Central’s Log Cabin Renovation – An Environmentally-Friendly Project

 “Central’s Log Cabin is an excellent example of Finnish-Icelandic log construction.  It was constructed in the early 1920’s by highly skilled craftsmen using old growth white cedar and white pine logs.  It is an architectural gem.  When I was approached in 2009 and asked whether the building could be restored, I felt very strongly that not only could it be saved, but that it would be economically and ethically wise to do so.  With a little bit of effort, the cabin should last well into it’s second hundred years.”

Rick Bott of R&B Enterprises (Post & Beam Specialist, Dealer in Antique and Rare Woods)

Early on, it was decided to do Central’s Log Cabin restoration in the most environmentally friendly way possible.  While staying true to the original builder’s design and style, we will incorporate modern insulation and mechanicals to make the building efficient and functional.

  • We will reuse salvaged materials from the entry way and sunroom, which will be demolished in Phase One.  These logs will be cleaned and resawn and used to face the upper story dormers.
  • Where cabin logs have deteriorated, we will chisel back the log face to solid wood and re-face the log with “skins”, cut from the side of rock elm logs harvested in the Baraboo Hills in Wisconsin.  
    • Rock elm has a hardness and rot resistance comparable to teak, yet in appearance matches closely to the original cabin logs.
    • Rock elm is rapidly becoming extinct due to Dutch Elm disease, and if not used here, these logs would have been cut for firewood.
  • For the new roof, we had a challenge of how to provide a high level of insulation while leaving the Great Room ceiling in its original vaulted beauty – with original rafters in tact.  We have decided, therefore, to insulate up.  In the Great Room, we will tear off the deteriorated sheeting and fiber board and will resheet with tongue and groove aspen, also milled from trees harvested in the Baraboo Hills. 
    • Aspen produces a beautiful, bright ceiling while being very environmentally friendly.  It is a fast-growing tree that quickly resprouts after logging. 
    • In Northern Wisconsin it is commonly used to produce paper pulp.  In Southern Wisconsin, it has less value because of the cost of trucking to the mills in the north.  Therefore, using it as paneling makes a great deal of sense. 
    • In addition, the aspen we will use in the cabin was salvaged from trees downed in a tornado in 2005.  A team of Amish with horses were used to gather the trees to minimize damage in the woods. 
  • Over the new roof deck, we will install pine cleats for spacers, again cut from the tornado-downed trees.  Over these cleats, common rafters will be installed.  This will create a void that will be sprayed with high-R foam insulation. 
    • The foam expands into gaps, nooks and crannies, creating an airtight seal comparable to a Thermos bottle. 
    • We expect to cut heating and cooling costs significantly.
  • Even for small items, like the exposed rafter tails, we will use recycled old growth tamarack poles.  They match the original logs, but are extremely rot resistant.  This will be very important in these exposed materials. 
  • (April 2010)

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