For years, settling was a huge issue for the log home construction industry. Logs used in building projects have a higher moisture level than the environment in which they are ultimately used, causing the logs to 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 above all else, nerve-wracking for clients because there are always unknown factors. How much will the logs settle? What will we need to do to remedy the situation? How much maintenance and repair will I have to do later? What additional costs will we incur?
In addition to these important post-construction settling concerns, radial shrinkage has historically limited design options within log home architecture.
In the 1980s and 90s, the industry attempted to solve this problem by pre-conditioning logs prior to construction by drying them to match the home site conditions. They assumed that this process would prevent logs from settling under compression; however, that was not the case.
“I realized 25 years ago that simply drying out the logs was not the final answer to this problem,” explains Edgewood’s founder and president Brian Schafer. “Your home is subject to varying pressure conditions as you move through the seasons. The weight snow places on the roof of your home can nearly triple the weight of the 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 realized the way to approach this issue was true pre-compression… applying the same amount of pressure to each log as we build it on-site, as would ever be on it in the home’s lifespan.”
To accomplish this, Edgewood invented a proprietary system that uses closely and carefully placed lag bolts and high-torque impact wrenches to compress the wood as the home is being constructed. It has proved to be a simple and elegant solution—and no one else is doing it in quite this way.
“After the fact, I realized that due to our method of lag bolt placement, we had unknowingly created a more structurally sound log wall, from a seismic perspective,” Schafer shares. “This was tested and proven in a study at the Wood Materials & Testing Laboratory at Washington State University. 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 SchaferWall™ System takes the worry out of log home construction and frees architects and designers from the previous design restrictions log construction once imposed.
“Now, you can design a log structure with the same amount of freedom you would with a stick structure because it won’t move more than a conventionally framed structure,” says Schafer. “We build some incredibly striking elements—such as walls of glass, giant, multi-story fireplaces, and tri-story spiral stairs—all 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, thinking outside the box architecturally because we are no longer hindered by the problem of log settling.”