Last month we talked about how Katahdin’s pre-cut and –drilled logs can save your budget from extra on-site labor costs—speeding up the log raising and enclosure portion of construction dramatically. (Click here to read the October article.) This month we look at the savings and convenience of electrical installation when utilizing Katahdin’s Energy Envelope System™ versus a traditional log-wall-only construction.

First, here’s a bit of information about the Energy Envelope System™. Since we first offered options for added insulation in 1979 to today’s R23 Energy Envelope system, we felt strongly about making the most energy efficient log home available. Now with new more stringent codes being enacted and enforced in all 50 states, EES provides superior energy savings and code compliance. But many don’t understand the construction savings that can be realized when incorporating this insulation option.
One aspect of traditional log homes that is different than a stick-built or framed home is the way electrical service is installed. In a conventional full log wall home, the wiring (for lighting, convenience outlets, appliances, cable, telephone and baseboard heating units) is installed as the exterior walls are laid. The electrician drills each log in the planned location as the logs are laid and secured in place.

There are several downsides to this method of construction. First, all the electrical service in the log walls must be mapped out and installed according to the final blueprints. Once the log walls are up, there is little one can do to adjust or change what is in the plans.

For many people, understanding what the plans indicate in two dimensions and visualizing how that will come to pass in the three dimensions of the actual house can be difficult. What makes sense to the electrician in mapping out the electrical service may not fit within your vision of how you will actually live in the room.

The second downside to drilled log wall installation is that the electrician must be on-site for the entire log-raising to ensure the wires are placed and pulled properly. When we asked Matt Anderson, owner of Anderson’s Electrical Co. in Island Falls, Maine, about the costs of traditional in-log installation, he said “It’s completely labor-intensive.” He said that the homeowner should understand that defining the electrical layout before the log raising is pretty final. “Your creativity and the possibility to change in a traditional log wall is very limited,” Anderson added. “Plus you’re hiring a $60-per-hour electrician to do a $20-per-hour construction laborer’s job.” Anderson said that in a traditional log wall wiring project he is needed on-site for sometimes 2-3 days as the log raising is completed just to lay out the wiring. He’ll then need to return to complete the electrical finish work at a later date.

When the Energy Envelope System is installed in a Katahdin Cedar Log Home, the electrician is able to wire the electrical system on the wall interior before the finished interior paneling is installed. The process is faster, easier and can be adjusted according to any changes in the way a room might be lived in.  For instance, according to the plans, a bed was placed on the west wall in the master bedroom. But after seeing the morning light effect, the homeowner decides that the east wall is more suited for the bed. Bedside controls for lighting, baseboard heating and other electrical convenience outlets can be easily swapped out and adjusted within the EES inner insulation area and the interior paneling. Building a log home with EES not only saves on energy costs over the life of the home, but electrical contracting costs can be significantly reduced and allow for much more design flexibility.