Summertime or not, the topic of fireplaces always comes up. Here in Minnesota and Wisconsin, it is hard to imagine a log home without some sort of fireplace. It seems it is just about a requirement for a log home to have a fireplace with some stone work on it in the great room. It is an item that needs to be taken into account throughout the planning stages. You need to look ahead at furniture arrangements, a view out a window next to the fireplace and TV location are just a few of the items needing to be thought out ahead of time. Sometimes we install the TV over the mantel others will have the hearth extended next to the fireplace for the TV to sit on if they are combining TV and fireplace. Quite a few people picture the fireplace on the wall facing the lake or their main view. Keep in mind, the fireplace on that wall will take up window space and reduce your view. Fireplace chases are usually close to six feet wide or wider so that can take quite a bit of window out of a wall, especially if the great room isn’t very wide. We see most go with the fireplace located in the corner or on the side wall at that point.
There are several types of fireplaces to choose from. First, is the basic gas fireplace. It looks decent, throws a little heat in the general area and is perfect for those that don’t want to deal with cutting and splitting wood as well as carrying it into the house. A flick of the switch on a gas fireplace and your fire is there with no effort. This photo shows a gas fireplace with cultured stone.
Another fireplace we see installed is a regular wood burning fireplace. A basic wood burning fireplace will throw a small amount of heat in the immediate area of it but they are more of a decorative fireplace than a heat source. They are great for ambience with the smell and sounds that can only come from a real fire. Most of these fireplace are considered “zero clearance” which means they are installed through a framed chase that is usually covered with cultured stone. The photo below shows a wood burning fireplace
A step up from a wood burning fireplace like I mentioned above is one that actually can be used as a heat source. They usually have glass doors, fans and vents that can circulate the heat. Some can even be vented into the venting system of the house. A wood burning unit like this is available in many sizes to suit the size of house you are building. They do cost more but will pay off with reduced heating costs. Some of these units are zero clearance while quite a few of them are required to be installed in a full masonry chimney for optimum performance, efficiency and safety. We have installed Acu-Craft brand some of the homes. They make a great product like the one shown below and are located right here in Minnesota.
As full service Minnesota log home builders we are here to help with items beyond the build such as helping you select the right fireplace for your log home. Also, check out the redesigned website for Wild River Log Homes when you get time.
It may finally be safe to say spring is finally here to stay and summer isn’t too far behind. We have been busy here at Edlund Construction gearing up for both the building and restoration seasons now that the weather is being a bit more cooperative. We have wrapped up the rebuilding of the log home that burned and are hitting the road with some restoration and repair services now. If you need some refinishing work don this summer let us know and we can check out your project and give you a bid. As we all know, the summers here can zip by pretty fast.
On another note, our website has been recently updated. We added a page showing some of the log profiles and corner types that we build with. Like I have mentioned before, we build both full log and half log construction and can help you throughout all phases of the project and offer profiles ranging from 7″ to 12″ tall. All are hand peeled with no repetitive pattern that some of the automated peelers do. Edlund Construction works with Wild River Log Homes and can offer you the log home you desire at a competitive price.
As we all know, energy costs are going to keep rising. Luckily, log homes are very energy efficient. The thermal mass of full log is a very efficient way of building. Those that opt for half log construction also gain in efficiency through the added thickness of the half log attached to the 2×6 framed wall. Most of the 8″ tall half logs are usually 4″ thick. Add some interior log and you end up with 14″ thick walls in those areas! That is a lot of space between you and the elements. Whether you build half or full log, spray foam insulation such as Icynene should be considered if the budget allows it. Spray foam can be approximately double the costs of fiberglass but offers a quicker return on the investment over some other alternatives such as geo-thermal systems. Spray foam is very efficient, seals up any air pockets and closed cell foam also acts as your vapor barrier. We get asked about geo-thermal systems quite a bit and have been involved in a few with our projects over the last few years. They do add costs, the most recent one came with a $40,000 price tag to it by the time the excavating was done and the back up heating system was installed. If you are not going to be living in your home all year it will take a long time to recover the investment of geo-thermal. They are an excellent way of heating and cooling but it will be up to you to go over the initial cost to see if it is right for you. A majority of log homes we build here in Minnesota will have radiant heat in at least the basement floor. We see a lot of off-peak electric boilers being used. They are a great alternative to higher priced systems such as geo-thermal. The initial cost is much less and the monthly expense is reasonable being you are buying the power at off-peak rates. Electric off-peak water heaters are also popular. Again, you are buying discounted electric. Most power providers offer some sort of off-peak rates along with dual fuel discounts. Either contact them or look on their websites to see their programs that they offer. Most of the Minnesota log homes we build are in rural settings so some of the homeowners we have worked with have had wood boilers installed. A wood boiler for a 2000 sq. ft home can run close to $10,000 by the time you buy the unit, pour the concrete slab for it to sit on, wire it and run the tubing into your home. Most will have the boiler heat the basement and garage slabs and also run through the forced air system to heat the rest of the homes. They do save on fuel but again, have an upfront cost that has to be taken into account. The boilers are always supplemental so the home already has a forced air system in place so the boiler is above and beyond that for cost. If wood has to be purchased rather than cut from your own lot then there won’t be much for overall savings so you may want to consider other alternatives. Solar panels are another option. They seem to be coming down in price and are more popular with people in the northern areas of Minnesota that aren’t on the power grid.
On their own, log homes are a very efficient way of building. Add in spray foam insulation and some alternative ways of heating and you can stretch the energy dollar further than other methods of building.
Here in Minnesota log homes or conventional homes are usually built on full basements. In my earlier blog I touched on different types of foundations for your log home: slab, crawl space and basement. This blog I’m going to mention the options available for full basements.
First is one method that has been used for years and is the most popular and that is concrete block. The blocks are stacked by a mason to form the walls of your basement. Usually, here in this region, we see block foundations less expensive as other options. Some will opt for a decorative concrete block above grade. Decorative block add to the appearance over a standard concrete block. We have even built walkout walls with decorative concrete block. It saves on the budget a bit rather than framing the walkout wall and covering the exterior with stone.
Next is a poured concrete wall. The footings are the same as those used for block foundations but that is where the similarities end. Forms are brought in and set on top of the footing and concrete is then poured into the forms forming a solid concrete wall for your foundation. The thickness of the wall is usually around eight inches. After the concrete has cured the forms are removed and your basement is ready to go.
Both block and poured concrete foundations get waterproofed on the exterior, usually using a sprayed waterproof coating.
Another option is Insulated Concrete Forms or also known as ICF foundations. ICF is foam “blocks” that are put together on your footings. They have foam on the exterior and interior and the concrete is poured in between the foam layers creating an insulated foundation. There are many brands of ICFs to choose from on the market. The thickness of the foam is usually around 2.5″ and the thickness of the concrete can be anywhere from six to twelve inches thick depending on the manufacturer. The attached photo gives you an idea of what an ICF form looks like.
ICF foundations are an upgrade over block and regular poured foundations. They do add some energy efficiency to your basement and we have built on many of them over the years. Keep in mind the exterior foam does need to be covered and Minnesota and Wisconsin code mandates the interior foam is covered with drywall or T&G before getting your certificate of occupancy. Keep that in mind if you were planning on finishing your basement sometime in the future rather than right away.
Another style of foundation we have seen but isn’t all that popular is wood foundations. Treated wood is framed like a conventional wall and installed on a footing that is usually gravel rather than concrete.
We have built on every style of foundation and we can help you through the process to figure out what works best for you. Give Edlund Construction a call or email with any questions you may have.
Here in Minnesota, log homes can be built on any type of foundation: slab, crawl space or full basement. We get asked quite a bit about foundations and if one is better than the other. For the most part we build on full basements that are either eight or nine feet tall. Some of these basements may be walkouts while some may be look out style. A look out style basement is only partially in the ground, maybe only four feet or so. Sometimes soil conditions such as high water tables will dictate the depth of the footings. We have seen a lot of people opt for radiant heat under the basement floor slab. Some will rough it in while others will have it hooked up and running right away.
Others may opt for a crawl space which may be a total height of four or five feet inside. We treat a crawl space like a regular basement and pour a concrete slab for the floor, install drain tile and waterproof the foundation walls. Crawl spaces can be used for some storage and to house some of the utilities. We will run heat down there so the well tank and low boy water heaters can go there. The furnace can also be down there, usually suspended from the floor joists. Finished cost between crawl space and full basement aren’t too far apart.
Slab construction is another option. We see slabs used in higher water table situations were the risk of a wet basement runs higher. Also we see slabs used where the homeowners are downsizing and just don’t need the extra space. We still excavate to get the footings below the frost line for code and build a concrete wall up from there. Fill sand is then brought in, foam insulation is put down and the concrete slab is poured over the foam. Almost all of the homeowners that build on a slab have us install in-floor radiant heat before the floor is poured. In-floor heat along with the logs make for a very energy efficient home. In the winters here in Minnesota and Wisconsin it is tough to beat warm floors! We have also ran a lot of radiant heat under quite a few garage slabs as well. In northeastern Minnesota and over to the north shore of Lake Superior there a lot of ledge rock and very little topsoil in areas. In those areas sometimes the foundation may have to be pinned to the rock.
Which foundation is “better” may be dictated by the site conditions. Edlund Construction, as Minnesota log home builders, is here to help you through the process and will help determine items such as which basement is best for you.