30 Design Secrets to an amazing, Affordable Log Home
1 Use a Stock Log Home Plan Instead of a custom design, opt for a stock plan from your log producer’s catalog. Stock designs have been built many times before, so construction errors have been eliminated.
If design tweaks are needed, Richard Titorenko, a 14-year log home veteran with Coventry Log Homes, suggests you work with a log home draftsman, rather than hiring an architect. “A log home company’s design staff is fully equipped and prepared to customize a plan to suit your needs,” he says. 2 Design a Rectangular Plan Whether stock or custom, a rectangular design is the most economical shape to build. Add more than four corners, and you’ll add to the final cost. It takes an average of 18 feet of logs to create a single butt-and-pass corner with an 8-foot wall height. Multiply that by six or eight additional corners and that can really add up. If you’re afraid living in a rectangle will be boring, fear not! Designers have myriad tricks up their sleeves to create visual interest without venturing “outside the box.”
3 Opt for Open Concept
You can keep square footage small AND increase your usable living space with an open floor plan that removes unnecessary hallways. Also look for innovative ways to use traditionally wasted space, like under-stair storage, and built-ins that eliminate the need for bulky furniture (another extra expense).
4 Build Up, Not Out
With square footage being equal, it’s almost always less expensive to build a multistory home than to spread it out over one level. If you’re looking to save even more, adding a dormer within the roof or attic will let you create a loft living area, which is far less expensive than a complete second story.
5 Choose a Pre-cut Package
A log home package that’s completely precut in a manufacturer’s mill will typically cost less than logs that have to be cut and fitted on site. The cost of the package itself will be a little more than site cut, but the amount you save in labor costs should more than make up for it. n order to get the log home of your dreams, you sometimes need a healthy dose of reality. Use these cost-cutting tips to eliminate unnecessary spending from your budget while still maintaining the vision of your perfect log home.
Construction & Labor Savings
6 Clear Your Own Site
As much as 35 percent of your budget will go to clearing your home site, excavating a foundation, creating a driveway and installing utilities. But you can earn a little sweat equity by clearing trees and foraging for found materials (like rocks and wood) for later use.
7 Build in Stages
Start by building the house the first year, followed by the wraparound porch in Year Two and the garage in Year Three. Add outbuildings, such as a guesthouse or barn, in subsequent years. Spacing out expenses can help make them more affordable.
8 Stain Your Exterior Yourself “Depending on the size of your house, staining your log home on your own can save you anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000,” says Richard. Though he recommends leaving interior-stain application to the pros, he says exterior stain is easy for homeowners to do themselves, and it makes a great family project. He does offer one important tip: “Don’t take a break halfway through a log. When you go back to it, you will see the place where you stopped and started up again.”
9 Add Living Space Down Below A full basement with roughed-in plumbing and electrical lines is one of the most affordable ways to add extra living space to your log home, according to Rick Kinsman, co-owner of 1867 Confederation Log Homes in Ontario, Canada.
10 Incorporate Stacked Baths Putting two bathrooms back to back — or stacked above and below in a two-story design — will reduce the length of pipe you will need to run (and, thus, your contractor’s workload), saving you money.
11 Use Non-Log Materials
To save money on logs, incorporate a variety of exterior materials such as stone, board and batten, cedar shake and even stucco. So-called “hybrid” or “mixed material” log homes have become a highly sought-after style, whether the buyer is trying to reduce costs or not.
12 Choose Your (Design) Battles
For sheer “wow” factor, many pros recommend investing in a substantial timber frame-style entrance. “You can achieve this economically and still make it impressive,” advises Rick Kinsman. (Having this impressive feature as a focal point of your home also draws enough
attention that other areas you didn’t invest in are often overlooked).
13 Add Outdoor Living Space Part of the log home lifestyle is spending time outside, and adding porches, patios and decks can give your overall living space a big boost at a fraction of the cost of increasing your interior square footage. But be cautious — wraparound porches can still run you upwards of $25,000 for 150 feet of porch. To cut costs even further, look to a smaller covered porch at the front door.
14 Look to Landscaping
“A thoughtful landscaping plan can make your home look like a million bucks, even when it isn’t,” says Coventry’s Richard Titorenko. With a little research and muscle, this is a project even the most tentative DIYer can handle. Just be sure to keep shrubs and plants at least 2 to 3 feet away from your log walls. Otherwise you might trap moisture against the wood and add time (and cost) to your maintenance routine.
15 Build Walkways with Cheaper Alternative Materials
Crushed stone, flagstone or concrete pavers (stones that are usually placed on top of sand) make attractive and affordable alternatives to poured concrete for walkways, patios, pool decks and more.
Roof & Ceiling
16 Keep Your Roofline Simple Keep your roof simple with a single ridgeline instead of “hips and valleys” or multiple roof planes. Extreme angles, such as turrets or an angled prow under an A-frame, cost more in materials and labor.
17 Keep a Low (Ceiling) Profile If you worship cathedral ceilings, use them in the great room — but keep the ceilings in other rooms lower (in the 8-foot realm), suggests Sam Satterwhite of Satterwhite Log Homes. A change in ceiling height also helps visually define spaces within an open floor plan.
18 Consider Solar Tubes
If you can afford dramatic skylights, go for it, but don’t discount solar tubes. “Not only to they bring in natural light and cut down on installation and materials costs, they are directional, so you can channel the light exactly where you want it to go,” explains Tennessee log home builder Dan Mitchell.
19 Keep it Simple
Don’t get fancy with your log work. Let the natural look of standard logs (or logs with chinking) speak for themselves … because they will. Don’t worry about intricate designs or clever log trusses. Logs make a statement all on their own.
Wall & Floor Tips
20 Use Smaller Logs
Smaller logs can reduce costs substantially. “A 6-by-8-inch log offers the same stability and energy performance as 8-by8-inches,” says Lynn Gastineau of Gastineau Log Homes. “You’ll save roughly $2,500 on your log package for a 2,000-square-foot home.”
21 Try Tongue-and-Groove Every log home has some framed walls in the interior, and these frames have to be covered. In terms of sheer material costs, drywall is roughly half the cost of pine tongueand-groove paneling (cedar is another step up in price), but according to Richard Titorenko, it’s much more labor-intensive for your builder. “With drywall, you have to hang it, tape it, mud it, sand it, prime it and paint it,” he says. “Tongue-and-groove requires a lot fewer steps to get it to the finished stage.”
22 Consider Log Siding
To maintain the look of full logs without the cost, consider half-log siding for your home’s dormers and garages. Not only is the material less expensive, it’s faster and easier to apply to these areas.
23 Use Dimensional Lumber in Floors
Squeak-free, engineered trusses like I-joists can span long distances ( great for open floor plans) and are easy to install. Dimensional lumber is more affordable and hardier in the event of a plumbing accident.
24 Lay Laminate or Vinyl Flooring
The most economical flooring is carpet and pad, which can be a comfortable option for the bedroom or basement. But today’s log home buyer isn’t typically a wall-to-wall carpet fan. Laminate and even vinyl flooring have vastly improved in quality over the past few years, and thus, have increased in popularity. You have to be a smart comparison shopper, but laminates and vinyl will usually save you money over authentic hardwood flooring.
25 Be Consistent with Flooring Materials
To reduce flooring costs, pick one product and use it in as much of the home as possible. Switching gears between laying wood in the great room and then tile in the kitchen will cost you both in terms of time and money. Plus, if your house is on the small side, one consistent flooring material will make it look more expansive.
26 Consider Fiberglass Doors A pre-hung steel unit (around $600)
will work well and is easy to install. For more dent protection, upgrade to fiberglass, which offers a wood-like texture with less maintenance. Whether you go with fiberglass or wood, pre-hung doors are always less expensive, and far less labor, than door jambs framed on site.
27 Start with Low-Cost Lighting Fixtures and Upgrade Later
Specify low-cost lighting fixtures and upgrade them in the future. Inexpensive LED lights above and below cabinetry as task lighting for cooking. Bonus: They are much more energy efficient than their fluorescent counterparts — continuing to save you money for years to come.
28 Opt for a Factory- Made Hearth
Instead of a traditional masonry fireplace (which can cost from $50k to $100k) choose a factory-made, direct-vent, zero- clearance fireplace, which can be accented with decorative rock (around $15,000 installed).
29 Don’t Shy Away from Granite
To save money on your kitchen’s work surfaces, many buyers assume laminate is the only option. Not so, says Richard Titorenko. “If you shop smart, there are granite deals to be had.” For his own home, Richard found that he could get granite counters for only $1,500 more than laminate. “In terms of beauty and durability, going with granite was a no-brainer. My color choices were limited with the bargain granite, but they were all beautiful.”
30 Incorporate a Simple, Straight Stair Design
A simple, straight-stair design will save you cash. For the ultimate budget buy, Sam Satterwhite suggests a plain set of stairs (for a few hundred bucks) concealed under pad and carpet, rather than the popular but pricier half-log tread option.
As much as 35 percent of your budget will be allocated toward preparing the job site. A little sweat equity, like clearing trees and salvaging rocks and wood for later use, can save you tons.