Steven A. (Sandy) Helms November 3, 2004
B&H Cedar Log Homes, L.L.C.
The savings start with the design of your log home. – The best way to begin your design is to find a floor plan that is close to what you are looking for, mark it with your changes and send it to one or more log home companies of your choice. Most log home companies will gladly advise you on your custom log home design, where to save money, and then quote a kit price. Don’t be reluctant to begin a design with your unique requirements. Rarely (and I do mean rarely) does a company ship the same log home kit twice. If you are having difficulty finding a plan that fits your life style, go to a search engine (e.g., www.google.com, www.yahoo.com, etc.) and search on “log home plans.” You will find many log home companies listed; most of which have extensive libraries of standard floor plans. Another option would be to search on “house plans” where you will find a mind boggling number of companies that sell conventional house plans, including a few also offering log home plans. Remember, most log home companies will gladly convert a conventional house plan to a log home plan. Remember, the more corners in the foundation, the more complex the roof system, the more windows called for, the more exposed rafters called for (as opposed to locally manufactured roof trusses), the more the home will cost.
Build the log home yourself. – This is the opportunity for the greatest saving. Of course, most of us work full time at other jobs and do not have the time for such an undertaking. However, if your heart is set on researching this option, visit any of the online book sellers, search on “log homes” and order one or more books that focus on the construction of log homes. But perhaps the wisest choice would be to contact a nearby log builder and negotiate an hourly rate for consultation. It is best to spend time and money up front to get the job done right, rather than deal with problems later that never seem to go away.
Act as your own general contractor. – This is your option for the second greatest saving. Many log home buyers decide to be their own general contractor. However, be aware, this choice is not without its headaches. That is why you save all those bucks! Local building officials can be difficult to work with; subcontractors will be late or never show up; deliveries will be late or the wrong materials will be delivered; the weather is unpredictable; subcontractors and suppliers may take advantage of your inexperience. And the list goes on. Regardless of the pitfalls and stress, acting as your own general contractor will still save you about 15% – and that is big bucks. If you elect this option, again visit online book sellers, search on “log homes” and purchase one or more books that deal with log home construction. Contracting with an experienced builder to serve as an advisor is highly recommended.
Shop for financing the same as you shop for building materials, appliances, etc. – If there is no local lender experienced in the financing of log homes, go to the search engines and search on “log home loans” or “log home mortgages.” Lenders will not charge you when you apply for a loan. File applications with two or more lenders and then select the best deal.
Select your building lot with caution. – How long will the driveway be? If you must install a septic system, a health permit is a prerequisite, and then, will it be necessary to pump to the drain field (add $2,000+ for the pump system)? Will it be necessary to cross a creek? How much grading will be involved? Is tree and stump removal going to be a problem? In other words, a “cheap” lot can quickly become an expensive lot. If you are having difficulty finding a lot, contact a local real estate agent. Give the realtor your lot selection criteria (price range, location, size, etc.) and tell him/her to search the Multiple Listing Service data base. There is no charge for this service.
Select your log home builders with caution. – When talking to builders ask for references and visit log homes he/she has built and talk to the home owners.
Select carpet as your floor covering rather than hardwood floors. – Yes, hardwood floors are a “natural” in log homes. But we are looking for opportunities to save money. Perhaps you can compromise. Put hardwood in the great room and carpet elsewhere. Remember, at a later date (after you have received a job promotion or two) you can always replace carpet with hardwood.
Stick stone to plywood and studs in lieu of a full masonry chimney. – Don’t tell your friends. It’s impossible to see the low cost plywood and studs thru the stone. This decision can save you $8,000 – $12,000 over the cost of a full masonry chimney.
Consider an efficient wood stove over an inefficient and more expensive fireplace. – Select black flue pipe instead of a masonry chimney. The black flue pipe looks great in a log home.
Build your log home on a crawl space rather than a basement. – Again, we are looking for opportunities to save money. Sure, a basement is cheap floor space and many buyers opt for the extra storage, shop and/or recreation room space; never-the-less, eliminating the basement will save $10,000 – $15,000 in a typical home.
Have your custom fixed glass manufactured locally. – Yes, your window supplier will want to order your fixed glass from the factory. While he/she is getting a quote from the factory, visit a local glass shop. You may be pleasantly surprised. Locally manufactured fixed glass windows are available with double glass and/or tinted glass.
If you are using stone, compare the installed cost of man made stone vs. the real thing. – If the thought of using man made stone in your “natural” log home is a turn-off, visit a local supplier and inspect the product. Again, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Use manufactured roof trusses rather than exposed beams and rafters. – Yes, exposed beams and rafters are classic in a log home. But the roof trusses can save $10 per square foot and more. You can still have vaulted ceilings with roof trusses and you can have a tongue & groove paneled ceiling under the trusses. You can even add a few exposed rafters for “looks.”
Select your windows and doors with care. – This is a major opportunity for savings. Compare the quality and cost of several manufacturers before making a decision. If you expect to have a large number of windows and exterior doors, ask the suppliers if you qualify for a truck load discount.
Select your plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures and kitchen cabinets with care. – These are also major opportunities for controlling your costs.
Start shopping early. – Whether you hire a builder to do a “turn key” job or act as the general contractor, you can save money on individual items in the house – for example, appliances, floor coverings, windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, kitchen cabinets, counter tops, etc., etc. The earlier you start shopping the more likely you are to find items on sale. Just let your “turn key” builder know in advance that you plan to shop for sale items and BE AWARE, if you slow down or inconvenience the builder, you will quickly lose what you saved and probably much more.
Best wishes as you embark on an exciting journey.
Steven A. Helms
65 Nottingham Dr.
Fredericksburg, VA 22406
B&H Cedar Log Homes, L.L.C.