Montana Log Homes

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The Log Home Journey… (part 2)

As Paul Harvey says, “this is the rest of the story”. .. the second post of a two-part article written by Mike and Sue Lemmon of Cowboy Log Builders LLC.  In the event you missed it, read Part I of The Log Home Journey.

OK, you’ve done your job site research. Now it is time to work on a floor plan. Plan books, magazines, and websites are a tremendous resource. Take your ideas to your log home representative and let them work with you to lay out the floor plan. Starting with an existing plan and then modifying it to meet your ideas can save some time. Many companies also have some standard floor plans available.

It is not uncommon to request that your log home rep visits the job site with you. Especially if your dealer also has building experience, he or she will be able to offer insights. For one home in Gallatin County Montana, we recommended adding a walk out basement to the home. This enabled the home owner to almost double the size of his home very economically by putting the lay of the land to his advantage. Even if there is only a slight slope to a site, the drop of even 18” can still allow for a daylight basement on one side of the home.

Moving further into planning the floor plan, consider adding dormers and a loft. This is also very economical square footage. Log homes many times have very high ceilings. This is innate to the structure of log homes and also the desired beauty. When using standard trusses over a home a 5/12 pitch roof is not uncommon. But when choosing a log or timber roof system, the higher pitch is already there. So a loft can be easily added. Many log homes use 2×6 pine tongue and groove for the finished flooring of the second floor. The 2×6 T&G is simply run right on top of the second floor joists. This works well for an open loft or when bedrooms (not bathrooms due to the plumbing) are located on the second level. One home we priced recently was only an additional $8,000 in labor to add a 270 square foot open loft to the home.

Dormers are also another great way to increase the space on the second floor. Either a shed dormer or a gable dormer yields an area of higher head clearance and makes the floor space of the second floor much more usable. Adding one 12’ dormer for example gives more usable space in one place than adding two 6’ dormers. The dormer space also gives a good place for dressers and other tall furniture to stand. If purchasing a home with dormers, most commonly the dormer is framed and then log siding, board and batton, or cedar shakes is installed over the framing. For labor costs, a builder who works in Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho simply adds about $1,500 for each dormer (depending on size).

Another advantage of choosing a log home dealer that is local to where you are building, when you live out of state, is that they should be familiar with local builders, contractors, and lenders. This alone can be one of the biggest time and money savers you will have. If you find people who are knowledgeable they can help to steer you towards the best value. Even if the package price ends up a little higher than expected, be sure to also weigh out the added value that your dealer is giving you. It may be non-existent, or it may be invaluable.

Once a rough floor plan is laid out, the home can be submitted by the dealer to the log home company for pricing. This gives the homeowner a rough idea of what things will cost. If you are adding extensive decks or a garage, consider having that priced separately so that you as a homeowner have some options. You may not choose to build the garage right away, but at least you have a current cost projection.

Log home types include milled log homes and handcrafted log homes. The milled or manufactured log homes are very uniform and typically range between 6”x8” and 8”x8” logs. Log lengths go up to 16’ and are joined if longer. The D-log profile, flat on the inside and round on the outside, is the most common. Round on both sides, or double D, is also lovely. It just depends on what the homeowner prefers. Log stack with a double tongue and groove cut and saddle notch corners. Butt and Pass corners, where every other log end is exposed is not as ideal due to the top of the log ends being exposed to the elements. Swedish Cope logs (though we only offer them upon request) are round on the inside and outside and the bottom of each log is milled concave (or half moon) to fit over the log under it. Square profile logs are also fairly popular. But the most important thing is to be sure that the logs have a way to overlap as they stack. All logs shrink some, so the overlap log to log is vital for keeping the weather out of the home.

Handcrafted log homes are typically constructed from logs with larger diameters and lengths than the milled. Logs are hand peeled with a draw knife and they have random diameters. The handcrafted logs that we offer range between about 12 and 15 inches in diameter and go up to 50 feet in length. (When shipping overseas, the max length is 39’ 6” due to the shipping containers). The corners of handcrafted home are Scandinavian full scribe, where each log is custom cut to fit in either a diamond cut pattern or a full saddle notch. Slots ledge cuts are used for window and door openings to recess them to receive finished material and framing lumber.

If you have found the log home company and representative that you want to work with, have your financing secured, and have purchased your property or know where you want to purchase your land, don’t hesitate to go ahead and make a deposit on your log home. A floor plan can be worked and reworked until it meets your needs and reflects your dreams. So getting started on the final floor plan sooner than later will help you in the long run. Also interview some builders at this point. Some contractors are booked months or even a year in advance. Your log home representative can provide the names of some local builders who are accustomed to building their homes.

Some of your hardest work is done at this point. You have found the professionals that you are comfortable working with, a floor plan is designed, and financing should be in place. So move forward and take advantage of the current decrease in construction costs and select your log home builder.

Written by Mike and Sue Lemmon of Cowboy Log Builders LLC

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