The Log Home Neighborhood

An online log home community for log home enthusiasts.

So ya want to be a log home owner

OK, you've been bitten. You stumbled across a couple of photos in a home magazine or you went to visit a friend in the country who owns a vacation log home or something like that, and it happened. You really can't explain it yourself but at that very moment you knew ... life in a crowded city in a tiny overpriced apartment was not for you nor was living in the "burbs" where every house looks like every other house, where you are really big stuff if your piece of property is barely a third of an acre.

Well, I'm one of you too, I want the real life, the country life, the log home life. My wife Marilyn and I have been looking for the right house to build now for about a year and although we have (we think) found it we have not as yet started to build. Why? Rule one; make sure you have the money or a source for money before you proceed. We need to sell our current house so we are currently at a standstill. But lets not digress. Continuing on to Rule two; know what the house is "actually" going to cost. Rule three is a good one too; make sure you own a piece of property before you start spending your hard earned money. You need a plan.

There are other rules too and I'll cover them in other blogs but in an effort not to overwhelm anyone, especially myself, I will cover a couple of points at a time.

Lets talk about rule one. Owning a home, any kind of home is 90% emotional and 10% good business sense (I know you are different). You will probably need to sell your current house (my situation) or have some cash (investments, savings a rich uncle that kind of thing). The point is, don't start spending money with architects, builders or log home manufactures until you are certain you have a source for moola (that's dollars in the event you never heard the expression).

Which, most naturally, brings us to rule two. Let me be the first to tell you, if not the 30th person, that the cost of a log home is not the cost of the Dri-In Package (a topic of another blog). Let me give you a few of the items you should include in your construction budget sheet. The cost of the property. Depending where and how much land you need could (will) be significant. Ok, you now own a piece of heaven what next. Uh ha. Build a house on it. What will you need to include in your numbers here. Let's start off with the house package. Most log home manufacturers generally offer three options, (1) they'll sell you the lumber and you pay for shipping to your site plus taxes, (2) they will sell you a Dri-In package where they will deliver the house to your site and erect the shell for you so that the house is basically dry (guess where the term dri-in comes from). You will of course pay for shipping to your site and will pay applicable taxes. (3) Is turn key. They will sell you the lumber, deliver it to your site, erect it and in addition will turn it over to you in ready to move in condition. In essence be your general contractor. You still pay for shipping and taxes although they may be buried in the total cost.

There are pluses and minuses to each package. In the first option you will need to hire a General Contractor who in turn will hire all the subs to complete the job. In the second option, you will still need to hire a General Contractor (unless you decide to be your own GC) to complete the house but the cost should be somewhat less because the log home people built the shell. Option three speaks for itself. Get yourself a lounge chair and camera, sit back for 6 moths to a year and watch your dream being assembled.

I know, my points are not in the same order I originally presented to you but unfortunately, that's how my mind works.

In subsequent blogs I will talk about all the other little construction things you must include in your building budget like: excavation, septic, well drilling, tree trimming, road construction, permits, attorney fees, architects fees, moving costs. Cost of the stuff that goes goes into the house like HVAC, cabinets, vanities, counter tops, fireplaces, flooring and other good things.

More headache stuff next time.


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Comment by Dianne on July 3, 2008 at 1:08pm
Sorry but without the finished plans (and a start date firmly established) all I can tell you is a rule of thumb for estimates is non-existent! We had started trying to get estimates from online sources (you know...those budget calculators and %'s based on sq footage etc) This was when the entire project was still just a "what-if" and before we even owned the land. Not one of those figures gained from online sources came anywhere near the actual cost. Luckily we didn't rely on any of those "generic" figures.

Once we owned the land and could speak with contractors in the area we came closer to reality. But, again you get what you pay for. I had 2 estimates for the driveway (a very LONG driveway) and they were $10,000 apart. Turns out one guy was just grading with a layer of crushed stone. The driveway would have been full of pot holes within a year or two. The other was digging out,laying various grades of stone, packing it down, and in general guaranteed his work for a much longer period of time. And after speaking with people we found out he did in fact stand by his work. We felt that even though he was more expensive NOW, in the long run we wouldn't be faced with expensive repairs. As we were retiring in order to do this, we didn't want to be faced with unknown costs in a year or two. It was better (in our case) to spend it now.

The foundation is also tricky. There are codes that need to be followed in certain areas of the country. And the foundation plans for log homes must be followed exactly. With the precut logs there is no room for a "wiggle here and there"...

Well is $ per foot and you pray you hit water before you hit China *wink*
Check with others in the area and find out how deep they had to go and then do alot of praying that you are lucky!

We were lucky that the land we bought was so utterly fantastic that even if our plans to build didn't work out, it was still a good investment. At one point we even considered (because the house in CT wasn't selling) that we would continue working, and try to "maybe" build a small cabin on a shoestring budget to be used for vacations. As it was we did spend 3 separate vacations last summer just camping on the land in a tent.

I wish I could be more help.
Comment by Ted on July 2, 2008 at 5:38pm
Boy, do you and we (and as I said before, almost everyone else building or planning to build), think the same. Today I went to Home Depot and bought enough close out tile to tile our (upcoming) powder room and second floor bathroom. I paid $1.30 per square foot. Last week we saw a comparable tile for about $2.00 per square foot. That's a savings of .70 cents a square foot (not counting sales tax), so I have saved $140.00 to spend on something else. Not a monster of a savings but as my father used to say, better in your pocket then theirs.

Buy the way, is there any general rule of thumb that I can use to figure out what excavation, foundation, well drilling and septic will cost. I just can't seem to get a straight answer from any of the subs until I get finished plans in hand.

Comment by Dianne on July 2, 2008 at 10:46am
My husband and I had several discussions on the wisdom of buying too many items in advance. Mostly along the lines of "what if" our home doesn't sell and we are stuck with a basement full of lights, vanities, sinks and fixtures that will never be used. We had 2 Sundays each month when we had to leave the home for open houses. We dedicated those days to shopping around and making choices. On several occasions we ran into that "once in a lifetime bargain" and these purchases have certainly worked to our advantage now that we are well into construction. It was also fun (especially in the darkest days of feeling the house would never sell) to bring the items out, look them over and dream of how they would look in the new log home!

We also kept a book with model numbers and other information on the expensive items. The last month (once we were sure the house was sold) we went ahead and purchased those items. Had we not done all that shopping and comparing in advance, there is no way we would have been able to do that with all the preparation of packing 30 years of our lives into moving boxes for a trip 350 miles north!

Something else I should mention, and that is back in CT we knew exactly where to find everything and where to go to get the best prices. In our new area we are "newbies" and at a distinct disadvantage in not being able to find the range of choices we enjoyed back in CT. In hindsight, we made some incredible purchases over the 14 months, and now we can sit back and congratulate ourselves that all these items are already paid for and not coming out of our current building budget.
Comment by Ted on July 1, 2008 at 3:11pm
You know what I find incredible Dianne, that so many of us have or are having the same experiences in building a log home. For example, I thought I was unique in buying such things as faucets, light fixtures, fans and even furniture and bathroom tile months ahead of the start of construction, well guess what, I got a handful of emails from potential and seasoned builders telling me that they are of the same mind as I am.

That's why I find your comments to me so interesting and valuable. They resonate in the spots that are important to me. The only thing that would make your information even better would be if I were there during your conversations with the contractors.

Please keep the information coming. It's truly appreciated.

Comment by Dianne on July 1, 2008 at 11:34am
We chose the first type of package. From the log home dealer we purchased the "dri-in" package but in addition the added option of purchasing all the lumber in the proper quantities to finish the interior as well (stairs, all doors, windows plus all window trim, and interior pine for all the interior walls partitions)...

We are acting as our own general contractor and found a local builder with a great reputation who has done several log homes. We follow many of his recommendations for sub-contractors, knowing that he knows these guys and their work ethics. The builder has phone support from the manufacturer and a technical guru arrived for the laying of the first course and to explain how this log home was put together that may differ from others the builder has done.

A word on estimates, we had the excavator visit the land twice while giving us the estimate (over a year ago) and the same with the person who poured the foundation. Both estimates went over due to the increases in materials (gas prices being the biggest problem). They were both up front before they did the work and we had the option of going elsewhere, yet given today's economy (and although the increases hurt) we didn't feel they were unreasonable. So even the best planned budget has to be padded for unforeseen increases.

This is the same way we went about building our first log home 29 years ago. It worked well then (our budget was $ 40.00 short). We are hoping to have the same results this time.

Look into every aspect. Don't suddenly be surprised that the nearest electric pole is at the street and you are looking to build 1000 feet into the woods. It's going to cost big bucks to get that electricity back there.

Ted, I love all your observations and advice. Keep it up!
Comment by Ted on June 24, 2008 at 5:29pm
Hi Deb. Your husband sounds a lot like me a few years ago. I was a dyed in the wool city dweller. I had a terrific apartment in Manhattan and a home in the burbs. I thought I had the best of two worlds. Then we moved to Sarasota Florida (I bought a cabinet manufacturing company ... another story). We lived here for about fifteen years when some friends of ours bought a circa 1840's log home near Clyde, NC. They finally got us to visit them one summer. The first thing that convinced me that there was a better life than I had ever dreamed of was when we were driving up to their house to visit with them, we were on route 40 and all of the sudden we came over a ridge and there they were, the Smokey Mountains. It was breath taking. As great as this view was I still was not totally sold on a total lifestyle change. My business in florida kept me busy 14 hours a day and that was all I could think of. Well, to keep a long story from going into the 22st century, after spending two weeks visiting different towns, attractions, properties and people, I was converted. Converted from being a city person, converted from being a suburbs kind of guy to a committed mountain believer. We bought a little over three acres on top of a mountain near Maggie Valley, NC and can't wait to sell our house in Sarasota to generate most of the bucks necessary to start building a log home in heaven (sometime known as Western North Carolina).
If your husband is not ready to make the physical and mental move to the mountains, be patient. It took me a few years to get the bug but once I got bitten I was bitten hard. Sure it's different but in todays crazy world we need to find those things that make life worthwhile. Keep exposing him to the greatest adventure he will ever have. Trust me, It's not "Deliverance" it's a whole new way of life.

Comment by debbie Mccabe on June 24, 2008 at 7:04am
Hi Ted, My husband and I have looked at log Homes for years at shows and Magazines. Well, One became available in the area we are looking to move. Now he says it's too dark, too small, just looking for reasons not to love it the way I do. The price can't be the issue it's reasonable. The lot is great.He is a city slicker. Having lived in a Log home can you or anyone give me the pros and cons of a LOG HOME. To help make my defense better or Turn me off the idea. Deb
Comment by Ted on June 10, 2008 at 5:14pm
Well, it looks like some of you want me to keep emptying out my ideas and (some) knowledge on to you. I'll be happy to do so but please keep in mind that the stuff contained in my writings does not necessarily reflect the points of view of the publisher or the publishers employees. It's just me.

As I mentioned in one or two of my previous comments, I'm a carpenter and own a small carpentry/handyman business. Some of my thoughts come from that discipline and some from just my experiences in dealing with various trades people, SO ... if you have had different experiences, please let me know. I need to learn too.

That's it for today.

Comment by Chris on June 10, 2008 at 4:50pm
Thanks for your blog, I look forward to learning more from you. I happened on to this website and I want to use it to learn more about my dream home. I am stuck at wanting to build or just buying someone else's dream. Looking forward to learning more from you.
Comment by Rob Romine on June 10, 2008 at 1:52pm
Great info. I look forward to your future blogs!

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