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Choosing a Log Home

If you have always dreamed of living in a log home, now is the time to turn that fantasy into reality.

| February/March 2005

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    This lakeside Idaho log home was designed and built by Rocky Mountain Log Homes of Hamilton, Mont.
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    Off-the-grid living in a spectacular setting: Perched at 9,000 feet, this Colorado log home, built by Timberline Builders of Durango, overlooks the Continental Divide and Roosevelt National Forest (top). Handpicked from the site, granite rocks accent the fireplace (above) the great room.
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    Forty-eight solar panels and a backup generator power the home and its appliances.
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    Two log homes designed by Maple Island Log Homes of Twin Lake, Mich.

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Demand for log homes is up, partly because an increasing number of people view them as an attractive — and more sustainable — alternative to conventional housing. Others simply like the idea of living in a log home, for its warm appearance and solid wood walls. Recent consumer surveys show that log homes are one of the fastest growing segments of the building industry, with more than 25,000 built every year, mostly as the homeowner’s principal residence, according to the Log Homes Council of the National Association of Home Builders.

In the late 1960s, a renaissance in log home building began in the United States and Canada with small, simple, do-it-yourself kits mainly designed for back-to-the-landers. Today, modern log homes incorporate many different styles and can follow almost any floor plan. And many of those floor plans are custom designs; log homes now represent about 7 percent of custom homes in the United States. Although some may choose to build their own log homes, most homeowners hire a contractor to do the work.

Trying to select the right log home design can be a daunting task: More than 400 commercial manufacturers currently produce log homes, each with numerous styles and options.

“I’ll be the first to admit it, we make it very difficult for consumers to compare apples to apples, so to speak, because every company has a different package,” says Rich Horn, 2004 president of the Log Homes Council. “That’s why it’s so important to understand exactly what you are buying from the log home manufacturer, and the terms of the agreement.”

Typically, the manufacturer supplies the logs and other structural components, and may offer design assistance and construction services. When the design work is completed, the manufacturer delivers construction-ready materials to the building site. But this is only part of the larger picture, which also includes site work, utilities, a foundation or slab, heating and cooling systems, electrical and plumbing work, cabinetry and finishes, and labor costs. Although prices can vary widely, the cost of a log home shell usually represents about a third of the finished home’s total cost. Most reputable manufacturers can provide an estimate of the final cost to help you plan a budget, secure financing and decide how much of the work you want to do yourself.

Every potential buyer should understand the two main categories of log homes: manufactured and handcrafted. Both use the same general strategy of stacking logs on top of each other to create the home’s walls, but they follow different methods of producing the logs.

6/27/2007 12:32:39 PM

What is the design flaw your talking about? Mike

6/25/2007 11:46:12 AM

I read your interesting article on log homes. It's amazing to me that log home builders are still building log homes with a basic design flaw and that is with the settling issue. There is a method of building with a 30+ year track record that overcomes this issue completely. Yet log home builders in general and especially kit builders have not embraced this method even partially. Also I cringe at Mother Earth recommending kit log homes in light of the many horror stories of people’s experiences. There are some good builders out there but there seems to be a lot more sub par ones and kit homes are often the worst of the lot I suggest you check out the North American Log Home Builders Association at they would be more in line with what Mother earth news seems to stand for in my opinion. And I would love to see you do an article on them

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