Modern convenience, old-time charm

Chico log-home manufacturer provides eco-friendly abodes

Local businessman Larry Trimboli established Sierra Log Homes in 1992.

Local businessman Larry Trimboli established Sierra Log Homes in 1992.

Photo By shannon rooney

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For more information about Sierra Log Homes, visit

Think Daniel Boone’s cabin meets 21st century.

That’s what visitors will find at Sierra Log Homes in south Chico. Larry Trimboli’s business, located on Morrow Lane, has a bit of a frontier feel about it—logs in various stages of production fill up the area outside the office building. Inside, prototypes of different kinds of log walls abound. Inside and outside, workers focus intently on log processing and other tasks.

The log-home company, established in 1992, is a full-blown manufacturer that designs and manufactures wood products.

“We’re the only West Coast producer left,” said Trimboli, attributing the scarcity of businesses such as his partly to the economic downtown and partly to the fact that log-home companies tend to be located near the necessary raw materials, such as in Colorado, Canada and a few other places. “We’re an anomaly.”

When it comes to eco-friendly construction, Trimboli would like consumers to give log and solid-wood walls a fair shake. Proponents of green technology, he said, often tout concrete walls, insisting it’s better to use a manufactured substance such as concrete than to cut down trees.

Trimboli, an articulate man with intense blue eyes, established Sierra Log Homes in 1992. He explained that the company mostly uses trees already dead from pine-beetle infestations or forest fires. Also, it often replants areas where it’s harvested trees.

Some people want dead trees to decay in the forest. That’s unrealistic in Colorado and other places where the unnatural die-off from beetle infestation has occurred. Trimboli said that, because there’s an epidemic of lodgepole pines dying from beetle infestations, huge swaths of dead forest cover areas of Colorado. Since these trees present dangerous fire potential, the state has mandated a take-down reforestation plan.

“What is the problem of taking dead trees and utilizing them for energy-efficient human habitat?” he asked.

The company uses standing dead trees in its manufacturing process.

Photo courtesy of Sierra log Homes

Sierra Log Homes runs a mill in Colorado to create the materials for human habitat from this resource, which otherwise might go to make pulp (for paper) or pellets (for wood heaters) or be used for cogeneration (electricity production). “The bad rap the log-homes industry gets is that it’s ostensibly the inefficient use of a massive amount of wood—some people feel the log-homes industry consumes way too much mass,” Trimboli said. “This is seen as a negative application versus manufacturing something. It’s not. The trees we use are dead.”

Trimboli explained two reasons why concrete is not that “green”: Portland cement (an ingredient used to make concrete) demands a huge manufacturing process, as do the foam blocks used in making concrete walls. On the other hand, he pointed out, a log is a tree. It requires far less work to make it usable. It has less impact on the environment than synthetic materials do, so it has a smaller carbon footprint.

“Trees are a carbon sink—they consume carbon dioxide,” Trimboli explained. “When a tree dies and falls in the forest, it starts emitting carbon dioxide back into the forest. When you preserve a tree into anything (such as a log or solid-wood wall), you actually preserve the carbon dioxide it ‘grabbed’ while it was growing—it becomes a non-emitter of carbon dioxide.”

The company operates a “Planting It Forward” program, the only direct reforestation program in the industry. In partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, Sierra Log Homes created a matrix ensuring the company replaces the board footage (the amount of wood used to build a structure) in a client’s lifetime. In the long term, the board footage used is replaced 10, 20 or even 50 times over.

Sierra Log Homes uses logs to manufacture a variety of products including large homes with all of the amenities of a modern dwelling.

Photo courtesy of Sierra log homes

Trimboli and others in his industry, he emphasized, build energy-efficient residential habitat. Log homes typically use about 50 percent less energy for heating and cooling than conventionally framed homes—another reason for their smaller CFP.

Additionally, Trimboli pointed out, homes made with log or solid-wood walls are aesthetically pleasing. Logs for walls can be shaped in different ways: round, flat and more. The profile of a log can look however a client desires, he said, and the finished product can fit into any type of neighborhood or architectural community.

Besides the smaller CFP and increased energy efficiency, a home made with log or solid-wood walls provides benefits a conventionally framed or cement structure simply cannot provide, Trimboli said. Because wood accepts and receives energy moderately, fluctuations in temperature are less extreme.

As example, Trimboli talked about what happens with a cement floor: When it’s cold, the cement becomes very cold, whereas when the weather is hot, the cement holds a lot of heat and becomes uncomfortable. Homes conventionally framed with (fiberglass) drywall are the same. Wood walls don’t do this, he explained.

“It is a different comfort level than living in a normally framed home—the comfort of living in such a home is phenomenal,” he said.