|When choosing a wood species for your log home, you should consider these factors:
- Ease of maintenance
- Beauty or appearance
- Energy efficiency
We believe oak is the best wood to use because it excels in all categories.
Gastineau Log Homes is unique in the log home industry for specializing in homes of solid oak. We offer our oak logs in both full log and insulated log (half-log) options and in several sizes. Oak is considered a premium wood species but because other log home companies do not offer oak, we are often asked, “What’s so special about oak?” and “Wouldn’t an oak log home be much more expensive?” “Why don’t other log home companies offer oak?” Let’s take a moment to answer those questions.
What’s so special about oak?
Do you like oak furniture? How about oak cabinetry? Flooring? Most people immediately answer “Yes!” Ask why and they usually say, “because of the beautiful color and grain and the strength and durability of the oak.” Unlike most of the woods used in the construction of log homes, oak is a hardwood. Its rich grain and distinct warm color set it apart from the softwoods, like pine. Because of its beauty, people rarely want to stain the inside of their oak log home.
As for durability, oak is legendary. The oldest wooden structure in the world is made from oak. The structural beams and much of the woodwork in Europe’s finest and oldest remaining churches and castles are made from oak. Before metals were widely used, the greatest wooden warships in the world had hulls of oak. For centuries, oak barrels have carried everything from water to moonshine. In the timber frame industry, with its centuries old building tradition, the durability and strength of oak is unquestioned.
Is oak affordable?
A visit to a local hardwood supplier to look at exquisite oak moldings and cabinetry makes this a reasonable question. But you have to remember that such products represent the very premium that oak has to offer. The knots and swirling grain that people find attractive in a log home aren’t suitable for fine trim and cabinetry, where grain and color must be carefully matched and knots eliminated. We located our mill in Missouri to take advantage of this amazing natural resource. We are located on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, where oak is plentiful and there is not a large furniture industry. Combined with our buying power from the large purchases we make, this is how we can offer “The Beauty of Oak for the Price of Pine.” In fact, we can also manufacture and sell pine logs, although no one takes us up on it when they learn they can have oak for the same price!
Why don’t more log home companies sell oak if it is so good?
First, because they cannot buy oak logs in their area at a reasonable price! Missouri is renowned for its oak forests. As President of the Missouri Forest Products Association, Lynn Gastineau has been intimately involved in monitoring and maintaining the quality and quantity of Missouri’s most precious natural resource. Her family has been buying oak logs since 1954 and we have access to the best suppliers in the nation – and we know how to negotiate and buy at the best prices.
In contrast, pine will grow almost anywhere and is the least expensive wood available for harvesting. There are a wide variety of pine species found in the U.S. including Southern Yellow Pine, Eastern White Pine, Northern White Pine and Ponderosa Pine. Of course there are varying degrees of quality in pine logs. When comparing wood species or even varieties in a single species, it is most important to distinguish the different qualities found between the heartwood and the sapwood of the tree.
Another significant factor why a manufacturer does not offer oak logs is the machinery necessary to mill the oak logs. Because of oak’s natural characteristics, it is necessary to design the manufacturing process specifically to cut oak. Log home companies have machinery that is designed to mill a softwood such as pine. They cannot manufacture an Oak home with their existing equipment and processes. That is why Gastineau has been able to dominate the oak log home market since 1977.
Is oak heartwood better than the heartwood of other species?
The heartwood of oak is rated as being “Resistant or very resistant.” This is the same category as old growth bald cypress, cedars, junipers and redwood. The oak logs provided by Gastineau Log Homes are solid oak heartwood. It is virtually impossible in today’s market to find only heartwood logs of pine, cedar or cypress because trees of sufficient size are not available or the cost is prohibitive.
Sapwood of any wood species does not exhibit the same qualities as the heartwood. “The sapwood of all native species, even those in which the heartwood is highly durable, is susceptible to deterioration by biological agents, because it lacks extractives. In fact, the presence of reserve foods in the parenchyma cells of sapwood may increase its susceptibility to decay and particularly to bacteria and fungal staining… even in a tree species with relatively durable heartwood, the serviceability of an untreated piece of the wood is determined by the amount of sapwood present.” (Ref: Textbook of Wood Technology) Therefore, even a “Resistant or very resistant” species of log with sapwood exposed to the outside of the log surface will not be resistant to decay and insects.
At Gastineau we are able to use only the heartwood of the oak. One reason is that the sapwood ring of an oak tree is small in comparison to the heartwood. Also, we are able to obtain trees of large enough diameter that the sapwood can be removed prior to the kiln drying step. Another advantage of oak logs.
Is there a difference in the drying process between oak and pine or cedar?
Another added feature of our log process is the way we dry our large oak timbers. Care and consideration must be taken in drying all large timbers such as those used in log homes. Drying timbers should not be the same process as the drying of dimensional lumber like 2 X 4’s. It takes additional time to properly dry or season large logs because they do not react well to the high temperatures of traditional kiln drying. Drying a large timber should be a slow process at a lower temperature to avoid the excessive checking and structural damage to the wood that can result from high temperatures. In addition, conventional kiln drying methods are expensive because they use electricity or fossil fuels to create high heat, which adds to the cost of the home. Pine logs are subjected to this type of high temperature primarily to kill the bug larvae that live in the pine trees. The natural tannins in the oak logs make high temperature conventional kilns unnecessary and unwarranted.
In keeping with our desire to be environmentally conscious and our trademark of being a leader and innovator in the log home industry, we designed a drying system that is unique in the log home industry – Solar Forced Air Kilns. We initiated the system in 2004 and it is the first solar forced air system in the log home industry. Our solar kilns are environmentally responsible and use virtually no energy except the electricity to run the computers that monitor the system and the air turbines. We have designed a system that captures nature’s energy as its drying source. It is kiln drying for the 21st Century. With our process, the logs are in the kiln from four to five months at a lower temperature. This is better for the wood (less damage and checking), better for you (less cost) and better for the environment!
How is an oak log home easier to maintain?
Yes, in several different ways. First, the finish on the interior of the logs never has to be replaced. A polyurethane finish has lasted on our homes for 30 years and not had to be replaced!
Second, oak logs do not require chemical treatment to maintain durability and prevent decay. Pine logs should be treated with chemicals a minimum of every two years (for the life span of the home) to prevent decay.
Third, when you power wash the exterior of the home, the oak logs will hold up against the highest psi you want to use! This makes the exterior cleaning easier and faster.
Last, it typically does not take as much sealant for oak logs because the cellular structure of the wood is denser, meaning it will not absorb as much product.
Oak takes longer to grow. Isn’t it more environmentally conscious to use a softwood that grows faster?
An inventory of the Missouri forests was conducted as a joint effort between the Missouri Department of Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. The results show that Missouri’s forests have increased by more than half a million acres from 1999 to 2003. This study also concluded that Oak trees occupy over 75% of Missouri’s forests. Missouri’s forests are growing more wood than is being harvested. The study also showed that Missouri’s forests are expanding and are in good health.
Another environmental issue is the longevity of any product that you use. An oak log home is going to last longer, without chemical treatment, then other species of log home. Build it to last the first time and you won’t have to replace it later!
What do you hear about Oak?
As you research the log home market, you may hear various comments about using oak logs for your new home. Things such as:
Are Oak logs heavy? Yes, they are. Our logs are solid heartwood and heartwood is heavier than sapwood of the same moisture content. (Ref: Textbook of Wood Technology.) Oak is a very dense wood. It is the cellular structure and extractives present in the oak heartwood that cause it to be strong, durable, and insect resistant. These natural chemicals also make the wood heavier. But do you really want a “light” home? Particularly if you are building in an area that is prone to high winds, tornadoes, earthquakes or other natural calamities? The durability and beauty of a finished oak log home far outweighs the inconvenience of lifting heavier logs during a few days of the construction process. Plus with every Gastineau oak log home we give you our Three Little Pigs guarantee. You can huff and puff but you can’t blow a Gastineau oak log home down.
What about checking? The natural seasoning process that occurs in all wood is called checking. Customers often refer to it as cracks or cracking but the proper term is checking. The number and size of checks in a log is dependent on a number of variables including the wood species, moisture content and how the logs are dried. Some people find checking aesthetically pleasing, others do not. The pattern of checks in oak logs tends to be checks that are higher in number but smaller in size than other wood species. Softwoods typically have one major check per log that can be quite large and unappealing. Our experience has been that smaller checks are less noticeable, more aesthetically pleasing and cause fewer potential problems from rain and other elements than large, wide checks. Since we began using our solar kilns in 2004 our customers and builders have reported that checking in our logs has been significantly reduced. However, a log or timber can and will check as part of the natural drying process. All complaints should be directed at the designer of the tree.
How do you prevent the logs from twisting and bowing? Large timbers have a tendency to want to twist or bow in a wall. We have used our thirty years of building oak log homes and an ongoing dialog with our builders to develop our building system. What you are buying from us is not only our oak logs but also our “Smart Log” building system. That system includes how we fasten our logs together and how we lock the logs in place. One of the benefits of using oak is that oak is a hardwood. Because it is a hardwood the fasteners in your log wall will stay in place. The fasteners do not “pull through” the wood. Softer woods such as pine and cedar can allow the connectors (spikes, screws, etc.) to pull through the wood and allow the wood to move. An oak log wall that is properly constructed will remain in place.
We use a single tongue and groove log system and our logs are both glued with an industrial strength adhesive and screwed with high tech fasteners. In addition our “wall guides” and splined window bucks also are designed to keep your wall stationary. Wall guides are heavy metal posts that are attached to the first stud in an interior partition wall. Our splined window bucks act as a keyway to further lock the wall in place. Our GLH Smart Log System is your protection against any movement in your log wall. We stand behind it because you stand behind it.
Are oak logs harder to cut? Oak is a harder wood, but it is not more difficult to cut. Oak cuts cleanly. Softwoods typically “tear” as you are cutting and not give a smooth, clean cut, and therefore will require sanding.
Are Oak logs energy efficient? The energy efficiency of a log wall is determined by the width of the log where the logs are joined, the sealant system used between the logs, the R value of the wood and the Thermal Mass of the wall. Our 8” thick oak logs, superior sealing system between the logs, the R rating and the thermal mass make our oak logs unmatched in terms of energy efficiency compared to any other log in the industry.
And our standard R40 minimum roof system is even more important when examining the energy efficiency of the log home package you purchase. When comparing log home packages, the structural design of the roof will determine the R-value of the roof you can achieve. This is a critical element in the cost of heating and cooling your home.
A couple of real life examples to prove our point:
Dennis and Eileen Illies are our Gastineau Log Home dealers in Wasilla, Alaska. Please give them a call, especially in January or February, and ask them if a Gastineau Log Home is energy efficient. Plus the 8” oak logs have the added benefit that the Alaskan bears can’t break down the walls – just another reason to buy a Gastineau Log Home.
Bill and Marsha Kragelund have a free standing (open to the public) Gastineau Oak Log Home model near Anita, Iowa. He heats and cools his 3000 sq. ft. model (using geothermal) for a dollar a day. Ask Bill to see his bills.
How do we build the perfect log home?
We believe the perfect log home has yet to be built. While we strive for perfection we often have to settle for excellent or outstanding. If excellent and outstanding will meet your expectations – then a Gastineau Oak Log Home should be in your future.
We offer oak because we believe it is the best wood for a log home.