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Let There Be Light! 5 Things You Need to Know Before Wiring Your Log Home

Few environments soothe the soul quite like the natural, rustic charm of a log home; however, there’s no reason not to have modern amenities in your cabin. There is plenty to be said for a few handy lamps, an electric stove and a refrigerator. Wiring a log home safely and efficiently is deceptively straightforward, but the process is not the same as wiring a stick-framed house. Without as many natural spaces between studs through which wiring can run, you may need to inventively create empty areas called chases between solid wood logs and timbers through which wires can run. Fortunately, when planned with a fine touch, you or your electrician can wire your log home so that no one can tell where the wiring runs.

Light and Fan Switches

When building a door buck to hold the installed door in your log home’s doorway, you can leave a slot in the middle for running cable by splitting the bucks or carving out a channel for the wire with a compact route in the bucks’ backside or the logs’ face ends before installation. Failing either of those options, you can always chisel a wire chase into the bucks’ front face and cover it later with the door installation and trimming, a particularly handy option given that you will no doubt be installing at least one light switch for every door. Running wiring from around a window or door buck to a switch is a simple matter of drilling an angled hole before installing the door or window. That leaves room for the wire to break out of the log wall exactly you plan to mount the switch box.

Outlets

Designs may vary, but many log-home builders opt for D-logs measuring about 6 inches thick and 8 inches high. Basic outlet wiring begins by laying down these logs in two courses secured to the sill and each other by fasteners such as log screws. Next, marks are placed on the subfloor around the perimeter to note the location of each outlet. Great care is taken to abide code requirements calling for an outlet every 12 feet. A vertical wiring chase is then drilled out through the lower courses’ two initial logs at each outlet location. If a basement or crawl space requires wiring, the best bet is to drill through both logs straight down so that the bit comes out through the floor truss, rim joist, sill plate or bottom of the floor. You can then make sure the hole is free and clear of wood chips with a length of rebar to easily run electrical cable through later. Marking the center of the second log drilled log makes it easier for the electrician to mark the outlet box’s planned location when carving out space in the log later. That way, your contractor knows he can hit the provided hole and snake down a wire to the lower area.

When building on a slab, drill the hole from the second log’s top-center at an angle where the exit lands in the lowest log’s bottom few inches near the subfloor. Cover the hole with trim later, once the electrician runs the wiring beneath the floor between the slab’s sleepers or in a channel cut into the sill plate. You’ll need a metal plate installed behind the base trim to stop nails from driving through the trim and into the wire.

Receptacle and Switch Boxes

A little time-saving tip: you or your electrician can drill out the entire width of a regular fiber or plastic Romex box in a single pass with a 2⅛-inch self-feeding bit to mark the box’s planned location in the log face. For the corners, you can use a sharp chisel and smaller bits or the bits alone to carve or drill the box’s corners in the cutout, preferably about an inch deeper than the box’s depth. Next, cut around the box’s outline with a reciprocating saw and pop out the wood plug to join the holes.

Alternately, use scrap plywood with a hole cut in the center to build templates for both switch box and receptacle box cutouts in each different size you plan on using. The plywood should be long enough to locate the proper box height while resting on the floor. Pair this template with a router equipped with a long ½” straight cutting bit and a ½” guide bushing set, and you will ensure every outlet is at an exact, uniform height with clean, easily drilled holes. Just make sure to tack the template using screws you won’t have trouble removing later.

Wiring for Overhead Fans

Overhead ceiling fans complement a log home’s atmosphere—it helps that they can be installed with a fraction the effort required of a full-fledged HVAC system. Start by running the fan control wire from the door chase up to the fan’s switch. Simply drill straight up through the logs right above the doorway and into the space between the rafters. The wires can then run along the rafters as they would in a framed house before dropping down into the ceiling fan or light’s mounted box.

When navigating solid roof beams, a router will carve a neat channel for the wiring in the top of the rafters. Structural insulated panels (SIPs) can usually be ordered with wiring chases factory-built into the panel. You can always opt for hollow faux-wood beams that will cover installed wiring just as easily, but while decorative, these are far from structurally sound.

Floor Outlets

Floor outlets are handy, durable and not utilized near enough. Nowadays, they are often found around the outer edges of cabin lofts, far from walls. You can mount tamper-resistant models with flip covers flush on the floor or brilliant pop-up style outlets that fit just as effectively in cement floors as wood. There’s also the option to retro-fit a drop-in floor box with a sturdy, solid brass cover by simply drilling a hole and slipping in the outlet. Most models even come with their own hole saw included for quick installation.

Enjoying all the comforts of a woodsy retreat shouldn’t exclude a few modern conveniences. Whether you’re hiring a professional to do the electrical work or you’re doing the work on your own, outfitting your log home with electricity doesn’t need to be a problem as long as you shift the your approach according to the materials at hand. Once you understand the differences between a log and stick-frame home’s structure and actually install a log home’s wiring, you could come away amazed with how uncomplicated your project will be.

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