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The Difference Between Wood Species For Your Home


Written by:

Dave Janczak

Founder/Owner of Wisconsin Log Homes

One major decision you’ll be making during the log or timber home process is the type of wood you’ll be using for the exterior and interior of your home. Your decision will be based not only on your preference, but also on your location and budget. Some people decide to use one type of wood throughout their entire home, while others choose to use different types of wood in different areas of their home.

The following is a quick, general description of the most popular wood types used in the log and timber home industry given in “good, better, best” ranking.

Red Pine (Good)

Red pine is found in abundant groups, growing tall and usually strait. Because Red Pine is typically found in 100-300 acre plantations, it is easy to harvest and trucking is a minimal expense. This type of wood is less costly to manufacture than other types, making it a practical choice for homeowners.

For the reason that Red Pine grows so quickly, you will sometimes find a larger sap-stain on the exterior of the log. This is the layer that is most susceptible to insect infestation and decay. In my opinion, Red Pine can be an excellent choice for rafters and interior beams.

White Pine (Better)

White Pine is generally better quality than Red Pine. It endures exterior uses much better than Red Pine and is less susceptible to insect infestation, mold-causing moisture, and decay. It is typically a more difficult species to harvest and is not as abundant as Red Pine, making it more costly.

Engelmann Spruce / White Spruce (Better)

Spruce is a very stable species with low moisture content. Readily available in large sizes and long lengths makes Spruce an ideal choice for log home construction. Because this species is only available in mountainous regions throughout the United States and Canada, it is usually more difficult and costly to harvest.

White Cedar (Best)

White Cedar is “Nature’s Best” and a very slow growing tree. It does not grow tall and tapers fast from the trunk to its top. It is commonly used for fence posts and saunas because it resists insects and decay. It truly is one of nature’s best woods for outdoor usage. White Cedar is usually only available in short lengths (8’ – 10’) and therefore is not typically chosen for log home construction because the short logs create many unwanted seams.

Western Red Cedar (Very Best)

Also known as “Nature’s Best,” Western Red Cedar has most of the same characteristics as White Cedar except it grows long and strait, making it ideal for log home construction. With natural preservatives, Cedar resists moisture, decay and insect damage and can endure even the harshest environments.

Each species listed above are considered “Softwoods.” Softwoods are made up of many larger cells, are light in weight, and create an excellent insulation barrier and “Thermal Mass” for log home construction. “Hardwoods” consist of many smaller and tighter cells, which make it stronger and therefore heavier. Because of its cell structure, hardwood creates a much colder exterior wall with less “Thermal Mass” and a lower R-value.

R-value measures the ability to retain heat in structural components and is usually calculated per inch of thickness. The higher the R-Value, the greater the insulating power. Softwood has an R-Value of approximately 1.41 per inch of average thickness. Hardwood has an R-Value of about 0.71 per inch of average thickness. If you choose an energy-efficient building system like our Thermal-Log™, you can have an R-value ranging from R-19 to R-45+, depending on the type of insulation you choose.

Learn more about energy-efficient log homes!

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