Log homes are rooted in American history, and it’s not likely that the rustic appeal will fade for centuries. The 9th U.S. President, William Henry Harrison, ran as the “log cabin candidate” in the 1840 election, partly to shore up votes from the frontiersmen, though Harrison himself was anything but; he was born into what could have been dubbed Virginia nobility. He won by a landslide, delivered a two-hour inauguration speech on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in very cold weather, caught pneumonia and died 32 days later. The 13th and 16th U.S. Presidents, Fillmore and Lincoln, were born in log cabins, and there’s a warm, cozy, nostalgic aura about them.
Among the positives are the relative inexpensive cost of white pine and the fact that half logs can anchor to regular studs, eliminating the shrinkage issue which so often causes expensive maintenance. All the modern conveniences of any stick built home can be installed. Logs naturally insulate for sound, and interior walls can be finished with wallboard for a modern, smooth and bright interior. If caulked properly, energy savings up to 20 percent might be realized over conventional home construction. Of course, appearance is a huge factor, with nature enthusiasts embracing log homes in country, rural and small town settings.
Of course, wood attracts termites, carpenter ants, bees and woodpeckers. “Routine pest control maintenance such as spraying and adding appropriate insecticide to exterior stains will help repel damaging insects,” says Joan Mitchell, Realtor® of RE/MAX 8 in Blacksburg, who has been involved in sales of log houses.
New logs make cracking and popping noises as they settle. Using whole logs exposed on the inside creates a tricky environment in which to bury electric wires and cables, which are most often strung behind wallboard. According to Mitchell, “a good builder will plan for wiring conduit before the logs are installed.”
The whole log approach also nearly assures warmth in summer and coolness in winter, without conventional HVAC systems to counteract. Houses must be sealed every few years to prevent moisture collection and natural decay. Depending on the space between logs, regular chinking is required to keep the structure tight.
“Log homes have a unique real estate market,” Mitchell explains. “Many people enjoy the natural look of a log home, but the number of people who purchase log homes makes up a small percentage of buyers. If you’re thinking of owning a log home, consider re-sale issues such as location and number of bedrooms. Choosing a floor plan that will stand the test of time will help a future sale go more quickly.”
Darin Greear, Realtor® of Long & Foster in Blacksburg, concurs. “The log home market does require a homeowner who is inclined to that type of construction. Most buyers looking for a stick built home are not interested in a log home. However, there are people who are mainly interested in log homes, country settings, covered porches and large, vaulted living rooms and massive stone fireplaces.”
If you have close to a million dollars handy and want the best of both worlds, you can purchase a spectacular log home with waterfront on Claytor Lake. The newly constructed Southland log house features a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, hot tub and home office, heated floors, three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.
“This is an exceptional location and house,” says Debra Chase, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Townside in Blacksburg. “Quality touches like pocket doors, four zone heating, ceramic tile, custom cabinets and countertops in a gourmet kitchen, a patio plus two screened porches and exposed beams set this property apart and above waterfront properties.” Outdoor living here has almost as many amenities as indoor with boat and jet ski lifts, an outdoor fireplace and built-in Jenn-Air® grill, stone walls to capture runoff water and electricity and lighting waterside on the dock.
“Log homes are what dreams are made of for some buyers in the market,” explains Greear. “They visualize the coziness of relaxing beside the fireplace and sipping hot chocolate during the cold winter months. Even though the market is much smaller, log homes do sell in the New River Valley.
“While it’s not for everyone,” Mitchell observes, “those who seek the rustic setting and natural environment of a log home find a connection to nature that is special and unmatched in other style homes.”
Giles County residents, Bobby and Susan Thompson built their log home more than 15 years ago and cannot imagine raising their kids anywhere else. “We both love stone and wood,” says Susan. “In spite of the maintenance, we love it. We adjusted for settling when we put in the windows and doors. Our floors are from Bobby’s grandfather’s barn, and he and his brother cut and planed all the ceiling pine boards. The kids say we can never sell, because now they don’t think they can live in anything but a log home!”
By Joanne M. Anderson♦ End