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Friday, December 15, 2017
Article written by Al Hearn

Log Homes - Top 10 Questions (and Answers)

1. What is the best log home company?

There are over 300 companies that offer log home kits and packages. Each is different than the others. Most have been in business for a number of years, offer a good product, have considerable experience, and have satisfied customers. They vary by wood types used, building methods, floor plans, milling and drying techniques, warranties, customer service, package options, and pricing to name just a few. To summarize, there is no "best" company. You simply have to do your homework, narrow down your choices to four or five, based on your own criteria, and then make your final selection based on which company feels right to you. If you do this, you'll not make a mistake in the company you choose.

2. What is the best wood type?

Like log home companies, wood species all have different characteristics. Some are more dense and sturdier, some less dense but more energy efficient, some are more insect resistant but still need protectant (like all wood types) anyway, some are more expensive because it has to come from far away, some accept stain better, some are less likely to crack (check), and some are easier to work with (lower labor costs). Then, is there one wood type that is best? Nope. Again, do your homework and choose the wood type that you feel best about. You probably won't go wrong, regardless of which type you choose.

3. Are log homes more expensive?

Yes, and no. Log homes are not inherently more expensive than any other type of house. However, most log homes are custom homes, unlike the cookie-cutter spec homes built by developers using the same sub-contractors, same plans, in the same development. Custom homes that are built to unique customer requirements will always cost more, whether they are log homes or not. Therefore, most log homes will cost in a range of 10% to 30% more than a typical spec home of the same size.

4. What will my log home cost to build?

Building a log home is not so much different than building a more conventional home, except that your walls (and usually only first-floor walls) come as a "kit" of stacked and joined logs. All other construction can be almost exactly the same as for any other home. However...log home buyers don't want just any other home. They want cathedral ceilings, full masonry fireplaces, metal roofs, wrap-around porches, heavy timber railings and stairs, tongue-and-groove wood floors, energy-efficient windows and doors, and wooded lots with a view. The cost of these features can be estimated and added to the cost of your land and your log kit (don't forget labor) to arrive at an estimate of your total cost. Our Cost Estimator calculator can help you.

5. What is the best log style (profile)?

There are round logs, rectangular logs, half-round logs, milled, and handcrafted and a variety of different styles of each of these. Your choice may be partially influenced by the style that is popular in your area. Round is popular in the West, rectangular "square") in the Southeast. Machine-milled logs can be hand-hewn to resemble handcrafted logs. Handcrafted logs can be hewn to shapes other than round. Some folks don't like round logs because of the uneven exposure to sun and weather, and dust on inside walls. Others don't think square logs look authentic enough. Half-round ("D" logs) are a good compromise for many people. To chink, or not to chink? Drip edge, or no drip edge? V joint or no joint? So, once again, there is no "best" log style. The best style is the one you like best.

6. Why are prices so different between log home kits?

Comparing prices from different log home producers can be maddening. The problem is that no two "kits" are exactly the same. Some are very basic, containing only the logs. Others can contain every log, window, door, two-by-four, trim piece, and board that you'll need to complete your house. And there is everything in between these two ends of the offering spectrum. So, the trick to comparing prices is to fully understand exactly what is contained in each package, and attempt to compare on an "apples-to-apples" basis. Some kits might include random-length logs that must be cut at the site (lower package cost - higher labor cost), instead of pre-cut logs. Another variable is the quality of material being offered. If two kits both contain windows as part of the package, one might include high quality energy-efficient (expensive) windows while the other includes a lower quality product.

7. Can I act as my own contractor to save money?

Yes. But the question is do you want to do it and are you qualified to do it. Although being your own contractor can save you 15%-35% of your total home construction cost, you should know what you are getting yourself into. You should know something about construction and building techniques, have some knowledge of local building codes, be very well organized, know sub-contractors in your area, be a tough manager, and be willing to spend a lot of time at the building site. Hiring a general contractor who has experience in building log homes, knows sub-contractors, and has project management skills can easily be worth the money you think you'll save by doing it all yourself.

8. What log drying method is best?

Every log home producer has a method and philosophy of how logs must be prepared for the building process. The purpose of drying is to reduce the possibility of shrinkage, warping, checking, and insect infestation. It makes the wood more stable. Some companies advocate air drying, some prefer faster kiln-drying, some say a combination of both is best, and some don't dry their logs at all. The fact is that no two logs are alike and drying techniques can have different results between different individual logs. Some logs may dry only on the outside, some through and through. Although there are no published studies regarding the effectiveness of drying methods, it seems to make good sense that logs that will be used in the construction of a home should be air-dried for at least a year, or kiln-dried for a time that insures that the center section of the log has been dried.

9. What log stacking and joining method is best?

If you visit a log home show or visit log home manufacturer web sites, you quickly get introduced to the various methods by which logs can be joined together. Each method is designed to tightly attach one log to another in a vertical stack, and at the corners, so that no air gaps exist, even if the logs settle later. Various techniques are used. Examples are: flat-stacking, coping, tongue-and-groove, or old-fashioned chink-style construction. To attach stacked logs, companies may use thru-bolts, screws, spring-loaded rods, or spikes. Insulation between logs can be foam, chinking, foam tape, or caulking material. Each of these systems has been designed to work well with that particular company's logs. There are no scientific studies that show one system is better than another, so, again, go with your own feelings.

10. What problems can I expect when building a log home?

Some of the possible problems you might encounter as you plan and build your log home are: financing difficulties (usually because the bank doesn't understand log homes), construction delays (for a variety of reasons), cost overruns (primarily due to poor planning or mid-course changes to plans). The key to minimizing the possibility for problems is to know exactly what you want, realistically budget your project, line up financing well ahead of time, and make your plans and stick with them. Regardless of how well you plan, some problems should be expected. Simply deal with them if they occur and don't let them create unnecessary stress in what should otherwise be a very enjoyable adventure.
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