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Log Home Terminology

Mountain Creations Log Homes is pleased to offer our Log Home Academy members a complete online log home terminology resource.  Here you will find a glossary of log home terms from Adze to Truss.  Please use this valuable resource when looking for definitions for terms related to building your new cedar log home.


  • Adze - An adze is similar to a common axe, except the blade is horizontal (some are slightly cupped) and slopes at a downward angle.  An adze is typically used to remove bark from trees in log home construction for a hand peeled or more rustic look.
  • Air Dried - This method ismost commonly used to remove excess moisture from felled trees such as cedar.  Due to the low moisture content of cedar, this is an effective and natural method to remove any excess moisture.  This method is not recommended for other species of wood with high moisture content.
  • Anchor Bolt - Threaded steel rod with a primary function of anchoring the sill plate to a concrete foundation.
  • Back Fill - Process of refilling dirt removed for construction around a constructed foundation.
  • Beam - Horizontal structural members attached to a post bearing the weight of the joist or other lateral member. A structural member supporting a load applied transversely to it.
  • Bearing Wall - Any structural wall used to support part of the load of the house such as the second floor or roof system.
  • Bevel - The cut used on the edge of any board forming a 45 degree angle.
  • Birds Mouth - A type of notch cut into a rafter to directly match its supporting member.
  • Board Foot - A measurement for lumber represented by a board 1 foot long, 12 inches wide, and 1 inch thick or its metric equivalent.
  • Bow - The deviation from one end of a piece of lumber to the other having the appearance of a curve.
  • Bracing - Smaller timbers mounted diagonally between uprights making the assembly (wall, structure) more rigid.
  • Bridging - Boards placed between beams or joists to prevent sway or sideways movement.
  • Buck Material - Material used to create rough openings in log walls for windows and doors.  This is typically 2 X 6" stud materials for a 6" log wall.
  • Butt Joint - The point at which 2 pieces of lumber meet or come together.  A basic joinery technique in which two members are joined by butting them together end-to-end. The butt joint is the simplest joint where two logs on the same course join end-to-end.
  • Butt & Pass - A type of corner construction where logs alternatively butt and pass each other to form a stacked log appearance.  Butt-and-pass keeps the logs around the entire structure at the same level thus producing a proportional look on both the inside and outside.  One clear advantage to using this style is the ease of building and no recessed notches or pockets that could trap water.
  • Cants - Wood stock produced by a machine (canter) that requires further processing (i.e. logs cut square, or rectangular). Cants are produced from green logs that are delivered to mills by local loggers. These cants are then used to make dimensional lumber, beams, logs or siding, etc.
  • Checking - Checking is a natural occurrence in wood components that contain the pith, or center of a tree. Lateral splits in a log resulting from internal stresses caused by drying.  Wood shrinks as it loses moisture and the shrinkage is twice as much in width as it does in length. Since the circumference shrinks at twice the rate as the diameter, something has to give and that is the wood fibers that pull away from each other. The cracks are called "checks" and will occur in all large timbers. Very rarely do they cause structural weakness if the proper grade of timbers has been chosen for each application. Many people view them as adding character to the log, especially since checks are a feature of antique structures.
  • Collar Tie - A horizontal connector between a pair of rafters used to reduce sagging or spreading of the rafters. A collar beam is a horizontal timber which ties rafters together at a height above the wall plate.
  • Corner Post - A type of corner construction whereby vertical posts are used on all external corners.  The log wall would run to meet the corner post on all corners.
  • "D" Style Log - D-Log is a profile you can choose for your milled log home. Named for its shape, each log is milled round on the outside and cut flat on the inside, giving you a traditional log home look outside with a straight log wall on the inside.
  • Decking -
  • Dimensional Lumber - Wood manufactured in a variety of sizes for use in wall framing, flooring systems, and roof trusses, as well as for exterior applications. A 2x4 is dimension lumber with an actual finished size of 1.5” thick by 3.5” wide.
  • Dormer - A projection out from the roof using a lower pitch to allow more usable head space.
  • Dry -In - A 'dry-in' package generally includes everything that is required to get a home to the "dry-in" stage which means the home is protected from the exterior elements.
  • Eave - The edge of a roof that overhangs the wall to provide weather protection.
  • Elevations - Exterior view of a home rendering that shows the location of the building relative to the grade of the land on which it sits.
  • Fascia - The vertical boards nailed to the lower ends of rafters. That piece of trim on which you would mount gutters.
  • Fastener - Hardware used to anchor, mount and secure logs and timbers.  Refers to a nail, screw, bolt, wooden pegs or anchor.
  • Flashing - Used to prevent water entry between areas of a roof, deck, or siding to an adjoining surface such as a chimney, wall, or vent pipe, etc. Typically made out of copper or aluminum, rubber or tar.
  • Foam Gasket - A water resistant foam material that is inserted between logs and other building components to prevent air and water from entering. Tongue and groove log systems use foam gaskets that compress to seal the joint between rows of logs.
  • Footer - The below-grade (underground) portion of foundation that the foundation walls set on.  Usually trenches of poured concrete surrounding the perimeter of the home or below each pier.
  • Foundation - The structure (poured concrete, pilings, etc.) that supports the first-floor construction and may be partially located below grade.
  • Gable - The pitched portion of the home located above the eave section.  A triangular portion of a wall between the lines of a sloping roof.
  • Glulam - Glue laminated wood.  Glulam is a stress-rated engineered wood product comprised of wood laminations, or "lams," that are bonded together with strong, waterproof adhesives. GluLam beams are also fire-retardant.
  • Green Building - These days we pay a lot of lip service to eco-friendly ideas and the greenies push for public awareness and legislation about saving the planet. If the word ever gets out about how "green" log and and timberframe homes are, it will create a demand that will send log home prices skyrocketing. Logs used as the main building material produces an energy efficient home with almost no waste as opposed to traditional building methods. With a log home every bit of the log is used efficiently.  Green building applies to the total home environment, including the external landscaping.
  • Hand-Hewn - The process of using an adze to rough-trim the surface of logs, which gives logs a hand-crafted appearance. Milled logs can be given this effect at additional cost.
  • Header -  A structural log or timber that supports other logs.  Also joists and rafters where they are cut around a horizontal opening, such as a window or door.
  • Hip - An external angled ridge formed by two adjoining planes or the meeting of two sloping sides of a roof with wall plates running in different directions.
  • HVAC - An acronym for "heating, ventilation, and air conditioning".  Basically, the method(s) you will choose to heat and cool your log or timberframe home.  As an example, you may choose to use in-floor radiant heat supplemented by a woodstove or fireplace insert.
  • Hybrid - A hybrid is a mix of styles and/or building components. A timber frame structure may use log siding or logs or even conventional stick-built methods and materials. Conversely, a log home may employ exposed timberframe beams to compliment the design.
  • I Joists - Structural members made of two pieces of LVL held together with a web of OSB. Substituted for wide dimensional lumber as a support for a ceiling or floor. I-Joists are stronger pound for pound, straighter and more reliable than traditional lumber, with reduced moisture content for floors with fewer pops and squeaks.
  • Insulation - A material which impedes the transfer of hot or cold air.
  • Jamb - The sides, top, and sill of a window, door, or other opening.
  • Joint - A junction of 2 pieces of wood.
  • Joinery - The joining together of wood components often without employing mechanical or non-wood fasteners. In furniture and log home and timberframe construction, joinery most often refers to corners techniques and mortise and tenon joints. Joinery used to build a house is different from that used to make toys, but elements of the process overlap.
  • Joist - The structural members which support the floor and ceiling loads. A joist is one of the horizontal supporting members that run from wall to wall, wall to beam or beam to beam, to support a ceiling, roof (or floor). Typically a beam is bigger than a joist and thus is distinguished from a joist.
  • Kiln Drying - Kiln dried logs have had their moisture content reduced as a result of heat and humidity conditioning to artificially dry the log ultimately reducing the effects of shrinking, checking and warping of the logs when used later in construction.  Kiln drying green wood permits it to be used immediately.  Kilns are thermally controlled compartments (or ovens), in which proscribed temperature regimes accelerate the moisture removal.
  • Knee Brace - A small support timber (often decorative) that is framed diagonally between a post and a beam via a mortise and tenon joint. The strength of the frame structure is significantly dependent upon properly fitted knee braces.
  • Knee Wall - A short wall, usually under three feet in height; commonly called a half-wall, or partial-wall.  These walls can be of any length and are most often used to provide additional support to roof rafters with a wide span.
  • Knots - Discolorations and compositions in wood as a result of branches growing from the tree. Grades are determined by the size and frequency of knots. The fewer knots in a board, the better the grade (clear, #2, etc.).
  • Lintel - A lintel or header is a horizontal log, beam or support member spanning an opening in a wall, such as a door or window opening.  (also lintol or lintil, lyntil)
  • Load-Bearing Walls - A wall that supports its weight and the weight of the corresponding structure located above it. As a rule interior walls that run perpendicular to the run of the floor joists above and below are load bearing walls.
  • Log Profile - The cross-sectional shape of a milled log. There are a variety of milled profiles such as D Log, square, rounds, log siding, Swedish Cope, etc.  Some manufacturers have their own unique profiles and names.
  • Log Profile Siding - Milled from dimensional lumber that is machined to have a log appearance.  Log siding creates the appearance of a full log home, but offers the convenience of a stick-built, hollow wall structure and is very affordable. Log siding is designed with tongue & groove edges making installation easy while conserving raw materials making it a zero-waste product.
  • LVL - Laminated Veneer Lumber has consistent dimensions and density and is stronger and straighter than traditional lumber.
  • Moisture Content - The amount of water (moisture) contained within wood/logs. It depicts the percentage weight of water relative to the dry weight of the wood. Significant shrinkage from drying wood does not occur until all free water has been removed. Free water is found between wood cells and bound water is found within the cell walls. The point at which no free water remains and shrinkage begins is known as the fiber saturation point (FSP), which occurs at about 28 percent moisture content.
  • Notching - Notching timbers to seat other support timbers.  A recess cut into a log to accept another log intersecting it at an angle. There are many different types of notches.
  • On-Center - A standard measurement for spacing studs, rafters, floor joists, etc. It is the measurement from the center of one member to the center of the next.
  • OSB - Oriented Strand Board is an APA rated structural panel replacement for plywood which usually outperforms plywood of the same dimensions. OSB has been widely accepted and has virtually replaced other building panels in new residential construction in many areas in North America.
  • Perc Test - The percolation test (perc or perk test) is used to determine the suitability of a property location for a septic drainage system by determining the absorption rate of soil for a septic drain field or "leach field". Requirements may vary, but a series of holes are drilled into which water is poured. The rate at which the water is absorbed into the surrounding soil is the percolation rate. This rate, along with an estimate of the daily rate of sewage flow will determine if the site is suitable for a septic system.
  • Pitch - The slope of a roofs rise over a run. A pitch of 8 means that the roof rises 8 inches for every 12 inches of horizontal run.
  • Plumb - A building's component or unit (wall, studs, windows, etc.) that is exactly vertical and perpendicular to horizontal members. i.e. doors and windows should be hung plumb.
  • Pressure Treated - Pressure treatment is a process that forces chemical preservatives into the wood to extend their normal lifespan and protect from rot or insect damage. Wood is placed inside a closed container, then vacuum and pressure are applied to force the preservatives into the wood. The preservatives help protect the wood from attack by termites, other insects, and fungal decay.
  • Purlin - A horizontal structural unit used to support roof rafters between the wall and the ridge beam.
  • Rafters - Structural members used to support the roof. Roofing is nailed directly to the top of the rafters. In log homes and timberframe buildings, rafters are often replaced by trusses due to span limitations, roof load or ascetics. In some applications, additional support is provided by knee walls.
  • R Value - A term used to rate the insulation properties of construction materials and buildings. The higher the R-value, the greater insulation value. It is a measurement of a material’s resistance to the flow of heat.  It is important to know the R-value because some states or regions require that a roof and or wall system have a minimum amount of thermal resistance on new buildings.
  • Ridge Beam - Horizontal structural unit used to support the rafters.
  • Ridge Vent -  A ridge vent is usually installed to promote attic ventilation.
  • Riser - The material used to span the distance between the treads on the stairs.
  • Sheathing - Sub-floor material such as plywood, particle-board, OSB, which is applied to floor support members.
  • Sill - The bottom board (plank, timber or stone) of a window or door opening or wall.
  • Slab - Concrete foundation on the ground.
  • Soffit - The boards nailed to the underside of a roof's overhang and abutting the fascia.
  • Splines - A piece of hardwood used to seal joints.
  • Stringer - The support on which a stair tread rests.
  • Structural Insulation Panels (SIPS) - SIPs are high performance building panels used in floors, walls, and roofs for residential and light commercial buildings.  SIPs are manufactured by inserting a core of foam insulation between two structural skins of oriented strand board (OSB). Other skin material can be used for specific purposes. SIPs can be custom designed for each home resulting is a building component that is extremely strong, energy efficient and cost effective saving time, money and labor.
  • Stud - A wood unit used as a supporting element in walls and partitions.
  • Strut - A structural longiudinal unit.
  • Subfloor - The supporting unfinished floor on the first level above the foundation.
  • Thermal Mass - The property of logs in a log home to store and (hold) delay the transfer of heat, as does stone or metal. This feature, along with the natural insulating ability of wood, is what makes log homes exceptionally energy efficient. Thermal Mass allows a log to absorb heat during the hottest part of the day and return it to the house during the cooler night, without transferring it through the wall. A log wall's thermal mass makes it more energy-efficient as a well-insulated stick-built wall.
  • Tie Beam - A structural member anchored to opposite walls to prevent the walls from pushing out from the weight of the second floor or roof.
  • Toe Nailing - Driving a nail in at an angle into another wood member.
  • Tongue & Groove - A joinery method on the edges of lumber and plywood products such as tongue & groove siding or flooring.  One board is cut leaving a projecting tongue that fits into a corresponding groove in the edge of next member.
  • Transom - A small hinged window positioned above a door.
  • Tread - The horizontal part of the stairs.
  • Truss - In structural engineering, the term truss identifies a structure comprising one or more triangular units constructed with straight members whose ends are connected at joints. Trusses are used because they make very efficient use of the strength of the members. The key to a truss is a triangle. All members must be connected so that only triangles are formed. The ends of the members all connect at a common point (the joint). The members are connected so that only triangles are formed.
  • Zoning - Almost every urban or rural area uses some type of zoning to regulate how land can be used. The primary purpose is to designate land uses that are compatible, such as not permitting a new housing development that might have a negative impact on existing residents or businesses.
Mountain Creations Log Homes would like to thank Log Cabin Directory and their sister site Loghomeology for providing definitions a portion of the above log home terms.
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