Log homes stand the test of time

Log homes stand the test of time
Once debarked, the surface of the smooth logs is essentially both the cladding externally and wallpaper for the interior.

As the owner of Aspiring Log Homes, Mathew (Mat) Rusher is possibly one of the few builders in New Zealand regularly working with thousand-year old trade skills.
The ability to craft mortise and tenon joins on timber posts and beams, similar to that originally used in the roof of the now partially destroyed 800 year-old Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, is all part and parcel of Mat’s craft.
Like Notre Dame, log houses have stood the test of time, Mat says.
He claims every log house built by Aspiring Log Homes will last a minimum of 300 years; he has seen log houses in Canada and in Switzerland, where they originated, that are more than 1000 years old.
This means meeting the New Zealand building code’s B2 standard, which specifies building materials, components and construction methods must meet minimum durability of up to 50 years with only normal maintenance, is unlikely to be a problem.
Mat started the business in Dunedin seven years ago after originally learning and practising his craft in Canada.
He says the character and warmth of the logs, both inside and out, has immense appeal.
“We get a lot of people who have wanted one for years. Sometimes it’s because they stayed in one overseas.”
The degree of hand-built craftsmanship involved means the logs arrive at Aspiring Log Homes yard in Burnside straight from a plantation with the bark still on.
Once debarked, the surface of the smooth logs is essentially both the cladding externally and wallpaper for the interior.
Typical build time for the building envelope – the walls and roof – is four to six months; once Mat and his team are finished, the project is handed over to traditional tradesmen.
After building many log house for others, Mat has finally been able to set time aside to build his own house, a two-storey, three-bedroom 120sqm building with an attached 30sqm glasshouse/conservatory.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, build my own house, by myself. It’s an achievable size to build.”
Mat says one of the purposes of the glasshouse/conservatory is to transfer heat into the house during winter, an idea he got from the design of earthship houses.
The thickness of the logs means their thermal mass has good insulation value, the equivalent of a traditional timber frame house with a 200mm insulated wall cavity.
The cost of building a log house, at $2500 a square metre, is similar to that of a conventional house.
Crucial to keeping a log house’s exterior looking great and to protect and preserve the timber is the application of a quality oil, Mat says.
Aspiring Log Homes uses CD50 Timber Protection Oils supplied by New Zealand-owned company Churton Pacific.“It’s rated to be the better product on the market; it’s better for weather protection and they have a good choice of colour tints.”
For maximum protection, each house built by Aspiring Log Homes has two applications of CD50; this penetrates deep into timber so it cannot peel or flake.
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