocking, Dovetail, Saddle Notch, Butt-and-Pass, and Corner-Post.

There are also three alternatives to full logs: Insulated Half-Logs, which let you use drywall instead of logs for some or all of your home's interior; Log Siding, an inexpensive way to transform your stick-frame home into a log home; and Glu-Lam Logs, which can be a smart choice if you need to span long distances in a subfloor or roof structure where natural logs wouldn't be long or stable enough.

Pretty on the Outside
Like icing on the proverbial cake, exterior components will complete your home's shell?and, in some cases, enhance the living space inside.

Bring the outside in with windows that bathe your home in natural light. Keep in mind that in cool climates, sunlight can help warm up rooms and lower your heating bills, but in warm climates, it can turn sunrooms into saunas. Windows also have a psychological effect. Natural light gives us a sense of well-being and can be particularly important in a log home, because logs absorb light.

Although interpreted in many ways, there are six basic kinds of windows: casement windows, which are hinged on one side and fully open for a breeze; double-hung windows; slider windows; awning windows; turn-tilt; and decorative windows, like stained or beveled glass, which show off personal flare and creativity.

What about the view? To enjoy this natural tableau, many owners design large panes of glass (or a "wall of windows") in the great room. Not every room needs a panoramic view, though, and smaller windows can make your home feel cozy, while still taking advantage of the beauty that surrounds it.

Raise the Roof
Roofs have a tremendous impact on your home's curb appeal. In terms of design, there are no right or wrong choices, but when deciding, consider the way it will impact your life inside. Low ceilings can feel cozy or claustrophobic, while cathedral ceilings can seem lofty or lonely. For even greater visual interest, you may also choose to break up your roof into several smaller ones with a variety of angles and dormers.

Outside Chances Last, but definitely not least, here are a few more options for your log home's exterior.

Doors: Although a relatively small component, your front door can set the tone for the rest of your home. Go for something that symbolizes your personality?and the way you want to greet your guests.

Porches & Decks: A sheltered, wraparound porch provides excellent protection for your log walls?and your visitors?along with overflow space for entertaining.

If you're not planning to incorporate a porch, create shelter from the storm with a gable canopy over the front door. Another option: put a portico over a circular driveway. This offers an economical alternative to a full garage and makes unloading groceries and luggage foul-weather-free.

The full article can be found in the February 2005 issue of Log Home Design Ideas.