David Craven, editor, is the designer and builder of a beautiful Appalachian style log home in Haywood County near the Cataloochee Mountains, located in Western North Carolina. He will devote this section entirely to log home information.
Log Home Cost Savings provides information on how to save money when building a log home. Included on the Log Home Cost saving page are cost saving ideas for log home building, log home designs, alternative building materials, green building, log home roofs and ceilings, along with other ideas for saving on the cost of building a log home.
Log homes have increased in popularity during the past few decades. Log homes are more popular in certain areas of the country, such as the Western North Carolina mountain area, than others. The popularity of log homes in WNC is especially evident in Maggie Valley NC and the Jonathan Creek NC area. There are several benefits to owning a log home in WNC.
Log home location should be your first consideration when building a log home. Does it blend in with nearby homes and surroundings? Can the house be sited for a southern exposure in colder climate? Will the log home that is planned really fit on this site? The lot determines what can be built, so if you have the home plan already designed do not assume it can be built there. Always get cost estimates for land development before buying the lot. Many log homes are in rural and/or mountain locations where special land development cost will be higher than normal. These additional cost may include erosion control, expensive land clearing, well, electric, and septic. Building near a water source or body such as lake, spring, or creek may require a custom septic system for that location. Is nearby shopping or labor force important? Medical facilities?
Log home wood choice can get complicated, although it really does not need to be. Some homeowners choose cedar or cypress for their resistance to decay. These are good choices, however, the type of wood chosen should not rest on that criteria. Modern methods and log maintenance can enable many woods to last a long time. Some key areas to consider when choosing a type of log for a log home are;
1. What grade is used and are they inspected by the Log Home Council or Timber Products Inspection.
2. What size log is used? Longer logs cost more and will give a better look with less joints. Larger diameter logs also cost more and are a matter of taste and of course have the extra insulation value. The larger home would normally have a larger log so that it stays in scale with the home.
3. How much heartwood will your logs have? The more the better. Heartwood is more resistant to decay, checking, twisting, and splitting than the outer layer of sapwood.
4. What are the local woods? Local log suppliers can normally provide the local wood for less money than to ship another type of wood across country.
5. What wood tones and colors will you want for your house. Different woods will take a stain in a different way. This is important to know ahead of time if you want a certain look.
Log styles are also a matter of taste and budget. A milled log will normally cost less than the hand crafted log. Some log providers will use a milled log and then give the log a hand crafted look. The log profile such as round, D-Log, square or rectangular will have a major impact on how the home will look. Never overlook how the individual logs will go on top of each other either. This can make a difference in maintenance and insulation from the elements. If the tongue and groove is used (there are several methods here), how is this area sealed and what is used to resist twisting. What is done about settling? If Chink is desired or needed and cost is important, this cost estimate should definitely be done during the planning stage. A stick built house can also have log siding applied inside and out to achieve a desired look. A good way to save money is to build a log home and have a part of the home such as the garage be a stick built and use log siding to blend in. Another way to save money when building a log home is to build up or down and not out.
Log home design has definitely changed over the past few decades from the hunting cabins of the past. During the recent real estate boom the average size of a log home increased to about 2500 square feet. Since the real estate boom of a few years ago the design of log homes have down sized to a more right size. The trend for the log homes being built today include popular features like great rooms, main level master bedroom, garage entry from the side or back, open multipurpose rooms, large expanse of windows, and a natural setting. Preservation of the natural resources has also become more popular when building log homes. Design ideas for building your log home can also be found on the Log Home Photos page.
Log home corner junction is one of the most defining features. The square or rectangular logs will typically be dove tail. Saddle notch is the favorite among many handcrafters. D-Logs will often be butt-and-pass. Corner post system is another option to give the post and beam construction look. A current trend is to face the corner post with manufactured stone.
Log home wood protection by proper sealing is crucial (very crucial). The editor favors oil based stain over water based stain here. The darker pigment will protect the wood from sunlight better than the lighter pigment will. At the same time too dark of stain and your wood may look like it was painted. It is especially important to seal the ends of the logs properly. (Very Important!). Roof overhangs and porches also function to help protect logs from their main enemy (water). Some people choose to treat the exterior wood to combat insect destruction.
Log home company choice is not just a choice of who has the best price. First all log packages differ greatly. When your choices are down to three or four companies, it will be necessary to do a side by side comparison of what is offered. Items such as timber roof or stairs can add substantially to the price. Start with the type of log you want because many log providers will have a niche or specialty. Do they erect their product? Look at the companies that are nearby and work your way out to the furthest locations desired. Ask to see several homes that you can drive by if possible. Ask for references of homeowners that have a home at least three years old that you would be permitted to call or see. Log homeowners are a special breed and love to show their homes and if they are a happy customer they will tell you so.
Know exactly what you want before getting an estimate. Asking what the typical 2500 square feet log home package cost will result in a useless answer. Have your plans at least written down with dimensions noted. Meet with several representatives sometimes asking the same question to see if you get a different answer. Your log home company relationships can be built or destroyed when meeting with their representatives. My choices of companies to use were narrowed at this part of the preplanning stage.
How to choose a general contractor. There are several things to consider and I will list a few of them here. Learn the process so you will know the right questions to ask and have a better understanding of the needs. Get references and go look at their work. Find out who their subs are and go see work in progress. Will the general contractor provide continual evidence that the subs are being paid and how will this information be provided? Get proof of insurance (comprehensive liability and workman compensation) and follow up to make sure it is kept current. Workman compensation, for example, is very expensive in the building industry and yet it can not be compromised. This can come back as a financial burden to the homeowner in many states. Get the contractors full name and address and do not accept a P.O.Box. Ask for the license number and follow up online to check the status of the license and what they are approved to build.
References to include pictures and homeowners to call. Was the job done on time and were they accessible to and responsive to your input and changes? How long have they been in business so you are not part of their learning curve. What specifically is their warranty? Is there anything included in the warranty that is not required in your state? Problems happen, did they correct in a timely manner?
Log Homes Green Building. Log homes are naturally "Green". Log homes require less energy than conventional homes and are more energy efficient to operate. This is due to the thermal mass in the log wall that stores cool air in the summer time and warm air in the winter. Some ways to improve on building green are listed below.
1. Plan around the sun's natural arc and avoid western facings if the desire is cooling in the summer. The colder areas will want more of a southern exposure.
2. Plan a minimal disturbance of the land and use trees to shield from the sun if needed.
3. Use natural landscaping and avoid those that need extra water or fertilizer.
4. Use only energy star windows, the extra savings will greatly reduce the additional cost.
5. Use non-toxic finishes. The finish needs to protect the logs from the elements,
at the same time choose a no or low VOC product for your protection.
6. Proper shading and cross ventilization of a log home along with the thermal mass of the logs will reduce cooling cost. Energy savings on heating are found on geothermal heatpumps, radiant floor heating, and energy star rated furnaces and air conditioning.
7. Solar to heat water and electricity.
8. Energy Star appliances.
9. Save water on low consumption toilets and fixtures.
10. Pretty front doors can also be energy efficient. Compare the energy savings when choosing between wood, fiberglass, or metal.
Where can someone get more specific log home information?
This page has included some of my favorite resource locations on the included links. Subscriptions to Log Home Living and Log Home Design magazine have been useful and in the past I have looked forward to receiving them each month.
The hotspots to build a log home includes the rural areas of Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia, and Northern Florida. Some other areas that are popular include the Catskill in New York and of course the Colorado Rockies. The Western North Carolina county of Haywood has several areas that are popular for log home lovers. Maggie Valley and nearby Jonathan Creek are two areas in Haywood that are known for log homes. A buyer looking for a choice location will often consider national forest, rivers, lakes and creeks, mountains, golf, hunting and fishing.