You’ve decided that this is the year you are finally going to do it…you are going to build your dream log home. For years, you have believed that this day would come and it is finally here, but have you done your proper research to make sure that you are ready to make responsible decisions on what will be one of the most important purchases of your life. What do you really need to know?
When choosing a log home company to provide the logs and other specialized materials to build your log home, what is the most important thing to consider? If you are building a log home, then the absolute most important decision to make is what specie of wood you will use to build this home. Let’s face it, how can there be a more important decision than the wood you will choose to build the home, it is the heart of the home. Sure, there are lots of companies out there offering “Cheap Log Home Packages” and as with everything you purchase, buyer beware. You always get what you pay for and log home materials are certainly no exception. If you pay thousands of unexpected dollars to have your completed home tented and treated for insects or repaired due to shrinkage, it was not such a bargain after all. The USDA recommends only 3 woods for building a log home: cedar, cypress, and redwood. Of these 3 woods, only cedar is an economical choice to use for building a log home. While redwood is an amazing and incredible wood, it is also incredibly expensive and difficult to find. The log home package can range well more than $100 per square foot for a “logs only package”. Cypress on the other hand is a sustainable wood similar in smell to cedar, but it must be built while the wood is wet as the wood hardens as it dries making it nearly impossible to penetrate with fasteners. Northern White Cedar is the driest wood on the stump in North America even though it grows only in swamps and must be harvested only in winter when the swamps are frozen and the logging equipment can reach the stands of trees. By National code, you are not allowed to build a deck using pine unless it is pressure treated to preserve it, so ask yourself why you would choose to build an entire log home from a wood that is not suitable for building a deck? The most important decision you will make when purchasing a log home is the wood specie you will use to construct it. No matter how cheap the pine package may seem, you will pay in the long run, and for a long time into the future.
The second most important decision to consider is the design of your log home. Many intricate designs with multiple roof lines can end up costing your thousands more than you expected. So, if you are on a budget, stick to a few simple roof lines, you can always add on later. Covered porches are another hidden extra cost. Obviously, a home with a simple open deck is going to cost less per square foot than a house with wrap porches on all 4 sides. I know this sounds like common sense, but I can’t tell you how many people have asked me why a larger house costs more than a smaller house and why a house with covered porches costs more than one with a simple deck. It’s a matter of mathematics folks. Additional material is not free and neither is the labor to build those additional materials into porches or a larger home. Additionally, most sub-contractors charge by the square foot, so additional square footage equals additional dollars. Another interesting side note is that smaller homes cost more per square foot than houses that are 2,500 square foot or larger. Why you ask, again it is simple math. Almost every log home we have sold in over 30 years has included several “Must Haves” … a fireplace, a whirlpool tub, etc. Consider that this fireplace and this whirlpool tube will cost exactly the same whether you put it in a 1,000-square foot home or a 3,000-square foot home. That being said, a $10,000 fireplace and a $5,000 whirlpool tub will add the same amount to the total, but in a 1,000-square foot home it will increase the total square foot price by a whopping $15, and will only increase the total square foot price by $5 in a 3,000-square foot home. Also, every home will have a kitchen and more than one bath which also add to the square foot price and impact the smaller house much more than the larger house. So, if you have an unlimited budget, let your imagination go wild. We can design whatever you wish. If you are looking to get the most bang for your buck, be sensible in your design and do not expect an intricate design with multiple roof lines and covered porches to cost the same as a simple rectangle with an open deck.
Don’t select your log home package supplier based solely on the cheapest price. Comparing one log home’s package to another is truly like comparing apples to oranges. Sometimes even the most experienced builder can be fooled at first glance at what seems to be a “Cheap” log home package. Many log home companies add inexpensive products to the package to make it appear as though you are receiving more product than you actually are receiving. Things like studs, Kraft back insulation, and cheap windows along with a conventionally framed second floor system, porch system, and roof systems cost far less than exposed heavy timber systems with NWC T & G covering and solid insulation panels. I have seen companies list 10 different items for the roof system, but and when you read closely, you realize that the most expensive part of the roof, the cedar T & G covering is not there, just plywood. Also, many companies add shingles to make you think the roof system is complete, but the insulation is not there. Additionally, once the roof is built, you must spend the money for the labor to get these shingles on to the roof. If you order them from your local supplier after the roof is built, most companies will deliver and boom the shingles up on the roof as part of the cost. The same is true of windows, why ship in the windows and doors with the log home package when you have no place to securely store them at this point in the construction. Why not handle the window/door purchase yourself with the assistance and advice from the log home company and have them delivered when you are ready to install them and button up the house? There is no unnecessary danger of damage or theft when they are not shipped to the site until you are ready for your builder to install them. Cedar Direct refers our customers to Pella, one of the top 2 window companies in the USA and they give the volume discount to each of our clients if they choose to go with Pella. Delivery is arranged at your need and convenience. So, before you decide, on a log home supplier based on a cheap price, be sure you are not comparing a Ford to a BMW. The quality and quantity of the material in a log home package varies greatly from company to company.
Build to fit your budget. There are many ways to stay within the budget you have set for your log home. Shopping sales is one of my favorite ways. I always suggest to our clients to shop the seasonal sales at your local lumber stores. There are always great sales on ceiling fans at Memorial Day. Buy them then when they are the least costly and there is the largest supply to choose from. Ever try to buy a ceiling fan in the winter…it is difficult at best. If there is one special item you want to splurge on, you can save enough shopping sales to pay for this item without breaking the budget. Whenever you are choosing, just use common sense. Don’t exceed your ability to live comfortably and enjoy your new log home.
Choose to build green. There was a time that if I told you to build a green log home, you would have thought I was crazy. Green had the connotation of a log that had just been cut and was not allowed to dry properly before use. However, with today’s consciousness of the carbon footprint, the term “going green” has taken on the new meaning of building in a way that is friendly to the natural environment and is sustainable for the earth long term. That is why Cedar Direct has copy protected and coined the phrase “The Original Green Building Solution” …after all it seems that the pioneers had it right. Northern White Cedar log homes have no harmful chemicals and with the highest “R” factor of all the woods, they are 30% more energy efficient than a conventionally framed home. They are naturally resistant to insects, fungi, and rot and with a life span of 300 years, they have the lowest carbon footprint of all methods of building. Northern White Cedar Log homes are truly the original green building solution.
Save the quality for items that are difficult or impossible to replace such as logs, timbers, windows, etc. Things like faucets, fans, hardware, and carpet are easily replaced a couple of years down the road. Covered porches can be added along with garages and additions. Don’t skimp on the important parts of your new log home. The things that you will replace in a few years due to changes in trends and designs in building should be chosen to have a minimal impact on the budget, unless of course, you just won the lottery and even then, few people can afford what they really want. The wish list just seems to grow along with the budget, it’s just human nature.
Design to fit your lifestyle. This is a truly custom home and should reflect the lifestyle you plan to live. If being outside for your morning coffee is important to you, build a covered porch. Build 2 if you can afford them, but don’t expect to build them for no additional cost. Design the floor plan to flow the way you want to live your life. Plan for getting older in this house…people who build log homes usually stay in them for a very, very long time…or forever. So maybe that master bedroom on the second floor with a balcony looking down to the great room is not the best idea if this is your retirement home. It is a custom design, so make sure it is exactly what you want it to be.
Stay involved in the construction of your home. If you are handy, plan to invest “Sweat Equity” in this home. It makes the entire project more fun and oh… the memories. I was the primary person laying the ceramic tile in my home. My daughters asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day the year we were building our log home, so I told them I wanted the tile for the guest bathroom and help to lay it. So, the 3 of us spent the day on our knees in the bathroom, but at the end of the day, it was done including the grout. Now it makes me smile every time I walk into that room remembering the day and the love. The house truly becomes your home on days like that. The more of the work that you can do, the less expensive the log home becomes and you will remember every bit of work you did building your home.
Try REALLY HARD not to make massive changes during construction. The most expensive thing that you can do is make huge changes during the construction process. Try to make all the significant changes between the preliminary and final blueprints. Once the blueprints are signed off for final construction blueprints, every change you make will cost you more money. It will also delay the construction of the home, so do not be surprised after massive changes that your project is not on its established time schedule or its budget. Most builders will stop construction as soon as you tell them you want a change so that they can get a new estimate ready for you and a change order that must be signed with deposits before they will continue with work. So, make the changes on paper and not in logs and timbers. You will be glad you did. Change orders cost twice as much if they involve removing work that is already done and rebuilding. Even what you may think is a simple change is expensive…especially when it comes to logs and heavy timbers. So, make those decisions while you are in the planning process and not in the building process.
Organize…organize…organize. My most successful clients usually have massive journals and binders full of ideas and items that they want to include in their new home. Price out unusual items you think you want to add early and know if this will fit your budget. Be flexible and be patient…not everything in building always goes as planned. The best laid plans of mice and men…but do plan to enjoy this new adventure you are taking. Enjoy every minute of this as you may never come this way again and it is an adventure you won’t want to miss. One of my favorite clients of all time had this comment/compliment to make when her house was completed and she had moved in to live. “You know Lynda, I have to tell you that the last 9 months of my life designing and building this log home have been the happiest months of my life”. This was the best and biggest compliment anyone could possibly give me. After all, that’s what it’s all about…the enjoyment of the journey and the continued enjoyment living in the log home for years to come.