TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Neighbors

July 16, 2010

Cement Cabin

Unique building has logs made of concrete

CORBIN — NEIGHBORS, JULY 17, 2010

By Erica Bowlin / Times-Tribune Staff

On old Highway 25 on the way to Barbourville, a log cabin sits off the road next to Antiques and Accents. The cabin appears to be a relic, the logs worn and weathered with time. But this is no ordinary log home. It is unlike any other in the Tri-County; its logs are made of concrete.

Walt and Bobbi Smith, owners of Antiques and Accents at 45 Lynn Camp Church Road, in Corbin, have spent the last five years searching for the perfect log home to add to the mirage of antiques and lawn art that adorn their property.

They began searching for an old log building, but they soon discovered that the old log homes were extremely hard to find and even harder to buy. Most of the original log homes they found were not for sale. The ones they did find for sale were exceptionally expensive. It became more and more obvious to the Smiths as time went on that finding and relocating an old log home was quite reasonably not going to happen.

 So after many unsuccessful phone calls and road trips on the search for the perfect log cabin, Mr. Smith had an idea.

“I had a background in construction, so I started thinking about how I could make a building look like it was built out of old logs. Then I thought of making concrete molds from old logs,” he said.

Smith got his hands on some hard-to-find poplar logs from an old barn, and began forming the molds.

“You start with a rubber compound and use it to cover the old log, then when you get your form, it is complete with all the markings from the old log. Bug marks, nail marks, and all,” said Smith.

Bobbi Smith said they were unsure about how the concrete logs would look. But the end result was quite impressive.

“We are really happy with how it has turned out,” she said.

Making entire logs out of concrete was not feasible because they would be extremely heavy, making them unsuitable for use in construction. So Smith used his knowledge of construction to build a regular wooden frame and surround it with the concrete-formed log faces, which are only about 1 1/2 inches thick.

“The logs, even though they are made of concrete, are light enough that two men can install them upon almost any structure — old or new — using basic hand tools,” said Walt Smith.

To the untrained eye, the faux log cabin appears to be totally authentic. The ends of the logs are shaped in a “dove tail” formation, true to the essence of the old log cabins it mimics. Even the texture is true, and the concrete façade even feels like real wood. Only when seeing the concrete mixer, which sits off to the side, does the bystander come to the realization that he is not standing in front of an old log cabin.

The interior is still unfinished, and the Smiths plan to make it into a model home. They may take the log theme from the outside in, or they may use drywall, they still are in the decision making process. But either way, the Smiths have a very unique creation on their hands.

“I had first thought of making it into a workshop, but once I saw how well the end product looked, I figured we might as well make it into a model home,” said Smith.

The couple will continue working on the faux log home until it is finished, in the hopes of getting orders to build the concrete logs for his customers.

Walt Smith will use the knowledge he gained in his construction career to custom build the faux logs to fit each individual customers needs. According to Walt there are many benefits of using concrete in place of logs.

“The building cost for these homes will be comparable to building a standard brick home and concrete is much more durable, and will stand the test of time much better than wood,” he said, and added, “it will hold up to the weather. Also, wood shrinks and causes cracks, this won’t happen with concrete. It should last a long time and be virtually maintenance free.”

In addition to constructing the faux log home, the Smiths will continue to run the antique shop together, which features everything from antique bedroom sets to outdoor garden art.

The antique store is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and the faux log home will be on display during normal business hours.

“We are still working on the log building, but everyone is welcome to come out and examine it for themselves,” said Mr. Smith.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the Smith’s faux log home can call 526-0646.

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