April 23, 2024

Log On: Use of Dry Standing Timber Makes Log Homes more Affordable

Feb. 23, 2005
For many couples, a log home is the ultimate dream house, ranging near the top of Northern Michigan status symbols.
But that dream tends to come with a higher price tag than the traditional frame home, owing to the time and expense of preparing green logs for construction.
Solution? The use of trees killed by forest fires that have dried on-site in the wilderness and are cabin-ready.
Builder Eron Thomas of Thomas Log Cabin Homes notes that the American and Canadian West is literally packed with thousands of acres of good standing timber that has been killed off by forest fires.
“We use dry standing material in the homes we build,” Thomas says. “When there’s a forest fire it strips all the needles off pine trees and they literally suffocate at high elevation and dry for years. We take those trees and mill them into logs. It’s much less expensive.”

The use of trees killed by forest fires is also an environmentally-friendly solution. “A dead tree is just going to stand there until it falls down and rots,” Thomas says. “This way, we’re using the tree without having to cut a live one down.”
Typically, a tree killed by fire is good material for a log home; once the bark is removed it’s as good as new. Thomas adds that the use of standing dead timber also cuts expenses because the wood has already dried for several years. In homes which use fresh-cut timber, the green logs typically spend 6-10 weeks drying in a kiln -- an expensive process. Thomas adds that even kiln-dried logs tend to be damp at the core, making it necessary to readjust a log home as the wood shrinks in place.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much money can be saved by using dry standing timber,” he says. “And you never have a window that won’t open or a door that won’t close when you use wood that’s already completely dry.”

Born in Pittsburg, Thomas, 44, grew up in Atlanta and earned a fine arts degree from the University of Georgia. He went into the building trades upon graduation, remodeling homes in the Atlanta area, including a gentrification project of the Victorian homes in the city’s Piedmont Park area.
Childhood vacations in the Great Lakes lured him to a new home in Northern Michigan. Faced with the break-up of a relationship and the need to find a new place to live, he decided to look into building a log home. At the time, he was working in the lumber industry when he learned of a mill special-izing in dry standing timber harvested from far-West locales such as Vancouver Island.
One thing led to another and Thomas launched his company in August 2000.
Although he never got around to building his own house, he and his staff of seven employees have built 18-20 log homes over the past five years in Charlevoix, Otsego County, Kalkaska, Mission Peninsula, Traverse City and other communities. Today, they average four or five new homes per year.

What makes log homes so popular in Northern Michigan?
“I think it goes back to how tremendously comfortable they are to live in,” Thomas says. “And a lot of it is that Old West kind of charm. The good thing is that today you also have 21st century roofs, floors and ceiling insulation to go with the beauty of the past.
“They’re eclectic homes,” he adds. “Women love them because they can change the texture and patterns of interior surfaces. It’s nice to have a log home with a smooth sheetrock wall inside, painted a beautiful color that wraps all of the architectural elements together.”


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