Pack­aged to Per­fec­tion

Here’s how to com­pare log pack­ages to get the most ac­cu­rate quote for your log home.

Log Home Living - - 2018 AN­NUAL BUYER'S GUIDE -

Log “pack­ages,” (some­times re­ferred to as “kits”) are the start­ing point of log homes. Logs con­sti­tute the bulk of the build­ing ma­te­ri­als needed, ri­valed only by stone and, in some cases, glass. So when you’re select­ing a pack­age from a log home pro­ducer, you’re buy­ing the ma­jor­ity of the struc­tural com­po­nents that will com­prise your log home.

The two most im­por­tant things to re­mem­ber about the pack­age are what it con­tains and what it doesn’t.

The dis­tinc­tion is im­por­tant be­cause all log pack­ages are not the same. This fact is per­haps the most per­plex­ing as­pect of buy­ing a log home. Some pack­ages only con­tain the logs them­selves; other man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clude much more than merely the wood. Pack­ages vary be­cause cus­tomers’ needs, pref­er­ences, bud­gets and time frames vary and be­cause log home pro­duc­ers have dif­fer­ent philoso­phies about how to best serve their cus­tomers. Your cir­cum­stances will guide you to­ward choos­ing the right pack­age and pro­ducer for you.

WHAT IN THE PACK­AGE?

There are three pri­mary types of log home pack­ages: walls only, struc­tural shell and com­plete. Here’s what they con­tain:

Walls Only. This ba­sic pack­age con­tains logs for the ex­te­rior walls, as well as the fas­ten­ing and seal­ing ma­te­ri­als needed to erect them. It does not con­tain a roof sys­tem. Since this isn’t a com­plete struc­ture, the pro­ducer is re­quired to make very few en­gi­neer­ing or de­sign cal­cu­la­tions. The pack­age may or may not con­tain win­dows and doors, and the

logs may or may not be pre-cut. This type of pack­age has the low­est ini­tial cost, but when the roof struc­ture and other com­po­nents are added, the home’s fi­nal cost may not be the low­est.

Struc­tural Shell. This pack­age should con­tain ev­ery­thing found in the wall­sonly pack­age, plus ma­te­ri­als for a com­plete roof sys­tem, the ex­te­rior doors and win­dows, in­clud­ing hard­ware and any­thing else re­quired to build a weather-tight shell. Since this kit con­sti­tutes a com­plete struc­ture, the pro­ducer should de­sign it to com­ply with your site’s lo­cal build­ing codes. Doc­u­men­ta­tion for this en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign work should be avail­able to you so you can ob­tain a build­ing per­mit.

Com­plete. This third type of pack­age should con­tain ev­ery­thing found in a struc­tural-shell pack­age, plus most of the other build­ing ma­te­ri­als for a com­plete floor sys­tem, in­te­rior stud par­ti­tions, stairs, doors, hard­ware and in­te­rior wall pan­el­ing. The logs may or may not be pre-cut.

WHAT ABOUT WIN­DOWS AND DOORS?

Win­dows and doors are two po­ten­tially high-cost items, and log home man­u­fac­tur­ers fall into two camps re­gard­ing whether to in­clude these com­po­nents in their pack­ages. Some don’t sup­ply ei­ther. They feel that most of their cus­tomers can buy win­dows and doors cheaper lo­cally, es­pe­cially by shop­ping for ad­ver­tised spe­cials.

Other pro­duc­ers, par­tic­u­larly those that sell com­plete, pre-cut pack­ages, rec­om­mend you pur­chase the win­dows and doors from them be­cause they of­ten mod­ify win­dow and door jambs to fit pre­cisely into the pre-cut open­ings in the log walls. These pro­duc­ers feel this ap­proach pro­vides greater as­sur­ance that you’ll have a weather-tight seal around the win­dows and doors.

A good rule of thumb is to buy win­dows and doors as part of the pack­age when they are of­fered, if the pro­ducer’s price is com­pa­ra­ble to cost of pur­chas­ing the same pro­duc­tqual­ity level at a lo­cal re­tailer.

COM­PAR­I­SON SHOP­PING

Once you’ve ac­counted for dif­fer­ences in pack­age con­tents and log pre-cut­ting, you can be­gin to com­pare costs by look­ing at each pro­ducer’s list of ma­te­ri­als. You can­not ob­tain an ac­cu­rate cost com­par­i­son, how­ever, un­til you’ve de­cided the scope of the home you in­tend to build.

Try­ing to com­pare the costs of dif­fer­ent sizes and styles of homes pro­duced by dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies that in­clude dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als in their pack­ages is an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity. And re­mem­ber: Shop­ping around a pro­ducer’s floor plans to other com­pa­nies

for bids is il­le­gal (learn more on p. 57).

To fairly com­pare costs, de­velop your spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Next, ask pro­duc­ers to show you their lists of ma­te­ri­als, ac­count­ing for ev­ery item they in­clude with their pack­ages and as­so­ci­ated costs. Then look at these lists side by side to see what they have in com­mon and what some pro­duc­ers in­clude that oth­ers do not.

Once you know which ma­te­ri­als are not in­cluded in each pack­age, you can iden­tify the com­po­nents you’ll have to buy your­self to com­plete your home. By adding the cost of lo­cally bought items to the cost of ma­te­ri­als sup­plied, you’re in a po­si­tion to eval­u­ate costs on an ap­ples-to-ap­ples ba­sis.

If you are plan­ning to erect your own log pack­age or act as your own gen­eral con­trac­tor, price com­par­isons can be tricky. First, make sure each quote has a de­tailed ma­te­ri­als list at­tached. You must know ex­actly what each com­pany is of­fer­ing.

Break the ma­te­rial list into sec­tions.

Then set up a chart with sec­tions and in­di­vid­ual items in a col­umn and names of the kits you want to com­pare in a row across the top. Next to each item, note whether it is in­cluded in the pack­age. If it isn’t, ask the man­u­fac­turer if that item will be nec­es­sary or de­sir­able to com­plete the house. Then call a lo­cal sup­plier to get an es­ti­mate. Place that cost fig­ure into your quote. You can omit items be­yond the scope of any of the kits (such as plumb­ing or light fix­tures).

You may still have trou­ble com­par­ing ex­act ma­te­ri­als lists be­cause of dif­fer­ences in var­i­ous pro­duc­ers’ build­ing sys­tems. For ex­am­ple, one pack­age may con­tain a pre­fab­ri­cated roof-truss sys­tem, while an­other of­fers an ex­posed beam ceil­ing with ridge beam and log rafters. Both con­sti­tute a com­plete roof sys­tem, but the ex­posed rafter- and-beam roof will cost more to pro­duce.

There is yet an­other op­tion: turnkey log homes. If your ob­jec­tive is a turnkey house (one that will be com­pletely erected and fin­ished by a pro­fes­sional builder), com­par­ing pack­age op­tions and prices may be less rel­e­vant. The bot­tom-line price of the fin­ished house is what mat­ters to the turnkey buyer. You can fig­ure this by tak­ing the price of the pack­age with blue­prints and ma­te­rial lists to the builders you are con­sid­er­ing. They will pro­vide a turnkey quote that in­cludes all the work that you spec­ify. All you need do is com­pare bids.

THE HAND­CRAFTED PER­SPEC­TIVE

Although pack­ages are as­so­ci­ated with log home man­u­fac­tur­ers, in a sense, hand­crafters sup­ply pack­ages, too. The na­ture of their con­tents and ser­vices dif­fer, though. The most no­tice­able dis­par­ity re­sults from the fact that af­ter the logs are cut, hand­crafters erect the struc­tures in their yard to en­sure the ta­pered logs fit prop­erly and that the walls are level. (Some man­u­fac­tur­ers do this as well, though it’s typ­i­cally not as vi­tal as it is to hand­craft­ing.)

The logs are then marked for ref­er­ence, dis­as­sem­bled and shipped to the site. The hand­crafter gen­er­ally stays on­site only un­til the shell is re-erected. Un­like man­u­fac­tur­ers, who can sup­ply nearly all the ma­te­ri­als re­quired to fin­ish the struc­ture, hand­crafters usu­ally pro­vide only the logs and not win­dows, doors or any of the di­men­sional lum­ber needed for floors or roof sys­tems. You can hire a lo­cal builder to do the fin­ish­ing work, or, if you have the know-how and in­cli­na­tion, you can do it your­self.

As with man­u­fac­tured ma­te­rial pack­ages, you need to know ex­actly what the hand­crafted pack­age con­tains. Some hand­crafters will serve as gen­eral con­trac­tors and com­pletely build the home, es­pe­cially if their yard is near the job site. Oth­ers who aren’t equipped to pro­vide con­struc­tion ser­vices may be able to re­fer you to rep­utable con­trac­tors in your area.

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