In this example, we are showing a Piece en Piece log home with the windows installed in two ways. The first way we place a window within a horizontal log wall or panel (above) as we call them in Piece en Piece. The second type of installation is when we place a window between two upright posts (below).
Note: This is just one way to install log home windows. You can certainly cut key ways in the log walls to accept a 2×4 key and attach the window to it. But in this example, I skipped all that. And 4 years after this home was completed, the windows are still functioning perfectly and no settling issues are present. If anything, we overcompensated, which is a good thing.
The single most important thing you must account for when installing windows in a log home is the settling issue.
Log walls lose their moisture content after assembly. The logs actually shrink in diameter over several years. Also, the weight of the logs also creates settling. We allow for 3/4 of an inch (per foot of log wall) that’s involved with each window to avoid a disaster with crushed windows! A simple solution is the “settling space”.
Take the height of your actual window you’re using, and multiply that by .75 which is 3/4 of an inch. This final number is the amount of inches needed above each window for your settling space (and doors are done the same way). So for a 4 foot high window calculate 4 x .75 = 3 inches. Now, you’ll need to nail a 1 1/2 inch “nailer board” to the actual header log above each window to give you something to nail your “settling boards” to. The nailer board should be a 2×4 ripped to the same width as your window actual window. So add another 1 1/2 inch to your 3 inches to allow for that extra 1 1/2 inch nailer board (we don’t want the nailer board coming in contact with the top of the window unit). So a minimum of 4 1/2 inches of extra space is needed above the window for your settling space, so your rough opening will be 4 foot-4 1/2 inches high.
Center your window in the opening in the log wall just where you want it, tack it in place with a nail on the inside and outside to make a mark for the nailer board on the log header. Just hold a level against the window and extend it up to the header log and make a mark. Screw or nail the board into the log header. This will serve as a place to screw in your settling boards (one for the inside, and one for the outside that will be allowed to slide down and overlap the upper part of the window. In the photos, you can see we used hand-cut juniper with the natural edge extending down. Looks great and it will never rot. You’ll place some insulation in this space that can compress as the log header settles and comes down over the window.
The sides of the window are simply sandwiched between boards that are screwed right to the logs. Notice, that these boards have a notch cut out to allow the first header boards to come down without interruption (See photo).
The bottom of the window is simply siliconed to the bottom log and that’s it. The side boards and settling boards hold the window in place and the logs around the window can settle with no issues. And you can use some rough cut ornamental pieces as seen in the photos. These are all juniper that we cut on the sawmill. I even keep the side boards just above the log window sill log so water cannot wick up into them. Also, we cut an angle on the outer sill log so water and snow run away from the bottom of the windows (do this BEFORE you install the windows!)
The windows that are sandwiched between posts are done only slightly different.
Instead of using a board to sandwich the windows in place which would take away from the post look, I just used quarter round (see photo) with some thin gasket to hold the windows in place. The settling board on top of the windows is done the same as all the others however. Just be sure to allow for this settling board to come down over the quarter round. We actually carved this space out from the settling boards with a grinder so it can slide right down over the quarter round. Photo illustrates this nicely.
Doors: You’ll have a settling space above the door jams to cover up.
I made what I think are the easiest and coolest looking door jams. I cut them to 4 inches thick and used logs that were about as wide as my log walls so they’d stick out on the inside, and of course cut out my log walls with the settling area above the jam header. This way, the doors themselves are installed into the thick door jams instead of into the log walls themselves.Because a settling board would have to come down over time, I didn’t want anyone to deal with needing to re-cut the boards if they came down enough to interfere with the opening and closing of the doors.
What I did was create a shelf of sorts that is removable, to take up this space. Cut (2) separate 4 inch thick boards the same length as the width of the door jam to just rest on top of the door jam (photo details this) so you can simply pull them out if and when the log wall settles down that far. What I did to make it even easier to ever remove them was, split both of these boards in half and then pull them apart slightly outward as to create a bit of an overhang over the doors both on the interior and exterior.
To attach the door jams to the log walls, I drilled and counter sunk enough so as to allow for a ratchet wrench to lag screw the jams into the log walls. BUT, I also cut a slot hole so the log walls can settle and allow for the ratchet screw to move down. The lag screw does not need to be very tight as you want it to be able to slide down. Calking around the jam will make it all very snug anyway.
These boards above the jam are not nailed or screwed in, instead, I left a space above the topmost board, placed insulation above it with some backer rod with about a 2 inch gap, and just caulked it. This way, I can visually see the caulk bulge out and easily monitor it. If it ever does settle completely down, then the boards can be popped out and ripped thinner and replaced. So far, after 4 years of settling and drying in a very dry climate, the doors are looking great and I don’t see them ever having to be fussed with again. The grey rough cut edges I left exposed look great against the clean peeled logs. I was very happy with how they functioned -and it was a simple (and cheap) solution as we already had lots of these 4 inch thick slabs from our temporary foundation.
For more info on this log home, go to this page for info on jigs, tools, and the stuff we used to build this log home…
For the best Log Home Guide, Look no further than the Log Construction Manual by Robert W Chambers. This is the Guide used to train professional crews the world over.
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Happy safe, and prosperous building!