Montana Log Homes

Log Homes & Log Cabins FOR SALE

Is Firewood Art?

 If you’re going to stack it, stack it good!

Long time followers of this blog will recall that our family heats our log home with a woodstove. We have been doing this for the past 8-9 years and love everything about wood heat. And you know the old saying, “when you heat with firewood, you get warm twice”.

Obviously, the first warm firewood feeling comes from the work required to cut, split and stack your wood.  And, if you rely on firewood to carry you through the winter, you’ll need anywhere between 5 and 10 cords of wood.  Your stove, average temps and length of your winter determines how big that firewood stack gets. Regardless of how much wood you need, you have to store it somewhere, so how can you turn an unsightly pile of firewood into a work of art?

These photos came to me in an email today, so I have no idea of their source, but I must admit I was awestruck when I saw how some people stack their firewood.  Beauty and art is in the eye of the beholder, and I think you’ll agree these are some beautiful and very creative stacks of firewood.


What a great idea and keeping with the overall theme of a tree. Of all these photos, this one would probably require the least amount of work. The challenge would be to figure out how to place those horizontal libs to accomplish the look.


This one doesn’t require as much work or planning, but it is a unique way to break-up the monotonous rows of wood.


This is creative, right down to the “shingled” roof.


I really like this idea. Another great way to add some color and break-up the pile.


Okay, this guy was just showing off. Not only does he have a killer design, but he even chose the old discolored pieces to add accents.


I guess that once you start burning the wood, it gets easier to find your way out.


How about a functional way to stack wood?  But, where do you park once the walls start to come down?


I would be worried about insects with this idea, but you have to admit that it is a creative way to store firewood where you need it.

I am inspired to create firewood art

If life cooperates and I have the time, I’m going to try building a creative stack of firewood next spring when I do my cutting.  Stay tuned to my blog because I know you’ll want to see if I keep my commitment.

At our house, we stack our rows of wood (about 6 cords) off to the side of the house where it is accessible throughout the winter. I usually have nice neat stacks and cover the top with a brown tarp to keep it dry and clear of snow.  You can see our wood stack from the front of the house, so creating a unique design in the stack seems like a fun idea.  Stay tuned…and keep warm.

American Log and Lumber Interview

Today we have a great interview with John Harper, the owner of American Log & Lumber based in Arkansas. John has a great perspective on the business and decades of experience in the commercial and residential sectors of the log home industry.

Tell us about American Log and Lumber; what products and services do you provide?

Tom, I’m so glad that was your first question! As a wholesale company we understand many people will associate the word “wholesale”, with little to no service, that’s just not true with American Log and Lumber. We pride ourselves on complete service, before and after the sale.

Being in the business personally for over 30 years I have learned a thing or two from my customers. They want service number one and product flexibility that will meet or exceed their expectations. Many companies are geared to accommodate one style or system, leaving many to settle because they believe achieving their dream is just not possible within their budget.

American Log and Lumber was specifically formed to do both. We want to give the best “FULL”, service available in the business today and offer the best products available for the client and the right products to fit the architectural design they choose.

We have an Architect on staff that has been designing log, timber, and hybrid style homes for over forty years. We have the resources to have them engineer stamped for any state. We provide much more than a package of logs.  We carry a large selection of pattern stock, from 1x and 2x t&g to flooring and trim. We carry an abundance of re- claimed materials from brick, doors, heart pine, cypress and much, much more. We make flooring, mantels, and accent pieces from our re-claimed  timbers to help create that “Wow”, factor for our clients.

Our construction services are the best in the business, bar none! We take pride in all of our services but construction is by far the most important aspect of making the concept a reality for our clients. There are a lot of good contractors out there but most lack two very important ingredients; communication with the client and manufacturer during the design phase and during the construction phase. Because American can be your log and timber home provider, designer and contractor, it gives us a BIG advantage over most of our competitors and that gives our clients a big advantage, and saves them potentially thousands in extra material and labor cost.

On your website you talk about Lawson Cypress, which is not a common wood used in log homes; can you tell us more about it?

As with any wood material there are pros and cons; coastal cypress has decay and bug resistance, but it splinters and is somewhat unstable, yellow pine is the strongest of pines, has a beautiful grain but again is unstable. Western Red Cedar is a great rot and bug resistant material but can be a little too dark for interior use for some. Lawson Cypress does have one drawback, it only grows in Northern California and southern Oregon making this wood somewhat rare and hard to get. We have a good supply coming from the only mill that mills it from the only stand in the entire world that is select cut each year. While this material is a little more costly than your average material, it ranks favorably with other cedars and coastal cypress but is much stronger and much more stable, making Lawson Cypress well worth the investment.

Lawson’s Cypress is one of the good choices for your house logs. It has a great reputation for stability and durability and should be a first choice for those homes being built in the south central states. Its reputation for decay resistance makes it more than a favorable species to consider in any of our humid climates.

A Reputation for Strength

Rated strongest among all types of Cypress, Lawson’s Cypress commonly known as Port Orford Cedar (POC) has earned a reputation for its strength and decay-resistance. This decay resistance is due to naturally occurring oils in the wood. POC has historically been the preferred wood for building boats and Japanese sacred temples. Today POC is ideal for flooring, interior woodwork, furniture, door construction and fence posts (its heartwood has an in- ground life of 20-25 years). POC has even been used to build the stadium seats at the world-famous Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, park benches at Yosemite National Park and for building America’s Cup yachts.

Rough Sawn Timbers

It’s simple. Strength, durability and natural decay-resistance make POC the ideal wood for our Rough Sawn Timbers, where beauty and structural integrity are important in both indoor and outdoor uses.

Liven up An Interior

POC is a lightly colored wood, allowing it to accept stains nicely. And with a fine texture, straight grain, and pleasant lemony fresh scent, it’s an excellent choice for interior woodwork.

Perfect for Exteriors

Our Appearance Plus decking made from POC is not only strong, it’s safe for children. Unlike green treated material In addition to chemical-free decay deterrence, its texture remains smooth with no raised grain or slivering, and its durability makes it ideal for use in high- traffic outdoor sites.

What about floor plans? Do you have your own collection for your customers to peruse and can you modify plans for people?

We currently have around fifteen published plans on our website but I have hundreds within our archives. We typically deal with custom plans and seldom build from our published standard plans; those are mainly used as ideas, or a base to start our new design from. We can either altar one of our plans, start from scratch or create a plan using our customers scrap book of ideas.

American Log and Lumber can produce virtually any log profile and corner style; do you have a favorite any why?

Tom, that’s a loaded question. As a manufacturer and builder, I like logs and rustic construction in almost any style and form.  If we are speaking of efficiency and ease of build then we would go with a “D”, log style with a butt and pass corner system. The ease of construction lower cost of log material makes this the best choice in getting the biggest bang for your buck.

If strength is your driving force, then nothing beats a dovetail corner in an 8×12″ log. We built one in Port Sulphur LA and the customer called me after the last hurricane and told me that his home not only withstood the hurricane force winds and weather but that he could not even feel the walls move!! Now that’s a testament to engineering, construction, design, and the dovetail log which inter-locks each log together.

If overall beauty is your goal, then I like the Swedish Cope log for overall style. While the corners lock together much like the dovetail log, this system has less of a natural seal from the outside elements.  It is recommended that the cope system, which does not have a tongue and groove system, be chinked for the best chance at being air tight. Many of the corner styles and log profiles can be intermingled, so it’s important that we cover this in detail during the design process.

Editor’s note: Here are a few photos from American Log and Lumber’s website. View the gallery on their website here.

What is the best advice you would offer a new log home buyer?

It is very important for a new log home buyer to know exactly what they are getting into, from overall cost to construct to maintenance issues and cost as well as the common thoughts like budget, what’s most important, what companies offer the things you are looking for. It is important to do your research, pick five companies and narrow the list from there based on their ability to meet your needs and as always meet or speak with previous customers to make sure they can deliver what they say they can do for you. Pre-qualify with your financial institute, have them give you a list of things they will need from the log home company and builder.

Have your plans priced out by more than one company. If you own your plans you can submit them to more than one company for pricing. Make sure to compare apples to apples as the pricing comes back you may see a large disparity within the pricing; that’s because some companies sell log only packages and some sell complete material packages and some sell partial material packages. Make sure you understand what materials are provided and the grade and style as some companies deliver basic material as part of the package, while this all sounds good customers rarely use everything sent, or worse case it’s all delivered at the same time and ends up getting damaged, lost or stolen before its needed. Have them stage the deliveries if possible or simply cut the extra materials out and have the builder provide them locally. We do about five workshops per year that covers many of the important topics geared to first time log home enthusiasts. I would encourage them to attend at least on live workshop.

On your website you talk about “Natures Armor”. Is this a new product and what makes it different than other stains? Is it exclusive to American Log And Lumber?

Natures Armor is not a new company. It was started many years ago by a chemist that owned a wood sided home and was looking for a solution to having his home re-stained every two years. He began research and formulation taking seven years to come up with what is now called Natures Armor. He did not advertise or promote his product but word quickly spread in his neighborhood and throughout the community. He opened a manufacturing facility and people like me heard about this product. As I began to see the results and the longevity of this plant based water soluble product I got more interested. Since I’ve been in the business and even today re-staining can be the most costly part of the upkeep.

Natures Armor is an environmentally safe, professional grade natural plant based water-reducible oil finish that has been formulated to counteract the deterioration process of wood surfaces by utilizing natural plant oils and resins, which adhere to; penetrates and replenishes wood surfaces, creating dimensional stability through a process called molecular bond.

Because the satisfaction was so great American Log and Lumber chose to purchase the company and make it more excess able to anyone wanting a natural quality product on their home.

You have been in this business for a long time, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in log home construction vs. 10 or 20 years ago?

There have been many changes since I entered the business in 1980. The design for one now allows for more open floor plans. This opens the door to be much more appealing to a much larger target group. Log homes are no longer dark and dreary, with the open floor plans they are much more family friendly, usable, creating that one of a kind “warm and cozy feeling”, only a log home can provide. Log homes were rustic in nature back then but better design and manufacturing practices have opened the door for much more contemporary log homes that we see today. A new generation of log styling has begun within the last few years which incorporate many building products to make a home. We call this new style Hybrid; because it utilizes the very best of timber framing, log and stone to create a one of a kind home with much more eye appeal and character, while maintaining the energy efficient qualities of solid log.

This is a very competitive business, why should people buy from American Log and Lumber over its competitors?

While there are many quality well established log home companies, none provide the total package of service, product availability and material American does under one roof or at the wholesale prices offered by American log and Lumber. We work extremely hard to assure our clients are 100% satisfied. It’s important to know and understand what our clients wants and needs are and it is extremely important that the needs of our clients are translated from paper to production; that my friends is what makes dreams come true!

Your company seems to be involved in all aspects of log home manufacturing and construction, are there any other services you provide?

Yes Tom, along with our construction services we also provide restoration services. We pride ourselves in the restoration process. Restoring someone’s dream is as important as the design and construction phase. There are many aspects to restoring a log home, sometimes as simple as re-staining, however there are times where we have to replace logs. The trick is make the replacement logs look just like the original logs.

Homeowners often do not realize the small simple steps they can take in keeping their home looking as good as the day it was built. I create a personalized check list for each customer and do a walk around the home explaining things to watch for. We also send e-mail reminders to our clients reminding them to take action. We also have a service that gives our clients an opportunity to have us come back once a year to clean the home.

We do much more then just re-stain your home. We take every precaution to preserve your home. There are many things we can do to assure a trouble free home. Tom, education and prevention is a big service and we love providing them. Education is the best preventative maintenance available.  If folks are interested in seeing some of our projects they can follow us on Facebook or check out our photo sections on our web site.

About American Log and Lumber:

John Harper, Owner
Phone: (479) 243-3275
Email form

To Build or Not To Build...

That is the Question!

As many of you know, I am a woodworker; not by profession, but by love of the craft – it’s my hobby.  It is something I enjoy immensely, but I never seem to have enough time to do as much as I would like to do.  This is a problem for me and my bride whose honey-do list continues to grow longer every year.

I lie to myself all the time and I don’t seem to get tired of the self-deception.  I am always making myself some fantasy promise like “this Christmas I’m going to take some time off and play around in my shop”.  Then February rolls around and I remember my broken promise to myself and I kick myself (metaphorically) and make a new promise for the next holiday or long weekend.

Over the years I’ve met a lot of people like me.  Maybe it’s just human nature to have these good intentions and continually find excuses to avoid them or postpone action with some face-saving self-talk.  It is just so dang easy to procrastinate and justify to ourselves that something else is more important than fulfilling our dream.

I’ve met a lot of people who have fallen for this ruse while planning their log home project.  “Next year we’re going to break ground” or maybe “as soon as I retire we’re building that log home”.  Next year comes, and the next year and retirement happens and they’re no closer to achieving that log home dream than they were – many years ago. Like me and my woodworking projects, it just doesn’t seem to happen.

Obviously, building a log home is significantly more time consuming and expensive than planning a weekend woodshop escape, but the delaying tactics we use on ourselves are no different.  We put it off because (fill in the blank)…

  • I don’t have time right now
  • My finances aren’t in order
  • I need to retire first
  • Sell my house first
  • Don’t have my plans nailed down
  • Yada, yada, yada

If this kind of inaction has been keeping you from making the leap and committing to a log home, you’re not alone, but it is time to reprioritize and move forward.  Think about it… nothing is substantially different today than it was last year – or the year before that.  We all have the same worries, fears of the future and every other conceivable excuse we tell ourselves to justify our well-founded procrastination.

The one thing that has changed is within the log home industry itself. It has been many years since you could build a log home as inexpensively as you can today. Manufacturers are hungry and making deals that were unimaginable a few short years ago and you can find builders who can start your project next week.  Add to this our artificially low mortgage rates and you’re talking about a perfect storm that has developed around your log home plans.

Okay, you’ve procrastinated but the universe has been conspiring to place everything you need in front of you and has removed all obstacles except the very last one…your commitment to yourself.  It’s time.

Oh and BTW, I’m heading over to the shop.

Veterans Day 2012

Veterans Day just may be the most important national holiday the United States observes.  The 4th. of July commemorates our nation’s birthday and we celebrate other days to honor our moms, dads, Presidents, famous people and other holidays. But if you think about it, none of these other celebrations would be possible if it were not for the sacrifices made by America’s veterans.

Veterans Day

Some paid the ultimate price, but all sacrificed so that we could live in freedom and have the opportunity to live our lives, enjoy our families as a free nation under God and indivisible.  It is America’s veterans that preserve our constitution, our freedoms and our way of life. To them we owe everything.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Happy Veterans Day America!

Cabin Life?

What is “Cabin Life”?

People in every phase of buying, building and living in a log home or cabin visit this blog.  We talk to those trying to find the perfect log home floor plan or get quotes from builders and manufacturers, and many who have all that behind them and just want to get decorating ideas or learn about a particular topic.

The two most often used reference channels are of course, the Internet and magazines. One big edge that the Internet has over magazines are freebies called newsletters.  I can visualize you saying, “Yeah, tell me something I don’t know”…

Cabin Life NewsletterOkay, since you asked; are you receiving the free newsletter from Cabin Life magazine?  If you are not, you’re missing a great source of inspiration, ideas and tips. Whether you are in the “log cabin dreaming” phase or in the “post-building living in it” stage, you need to take advantage of this great freebie. Sign-up for free Cabin Life newsletter here.

I have been a subscriber to Cabin Life magazine and their newsletter for years.  What I like about these pubs is that they focus on the “post build” aspects of living in a log home or cabin…the fun part!  This is the ultimate log cabin accessory.

Cabin Life brings you the joy of cabin, cottage and lakehome living with ideas, information, and inspiration for your special place. Gorgeous photos, beautiful cabins, renovation ideas, delicious recipes and fun weekend projects are only a few of the things you’ll receive in every issue of Cabin Life magazine.

Get your free Cabin Life newsletter here!

Gastineau Log Homes

A Candid Interview with Lynn Gastineau

Lynn Gastineau is celebrating her 35th year in the log home business and she was gracious enough to give us this interview and share her thoughts on her business, the economy and some tips for people considering building a log home.  Gastineau Log Homes has been unique in featuring log homes of solid oak since 1977.  Enjoy and please share your comments below.

Tell us about Gastineau Log Homes; where it has been and what do you see for the future?

Gastineau Log Homes was started in 1977 in central Missouri because people kept coming to Gastineau Lumber Co. and asking them to cut them a log home!  My parents, Carl and Shirley Gastineau, had been in the sawmill and pallet business since 1955.  There were no log home companies in the Midwest at that time and nobody was offering Oak logs.   This baffled us, as Oak has traditionally been the “wood of choice” for log homes whenever it was available because of its natural resistance to decay and insects.  The pioneers always used Oak if they could because they knew the logs would last over time, even sitting on a rudimentary rock foundation.  From that humble beginning, we have become the worlds largest producer of Oak log homes and have shipped homes to all 50 states and 10 foreign countries.

The log home industry has evolved significantly in the past 35 years. I think the industry will continue to improve both structurally and in energy efficiency. We think people will always have the desire to live in a log home.   The comfort and feeling of security that come from being inside a log home cannot be achieved through any other type of construction.  As one of my customers told me, “After you live in a log home, you don’t want to live in anything else.”

Lynn Gastineau, President/Sales Manager of Gastineau Log Homes

Lynn Gastineau, President/Sales Manager of Gastineau Log Homes

Which wood species do you offer and why is it popular with your buyers?

We can offer any wood species but most of our sales are of Oak logs.  Since we can buy our raw Oak logs at a lower price than any other wood species, it is both an excellent choice for durability and strength but also an easy choice as it is affordable.  Our manufacturing process is designed for cutting hardwoods, so we can also offer cypress, cedar or Pine.  Most log home manufacturing plants are designed only for cutting softwoods, and they cannot offer Oak logs.

The Oak is popular with our buyers because it is beautiful, it is easier to maintain than other wood species, and because it does not require pretreating prior to construction.  This means that there are no chemicals on the interior of the home.  Another reason Oak is popular is the unique grain and knots that you find from one log to the next.   The oldest wood buildings in the world are made from Oak.  The natural longevity of Oak in buildings, ships and bridges is legendary.

Regarding floor plans, people can choose one of your plans or provide drawings or photos.  Is there an additional charge for creating custom floor plans?

No, the blueprints are included in the package.  We are very proud of our blueprints and the level of detail and engineering that we provide.  We far exceed simply the design of the home.  We have a licensed engineer on staff that oversees the preparation of the blueprints.  They are checked structurally from the initial design through the completion of the working drawings.  We use a true 3D CAD system and we actually draw the home in 3D.   This means that we cannot draw something that cannot be built.  It also allows us to provide as much detail as you may want about the construction.  For example, our program puts the sheathing on the roof in 4’ X 8’ pieces vs as a solid plane.  We can actually print out a roof sheathing plan if you wish.  We can show the framing for each wall in the home if you wish.  It is quite an amazing program.

What log profiles and corner styles does your company offer?

We offer all your basic profiles for the same price.  We have round, flat with bevel and flat without bevels for your interior or exterior.   Our standard log is 8” wide, but we offer either a 6” tall or an 8” tall log.

We offer butt and pass, saddle notched or dovetailed corners.  Our manufacturing of the saddle notch is unique in that each log has two cuts:  one on the top and one on the bottom.  By doing this, we can keep our rows aligned.  By this, I mean that row 4 of the front wall and row 4 of the side wall are at the same height.  Most companies only notch the bottom of the log and you have to start with a half log on some of the walls.  With this type of saddle notch corner, they are ½ a row off at the inside corner.  To me, this does not look good on the interior of the home.  So we go the extra step and double notch the logs.

We also have a flat/flat log with chinking between the logs.  This style, combined with the dovetailed corners, gives a true “Appalachian log” appearance to the home.  Normally this is done with our 8 x 8 logs but we can also provide walls using 6 X 11 Oak logs.

We also offer a half log wall system that can duplicate the look of a solid log home.  We offer all of our corner styles in our Therma Log packages too.  The Therma Log siding can be either round or flat with bevels as per the customers wish.  Our interior siding looks exactly like our solid logs and can be used in all or just part of the interior of the home.

The log home building process is confusing to many people. How does your company address the process as it relates to design, manufacturing, building, financing and other related buyer issues?

Communication is the most essential component of a smooth building process, both written and verbal.  We do this in many ways.  First, our package materials are explicitly provided in writing. (Our typical materials quote for a package is 3 pages.) Second, we pride ourselves on providing honest and prompt information and service to our customers.  Not just from the “salesmen” but from everyone in the company.  Our staff is thorough, knowledgeable, courteous, and caring.  We consistently receive ratings of “Excellent “ about the staff in our buyer’s surveys.  Third, we have a very complete and easy to read/understand construction manual.  Fourth, we find that each customer has different needs.   We try to help each customer in the way and manner that they require.  No two buyers are exactly alike.  We try to customize the experience as needed.  Fifth, we provide a Quality Assurance Visit and a Customer Satisfaction Visit with each home that we sell.  The QA Visit is done during construction.  We send an expert from our office to each job site to inspect the home to make sure it is built as per our construction manual.  This provides peace of mind to both the homeowner and the builder.  A construction expert also does the Customer Satisfaction Visit from our office who visits the home about six months after move in.  It is just another step to making sure our customers are 100% happy with their home.

Log Home Directory - Gastineau Log Homes

What’s the best advice you would give to a new log home buyer?

Buying logs for a log home is not like buying 2 X 4’s from a lumber yard.  You cannot ever change your decision about the logs that you use or the system used to seal between the logs.  Do business with people that are committed to this industry and have the experience and knowledge gained from providing log homes for many years.   They should approach their log wall as a system, with a goal of how that wall is to perform over the years.  And last, but not least, if they tell you that their logs will not settle, turn and walk away.  All log walls settle and a reputable log home company will provide the engineering to allow for it in their package.

Financing is much more difficult today than it was a few years ago. How is your company addressing this problem?

We work with any financing company or appraiser as needed for each customer.  For example, we have examined appraisals for customers and provided them with the information to go back to the appraiser to have the appraisal adjusted.  We have found financing for customers through local banks when they have not been able to locate a bank.  Each customer and situation presents a unique challenge and we address each one individually.  We are also in the process of putting together an appraisal “packet” for our customers to give to the appraiser prior to him preparing the appraisal.

Has your company won any awards or been recognized for an outstanding product or service?

In 1992, we were awarded the Small Business Export Award from the State of MO by John Ashcroft, who was then the Governor of Missouri.  Lynn Gastineau was awarded the SA Walters Award in 2001, which is the most prestigious award in the Systems Building Council of NAHB.  GLH has had several awards for both marketing materials and home designs through out the years.

The project that we are most proud of, however, was a home that was built inside of the Mall of America in conjunction with the Greater Twin Cities Children’s Cancer Research Assn.  We provided a home that was raffled off and raised over $300,000 for children’s cancer research.

What would you tell someone who is planning to build, but wants to wait until the economy improves?

If it is financially possible for you to build, this is  by far the best time for you to move forward.  Building cost are only going to increase as the housing industry recovers and when that happens, there are going to be shortages in both materials and available labor.  Also, the building codes on the horizon are going to add a tremendous cost to construction.  Even without the low interest rates that are currently available, you should not delay construction.  Do it now before it costs more and you have to spend extra money to meet the upcoming code requirements.

What is the reason that you feel customers should consider your company for their project?

You can trust the information that we provide as we can offer you any wood species you wish.  We have a proven, successful wall system.  We can design anything that you need and make sure that it is properly engineered. We will provide you as little or as much as you wish.  We will sell you “just your logs” if you want all the way to a deluxe package that even includes the trim.  We are committed to continually improving our product and our services.  And we will be here 25 years from now when you are selling your home and would like a copy of your blueprints to show to the buyer!  (Yes, that happens!)


Gastineau Log Homes
10423 Old Hwy 54
New Bloomfield, MO 63063

Phone (800) 654-9253
(573) 896-5122

Gastineau Log Home

Log Home + Woodstove = Happiness

First fire in the woodstove

In my last post I talked about getting ready for winter, and one of those annual log home chores is bringing in enough firewood to last through spring. Well, my bride is now happy that I can remove that project from my ‘honey-do’ list.  The weather (and other commitments) cooperated so that I was able to buzz-up about 5 cords of standing dead wood, which should see us through the cold weather.

As luck would have it, the nights had turned much colder last week and today we awoke today to a brisk 22 degrees.  So, we fired up the stove and had the first fire of the season today.  This photo shows the first fire and our firewood rack stocked full.

Woodstove and custom firewood rack

Firewood Rack

If you are new to this blog, you are probably not familiar with the custom firewood rack pictured above. I built this a few years ago to solve my problem of keeping an ample supply of firewood close to the woodstove.  This was a featured DIY project.

I wanted to have enough firewood to feed the stove for days, but I didn’t just want a big pile of wood stacked on the floor. As I thought this through, I decided to build a functional piece of rustic looking furniture that would act as a firewood holder, plus have a drawer to store matches and fire starters.  By the time I was done, I had added hidden casters for easy loading, and built the ‘rack’ from wrought iron supports. I used a big slab of Ponderosa pine for the top counter to finish it off.  The drawer handle was cut from an antler shed I found in the woods near our log home.

Indoor rustic firewood rack

Firewood Rack Plans

I dubbed this the “Ultimate Indoor Firewood Rack” and if you like my idea and would like to build it yourself, you can read all about how I made it and download my plans for free.  The cost of materials is less than you’d expect and if you have the tools you can put this together in a weekend. It’s funny, since I first talked about this (about 5 years ago), I have someone email me every year asking if I sell these racks.  Sorry to report that I do not, but maybe someday…

Is your log home ready for winter?

Fall is in the air…

Preparing for winter is something that every homeowner does in one way or another. Even if you live in a home clad in vinyl siding, there are always things that need done to keep Mother Nature where she belongs…outside. Log homes require a tad more TLC and preparation than other homes such as brick or other weather resistant materials.

Log Home staining and maintenanceLog home staining

One chore that can be an annual project depending on where you live, is staining.  One of the most popular posts on this blog was an article from 2008 that discussed staining a log home. This year alone that same post has had about 15 new comments. If staining your home is on your To-Do list you may want to see, Log Home Stains – Which is Best?

Got wood?

Many log homers heat their homes with a woodstove or keep a fire burning in the fireplace so the annual ritual of stockpiling firewood is one chore that needs attention. We use our woodstove as our primary heat source and this year I let too many distractions keep me from my summer exercise of dropping trees and buzzing them up for firewood. September rolled around and I realized I would need to buy wood this year.

Usually, I can find enough standing dead timber in my area to heat my home, but the chore of cutting down trees, cutting them up, splitting and hauling away in my truck was not going to happen before the weather turned.  So, I compromised and found a local fellow (thank you Craig’s List) who was clearing some land and was willing to sell lengths at a discounted price.  I bought a small logging truck load of 17’ trees of all sizes. There was a mix of diameters from 3” to 15” so not everything needed to be split. He dumped the logs on my property and I’ve spent the past few days playing lumberjack.

Firewood for Woodstove

Buying the wood this way saved me 30% of what I’d normally pay for a cord of wood that was cut to length and split. I enjoy (and need) the exercise so cutting these logs and splitting the large rounds seemed like a good compromise. I got my wood and my exercise and saved some money to boot.

I still have some staining to do before the weather gets much colder. My deck and railing tops need some attention. All the verticals are in great shape, but these harsh Montana winters play havoc with my deck.

What about you?  Do you have your winter prep projects finished?  What other fall chores did you do to get ready for winter? And, feel free to add to the discussion about which stain is best for log homes. As I mentioned, that article is now four years old, but people still read it and add comments as recently as this past week.

Is Solar on your Radar?

Solar has come a long way in the past few years…

Americans have always believed that they are leaders in the world in just about everything.  However with renewable energies this is far from the truth.  Germany is the world leader now in the use of solar renewable energy and the U.S. could be argued for being in the top ten at best.  But in the log home community, that is a different story. Moving to Montana 2 years ago and starting my company in the solar industry, I learned real quick that the architectural style that I liked the best was also associated with the industry I was moving into and had a passion for.  A large portion of the “Log Cabin” community is the REMOTE cabin lifestyle. And therein lies the necessity for sustainability, it is a requirement.  Folks that have a natural desire to be self sufficient tend to create their entire personal “system” to revolve around that way of thinking. They just “get it”!

Solar costs significantly reduced

Now with the significant changes in the economy and in our environment, Americans are waking up to the foot prints we are leaving behind.  Fortunately the costs of using solar energy has come down significantly at the same time and with knowledge of its availability becoming more prominent via the incorporation into more and more of our daily products, people are seeing it as the viable source of energy that it is.

When I decided to follow my passion and find ways to expand the use of solar energy, I took on a philosophy of “Any way I could help you unplug ANY device; I would” so it became my motto “Bringing green energy to the average household”.  At the time I didn’t even realize how broad that statement would be reflected in what I do. I have had the opportunity to work on small little projects like lighting up a business sign to keep from having to wire it, to putting a system on a local school.  Many of my other projects can be viewed on my project page. (

log home solar panels installed

So, the knowledge of renewable energy is growing and many people are becoming more interested, but a lot of my time is spent educating people on the specific options that are available to them in their “Home System”.  Every home or cabin is an entirely different situation and requires much evaluation of all the parameters.  Then I end up spending a good bit of time explaining the in’s and out’s of the financial end of things.

To begin with I usually recommend that everyone take a look at this government site ( it is a national reservoir of incentive information on all kinds of tax breaks and rebate programs.  Just click on your state to see all the details.

However, here in Montana there are 4 main programs when it comes to the use of solar renewable energy; first, the Federal tax incentive is 30% of the total cost is refunded to you directly. This is huge and it boils down to this, if you spend $20,000, you get $6,000 back when you file your taxes.   Second, the state of Montana offers a rebate of $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a married couple towards that system.  Everyone get these, but the next one is reserved for those on the Northwestern grid. Up till just recently it was $3 a watt up to $6,000 for a 2 KW system max. That was huge. Now with the costs coming down and many more installers in the state, they are revising the program to spread it out a bit more.

Full details may not be available for a few months. Those that are a part of co-op’s or are off grid cannot make use of this incentive.  For Montanans, there is another major program that is really an awesome financial vehicle. The Department of Environmental Quality offers a revolving loan program for assistance in financing the cost of renewable energy projects.  Currently it offers up to $40,000 at a 3.75% for a 10 year term. A lien is placed on the property as collateral.  With this program, virtually everyone could put a system on their home.

Solar ROI is 8-11 years

Simply stated, if you are going to be paying an electric bill anyway, why not apply it to a system that you will own. With the average ROI on a system being 8-11 years in this area, by the time you pay the loan of, you will have made the “power” to “pay” the system off. Montana has pretty low rates compared to the rest of the country. This would leave you another 15-20 years of system life and FREE power.

Another way to look at it is; what is the cost per kilowatt hour over the life of the system? For most of the systems I have done the math on it runs about 4-5 cents a kilowatt hour on average. Those here on Northwestern’s grid are paying 11 cents (half the cost), other places in the country are paying 30-40 cents a kilowatt hour, so there is your math. This is an investment into our future.

Off-Grid Solar Panels

With there being so many good options for home systems now and the costs being so low it would seem like it’s almost a no-brainer, but there is still a hesitation for many as the economy still is weighing on people’s minds. I have had so many people tell me that “we really want to do this but we are going to wait till next year”.  The logic behind this kind of baffles me. If you wait to see if the economy crashes to make your move then how are you going to make your move? Hmmm? Whereas, if you install the system and the economy does get crazy? At least you have power.  The remote cabiner’s get it. They call it being prepared.  Or just being sustainable.

For me it isn’t about the economy or the math or the ROI, it is about cleaning our energy up in every way we can. Even if you live in an apartment I can build a system that would allow you to power several if not many of your devices. Systems can be built for as low as $4-600 and all the way up to large commercial systems in the hundreds of thousands. So in the end the real question is “How can I help you clean up your energy?”


Erin Scott, owner of Scott Solar LLC

Editor’s comments: Erin is a network friend from LinkedIn. We had a discussion about solar solutions for log homes and she was kind enough to write this great article to help educate us about using solar to save money, save fuel and leverage that big resource in the sky.

Buying Log Home Insurance

Getting your insurance questions answered

Buying log home insuranceI probably don’t know any more than the next guy about buying insurance. I tend to lean on my agent to recommend what I need simply because I don’t have the time to learn everything there is to know about such an important subject. I would guess that I am typical of the average log home insurance shopper.

Unfortunately, the inability to find affordable insurance has kept some people from realizing their dream of log home ownership. Financing and insurance post the toughest challenges and some areas of the country are worse than others. Where I live in Montana log homes are as common as BMWs in Dallas and I have never talked to anyone local who has had a problem insuring their log home. However, I have learned that is not the case in other areas of the country.

As it happened, I met a lady on Facebook who is an independent agent representing a number of companies. We talked about the perils and pitfalls of insuring a log home and I suggested that she answer a few of the common questions related to log home insurance. She was gracious enough to cooperate an I have just published our log home insurance Q&A here.

Brenda K Hanson works with Best Rates Insurance Inc. and has written hundreds of policies for log home owners. She also represents some companies that can write insurance outside of Montana. She is highly regarded locally as a professional and someone who knows the insurance business. Read our Log home Insurance Q& A and if you have any questions or comments, please add them below, or feel free to contact Brenda directly. Her contact information is below the Q&A article.