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American Log and Lumber Interview

Today we have a great interview with John Harper, the owner of American Log & Lumber based in Arkansas. John has a great perspective on the business and decades of experience in the commercial and residential sectors of the log home industry.

Tell us about American Log and Lumber; what products and services do you provide?

Tom, I’m so glad that was your first question! As a wholesale company we understand many people will associate the word “wholesale”, with little to no service, that’s just not true with American Log and Lumber. We pride ourselves on complete service, before and after the sale.

Being in the business personally for over 30 years I have learned a thing or two from my customers. They want service number one and product flexibility that will meet or exceed their expectations. Many companies are geared to accommodate one style or system, leaving many to settle because they believe achieving their dream is just not possible within their budget.

American Log and Lumber was specifically formed to do both. We want to give the best “FULL”, service available in the business today and offer the best products available for the client and the right products to fit the architectural design they choose.

We have an Architect on staff that has been designing log, timber, and hybrid style homes for over forty years. We have the resources to have them engineer stamped for any state. We provide much more than a package of logs.  We carry a large selection of pattern stock, from 1x and 2x t&g to flooring and trim. We carry an abundance of re- claimed materials from brick, doors, heart pine, cypress and much, much more. We make flooring, mantels, and accent pieces from our re-claimed  timbers to help create that “Wow”, factor for our clients.

Our construction services are the best in the business, bar none! We take pride in all of our services but construction is by far the most important aspect of making the concept a reality for our clients. There are a lot of good contractors out there but most lack two very important ingredients; communication with the client and manufacturer during the design phase and during the construction phase. Because American can be your log and timber home provider, designer and contractor, it gives us a BIG advantage over most of our competitors and that gives our clients a big advantage, and saves them potentially thousands in extra material and labor cost.

On your website you talk about Lawson Cypress, which is not a common wood used in log homes; can you tell us more about it?

As with any wood material there are pros and cons; coastal cypress has decay and bug resistance, but it splinters and is somewhat unstable, yellow pine is the strongest of pines, has a beautiful grain but again is unstable. Western Red Cedar is a great rot and bug resistant material but can be a little too dark for interior use for some. Lawson Cypress does have one drawback, it only grows in Northern California and southern Oregon making this wood somewhat rare and hard to get. We have a good supply coming from the only mill that mills it from the only stand in the entire world that is select cut each year. While this material is a little more costly than your average material, it ranks favorably with other cedars and coastal cypress but is much stronger and much more stable, making Lawson Cypress well worth the investment.

Lawson’s Cypress is one of the good choices for your house logs. It has a great reputation for stability and durability and should be a first choice for those homes being built in the south central states. Its reputation for decay resistance makes it more than a favorable species to consider in any of our humid climates.

A Reputation for Strength

Rated strongest among all types of Cypress, Lawson’s Cypress commonly known as Port Orford Cedar (POC) has earned a reputation for its strength and decay-resistance. This decay resistance is due to naturally occurring oils in the wood. POC has historically been the preferred wood for building boats and Japanese sacred temples. Today POC is ideal for flooring, interior woodwork, furniture, door construction and fence posts (its heartwood has an in- ground life of 20-25 years). POC has even been used to build the stadium seats at the world-famous Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, park benches at Yosemite National Park and for building America’s Cup yachts.

Rough Sawn Timbers

It’s simple. Strength, durability and natural decay-resistance make POC the ideal wood for our Rough Sawn Timbers, where beauty and structural integrity are important in both indoor and outdoor uses.

Liven up An Interior

POC is a lightly colored wood, allowing it to accept stains nicely. And with a fine texture, straight grain, and pleasant lemony fresh scent, it’s an excellent choice for interior woodwork.

Perfect for Exteriors

Our Appearance Plus decking made from POC is not only strong, it’s safe for children. Unlike green treated material In addition to chemical-free decay deterrence, its texture remains smooth with no raised grain or slivering, and its durability makes it ideal for use in high- traffic outdoor sites.

What about floor plans? Do you have your own collection for your customers to peruse and can you modify plans for people?

We currently have around fifteen published plans on our website but I have hundreds within our archives. We typically deal with custom plans and seldom build from our published standard plans; those are mainly used as ideas, or a base to start our new design from. We can either altar one of our plans, start from scratch or create a plan using our customers scrap book of ideas.

American Log and Lumber can produce virtually any log profile and corner style; do you have a favorite any why?

Tom, that’s a loaded question. As a manufacturer and builder, I like logs and rustic construction in almost any style and form.  If we are speaking of efficiency and ease of build then we would go with a “D”, log style with a butt and pass corner system. The ease of construction lower cost of log material makes this the best choice in getting the biggest bang for your buck.

If strength is your driving force, then nothing beats a dovetail corner in an 8×12″ log. We built one in Port Sulphur LA and the customer called me after the last hurricane and told me that his home not only withstood the hurricane force winds and weather but that he could not even feel the walls move!! Now that’s a testament to engineering, construction, design, and the dovetail log which inter-locks each log together.

If overall beauty is your goal, then I like the Swedish Cope log for overall style. While the corners lock together much like the dovetail log, this system has less of a natural seal from the outside elements.  It is recommended that the cope system, which does not have a tongue and groove system, be chinked for the best chance at being air tight. Many of the corner styles and log profiles can be intermingled, so it’s important that we cover this in detail during the design process.

Editor’s note: Here are a few photos from American Log and Lumber’s website. View the gallery on their website here.

What is the best advice you would offer a new log home buyer?

It is very important for a new log home buyer to know exactly what they are getting into, from overall cost to construct to maintenance issues and cost as well as the common thoughts like budget, what’s most important, what companies offer the things you are looking for. It is important to do your research, pick five companies and narrow the list from there based on their ability to meet your needs and as always meet or speak with previous customers to make sure they can deliver what they say they can do for you. Pre-qualify with your financial institute, have them give you a list of things they will need from the log home company and builder.

Have your plans priced out by more than one company. If you own your plans you can submit them to more than one company for pricing. Make sure to compare apples to apples as the pricing comes back you may see a large disparity within the pricing; that’s because some companies sell log only packages and some sell complete material packages and some sell partial material packages. Make sure you understand what materials are provided and the grade and style as some companies deliver basic material as part of the package, while this all sounds good customers rarely use everything sent, or worse case it’s all delivered at the same time and ends up getting damaged, lost or stolen before its needed. Have them stage the deliveries if possible or simply cut the extra materials out and have the builder provide them locally. We do about five workshops per year that covers many of the important topics geared to first time log home enthusiasts. I would encourage them to attend at least on live workshop.

On your website you talk about “Natures Armor”. Is this a new product and what makes it different than other stains? Is it exclusive to American Log And Lumber?

Natures Armor is not a new company. It was started many years ago by a chemist that owned a wood sided home and was looking for a solution to having his home re-stained every two years. He began research and formulation taking seven years to come up with what is now called Natures Armor. He did not advertise or promote his product but word quickly spread in his neighborhood and throughout the community. He opened a manufacturing facility and people like me heard about this product. As I began to see the results and the longevity of this plant based water soluble product I got more interested. Since I’ve been in the business and even today re-staining can be the most costly part of the upkeep.

Natures Armor is an environmentally safe, professional grade natural plant based water-reducible oil finish that has been formulated to counteract the deterioration process of wood surfaces by utilizing natural plant oils and resins, which adhere to; penetrates and replenishes wood surfaces, creating dimensional stability through a process called molecular bond.

Because the satisfaction was so great American Log and Lumber chose to purchase the company and make it more excess able to anyone wanting a natural quality product on their home.

You have been in this business for a long time, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in log home construction vs. 10 or 20 years ago?

There have been many changes since I entered the business in 1980. The design for one now allows for more open floor plans. This opens the door to be much more appealing to a much larger target group. Log homes are no longer dark and dreary, with the open floor plans they are much more family friendly, usable, creating that one of a kind “warm and cozy feeling”, only a log home can provide. Log homes were rustic in nature back then but better design and manufacturing practices have opened the door for much more contemporary log homes that we see today. A new generation of log styling has begun within the last few years which incorporate many building products to make a home. We call this new style Hybrid; because it utilizes the very best of timber framing, log and stone to create a one of a kind home with much more eye appeal and character, while maintaining the energy efficient qualities of solid log.

This is a very competitive business, why should people buy from American Log and Lumber over its competitors?

While there are many quality well established log home companies, none provide the total package of service, product availability and material American does under one roof or at the wholesale prices offered by American log and Lumber. We work extremely hard to assure our clients are 100% satisfied. It’s important to know and understand what our clients wants and needs are and it is extremely important that the needs of our clients are translated from paper to production; that my friends is what makes dreams come true!

Your company seems to be involved in all aspects of log home manufacturing and construction, are there any other services you provide?

Yes Tom, along with our construction services we also provide restoration services. We pride ourselves in the restoration process. Restoring someone’s dream is as important as the design and construction phase. There are many aspects to restoring a log home, sometimes as simple as re-staining, however there are times where we have to replace logs. The trick is make the replacement logs look just like the original logs.

Homeowners often do not realize the small simple steps they can take in keeping their home looking as good as the day it was built. I create a personalized check list for each customer and do a walk around the home explaining things to watch for. We also send e-mail reminders to our clients reminding them to take action. We also have a service that gives our clients an opportunity to have us come back once a year to clean the home.

We do much more then just re-stain your home. We take every precaution to preserve your home. There are many things we can do to assure a trouble free home. Tom, education and prevention is a big service and we love providing them. Education is the best preventative maintenance available.  If folks are interested in seeing some of our projects they can follow us on Facebook or check out our photo sections on our web site.

About American Log and Lumber:

John Harper, Owner
Phone: (479) 243-3275
Email form
Website:  http://americanlogandlumber.com

2 comments to American Log and Lumber Interview

  • Gerry H.

    A fascinating interview. I can’t believe that I never heard of this company, but they are exactly what I’m looking for. I will be calling them when I get off work. Thanks.

  • Over the years the log home industry has evolved to incorporate many different materials into the architectural design making timber construction more appealing, but also complicating the overall process of the project. In today’s world of complicated architectural design, building systems and mixture of materials, it’s important to utilize the best contractors with the most experience to assure your projects timely and cost effective completion.

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