08 May Concrete Logs Profiled by Vail Valley Home Magazine
Log cabins and luxury log homes seem to go hand in hand with the mountain lifestyle — except for wildfire danger and the fact that most homeowners would rather spend their money (or time) on outdoor recreation, as opposed to home maintenance. That’s why, when Scott Wylie built his second “log” home in Silverthorne he used concrete logs, instead of real, wood logs.
“I had a (wooden) log home before with 12- to 14-inch diameter logs, and every so many years you have to re-chink it and re-stain it. It was just constant maintenance,” Wylie Says. “After our experience with the real log home, I wouldn’t do it again.”
So in 2016, he began to construct a home with concrete logs and concrete siding from EverLog Systems. The company is one of many that provide an alternative to traditional, wooden logs through concrete logs, siding and timbers. The concrete products offer the look and texture of natural wood without problems like shifting, settling, shrinking, twisting, mold, decay, re-staining and re-sealing.
“With this EverLog home, I’ll never touch it. It doesn’t require chinking and staining,” Wylie says. “That’s the purpose: no maintenance; at 9,400 feet, you have to think about maintenance. Wtih 4 to 5 feet of snow on the ground for six or seven months, you don’t have much of a window to do the maintenance.”
That’s exactly why Craig Kuehl didn’t even consider real logs when he built his concrete log cabin in Leadville four years ago. As a second-home owner living in Wisconsin, he didn’t want to spend his time in the mountains staining or maintaining his home, which is also why he chose a metal roof and sunporch and a polymer deck.
In addition to being environmentally friendly — in terms of energy efficiency and lack of harvesting trees — concrete logs, timbers and siding are fire-resistant, with a Class A fire rating (minimum of three0hour fire rating) — a huge advantage in dry mountain climates when the snow has melted.
“We’re offering an alternative (to wood) — the same exact look and feel of a timber home, but none of the downsides,” says Stewart Hansen, president of EverLog Systems, adding that homeowners save approximately 20% to 30% on homeowners’ insurance, compared to wood-log or timber-sided homes. “Insurance and finance companies love them because they don’t degenerate.”
The concrete products provide superior insulation because concrete retains its internal temperature more efficiently than wood. EverLog Systems casts and additional 1 to 1 1/2 inches of insulation into its concrete logs. Concrete logs and siding also provide an exact fit; they are only chinked to make the finished home look just like a log one. Homeowners who use EverLogs save an average of 30% to 40% on annual heating costs compared to a wood-log home, according to the company.
“(Traditional log home proponents) like to talk about how thick those logs are, but there’s always a space in-between,” Wylie says. “There’s no comparison to the insulation (of concrete logs).”
“It really absorbs the sun, so that helps,” Kuehl adds.
Concrete log homes are so energy efficient and airtight that homeowners need an air exchange unit to keep indoor air healthy — or to keep the windows from fogging when boiling water.
“We have a lot of people put energy back on the grid,” Hansen says.
Looks and fees like real log
EverLog Systems uses a reverse molding process; it makes a mold out of a real wooden log, then casts a concrete version. Because it has so many different molds, customers don’t receive any repeat patterns. Detailed knots, cuts and hewing come out in every concrete log.
“I’ve had people stand on my deck, and when I would tell them ‘that’s not real logs,’ I literally had them take a pocket knife out and try to dig into it,” Whylie says. “When you run your hand over it, it feels like real log.”
Kuehl has even had people take a hammer and nail to the concrete-logs — and break their nails.
“You can’t really tell the difference,” Kuehl says.
EverLog Systems, like other concrete log companies, offers a few different products. The insulated logs project out anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches, three-dimensionally, as natural wood logs would.
“We include engineering with our structural logs, and they sit on the same foundation type as a conventionally framed home — 8-inch cast-in-place foundation,” Hansen says.
The company’s siding is made of lightweight, reinforced concrete, which comes in three colors (weathered gray, natural brown and golden; custom colors are available at an extra cost). The lightweight siding can be used in newly built homes or renovations; it doesn’t put additional stress on the wall.
While Kuehl decided to use natural beetle kill wood inside his concrete-log cabin, Wylie employed concrete siding for the interior walls of his living room, because he likes “the idea of making it look like a log home,” he says.
EverLog structural timbers can be used as trusses, posts, beams, outlookers, knee braces and other custom pieces in profiles ranging from hand-hewn and round to square, barn wood and recycled timber. The timbers weight about 100 pounds per lineal foot, and EverLog Systems’ timber prices include the installation.
In the Vail Valley, most homeowners choose either contemporary concrete planks or the more traditional and rustic 16-inch, hand-hewn profile concrete logs, Hansen says, adding that vertical board and batten is also popular in the mountains, especially on tables and dormers.
“Architects prefer (concrete logs) because they can come to us… and we’re able to produce basically whatever they want,” Hansen says.
EverLog products cost about the same as handcrafted wooden logs and installation is included with their structural products, while traditional log homes can cost an additional $15 to $35 per square foot to erect. According to EverLog Systems, it’s products don’t need modifications during construction, because each concrete log is manufactured precisely to architectural specifications (and electrical and plumbing don’t run through the concrete logs). Traditional log homes may necessitate trimming excess log lengths, resizing door and window openings, drilling logs for electrical and plumbing, crafting slip joint or other devices to accommodate log settling and creating butt joints to connect two logs unable to span required distances.
“They’re easier to install than (traditional) log by far,” Wylie says. “I have a good friend who restores log homes, and he jumped at the opportunity to install the concrete logs because they’re so much easier.”
When it comes to wooden log home maintenance, regular annual costs run about $750 or more, and every three o four years, homeowners must preserver, re-stain and re-seal the wood, at a cost of approximately $6,000 to $8,000.
Hansen says concrete log homes have higher resale values, since they are structurally superior to wood, are fire-, mold- and decay- resistant and carry little to no maintenance. The concrete stands up in year 50 as well as it did in its first year, he says.
Hansen calls concrete logs “wore free,” which is probably why not 0nly homeowners, but also commercial building owners and municipalities turn to concrete logs for everything from hidden structures to, say, a 30-foot-wide arched entrance to Snowmass.