HomeImprovementThe first of our four week special

Published on Thu, Mar 2, 2006 by ack Kintner

Read More News

Home Improvement
The first of our four week special

By Jack Kintner

Richard Blackburn and his wife, Dr. Guo Cheng, spent some time wandering around the country before settling in Blaine. But now that they’ve found their dream home, a 14-year-old log house at 680 Georgia Street, they say that they couldn’t be happier.

They met in Beijing, China, Cheng’s hometown, where the retired Navy deep-sea diver Blackburn was working for a telecommunications company. Cheng is a physician currently studying English in preparation for her state medical boards. They traveled and worked in Australia and California before settling in Florida, but when Cheng encountered fire ants and alligators up close and personal in the same week they decided to try the northwest.

“Guo found this place on the internet and fell in love with it,” Blackburn said. The couple bought the house in December of 2003 and have done extensive work, stripping the paint off the log exterior and adding decks and a solarium to the south side of the house.

The 4,000-square-foot, two-story house was built in 1992 by the original owner, Mark Lawrence to a design from the manufacturer, Lincoln International of Woodinville, that has four bedrooms, four baths and a detached double garage. The kitchen and living room are combined into a spectacular 20 by 30 foot great room with a cathedral ceiling that peaks at just over 22 feet high. It’s just off the main entrance, which itself is set at a 45-degree angle to the main orientation of the house. This angle is continued just inside the front door by the main stairway that climbs up through the wide open space to the second floor to a hide-away master suite and generous loft. The area has been claimed by Cheng’s daughter, Blaine high school student Liang Cheng.

Generous use of native wood is reflected in the stairway and the Douglas fir log walls. The logs are uniform and have been milled to a 10 inch diameter off-center to reduce checking. They’re stacked Swedish Cope style, with a single concave channel carved lengthwise in the bottom of each long to provide a wider area of contact with the log beneath it, increasing the stability and insulation value of the structure. Blackburn said he doesn’t know what the R-value (insulation value) is of the walls “but it’s substantial. We have radiant hot water heat in the floors and easily heat the whole place for about $150 per month.”

There is a gas fireplace on the main floor and a massive wood fireplace of natural river rock in the basement. The south side of the living room has a sweeping view of Drayton Harbor. A door leads out onto a deck that has been enclosed with a 27 by 6 foot solarium that Blackburn and Cheng bought from Northwest Finish of Vancouver, Washington. “I hired Al Teune to help me make the concrete base, and then the company sent up a crew to assemble and install the solarium,” Blackburn said, adding that on sunny winter days it gets hot enough to substantially heat the rest of the house. It’s of a curved eave design that when it meets the outside wall of the house is a little over 12 feet high.
The first project they undertook was stripping the paint off the outside walls. “Painting a log house isn’t a good idea,” Blackburn said, “because it seals moisture into the logs and they’ll rot from the inside.” They blasted the exterior surface with ground up corn cobs that abrade paint like sand but are also bio-degradable and don’t dig into the wood like sand. That was followed by staining the logs and then painting the chinking material between each one to make them stand out, a project which took two months. They provided further contrast on the exterior by painting all the milled lumber, such as rafters and soffits, to emphasize the log construction and deep brown color of the wood.

Blackburn said one of the best features of the house is that the basement was dug only four feet into the ground, which both allows for windows in the basement walls but also keep the house drier. It also enhances the view from the main floor.

“It took a while to get used to the place, not only because of its impact the first time you see it but because we kept discovering little things here and there, like the eagles that roost just outside in an old Douglas fir to the care the original builder took with much of the detail work. We’re quite happy with it,” Blackburn said.