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Dear Jim: We are planning our dream home and we have always been intrigued by log homes. We want to build a large home and energy efficiency is important to us. Do you think a log home is a possibility? -- Julia F.

Dear Julia: If you like the appearance and decor of a log home, then go for it. Modern log homes are very energy efficient and are ideal for partial passive solar heating. As for size, some log home manufacturers have standard models up to 5,000 square feet with all the amenities. They certainly are no longer just little log cabins.

To build one most economically, particularly a large log home, it is generally best to start with a manufacturer's standard plan and modify it to your specific needs. This dramatically reduces the design expenses and most manufacturers have literally hundreds of plans from which to choose.

There are several construction methods for log homes. If you are a purist, consider building a solid log home. The basic structure is still built in a similar manner as they were hundreds of years ago. This construction method is strong and quite energy efficient even though there is no additional wall insulation. The logs themselves provide the thermal barrier.

These homes rely on the thermal mass of the logs to improve efficiency. This is an ideal match with passive solar heating which requires thermal mass to be effective. Contemporary log house designs with many large south-facing windows and an open floor plan are attractive and efficient. The thermal mass of the logs also improves comfort during the summer.

Another option is half-log wall construction. The logs are split and attached to an insulated (up to R-40) framed wall. The ends are left solid so, from the exterior, it resembles a solid log home. The indoor side of the insulated wall can be cover with drywall or more half logs. A final, less expensive option, is just using log exterior siding over a framed wall.

Definitely plan to include a large fireplace or two in your new log home. Locate at least one of them near the center of the house in a room with a cathedral ceiling. Have a large exposed chimney built with heavy decorative stone or brick on all four sides. This not only looks great, but it will continue to give off heat even hours after the fire is out at night.

You will have several choice of the type and shape of logs to use. The most common logs used are cedar or pine. Redwood, fir and spruce are also sometimes used, but the material cost may be higher. Round logs are common, but flat-milled, D-shaped or Swedish cope log profiles may provide a more unique appearance.

The following are log home manufacturers: Gastineau Log Homes (800-654-9253, Jim Barna Log Systems (800-962-4734, Lincoln Log Homes (800-833-2461, Ward Log Homes (800-341-1566, and Wisconsin Log Homes (800-678-9107

Send inquiries to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit