30 De­sign Se­crets to an amaz­ing, Af­ford­able Log Home

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IGen­eral De­sign

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.

Ex­te­rior De­sign

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.

Fin­ish­ing Touches

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.

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