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Taking the first bite of the elephant

"How do you eat a elephant? One bite at a time!"
I read that quote recently, and it describes exactly how I feel about this new home process. I've begun making appointments with builders and designers, and it's an intimidating prospect. So many questions!
Now my concern is finding a builder willing to construct the half-log/insulated log home I am planning, who is also willing to go as green as I can afford. So far, I have found a traditional home builder who is Energy Star certified, but wonder whether he can produce the "look" that I am aiming for.
The feast is only just begun, so I will have to keep you posted. Just joined the "Going Green" group - will be looking forward to any info from those who have "been there."

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Comment by Brenden Fitzgerald on August 17, 2009 at 5:39pm
How do you eat an elephant one bite at a time? Bring friends...

As everyone has already expressed and for those that are in th planning stages of their new home already know the planning process is an overwhelming process. Further more I too also agree that it is hard to get objective information and advice in the log home industry. Planning your log home on your own is a ricky proposition. Between choosing a quality and finacially stable builder, provider, designer ect.. there are alot of decisions that need to be made that could turn your dream home into a nightmare. So my question is why aren't there log home project planners out there. Obvisouly there are designers, providers and builders that can help you but they are far from objective in the mission. On that note if you feel the same as I do check out this website. It is called My Log Home Advisor. We are dedicated log and timber project planners and want to get your input on this new and groundbreaking service. We have helped countless clients get their "ducks in a row" by guiding them through the planning process so they can breath easier and make decisions with confidence. Ultimately saving them time, money and headaches. Click here to check out the site.
Comment by Jim Mulkern,Jim Barna of PA on August 12, 2009 at 6:09pm
As a log home dealer and general contractor, I understand your concern. I have always worked to be as efficient as the customers budget allows. We typically provide for allowances for our customers where there are many options. We can get pretty close based on experience. A good builder should be abll to give you a fairly close estimate after discussions with you about what you want and what your tastes are. Whether your budget supports what you want is the big question but it's not that hard to list the various options. I don't try to be "green" as I think that is gimmicky. I try to give my customers the most value for THEIR budget.
Comment by Ron Volz on August 11, 2009 at 3:46pm
Rose Marie,

I understand your feeling intimidated with the entire building process. You have received some great information in the previous posts. With your decision of going with a half log building system you have already narrowed the availability of choices. The next decision to make is if you prefer to go with a milled half log (where every log is exactly the same) or a hand draw-knifed half log (more tradional, authentic appearance when completed). Your decision will be based upon the finished look you desire. Feel free to email me directly or invite me as a friend and I can tell more about what we have to offer in hand draw-knifed half log siding with various corner options. A quality custom home builder will have no problem constructing a half log home. The only difference will be installation of the half logs and with some quick training he will be well on his way. I look forward to hearing from you. Ron
Comment by Melody H on August 11, 2009 at 11:01am
Rose Marie:

I interviewed several builders prior to beginning our project. We were very fortunate to build with Country Comfort Homes and Vaughn Construction with Ben Vaughn as our GC. Vaughn Construction is based in Knoxville, TN. Country Comfort Homes, a design/build company, applies building science throughout the process. Vaughn Construction builds custom homes, conventional and log, with focus on structural integrity while incorporating the individual homeowner's design. Ben provided us with a detailed listing of materials and projected cost as a part of his overall quote. Ben and I checked numbers regularly throughout the building process. I made many decisions based on energy efficiency as well as asthetics throughout the project. Our home is located on Country Comfort Homes web gallery.

Country Comfort Homes has an article in the November issue of "Log Homes Illustrated," page 42. This features both full logs and stick frame walls. More pictures of this home are on the website,, in the Picture Gallery. Scroll down to the Jim and Mary Rorer home.

If you would like to discuss further, I can be reached at 865-908-3671.
Comment by Rose Marie on August 11, 2009 at 10:01am
Steve, another log home company rep told me the same thing. He also does both stick and log - they live in a full log home - and they were very forthright with their advice. I had pretty much decided against the "log package" by that point. Now the task is to decide which local builder can give me the look I'm after, along with the quality necessary to avoid problems down the road.
Since I live in a very rural area, I'm not sure whether I'll be able to find a contractor locally who has experience with LEED or NGBS. But I'd still like to incorporate as much energy efficiency into the house as my budget can stand. Any suggestions as to how to get my prospective builder on board with this?
Comment by Steve Reddy on August 11, 2009 at 6:38am

This ties into another discussion on full log versus half log walls elsewhere. If you are going with a half wall system, that is a stick built house with expensive siding. Your stick builder should me more than capable of building it. If you are looking to save money, there is no reason to buy that kind of a package from a log home company (I say that as a rep for a national log company and as a builder that does both stick built and log).
Not sure about the other posts -- once you have a site plan, floor plan, and list of specifications, the builder should give you an estimate accurate enough to get your financing and to sign a fixed price contract.
To clarify, Energy Star does not certify builders, we build under the ES program. A real green builder should have also built under the Dept. of Energy's Builders Challenge if they are into energy efficiency, LEED for Homes, or the National Green Building Standard. Even if you are not having your home certified, it is worthwhile to follow one of those programs (they are done in a checklist format where you get points for different items) as they are the closest thing to a consensus on what "green" means. Make sure your builder understands building science which is the foundation for a durable and healthy home.
Comment by Norb on August 7, 2009 at 7:16am
Rose Marie,
A great book that I've found to be very helpful is "The Complete Guide to Contracting Your Home" by D. McGuerty and K. Lester. It isn't specific to log homes, but there are great checklists for all phases of the building process and what to pay attention to. There are great examples of things to write into contracts with the builder and subcontractors. For a $19.00 investment, you might save thousands of dollars and lots of headaches.
Happy elephant biting!
Comment by Ted on August 6, 2009 at 9:13pm
This whole construction process is mind boggling. I've been at it now fore at least a year and a half. Trying to get a builder to even give you ballpark numbers is virtually impossible but even if you get one that is willing to throw out some numbers, you'll find he or she is very quick to point out that the numbers are very preliminary and probably wont be accurate once the construction starts. If you want clarification of what they are giving you for your money, you may never hear from them again.

It doesn't matter if they are Energy Star Certified or have a star hanging over their heads, until you start getting down to the nitty gritty with them you will never know how reliable they are.

My advise; be careful, be as detailed as possible as to what you will bring to the party and what you expect from the builder, check them out through every source you can think of and then maybe, just maybe you will find a builder that does what you want, does it well and does it on schedule in within your budget.

Good luck, Ted

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