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Hello,

My first post, after wandering around in this forum.

I am planning to build a 26'x32' log framed garage - my first such project.  It's a spare-time kind of thing, with no strict schedule.  I'll be using 15 existing sonotubes for a foundation:  3 wide (13' spacing) by 5 deep (8' spacing).  I'm guessing it will be a 4 year project to complete.

To start it off, I'd like to season my logs.  My 15 main posts will be 16' and 22' long, and probably 12"-16" at the butt.

My first questions: 

(1) I have plenty of balsam fir and poplar (similar to willow) trees to choose from on my own property.  Which should I use?

(2) To peel or not to peel?  When I start to season the logs, do I peel them right away (when it is the easiest) or leave the bark on and peel just before I build?  I'm not concerned with checking for aesthetic reasons, but for strength concerns.

(3) How long do I let the logs season?

Maybe I should lay a few ground rules down before you kindly answer my questions:

- My construction schedule is to frame this in the first 1-2 years, post and beam style, including rafters and metal roofing.  In the following 2 years I would fill in the wall spaces with non-load bearing logs, and develop a finished loft for overflow sleeping when the whole family visits.

- I can prepare a roofed structure to season the logs if needed.

- I'm in Eastern Canada, building in a shaded, forested area.

- My only helpers will be a 45 HP Belarus tractor, a Husqvarna 61 saw, a G777 Alaskan sawmill, and an 80 year-old father hopefully watching from the side lines and giving me some life saving advice.

Let the adventure begin!  (Pics to follow!)

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Hi, Larry. Welcome to the forum!

In order:

1) I don't know enough about those species to have an opinion. (Not very helpful, I know.) You might contact your local university extension office to see if they have an opinion based on the insects in your particular area. It may be that one or the other is more appetizing.

2) Peel. You can actually end up harboring moisture under the bark if you don't peel. Plus, as you mentioned, it's easier. That roofed structure would be nice, but tarps with some air circulation will allow the logs to dry, too. If you can get them to dry in a more controlled way (not sudden drying, that's ideal). If they dry too quickly, they're more prone to forming large checks and cracks. Controlled drying doesn't stress the wood as much, thus controlling the cracking more.

3) How long depends on your climate. Ideally, you'll want them to come close to their new moisture equilibrium content before building with them. Take a measurement with a moisture meter after peeling. You definitely want to be below 19%. Eastern Canada is pretty big. :-) If you're near the coast, it will take longer than somewhere inland. This could take a few months to a year. Normally, the majority of the drying takes place in that first year, but again - it's all dependent on your humidity.

4) You should scare up some local teenagers to help you. :-) 

Enjoy the adventure! I hope that helps.

--- Charis w/ Sashco - www.sashco.com - cbabcock@sashco.com

Thanks for the input, Charis.

My thought was to peel right away as well, but I've found several opinions on both sides on the internet.  Everyone agrees to seal the log ends ASAP, though.

I've got a moisture meter, but hadn't thought to use it on the logs.  I expect I'll find they green logs are 35-40% moisture.  I'll leave a foot or two extra on the logs, so after I dry for a year I can cut off a chunk and see what the reading is inside.  Great advice!

Instead of teenagers, I've got a couple of strapping sons nearby that would help if needed, but I'd like to see what I can do by myself first.  Maybe I'll call on them when I'm putting up the ridge beam and/or rafters!

Thanks again.

I would go with the fir logs over poplar which is similar to aspen where I am from.  Aspen trees often rot the heart wood while the sap would continues to grow, which makes for poor building material.  The more straight the grain (not twisted) and less taper the easier they will be to build with.

Peel your logs as soon as possible, but also cutting in the winter when the sap is down will give you the lowest amount of moisture to get out.  Sealing the end grain will slow the drying process and create less checking, which is generally for aesthetic reasons only.  Logs shrink radially toward their center and do not change in length. No need to buy fancy end grain sealers... mismatched latex paint goes for $5 a gallon and does the same thing.

You can build right away with green logs: they're easier to cut than when dried.  Generally you want logs to set for 2 years before chinking.  I would start right away and have the shell sit as long as possible before sealing with chinking.  The additional load of the roof will cause more settling if you want for a few years so best to get it covered asap.  

If you're really dead set on starting with 'seasoned' logs your have to build racks high enough that they won't get snow piled up against them and will have to rotate them regularly to keep from bending on your racks.  

Gable walls with logs are much more difficult than framing in those triangles with traditional stick framing, but I guess it's all about the look you're going for.  Cedar shakes or board and batten can look nice for gables.

Hi Tim,

I thought if I built with green logs I'd have issues with the log shape changing (twisting, bending).

I'm building a post and beam style - no chinking and no load bearing logs laying against each other.  After the roof is on I'll fill in between the posts with either vertical or horizontal logs, or maybe I'll find a big circular saw and cut my filler logs in half, overlapping them to make for a weatherproof wall.

So from the advice I'm hearing so far, I'll thinking I'll cut, seal, peel and start framing this year!

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