Clyde Cremer calls himself a "wood technologist."
The Pueblo West businessman holds a master's degree from the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, but he doesn't spend much time in the woods with the trees. Instead, he concentrates on wood as an ages-old building material; he's an expert on trees once they've been harvested and he's designed and built log homes for more than 30 years. He started American Log Homes in 1977 in Missouri and opened a second plant in 1984 in Pueblo West.
Now Cremer, 66, and his son, Jeffrey, have written a book about Clyde's favorite subject. "The Complete Guide to Log Homes" includes everything a person needs to know about living trees, about logging and timber preparation, about buying an existing log home and caring for a log home - and why building a log home yourself might not be the best idea.
"I don't really recommend people building (a home) themselves," says Cremer. "In the book we say to be very honest with yourself." It might seem like the picture of pioneer spirit to build the log home of your dreams in a clearing in the forest beneath the stars, but can you cut rafters with a framing square, Cremer asks. Can you put down a subfloor? Can you size joists and rafters to be structurally sound for snow load, wind and other factors? Do you know about electricity and plumbing - and what about local building codes? How much time can you devote to the project?
Cremer's intent isn't to throw cold water on weekend Daniel Boones, just to inject a large dose of common sense into the log home-building process and to impart his years' worth of knowledge and experience.
Sitting in his office at American Log Homes, Cremer says he already was writing a book about a relative who fought in the battle of the Argonne Forest in France during World War I when Jeffrey urged him to write the log home book. The younger Cremer, who's company vice president, helped with the book's graphics and charts and worked with the publisher to get it released. Jeffrey lives in Colombia, where he operates his own business, Western Log Home Supply, via the Internet.
Clyde Cremer says log homes account for a small percentage of the houses built in the U.S., but they remain popular because they are durable and can be energy-efficient. It's hard to say whether they are more expensive than conventional homes because people often want amenities that drive up the price, such as a fireplace, cathedral ceiling, large windows. There are cheaper packages for people who want "a little home in the hills," he says. The 2009 price list has a model that costs $26,000 in pine and one that's nearly $150,000 in red cedar, and many models in between.
"We do mostly custom homes. We go over a person's plans and ideas, tell them what's most efficient, what's feasible. We can do the blueprints and get it engineered if it's (being built) in Colorado. We can get the logs graded, if required, and can ship them out on a tractor trailer. It takes one to two trailer loads for a house."
Pine and spruce are most often used, though western red cedar is best, Cremer says. The trees are cut in Colorado and Utah and some in Canada.
Log homes appeal to people all over the U.S., not just in the West, and Cremer says potential customers e-mail from as far away as Belgium. He's also gotten inquiries from Israel, Spain and Turkey.
In their book, the Cremers offer advice on many aspects of buying and building a log home, including the tree species used in log homes; how to estimate costs; construction concerns; evaluating and purchasing an existing log home; and the threats to log homes, such as decay, termites and other insects, and fire. The book has checklists and a glossary and provides illustrations and questions to ask at different stages of the construction process.
"Based on many years in the business, we firmly believe that far too many potential customers do not have quality information available when they shop for log homes," Cremer writes in a press release. "This book provides you with that knowledge, enabling you to make intelligent decisions at every step of the process."
"The Complete Guide to Log Homes: How to Buy, Build and Maintain Your Dream Home" was published by iUniverse and sells for $16.95. It can be ordered at the company's Web site, www.westernloghomesupply.com; through the publisher's Web site, www.iuniverse.com ; or from online booksellers.