Log Home Kits: An Easier Way to Build

By working with preplanned log home kits rather than building from scratch, you can avoid some of the home-builder's headaches.

| March/April 1990

Terry and Sandy Wolf took a big step; they committed themselves to building a 985-square-foot cabin on a remote island off the coast of Alaska, a home in which they now live year-round. Carl Crombach is a regional sales manager in the burgeoning Southeast; his dream of building a getaway in the secluded hills of northern Georgia turned into a source of income when he became a dealer for the log home manufacturer from whom he bought his house. Tony Varnadore teaches junior high physical education. Three summers ago he completed a kit log home for his family; now he uses that experience to help others work on their log kits.

These people all have something in common. By working with preplanned log home kits rather than building from scratch, they've discovered, each in his own way, how to avoid at least some of the headaches that building a home is sure to bring.

The appeal of a kit package goes beyond the solid charm of the finished dwelling. Even though the term kit, to some people, smacks of an uninspired low-budget fix, the log-building industry has learned to use the techniques of assembly-line production to ensure quality, creativity, and adaptability to home-buyers' needs.

How is that possible? To start, the manufacturers can be selective in the raw timber stock they use. Some opt for old-growth trees or dry standing deadwood rather than secondary or newer growth. Depending upon where the companies are located (and many have several plants or ship their logs from various places), they offer cedar, pine, cypress, eastern spruce and hemlock, aspen, and other species. All of these woods are structurally sound, but some have added benefits. Cedar, for example, is naturally insect-repellent and is less apt to decay or shrink than most other woods. The pines are less expensive but have to be properly harvested and dried to achieve an acceptable moisture content. Cypress has the advantage of being moderately decay- and shrink-resistant, spruce is strong and stiff, hemlock is hard but light, and aspen is easily worked, with a straight grain and a fine, uniform texture.

Another point is that the factory setup makes it easy to custom-design a structure. Chances are that among the many styles generally available—contemporary, chalet, ranch, saltbox, gambrel- or gable-roofed, and so on—one would suit the fancy of even the most particular individual. But if some aspect of the framing or the floor plan isn't quite right, many manufacturers are prepared to make changes in anything from window placement to wall location to roof pitch. Alterations like these, and other aesthetic choices such as flat- versus round-sided logs, are smoothly translated from paper to wood by an experienced staff and by automated cutting and milling machinery.

Finally, this production approach has consistently proved itself the most reliable way to make accurate cuts for the joints and fits that are essential to a strong, tight, well-built home. Far from disparaging the skills of on-site contractors, a professionally planned package offers the experienced builder or raw first-timer an equal chance to start off right. Moreover, the adverse effects of bad weather, inadequate help, and unfamiliarity with codes and inspections become much less of a factor since the critical work has already been done and double-checked.

4/5/2007 2:05:10 PM

I enjoyed your article although I must say that as a 26 year Log Home Industry Professional... the pricing you suggested is not very accurate. Even a Milled Log Home will cost from 65.00 to 125.00 per square foot as a turnkey... depending on floor plan, and this reflects The North Georgia area where I live. Site preparation costs can be from 15,000.00 to 25,000.00 for almost any average region in the US, not to mention areas with more ridgid building codes. It is important to reflect to your readers accurate pricing as well as accurate info. You were good on the former. Good article though, other than pricing suggestions!

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