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Electric393 10-26-2006 04:58 PM

Wiring Log Homes
Has any one here ever wired a log home? I have come across a project where I would be wiring an entire log home but I've never done it before. I've heard it's a much more technical process than a regular home. Anyone have any experience with this?

petey_racer 10-26-2006 05:48 PM

Yes, I have done several. Around ten.
The log setters have to drill the holes for you as the logs get set. You cannot stand around all day waiting to drill holes.

You have to lay out the boxes EXACTLY and mark them on the deck BEFORE any logs are set. General receptacles get the first 3 or 4 logs drilled. Usually to about 24" high, just in case. Switches, bath receptacles, kitchen counter receptacles get drilled to about 50"-55" high, however many logs that is.
The builders also must leave you a mark, typically a pencil line on the logs, PRECISELY where the drilled holes are. This way you are sure where to cut out your boxes.
The holes WILL fill up with chips so a large enough hole is mandatory that you can clear out the chips. I usually make them drill a 1.25"-1.375" hole with an 18" ship auger bit.

I use a NEW 5/8" or 3/4" spade bit and drill the four corners of the box cut out. Drill about an inch deeper than the depth of the box. Then I join the holes with a Sawzall and a sharp blade. After that I know the slug out. After a while you'll get so good no trimming will be needed.

There is much more but that is the basics of the log walls. There is also lighting between floors, up high ceiling fans in great rooms, etc. This all has to be run along the tops of log floor joists or roof rafters. That stuff is real fun.

Square Eye 10-27-2006 11:07 AM

Petey's right about the drilling. The drilling needs to be done as the home is assembled.

From there though, we differ just a bit. To run wire along wide joists, I use a router. Cut a 1/2" wide by 1/2 deep slot down the edge of the joists, about an inch from the side closest to the fixture, If you're hanging a fixture under a beam or joist, Use the router first, then drill through the slot and out through the bottom of the beam or joist. So, there has to be a break in the asembly time between first and second floors. you'll need to run all of the ceiling light wires, then as the second floor deck is laid, you need to mark the drilling locations for receptacles, switches etc.. This is also the time to decide how to run your feeders back to the panel. I usually run them low near the floor where the baseboards will cover them. This means that they will be against the outside walls though, which means there will be much more wire used. If the upstairs will be partitioned off with walls, you will be able to use more traditional routing methods. Remember to have them drill the logs from the floor all of the way to the ceiling at your switches.

As fast as most log homes are built, it may be best to plan on being there. It is a learning experience just to see how they go together. Plan EVERY circuit, Every outlet. Careful planning is crucial here. You may have to remind the builder more than once that he will not be able to get certificate of occupancy if the electrical does not pass inspection. You need his full cooperation.

As for cutting the holes for switch boxes.. I break out the router again. I make a template guide (simply a scrap of plywood with a hole cut in the center to match the size of the box) for each different size of electrical box I will be using. I also make them long enough to sit them on the floor and locate my boxes for me. In other words, If the boxes will work at 16" from the floor to the center, then make the template long enough to sit it on the floor with the hole centered where you want it. This way, all of your outlets will be at exactly the same height. Then for switches, just screw an extension onto your template. Just tack it to the wall with a couple of nails or use screws to hold it still while you use the router. This makes the cleanest holes with the least trouble. You'll need a router with a LONG 1/2" straight cutting bit and a 1/2" guide bushing set. A worthwile investment. You'll find other uses for it after you've used it here.

Wiring a log home is a challenge, but it can be done. You just have to wire it on paper first and plan everything carefully.

I also had the pleasure of wiring an old existing log home. It was miserable miserable miserable. You can lose full days on a single circuit if you don't plan them carefully. Conduit or Wiremould along the baseboards looks bad, but may be your only option in certain cases.

Good luck with it.
Post pics if you do the job!
We want to hear about the headaches too :)

petey_racer 10-27-2006 02:51 PM

A clarification and a few comments.

My method of running homeruns is assuming the house will be sitting on a typically framed deck. Every one I have done was, with a few areas on slabs ( :mad: ).
The holes in the logs MUST start with the first log being drilled all the way through the deck into the basement/crawl.

As for cutting out the boxes, it is whatever works for you. Like Square, we (builders and I) did try the router and template/guide method. NO WAY for us. And I am pretty slick with a router myself.
Maybe we did not do it the same but it was hell. I have heard of other guys doing the router method so obviously it works for some folks.

After the second house and trying several methods, I had become quite proficient at cutting boxes out.

As for between floor lighting, the router rules. I can't see doing it any other way.

Also, you cannot run wiring low in the walls behind the baseboards unless you protect it with nail plates the whole way. That or you need to make the slots 1.5+" deep to keep the wire back the required 1 1/4".
Like I said, if there is a basement/crawl you will be fine.

Doing just one house will truly suck I must say. As with most things it does get easier the more you do.

inspectorD 10-29-2006 01:21 PM

Log home headaches...
Same is true for some of the post and beam jobs I have done.
Log homes are the worst ...
What I have done on a job was to rout the bottom log and install metal conduit to each box and go over it with baseboard. That way no crazy trimmer can put a nail through the wiring.
Interior walls are great for the home runs,we use those as much as possible.
The best is when someone marks the wrong spot.:p
Hang a picture?:eek:

Electric393 10-30-2006 09:48 AM

Thanks guys!

Those were all very helpful posts. Sounds like I have my work cut out for me. As far as which techniques, I guess I will try a couple things out and see what works the best for me.

I had another question for everyone. I'm located in Utah and I was talking with one of the log home builders out here and he was telling me about a guy who used wireless switches throughout the entire log home. Supposedly they are battery-free switches so you don't have to worry about changing batteries. I guess the guy finished the job much faster because he didn't have to route for switch boxes and didn't run any wires from lights to switches. What do you think about this option?

petey_racer 10-30-2006 02:59 PM

No sir. I don't like it.

I would be VERY wary of something that was not extensively field tested before installing it into a "no going back" type job such as a log home.

Electric393 11-01-2006 10:11 AM


I liked your comment so I called the company and asked them how reliable it is. I guess the product is made by some company in germany and the switches have been around for almost 5 years. The guy on the phone said that over 100,000 switches have been sold in europe and that there are buildings with over 500 wireless switches in them. Is that extensive enough?

Electric393 11-01-2006 10:12 AM

Here's the website

Square Eye 11-01-2006 05:59 PM

In 5 to 7 years, will this company be still be producing replacement parts?
It would be bad if you came to the end of useful product life and found that the company had crashed.

I'm with Petey 100% this time.

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