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Log dreams

Builder takes time to build a quality home

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 16/02) - A log home that's been two years in construction will be completed this week.

Builder Andrew Fox said seasoning the wood and a back injury has delayed the completion, but he says the home will be better for the time taken.

Fox was looking for a way out of the troubled British Columbia logging industry when he first took a course in log home construction on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

He took his first Northern job building the T-loondi Treatment Centre in Fort McPherson.

"It's a big log structure about 60 feet by 60 feet in the shape of a cross," he said.

After that job was finished he went back down South, then to Watson Lake and other jobs in the Yukon and Alaska.

"I like the North and had some good friends in Fort McPherson and here in Inuvik so I came back," Fox said.

He started construction on a log home for Inuvik's Bob Gully last year.

The logs were trucked in from the Klondike River in Dawson City, Yukon.

They peeled the logs in the fall and took the winter off.

"We picked through 5,000 metres of wood, which is equivalent to about 10 to 15,000 logs, to find the 100 good ones we used here," he said.

They select logs with clear, straight grain that won't twist or cup while they age.

The 1,600-sq.-ft. home will sport a 12/12 pitched roof with a 15-foot cathedral ceiling on the top floor.

The logs are scribed tight together and caulked to keep the weather out.

A set of dividers traces one log and transfers the pattern to the next log, which is sawn and chisled out to match.

The house was built in place near the public dock because of space requirements and will be disassembled and trucked to the lot where it will be permanently constructed.

"If we were to build it in town, we wouldn't have enough space and we couldn't make the noise or the mess that we can here," Fox said. "It only takes about two days to tear down a house and put it back up again."

He says there have been quite a few changes in log home construction since he started the trade.

The logs are now over-scribed to allow for expansion of the logs over the years. The outside logs will always absorb the relative humidity and swell.

Fox says the lapped corners bear most of the weight and the over-scribed gaps soon tighten up as the logs season.

"We try to put all the compression onto the corners and they hold the logs into place," he said.

The corners are cut in what's called a 'shrink fit saddle notch,' that, by design continues to get tighter and tighter as the home settles.

"It's a flat notch that is very, very tight -- you won't get that with a rounded notch," he said.

He says the secret to building a good long home is taking time to do the job right, because after three or four years the logs can twist, roll or pull apart if not properly built.

He cautions log home buyers that they need a three-to-four year contract commitment from the builder as according to the standards of the Canadian Log Builders Association.

"We've seen a lot of homes that have required $30,000 to $40,000 to fix-up," Fox said. "You need some sort of recourse to go back if things go wrong."

The house is due to be completed by the end of this week.

This will be his last house of this type.

Due to the back injury he said he'll be looking for the lighter duty of post and beam construction.