Ever dream of living in a beautiful log home, surrounded by nature? Building a log home is a difficult but rewarding endeavor. If you plan on building the home with the help of professional contractors, you can get the job done relatively quickly.
If you decide to build the house on your own, it can take up to several years. Either way, knowing your way around some of the basic concepts is helpful. Here are some things to consider when building your very own log house
Finance your home
Building a log cabin can be costly. The cost of the land, the cost of supplies and the cost of labor are all factors you will need to consider when estimating the cost of your new home.
You have a number of options when it comes to financing your home, including savings, mortgage loans and construction loans.
Talk to a mortgage broker to discuss which option works best for you.
Mortgage loans. The most common type of loan is the closed-end, fixed-rate mortgage. These loans come on a variety of terms, but the most common is a 30-year term.
This is a good option when it comes to building a log cabin. A construction loan acts like a credit line. You draw as you need and pay interest only on what you draw.
You don’t have to use it at all and can roll over or convert to a typical mortgage loan when the house is completed if you like.
Savings. If you prefer not to take out a loan, you can pay your whole project with cash, provided you have enough. You will give up significant tax benefits and tie up your money at a reasonably poor return, but it can be done.
How much should you borrow?
The answer is plenty
Running out of money is the worst thing that can happen during construction. Despite your best budget estimates, it is impossible to know the exact cost of your log home until it has been built.
What will the banks look for? Banks are essentially looking for two things.
First, they want to know that the home will be sufficient collateral to secure the money they are loaning. This means they want to make sure the house will be built within the , and will be a marketable house when it is finished.
The second thing banks want to know is your ability to repay the loan. When the banks evaluate you, they look at three basic areas: credit, liquidity and income.
Choose the land
It’s important to do your homework before deciding what land to build your cabin on. Real estate agents and developers can help you to find a suitable lot. If you own land already, the first thing you need to do is make sure that it’s suitable for building.
Factors such as slope, soil conditions, accessibility, zoning and use of surrounding properties all play a part in determining whether a lot is suitable for building.
You will need to contact local soil engineers and have them do a soil analysis. This will indicate whether water is readily available and if it’s of good quality.
Your potential building site will also need to pass a percolation test – which determines whether the land will soak up waste water from a septic system.
Determine the design of your home
Some people have a clear idea of what they want their log cabin to look like. Other may have a list of priorities but are flexible when it comes to a floor plan.
You can choose an existing plan from a producer’s list of designs, or you can work an independent designer or architect to come up with an individual blueprint.
Keep in mind that the design and dimensions of your home will depend on the amount of money you are willing to spend and the quality of the materials you intend to use.
A larger home will raise the cost of labor, supplies and building permits.
Your chosen log style will also help to narrow down the design options. Certain log styles are only suitable for use in specific building designs.
Obtain a building permit. Submit your plans to the local permit office for approval. This is necessary to obtain the building permit required before you can start construction. You will also be need to find out what building codes you log home needs to adhere to. These can vary from state to state.
Create a timeline
How long it takes to build your log home will depend entirely on what type of house you are building. If you are building a custom, traditionally built log home, you are likely looking at 1-2 years from beginning to end.
If you are building a modular or prefab kit home from a stock plan, the project can be completed in as little as six months.
Factors such as whether you are planning on building the cabin yourself or hiring a team of professionals, will also significantly influence building time.
Log homes are just as susceptible to delays, such as those caused by adverse weather conditions or poor workmanship, as any other building projects. Try to allocate some time to unforeseen delays in your schedule.
Avoid deviating from your blueprints.
Be aware that if you make any last minute changes, even small ones, you can create a domino effect of delays which can throw your building project completely off target.
Determine whether or not to hire professionals
Deciding whether to build your log home yourself or to have it built professionally is a big decision. Hiring a professional to build your log house is the quickest, most hassle-free option, since he will have the skills, contacts and equipment to complete the job in half the time it would take someone with little to no experience.
However, if you’re not afraid of some hard work and a longer timeline, nothing beats the sense of pride and satisfaction gained from building your own home. At the end of the day it just comes down to personal preference.
Research and choose a producer
The producer supplies the necessary materials for building your log home. You can source a producer by looking at different company’s plan books, which will give you an idea of the type of log homes that they have produced previously.
Otherwise, you can stop in at a model log home, and if you’re impressed with the style and layout, you can hire the same company to produce yours.
Make sure that you have an open line of communication with your chosen producers – they should listen to your ideas and always keep you in the loop.
You can do a background check on possible producers by researching previous log homes they’ve built and getting references from their customers.
You can also check with the Better Business Bureau, the state attorney general’s office or the Log Homes Council.
Research and choose a builder
Carefully consider your options when it comes to choosing a builder. There are many on the market, and their quality and service vary considerably.
Besides finding a builder you can communicate well with and painstakingly checking references with past customers, you also should visit finished homes to personally inspect the builder’s work.
Keep in mind that it usually takes several years for a log home to completely settle and expose any construction defects. A 3- to 5-year-old home probably is the best example of a builder’s art.
Before selecting your builder, you also should check with the local contractor’s board or similar state or regional authority, including your state’s attorney general’s office, to see if the builder has been involved with litigation in the past.
It’s wise to choose a builder who is familiar with your local building codes and the environment of your site.
Make sure your builder is licensed and bonded, otherwise if you run into problems you could have little legal recourse.
Sign a contract
You will need to negotiate with your builder or building company about items such as the price of their services, the design of your home, and the estimated time frame for completing the project. Once both parties have come to an agreement, the terms will be laid out in a contract which you will both be required to sign.
Determine what you need
Aside from lumber, there are a significant number of tools and materials you will need to build your log house. You will need specialized tools for handling wood, such as a chainsaw, chisel, planer, beam saw, drill and tenon cutter. You will need concrete, stones and mortar for the foundations, along with insulation materials and, of course, windows, doors and roof materials.
Source the lumber
A log cabin can be made from virtually any group of tall trees. However, a log cabin that lasts must be made from a narrow selection of wood types that have the characteristics needed to craft a sound, visually appealing structure that will retain its strength, value and appearance for decades and beyond. Common examples of trees types used in building log cabins include cypress, Douglas fir, white pine and yellow pine.
If you are gathering the lumber yourself, choose trees that are of the length and diameter that will suit your needs.
Think in terms of cutting a matched set of logs with the same mid-point diameter
House logs are best cut in winter, when the sap is down and the logs can be skidded over the snow with minimum damage to the logs and the environment.
Choose your logs selectively, not cutting too many trees in the same space, the trees left behind will benefit from having more light and space to grow in.
Alternatively, you can purchase lumber from a log home producer. It is possible to buy lumber precut, which minimizes and often eliminates the work you will have to do to prepare the logs.
Prep the logs
Logs will need to be debarked and treated with a preservative treatment to prevent deterioration by insects, molds, mildew and fungus attacks. Consider whether you want to build your home with green logs (logs with a high moisture content) or dried logs.
If you choose to use dried logs you will need to stack your freshly cut lumber to season.
If you are happy to use green logs you will need to account for the lumber “settling” over the first few years.
Lay the foundation
The foundation types for a log house are pretty much the the same as foundations for any structure of comparable size and weight. The difference comes in the weight of the walls, and the means of attaching the first round of logs to the foundation. Some of your options include:
The pier or stilt method. This is a popular and relatively inexpensive option, however the sub-floor will require extra insulation to keep your feet toasty in the winter.
This type of foundation is also not as stable as some other options, which can be a downside if the log house is located in an area prone to storms or tornadoes.
The pre-cast panel system
This is a newer type of foundation which is becoming increasingly popular due to its fast installation and the fact that it does not require a footing.
The hollow foam block. This type of foundation consists of stacked, interlocking Styrofoam blocks. It can be built very quickly and is quite stable due to reinforcement bars which are placed between the blocks.
Build the walls
Raising the cabin walls can be tricky. You must carefully align the logs so that they stack straight upwards. Since you are working with a natural material, some of the logs will be curved. The overall objective is to have the average center of all the logs bear down on the center line of the wall, which in turn bears on the centerline of the foundation.
Windows and doors in a log home should be located with consideration for solar aspect, prevailing winter winds, roof avalanche potential, and the structural elements of log construction. Face the majority of windows south for natural light and passive solar heat.
Put the roof on
There are many ways to put a roof on your log creation to shelter it from the elements. The classic log house had a low-pitched roof with generous eave and gable end overhangs.