Living Off-the-Grid: Log and Timber Home Designs

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    The Appeal of the Log Life

    small log home in the woods
    Coryz / Getty Images

    Log and timber homes are all about getting back to the basics, living off-the-grid, and eschewing modern urban lifestyles in favor of putting down roots in the midst of nature, often miles from civilization. Early American settlers and those who expanded West built log cabins. Abraham Lincoln was born in one. A new generation of owners love these homes' rustic appeal, along with the idea of adapting to a more self-reliant, sustainable, and natural lifestyle. 

    There's a whole movement out there that has steadily grown since Log Home Living was established as a magazine in 1982 and later a website and brand. Log home owners tend to be individualists who want something different.  At the annual Log and Timber Home Show, builders, designers, and timber companies meet with aficionados to discuss floor plans, wood, and ogle one another's projects.

    The National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Log and Timber Homes Council is a good place to start if you're interested in building a log home of any size.​ Like any home project, do your research.

     

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    Log and Timber: What to Look for

    woman on log cabin deck near lake
    Nine OK / Getty Images

    The National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Log and Timber Homes Council is a good place to start if you're interested in building a log home, small or lodge-sized. More than 400 companies in the United States and Canada are in the log-home business, from small shops to huge firms. About 17 tree species are used for log and timber homes, with each having unique characteristics like color, size, grain pattern, thermal performance, and insect and decay resistance. Discover how to determine what's what:

    • Logs and timber are milled or manufactured. Typically smooth, milled logs have a less-rustic appearance, although textures can be added. Each is more uniform, especially on the corners
    • Less common are handcrafted logs or timber, with vary in size and shape and have a more hand- or rough-hewn look.
    • Half-logs have the appearance of full logs, but are applied over conventional wood framing.
    • Timber frame or post-and-beam are noticeable inside a home, by their large horizontal and vertical beams that are either milled or handcrafted.
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    Solar-Heated Log Home

    Many log home enthusiasts get their power by using a renewable energy system not connected to an electricity grid. These stand-alone or off-grid systems save money and are an environmental choice.

    In more rural or remote areas, off-grid power systems make more economic sense than connecting power to the electricity grid, which can range from $15,000 to $50,000 per mile, according to Energy.gov.

    Greenline Architects designed an off-grid solar home in the stunning Colorado mountain resort of Aspen that produces all of its own energy with solar hot water and photovoltaic panels. Built of structural insulated panels (SIPs), it is LEED Gold certified.

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    Modern Log Cabin

    Touching the Oregon border in California's northernmost Siskiyou County is the mountain resort town of Big Springs, where log homes abound. Designed by THID, this one features a modern, exuberant roofline that expands on the traditional A-frame. Stacked-stone bases and a flagstone give this home a modern, natural look that is anything but traditional.

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    Model Home with Porch

    This 4,000-square-foot model home that Fairview Log Homes shows potential clients at its headquarters in Millersburg, Ohio, what interior barn siding or drywall might look like in their log home. Other features include a front porch with gable roof, a finished apartment-like basement, and an outdoor kitchen.

     

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    Modern Take on Traditional

    Western red cedar and Douglas fir are the woods-of-choice for Artisan Log Homes of Mission, British Columbia, Canada. With a more modernized approach like this design, Artisan homes to change the stereotype of the more traditional old cabins. A home with a timber frame or post-and-beam combines modern design with natural wood highlights.

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    Arizona Compound

    Arizona is not all desert: Pinetop is one of the state's mountain towns in which residents have second or vacation homes. Working with woods' natural beauty and features, Summit Log & Timber Homes uses tapered logs with characteristics like knots, burls, and compressions.

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    Reclaimed Log Home

    Reminiscent of an original homesteader's log house, this design by Yellowstone Traditions blends modern conveniences with historic, timeless touches. All materials used—including stone, hand-hewn timbers, and boards—were reclaimed. The team, which included Peter Zimmerman Architects and Peace Design, navigated design challenges that included building the large home with a maximum height of 25 feet and limiting it to 4,000 square feet. The private custom residence is tucked in the shadow of Wyoming's Teton Mountains.

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    Russian Home

    For centuries, izbas have been built in the Russian countryside, traditionally of rough-hewn logs. Valued for their simplicity and warmth, izbas continue to be a popular type of home. This design, by Taiga Log Homes, features larch and Siberian cedar logs mixed with local stone.

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    Russian Village of Wooden Houses

    Teremki is a wooden house construction company that built an entire village—reportedly the only one of its kind—of finished wooden izbas made of various wood species like pine and red Canadian cedar in different styles. The company uses different techniques to create log styles like carriage, piece-en-piece, round timber, and post-and-beam.

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    Green Living Log Home

    Taking the concept of green living a bit further, ProLog Restorations built a house in California's Sierra Nevada mountains that features a sprawling lawn of water-wise artificial turf. The family-owned business restores log homes in the West, including updates and additions like porches, room additions, sheds, and garages.

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    Big-Sky-Influence Log Home

    New England-based Rob Bramhall Architects received his architectural training and lived in the mountains of Montana and Wyoming. His love of rustic buildings and a connection with nature are reflected in many of his designs, including this trailside ski house near Portland, Maine.

     

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    Little Minnesota Cabin

    Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes: perfect for building a log cabin on one of its many shores. Designed by Albertsson Hanson Architecture Ltd, this charming cottage with custom-built replica windows was an addition to and remodeling of a 1930s log lodge. Sadly, it was destroyed by fire in 2014.

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      Cozy Cabin in the Woods

      Appalachian or dovetail-style logs accented with white chinking are the foundation of Rocky Mountain Homes' classic-looking cabin. It also features dry-standing Western white wood that was hand-peeled and scribed for a personalized appeal.

       

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      Fit for Locals

      While building this pitch-roofed log home in Colorado, the Brewster Timber Frame Company was visited by local moose for approval. The dwelling features a ground-level porch that wraps around two sides.

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      Raw Pine Dwelling

      With an emphasis on economical and environmental, Ginger Hill Design + Build of Arundale, Maine, constructed a contemporary timber home using raw-pine siding and treated with an all-natural product called Lifetime. Ginger Hill uses lots of local Eastern white cedar in their work.