Drying Logs for a Log House

Advice on tree selection and drying methods for producing the best quality logs for log home building. July 16, 2012

What is the best way to dry logs for a log house to limit the number of potential cracks? When it is best to harvest logs - winter? Will long time air drying (1-2 years) make it more stable? I am talking about red cedar logs.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor B:
My first thought would be more toward your choice of logs. Using straight, true logs that grew on flat ground would be important, as well as logs that are as close as possible to the same diameter at each end. Cracking is inevitable. The only thing to do would be to seal the ends well and hope for the best. If you choose to store the logs to dry, then make sure they are flat and kept from the weather. Probably a good idea to strip the bark off and spray them with a bug/mold deterrent when you do.

From contributor J:
Please explain why it's important that they grew on flat ground.

From contributor B:
You will want logs that stay straight as they dry, whether you dry them before construction or after. Trees that grow on hillsides tend to develop stress as they try to stand up straight; the uphill side pulls, and the downhill side pushes, to keep itself up. In cases where they lean anyway they will twist in reaction to the lean, causing that much more of a problem. These tensions show as nice figure when you slice the log into slabs, but the wood moves as it dries, meaning you need to flatten the slab out after drying… something you are not going to be able to do with a log in place. While the bottom logs of a wall will have the weight of other logs on top of them holding them down, and hopefully they won't warp in or out, the ones on top will not and may cause problems down the road. As the tree grows a person won't see so much of this because it all is in effect due to the growing stresses of the tree, and the tree is standing; once the tree goes down, all bets are off as to what it will do, so making an attempt at getting the best, straightest logs will be a big benefit.

I have found that hillside logs tend to have the pith (center of the growth rings) off center. If you have no choice but to use hillside logs, I would recommend putting the pith up or down, but not to a side, as that will help keep the log from warping to a side.

I hope this helps. It may be getting a little picky but now is the time to be so, right?

From the original questioner:
Thank you. Besides choosing the right log, how should it be dried?

From contributor B:
There is a minor advantage in harvesting them when the weather is cool, as the log will split faster in hot weather than cool. As far as drying them goes, I recommend stripping the bark off, sealing the ends with a good quality log sealer, and letting them set as long as possible (maybe 3-4 years if possible) under cover and in open air circulation. But I am unsure how important it really is to dry them so considering the use they will encounter; logs will split or crack no matter what you do with them. If you cut them long, then you can cut off the worst split ends before using them when you do.

From contributor T:
I live in a log home ( 6" X 12" square). I am no expert, but before I built, I visited several log home companies. They all followed about the same process. When the logs arrived at their yard they would go ahead and saw the logs about an inch oversize. The logs would then be set aside for 6 months, then hewn and used.