A 5-Step Guide to Finding a Log Cabin Kit

Reader Contribution by David Woods and Log Cabin Hub
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Choosing your home is one of the most important and expensive decisions you’ll ever make. When you choose a home that is already built, you have the benefit of being able to see exactly what you’re getting for your money. When you choose to buy a kit home, you assume that you’re buying a complete and finished product but that is not always the case. Some companies sell only the main components of the kit, some include fittings and some don’t.

To make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, we’re going to look at the five steps which will ensure that you choose a good quality log cabin kit home. One of the benefits of buying a log cabin kit home, over a home that’s already built, is that you can tailor is to your specific needs and lifestyle. But you need to be sure that you are purchasing the right home for you, and from a reputable company.

Budget and Location

The company and kit that you ultimately choose will entirely depend on your budget. So before you even begin to contact specific companies, you need to make sure you know what budget you’re working with.

Once you know how much you can afford to spend on the total build, you can then work out how much of your overall budget to use for the kit. Depending on the level of finish you opt for, you should allow two times the cost of your kits for remaining costs and materials. For example, if you have a budget of $120,000, allow $40,000 for the kit and $80,000 to finish it.

If you’re employing contractors to build the cabin for you, you’ll need to include labor costs. A more appropriate ratio is 1:3. For example with a budget of $120,000, allow $30,000 for the kit and $90,000 for labor and finishes. As a rough guide, you can expect to pay a minimum of $125 per square foot of your finished log cabin. This number can significantly increase when you start adding more luxurious fitting and finishing, and even labor costs.

Once you know what budget you’re working with, you need to buy the plot of land on which you intend to site your cabin. It’s pointless approaching a log cabin kit company without knowing where you want to site your cabin. Any reputable company will take into account the land type, views, utilities and a range of other things when designing your kit.

The Right Kit for You

Before you approach a company, you should know exactly what you’re looking for in your home. Otherwise, it can be easy to get persuaded into buying the wrong product through their effective sales techniques. As a bare minimum, you should know;

What your ideal square footage is;

How many bedrooms and bathrooms you need;

How many reception rooms you want.

You don’t have to know exactly how you want the room layouts to work, because the supplier you choose will help you with that. But by making these minimums and maximums clear, they are unlikely to try and influence you to buy unnecessary extras. 

Type of Wood

There are roughly two dozen different types of logs used to build log cabins, each with their own unique appearance, R-value (energy efficiency) and cost.

Some of the most popular choices are Pine, White Cedar, Cypress and Spruce. You can expect to pay in excess of $15,000 if you upgrade a Pine kit to a Cedar kit, so the cost may be a large factor in deciding which wood type you’ll choose.

Keep in mind that whilst Cedar is considered a premium timber due to its slow growth, the majority of species of wood that companies offer produce a stable and long lasting log home.

Supplier and Kit Quality

Now you know your budget and location, you can start researching suppliers. With over 300 log cabin kit companies throughout the US, how do you know which one to choose? You can use this checklist of questions to help you decide which company to use.

Is the supplier reputable?

Every reputable kit company will be registered with the international log builders association, such as the National Association of Home Builder, Log and Timber Homes Council, or the Home Builder Association. They will have past projects that you can look at, and previous customers who you can speak with about their experience.

What’s the quality of the kit?

Where is the timber from? Is it slow grown? Is it grade stamped? Don’t just check the timber, ask about all the other components too – the roofing materials, insulation and fittings.

What’s the manufacturing process?

Do they use correct notching techniques? The most popular ones are saddle notch and dovetail. Do they allow you to look around the factory in which your cabins being built? Can you speak to the technicians? These are all good signs that they are producing quality homes.

Do they offer service and aftercare?

Do they offer an installation service, or any on-site assistance? Always be waring if a company doesn’t offer this. You should also check how long the warranty is – most companies offer a minimum of 10 years guarantee on the condition that a maintenance schedule is followed.

What materials are included?

Below, you’ll read about the different options you have on the level of kit finish. Always get a full list of materials included so you know exactly what to expect.

Total Cost

When you’ve selected the supplier and kit, you need to ensure that you are getting exactly what you trust you’re paying for. To further explain this, you need to understand the difference between the main three packages available; Shell Only, Dry-In Package and Turn-Key Package.

The Shell Only Package includes just the logs for your cabin; this is also referred to as the log wall system. You’ll need to source your own windows, doors, floor, roof and all the interior and external finishes. You can expect to pay $50-$80 per square foot for a shell kit.

The Dry-In Package is the most popular choice and includes the logs, the doors, windows, roof and floor. Always double check exactly what the kit includes though, because this varies from company to company. The average cost for a Dry-In Package is $70-$130 per square foot.

A Turn-Key Package includes all the components you need, from start to finish. It will provide you with everything you need to move into your home. The average cost per square foot for a Turn-Key Kit is $130-$180.

Last Thoughts

Once you are satisfied that you’ve chosen the right supplier and kit, double check that there are no further hidden fees, such as delivery costs and sales tax. Sales tax can quite easily add up to 10% onto the cost of your kits. Finally, make sure you get everything in writing and sign a contract. Good luck with finding the right kit for you!

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