From time to time, we interview log home companies and offer a forum to talk about their company, the log home industry and what makes their company unique. Today, I am pleased to share my interview with Brad Neu, President of…
Tell us about Montana Log Homes.
My partner, Jim Bachofner, actually started the company in 1975 as Pioneer Log Cabins. I joined him in 1981 as the first employee. In 1983 we incorporated as Kalispell Montana Log Homes, Inc. By 1985 I purchased 25% of the company and we bought our first tower crane and band saw mill. We grew slowly and took great care in training our employees to focus on safety, quality and efficiency in that order. Over the years we have expanded to over 20 employees, many of whom have been with us 15 – 25 years. There is something about log homes that gets in your blood, once you’re hooked, you’re hooked for life.
Why do people choose Montana Log Homes?
As a relatively small company it is easy to give each client the attention they deserve. We have always specialized in handcrafted, full scribe construction. Over the years we have listened to clients and contractors to find out exactly what they expect from their log home supplier and have done all we can to exceed those expectations. Specifically, we offer our clients a huge variety of designs and are always willing to modify design to fit their individual wants or needs. We use top quality logs and hand chisel the logs for a perfect log to log fit. We always send two men to assist with the reset of the home; this assures a fast, efficient setup and reduces crane and labor charges. We always do any slotting needed where dimensional lumber meets a log wall and we cut and keyway the door and window openings. Basically, if it takes a chain saw, we do it! Again, this saves the contractor countless hours on the finishing end, saving the client money.
What is your wood of choice?
We primarily use dead standing Lodgepole Pine, but have built many homes with Engelmann Spruce and Western Red Cedar, as well. Every species has its pros and cons and each company will promote their choice as the best. All I’ll say is, after 30 years of building, Lodgepole Pine is still my first choice. It grows straight with minimal taper and it is porous enough to be a good insulator, yet strong enough to work well in most structural applications.
Can you customize the floor plans you display on your site?
Certainly, we do it all of the time. Eric, our draftsman, works with our clients throughout the country either modifying our designs or doing custom designs. Today’s technology has made the process fairly simple and efficient. Just let us know what design changes you want to make and we will work to customize the floor plan while ensuring its structural integrity.
Editor’s Note: You can see 10 of MLH’s most popular log home floor plans here.
What log profiles and corner styles do you offer?
What does your company recommend for internal and external finishes?
It seems that every year someone comes out with a product that is going to last 10 to 20 years and 2 to 3 years later the customer ends up blasting off a horrible mess. I have always stayed away from these fly-by-night companies. We use and recommend Sashco products with great success. I especially like their transformation stain for exterior use. There is also an all natural product from Land Arc that has a good reputation for both interior and exterior use, but I do not have enough experience with it to know its longevity yet.
What’s the best advice you would give to a new log home buyer?
Do some research. While most log home companies are very reputable, there are always a few “bad apples”. Also, there are so many different styles of log construction and each company seems to offer something different as their “log package”. Make sure you know exactly what is included and more importantly what is not.
How have the changes in our economy affected your company?
The economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 seems to have affected most everyone in the nation and Montana Log Homes is no exception. We did, however, use this slow time to redesign our website and have included many floor plans and photos to really show potential clients our work. By April we were back to running at full capacity and 2010 is already beginning to book up. One benefit of this economy is that material and labor costs have dropped throughout the construction industry allowing our clients to build their dream homes more cost effectively than a couple of years ago.
What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in the log home business over the years?
In 30 years, I would say it is the size and complexity of the average homes we produce. While the 1000 to 1500 square foot “log cabins” are still popular, the more affluent clients have definitely discovered the beauty of logs!
Is your company a member of any trade or consumer organizations?
Trade groups certainly have helped to improve building standards in the industry. While I am not a member of the Log Homes Council, I have always contributed to their cause. I do support and I am a member of several local chambers of commerce.
Has your company won any awards or been recognized for an outstanding product or service?
Over the years we have won several favorite floor plan and great room design competitions in the trade magazines, but our best recognition has come from our clients words of praise at the end of a job.