Beware These Red Flags

The process of buying and building your dream log and timber home can be overwhelming. Plus, since this is probably one of the largest investments you will make in this lifetime, there can be a lot of fear. This fear is warranted because you don’t want to make the wrong decision. This is why we created our Buyer’s Guide and our Library of White Papers. To help educate buyers and builders before they wade into the buying process.

First Red Flag

Is the company manufacturing or handcrafting your log and timber home a member of the Log and Timber Homes Council? We suggest limiting your choices to among members for a number of real life reasons. Since 1977,  new log home owners have trusted members of the Log and Timber Homes Council to help make their dream home a reality. That’s because all council members must:

  • Abide by a strict code of ethics
  • Grade their logs and timbers to ensure structural soundness
  • Provide construction manuals to ensure correct construction techniques
  • Sponsor scientific studies that advance log and timber building technologies
  • Provide information to help consumers make smart choices, including this website.

Second Red Flag

Will the design of the future home meet building codes? Is the designer, architect and manufacturer all familiar with ICC400? If you ask this and you’re left with blank looks by the representative, then you may want to ensure that the home will be designed to meet this code.

If you’re not aware, ICC400-2017 is applicable to all “types of construction whose primary structural elements are formed by a system of logs.” All proprietary methods and materials of construction must demonstrate compliance with sections of the standard as required by the jurisdiction having authority.

Third Red Flag

Does the manufacturer or handcrafter grade their logs and timbers to ensure structural soundness?  The National Association of Home Builders’ Log and Timber Homes Council was a key participant in the development as ICC400, which addresses many of the unique attributes of log and timber home construction that diverge from the codes and standards written for non-log structures. For more information on ICC400 click here.

Why is log and timber grading so important? Log and timber grading is a key requirement for a company to join the Log and Timber Homes Council.

As part of ICC400-2017, all logs and timbers used in a structural capacity are required to be visually stress graded. Such grading must be performed under the auspices of an accredited grading agency. Two agencies (the council’s grading program and a company called Timber Products Inspection), are accredited as rules-writing grading agencies and have provided their design values for inclusion in the standard. Therefore, ICC400 gives additional value to design professionals to engineer log and timber structures rather than adapting data that is published on other structural wood products. Log grading programs are tasked by ICC400 to certify moisture content of any log product that claims to be dried to any extent.

Fourth Red Flag

When you get back home from the Log and Timber Home Show, contact your local building department to see if they are familiar with the requirements of ICC400. If they are not familiar with this building code, you may need to give them time to become familiar with its requirements before submitting your home’s plan for review and approval.

Fifth Red Flag

Even when building department personnel are acquainted with ICC400 standard, they may make demands that are outside the purview of their responsibilities. Recently, contractors tasked with building log and timber homes have been reporting that the local planner’s directive included, “Please include specifications for base jack and screw jacks shown on details 2/4 and 3/6. An ICC Evaluation report will be needed to verify the connections are listed.”

For advice on sorting it all out, we asked Rob Pickett of Rob Pickett & Associates, an expert in log and timber construction, building codes and engineering.

“ICC400 2017 is the latest edition of the ICC Standard on the Design & Construction of Log Structures,” says Pickett.  “It is referenced in the IBC (International Building Code) and IRC (International Residential Code), which means that a local jurisdiction can and should apply it to log structures being built in their area.

“However, it is not a material approval.  Only the ICC Evaluation Service ( provides evaluation reports on materials, components, or assemblies.  There are reports on FastenMaster log screws (ESR1078) and Simpson hangers and other hardware, but engineers are required to determine the loads placed on those connections and to specify the particular product that has the capacity to resist those loads.  By the way, Simpson does have a whole line of architectural steel products for timber and log framing,” Pickett says.

“That said, there are no implicit product or component approvals of any kind made by ICC400.  The only ‘approvals’ can be taken as compliance with the prescriptive path options throughout the standard.  A prescriptive path means that no engineering is required, and it is often the most conservative interpretation of the requirement.  The standard also allows a calculated path and a tested path.  A design professional would be contracted to perform or oversee these,” Pickett says.

“As log structures are most commonly custom designs, it is logical that an engineer would be involved to design connections, joinery, etc.,” Pickett says.

In Conclusion: Ask These Key Questions

So for general contractors, builders and home buyers in the market for a new log and timber home, when you’re shopping for a manufacturer or handcrafter, remember to ask these key questions when shopping for a supplier:

  • Do you belong to the Log and Timber Homes Council? If not, why not?
  • Do you grade your logs and timbers by a third party accredited agency for structural soundness?
  • Do you engineer your designs to meet the ICC400-2017 log and timber building standard?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, you may want to reconsider before spending any of your hard earned money and valuable time with that company.

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