Edgewood has originated numerous design and engineering innovations in custom log home design and construction, solving a myriad of challenges and freeing architects from the design constraints that building with logs previously posed. Exclusive to Edgewood, these innovations are recognized game-changers in the log construction industry, significantly contributing to both the structural integrity and aesthetics of your custom log home.
Perhaps more than any other element of an Edgewood log home, the Glass Forest window system stands out for its unique beauty and rugged “outdoors inside” style. When complete, this window system conveys the dramatic appearance of a live, majestic tree growing within soaring, trim-less glass window panels.
Having designed and constructed numerous log homes in Japan, Edgewood Log Structures Founder and President Brian Schafer was selected in the 1990s to represent the Spokane Chamber of Commerce as the Wood Products Representative on a two week “sister city” trip to that country. When the two weeks were up, Brian stayed on, absorbing Japanese architecture and exploring the country’s cultural reverence for wood and centuries-old tradition of working with natural materials. During this time he met a master carpenter who invited him to visit his “warehouse” in the heart of Tokyo.
As Brian remembers, the space was incredible. Two hundred feet long and fifty feet wide, this warehouse was essentially a gallery filled with incredible pieces of art in the form of furniture his carpenter friend had hand-crafted from wood. He recalls, “As I meandered through, I came upon a piece I couldn’t help but touch. It was like nothing you have ever seen in your life. It looked like a tree that someone, over the course of several millennia, had rubbed on long enough to create a space to sit in. It was glass smooth, ‘like touching a woman,’ the carpenter said to me.”
In the context of this raw creativity and veneration of wood, Brian became attuned to the Japanese architectural theme of blurring interior and exterior space. Where does the outside begin and the interior end? Can we blur that line somehow so that we can bring the outside into the house and enjoy it?
That’s where the idea for Glass Forest was born.
A short time later while on a ski trip in Canada, Brian noticed a home that came close to executing the concept he had been germinating; but the large window-walls in this home still had trim. “As I looked at these windows the whole thing clicked,” he recalls. “It came to me in an epiphany and I knew how to engineer these massive glass walls- without the use of trim or stabilizers that block the view.
“In Japan, a master carpenter is on the same socio-economic level as an architect or physician. They are respected, sought after and compensated on a level commensurate with their skill and contribution to these one of a kind homes. One of the many saying these master craftsmen shared with me was ‘trim is a mistake.’ This and all the other sayings, as well as the work ethic surrounding their reverence for wood, will be with me forever. You will see little if any trim in an Edgewood home.”
Glass Forest windows are perfect for homes sited for grand views of a lake, mountains or other natural features. According to Schafer, clients have been asking for large window walls for years. However, a Glass Forest takes the concept one step further and is especially appealing to homeowners who want to capture the view and invite the drama of nature into the interiors of their homes.
To execute a Glass Forest, the bark on each tree is hand-stripped, which retains all the natural texture, bumps and marks that insects leave behind. This painstaking process ensures that each Glass Forest tree retains its own unique, natural characteristics. A proprietary engineering technology is used to stabilize the structural elements. The trees are individually set into the massive glass panels and the windows are sealed from weather, water and insects- rendering a visually stunning, dramatic look that is completely organic and singularly unique to the client’s home.
At one time, constructing with logs meant limited design possibilities due to settling of the home over time. Further, the effects of settling required complex and expensive extra steps to insure the long-term stability of walls, windows and doors. Edgewood’s innovative pre-compression construction process frees architects and designers from such restrictions, eliminates settling, and allows for the creation of the spectacular, fully log-constructed architectural designs for which Edgewood is best known.
For years, settling was a huge issue for the log home construction industry. Because the moisture content of logs used in building projects is higher than the environment in which they are ultimately used, they literally shrink as they acclimate to the job site. This radial shrinkage means that when multiple logs are put under pressure by being stacked to create a wall, and those logs change in size, that change must be accounted for by doing very detailed, intricate joinery around openings in the walls, doors, windows, and into the frame walls going up to the ceiling. Worst case scenario, if this is not done properly, windows can break, and doors will stop working.
Dealing with settling is very technical, expensive, and more than anything else, nerve-wracking for clients because there is always a certain number of unknown factors. How much will the logs settle? What do I have to do about it? How much maintenance and repair will I have to do later? What will it cost me?
In addition to these important post-construction concerns about settling, radial shrinkage has historically limited design options for log construction.
Brian Schafer, president and founder of Edgewood recalls that in the 1980s and 1990s, the industry attempted to solve this problem by pre-conditioning logs; literally drying them to the home site conditions prior to construction. This was done under the assumption that dried out logs would no longer be subject to settling under compression. This however, was not the case.
“I realized 25 years ago that simply drying out the logs was not the final answer to this problem,” explains Schafer. “Your home is subject to varying load conditions as you move through the seasons. Just think about the load snow places on the roof of your home. This can add up to three times the normal weight of your roof on top of your house! It’s no surprise that pre-drying did not completely solve the settling problem.”
Schafer applied his knowledge and experience to the challenge and invented a true pre-compression system for log home construction. According to Schafer, the idea is quite simple. “I figured out that the way to approach this issue was true pre-compression … to apply as much pressure to each log as we build it on site as would ever be on it in the entire history of the home’s life. To accomplish this, we invented a proprietary system that uses carefully and closely placed lag bolts and high torque impact wrenches to compress the wood as the home is being constructed. It is so simple and so elegant a solution- and no one else is doing it in quite this way.
As an afterthought I realized that due to our method of lag bolt placement, we likely had unknowingly created a more structurally sound log wall from a seismic perspective. This was tested and proven in a study at the Washington State University Wood Products Testing Laboratory. In short, their findings indicated that a properly constructed Edgewood log wall was superior to a concrete sheer wall in terms of catastrophic failure due to a ‘lateral seismic event’.”
Edgewood’s pre-compression building system takes the worry out of log home construction, and frees architects and designers from the previous design restrictions log construction once imposed.
“You can now architecturally design a log structure with the same kind of freedom that you would a stick structure because it will move no more than a conventionally framed structure,” says Schafer. “We build some incredibly striking elements- walls of glass, giant multi-story fireplaces and three-story spiral stairs; these are the kinds of things that engineers and architects typically tie together with steel. Now, we can do it all with logs. We can sit down with clients and let our minds wander and think outside the box architecturally because we are no longer hindered by the problem of log settling.”
Thermal Blanket™ Roof Framing System
As is the case in many industries, it is not uncommon for architects and builders in log construction to simply accept common practices without questioning the principals behind those practices. For years, “cold roof” construction has been the established way to deal with the problem of ice damming on homes built in cold weather climates. Edgewood’s ingenious Thermal Blanket™ Roof Framing System prevents ice damming, reduces thermal heat loss, and maintains its thermal “R” value forever.
Log homes are built in some of the most beautiful mountainous landscapes in the world. Typically, such “mountain architecture” incorporates high-pitched ceilings and complex rooflines with multiple transitions, presenting builders with unique and challenging details such as varying roof-to-wall conditions. These problematic areas are time consuming to construct, are materials intensive, and are the areas most likely to create issues as the home ages through multiple seasons and years of enduring freeze/thaw cycles.
Developed as a way to prevent ice damming, cold roof construction is intended to ensure that the roof sheeting and finished roofing stays consistently cold from ridge to eave, However, a cold roof is more costly to build and typically incorporates a vented insulation system using fiberglass or cellulose- and the exposure of the insulation to the moisture and dust from the venting significantly reduces the “R” values of the insulation.
Brian Schafer, President and Founder of Edgewood explains, “In cold roof construction you’re trying to accommodate the natural effects of uneven freezing temperatures by maintaining an evenly cold roof span. However, you’re also using a system that’s essentially creating (unnecessary) thermal loss and added cost. I looked at this problem and I realized that there was significant room for improvement in the typical cold roof approach.”
Schafer developed the Thermal Blanket™ Roof Framing System to ensure that the roofs of Edgewood homes maintain an even temperature- even in the most prolonged severe winter weather conditions forever.
Standard roof framing components are rafters, insulation, sheeting, fascia, and the finished ceiling materials. Brian got together with his engineers and developed an expanded polystyrene foam nonstructural roof panel material that combines the insulation material with the roof sheeting. This material is very builder friendly, stays put, and, unlike traditional fiberglass insulating material (which varies in effectiveness due to the moisture content in its environment), will maintain its “R” value under all weather conditions forever.
According to Schafer, “Essentially what we do is lay down our proprietary, heavy natural edge structural decking (NED) over the log/timber structures, install the fascia system around the roof, then lay the foam panel material on top of the heavy decking for insulation and finished roof sheathing. Using this approach, we eliminate the rafters, which are time consuming to install and allow for a thermal break every sixteen inches in the roof. We effectively run the insulation all the way out to the fascia line- not just to the wall line- as in typical cold-roof construction. This eliminates the cold un-insulated soffit areas and allows Edgewood homes to maintain an even roof temperature from peak to fascia. We virtually eradicate the problem of ice damming, and we significantly reduce heat loss through the ceiling. And through the use of Edgewood’s proprietary ultra low moisture content Edgewood Natural Edge Decking™, we don’t see shrinkage in the tongue and groove at the ceiling line … no gapping over time.”
Like other Edgewood innovations, the Thermal Blanket roofing system steps outside of the box and, rather than accepting and accommodating the status quo, re-thinks the challenge and eliminates the problem. “I’ve always heard that expression, ‘You can’t solve a problem with the same mentality that created it,’” says Schafer. “To me, solving the problems is where the fun and creativity lies in what we do. Delivering a better product to my clients in the process is what makes Edgewood homes superior and our company stand out.”
Hybrid Log Building System™
Uncompromising building standards and an innate sense of balance, texture and scale- these are the hallmarks of an Edgewood home. Yet each thoughtful design element is also thoroughly engineered to provide both lasting beauty and value to clients. The Hybrid Log Building System™ is one such approach, delivering the benefits of modern log milling practices and the beauty of hand-drawn log finishing to the most fundamental element of the home.
When you think about it, log design and architecture is truly unique in that it’s virtually the only form of residential construction in which the structural elements are the finish elements. In a conventional home, drywall typically obscures the “bones” of the building, but in log homes the walls are a visible testament to the skilled craftsmen who honed them.
Unlike building a stick frame home, which “grows” vertically from a foundation pad, building the walls of a log home is a very labor-intensive process. Skilled craftsmen notch and cut the first base log, then go to course two and repeat the cutting and notching process around the perimeter of the home. This continues until the wall is completed. Then, the top two courses are taken off and moved to the side; more blocks are set and the process is repeated to build the log roof system. gables, dormers, etc. While stick frame homes can be topped out in a couple of weeks, the crafting of log walls can take five to six people two to three months to complete a three-thousand square foot structure.
Brian Schafer, President and Founder of Edgewood realized early on that his skilled craftsmen were expending all their creative energy on this very labor-intensive process, when it made much more sense for them to apply their talents to complex areas like roof systems. The obvious solution was to use milled logs … but how to create a handcrafted look from milled logs that would satisfy Edgewood design standards?
Responding to this challenge, Schafer began intensively studying log characteristics in handcrafted homes. He noted that the logs in the walls in these homes were all about the same diameter and possessed the same characteristics in the center (mid span) of each log; the noticeable difference to the human eye was in the tails or ends of the logs at the corners of the home.
“The idea here,” says Schafer, “was to give the home the hand-drawn authentic look while enjoying the reduced labor intensity and expense associated with fully hand crafted log walls. We take a milled log and alternate the diameters every other course, say a 10-inch log then a 12-inch log, and then stagger the tails two inches. Then, we go in and hand drawknife these finished logs. When we do this, the knots are raised because you don’t pull a drawknife through a knot. There is no other company crafting logs in this way. Other companies either handcraft the walls or use the same diameter milled logs. Then they use planers to apply what is called a hand-peeled finish, but these electric tools cut through all the knots and leave consistent tracks in the wood so that you end up with a much less realistic peeling job. This Hybrid Log Building System is what gives the walls in Edgewood homes their authentic, graceful signature look.
Brian recalls, “Several years ago I read a quote from Gustav Stickley, father of the hand-crafted furniture renaissance in the United States. Stickley noted that his craftspeople were spending all their time on the laborious task of shaping materials into a rough form and fitting the hidden joinery, but when it came time for them to actually do the fine fit and finish work on the furniture, their creativity was spent. That was a hundred years ago, but it’s exactly the logic behind our Hybrid Log Building System. Applying talent where it can be best used made sense for crafting fine furniture and it makes sense for crafting fine homes.”
Protecting Our Natural Legacy While Building Your Dream
Since its inception, Edgewood has been a leader in the conservation community. Having helped craft and implement the small timber stewardship programs in both Idaho and Washington, Edgewood President and Founder Brian Schafer has long committed the company to sustainable logging practices, sourcing the majority of its logs through the state of Washington’s Department of Natural Resources and the Idaho Small Timber Salvage Sale Program.
Through the Idaho Small Timber Salvage Sale Program, diseased and dead standing trees are carefully harvested, leaving healthy green trees to grow to maturity. Just ten percent of standing dead trees in a given acre of land meet Edgewood’s quality specifications for harvesting; the rest are left to the preferred habitat, insects and natural forest regeneration and growth.
The Small Timber Salvage Sale Program is part of the “Sacred Trust”- a key element in Idaho’s constitution, which describes the state’s fiduciary obligation with respect to the funds received from state trust land management activities. Through the “Sacred Trust”, proceeds from the sale of trees from the Small Timber Salvage Sale Program are specifically used to help fund public education in Idaho.
While many log home companies randomly purchase trees from a vast geographic area, the logs used in Edgewood homes are obtained close to the company’s milling and construction operations in the Rocky Mountain West. This reduces Edgewood’s carbon footprint by reducing raw materials transportation, and ensures that the logs used in your home are of consistently high quality and have only been obtained using sustainable harvesting methods.
In fact, some of the highest quality construction grade timber is sourced from the arid Rocky Mountain region, including historic logs that were killed in the Big Burn of 1910. “The quality and historic significance of much of the timber we use on Edgewood projects is really exceptional,” explains Brian Schafer, President of Edgewood. “In particular, we have access to Western Larch- the tallest, straightest, strongest tree in the forest. Peter the Great once imported these trees from North America to build the masts for his war ships! We’re the only company that exclusively uses Western Larch for our roof structures.
“Our clients really appreciate the difference that rare log materials make in the ultimate look and feel of their home, but there’s also a special sense of pride that comes from owning a home constructed from historic materials that are acquired using methods carefully designed to sustain our treasured forests for future generations. It’s incredibly important to me that families feel good about their homes,” Brian Schafer explains. “I want our clients to not only be proud of the way their home looks, but also of the way it’s built, the way the materials were obtained, and the reduced environmental impact of their homes on the land.”
Schafer is also a Certified Green Design Professional who applies green design principals and practices to every Edgewood project. “Edgewood log homes adapt beautifully to green building practices,” Brian explains. “When we design a client’s home we consider numerous factors including alternative energy sources, water conservation, carbon footprint and energy efficiency, to name a few.
“The fact is that doing business in an environmentally conscious way is not only morally right, it also results in a higher quality home. We are able to hand-select the logs used in our projects, which gives us consistently high quality raw materials. While it is true that log homes use more board footage than stick homes, we use only standing dead wood, with about 10% in each acre meeting our stringent standards for use in Edgewood homes, and which sawmills typically do not use. And in the process, we’re helping to fund public education.
“Fundamentally, Edgewood builds ‘legacy homes’ and we feel very strongly about the importance of protecting the environment and our natural resources for future generations to enjoy in-perpetuity. This is not a marketing slogan for us; it’s a core value, and it’s the way we’ve always done business.”