Almost every log home is a custom design, whether you’re modifying a stock plan or starting from scratch. By their very nature, custom floor plans open up a lot of untested challenges, especially if you’re trying to design the house yourself. With almost all log home manufacturers, an in-house architect will take your design and turn it into a set of drawings consistent with their building system. Your home will be structurally sound. However, don’t necessarily expect them to point out all the downsides or downsides to your design. It’s a hands-on endeavor, and in the end your home design is on you … and you’ll have to live with it. Here are some tips I can suggest to make your design more efficient.
Open floor plans are the essence of the modern log home. They make the house bigger and prevent the cook from feeling isolated. However, if you have a second floor, you need to think about how you are going to route the plumbing, electrical, and ductwork (both supply and return) to the upstairs bedrooms. You won’t be using the exterior walls for this, so you need to create enough interior walls at the bottom to accommodate all of the mechanical elements. Each object, in all likelihood, will take its own space between the 2x4s. Even if you are using a heated floor, you will need ducts for the air conditioning.
Some systems use high-pressure ducts that are much smaller in diameter than conventional ducts, so there are other possibilities if you are pressed for space. But the best solution is to think about the future. If you’re tempted to use an interior log wall (or not at all), you might be sacrificing an opportunity to get more ductwork upstairs.
The wisest floor plans are those that try to keep bathrooms together (either back to back or one directly above the other) and the shortest runs on the plumbing. This can’t always be done, but when placing the bathroom upstairs, try to line it up with an interior wall at the bottom. This way, the plumbing doesn’t have to meander all over the place.
I would venture to guess that log homes are generally notoriously short on storage space. I know my home is. First of all, it would be a terrible waste to put a cupboard against an exterior log wall. Why hide your beautiful logs? And because we try to keep square footage to a minimum, it almost seems a crime to waste precious closet space.
However, there is more than one reason to include them. Not only do we seem to collect more stuff as we get older, but according to the law in several states, the closet determines whether a room is a bedroom or an office. It could affect the resale (or refinancing) of your home. Here’s a suggestion: place two closets side by side on the wall separating two rooms; the closets may not be huge, but that doesn’t change the shape of the bedrooms. Try to include a closet near your front door.
As I’m sure you’ve read it a few times already, you can’t have too many windows in a log house. Wood sucks in light like a sponge. If you have a large empty wall, inserting a window near the top not only lets in more light, but adds character. Some people add windows to either side of a shed dormer. In my case, I had to move the roofline to increase the size of my bedroom window because by code it had to be 6 square feet for the exit. In an upstairs bedroom, you will need your windows to be large enough to come out in case of a fire.
Keep in mind that too many direct-adjustable windows will reduce airflow to your floor. In my house, I added an awning (a small hinged window) to the bottom of the stationery windows in my skylights. It helped to let in the air, but even though the rooms can be stuffy. A ceiling fan helps, but eventually, I might have to add a skylight to create a draft.
One of the toughest decisions we made was how to ventilate the hood. If you don’t want your stove to be on an outside wall, you’re going to have an interesting puzzle. Are you going to run the exhaust duct between the floor joists to the outside? Will the race be so long that you will need to add another fan? I gave in and moved my stove to the outside wall, but then we had to cut a hole in the logs for the vent. Horrors! How do you hide this? My builder built a little cedar box around the hole and we were lucky enough to have a porch roof underneath so you can’t see it from all directions. Still, this horrible vent is on the front of the house, and if I had thought about it, I might have moved the kitchen to the back of the house.
RAWL SPACE vs BASEMENT:
There are many reasons to choose a crawl space over a basement – none of them are particularly comfortable. Aside from the obvious drawbacks of a crawl space, there are a few things we haven’t thought about. I, in my blissful ignorance, did not think of the awful electrical panel. Sure, I knew we would have meters and a sign, but I didn’t know where they were going. What I didn’t know was that by code we couldn’t put the panel in crawl space. As we do not have a garage, the electrical panel was installed in one of our rooms on the log wall. Isn’t that lovely?
Another downside to crawl space is that you’ll need a short water heater if that’s where it goes, and you may need to purchase a horizontally mounted furnace. Because our water was of poor quality, we had to install a purification system. This 54 “unit must be mounted upright and our crawl space is 48” high. We had to drill a hole in the concrete floor to make room for the unit.
Yes, you want to keep water away from your log home at all costs. There may be challenges; we have an alpine-style house with a vaulted ceiling. However, the roof comes to a deep V on the corners which creates a magnificent rainfall. It doesn’t have to be wonderful when it hits your deck! Due to the generous overhang that accompanies a log home, the end of this V projects away from the walls and does not make a logical angle at which to hook a downspout. In one corner I settled for an old-fashioned rain barrel, and on the bridge side we had to divert the water to the pergola we built against the house and run a gutter on it. along the edge of the pergola.
You should have at least a 1 foot and preferably a 2-foot overhang to protect your logs. This overhang should be taken into account when designing your roofline. If you have overlapping angles, make sure you don’t create a water or snow trap. There are times when your overhang may hit another corner of the roof. You may need to raise part of the roof a bit to provide clearance.
This can be one of the most annoying mistakes you can make and not catch until it’s too late. Think about what your door covers when it’s fully open. Is he covering another door? Will two doors collide? If you are in a tight space, will it open fully? When we set up our vanity, we didn’t think about opening the door until the plumbing was already hooked up. The door released the vanity a whole inch; it could have been worse. You can compensate by swinging the other way around (before it’s already hanging, or your hinges will be on the wrong side). Or, in the design phase, you can use a narrower door. Or get a smaller vanity.
The electrical and plumbing layout will not come from the architectural drawings of your log home. The manufacturer doesn’t care where you put your outlets. Once the plans are confirmed, it will be time for you to sit down with the electrician and mark exactly where you want your outlets, switches and light fixtures.
The local code will determine the minimum distance between outlets, but anyone will tell you to put more than you need; eventually, you will probably use them anyway. Even if you don’t need them, install your cable and phone in every room; it’s so much easier and cheaper to do it in advance. Remember, you can never have too many lights in a log home. Plan these fixtures in advance, especially those on the ceiling. They won’t be pretty to add later.
If you’re building a huge log house, you have so much space that it doesn’t really matter. But for most of us, every inch counts. Some approaches can maximize your floor space. First off, do you really need hallways? Some space-saving designs organize rooms so that they all open into a small hallway. I don’t prefer anything at all.
Also, consider that each closet door creates dead space. If you can arrange your floor plan so that the closet door swings to an area that’s already dead (for example, another closet door or a fireplace), you could open up the room a bit. Does your loft serve a purpose or is it just an open hallway from room to room? Can you put a piece of furniture there? If not, it might serve to give it an angle and reduce your “open down” space a bit.
Hope I helped a bit. I’ve learned a lot of these tips the hard way, and I’m sure there are plenty more that I haven’t come across yet. After all, a custom home is a giant learning curve.