1981 - Volume #5, Issue #3, Page #21[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Easy Living In A Log Home
Ralph and Pat Watkins, Jordan, Minn., started with a modest log package costing about $9,500. They wound up putting a total of $91,000 into their 1,748 sq. ft. home, not counting the land or garage.
"Before you say 'Ouch'," Ralph says, "remember that the average current price tag of a new home in the suburbs is now $100,979 ù up from $87,650 a year ago."
The home is 26' x 46'. It includes a large living room with adjoining dining area and kitchen, all open; two large bedrooms, one in a loft area; a main floor office for Ralph and a loft-area office under a sky window for Pat; a bathroom and a 46' x 6' porch.
It also boasts an exposed vaulted ceiling faced with knotty pine, a large east-facing bay window, sky window in the roof, large backyard patio and a 200' gravel driveway.
The full basement includes a root cellar, and the home has both baseboard electric heat and a wood-burning stove. Exterior walls are 10" logs; interior wall partitions are faced with rough-sawn cedar.
The work vs. build dilemma, of course, faces just about every couple thinking of building a home. But today, Ralph and Pat are living in that log house they dreamed of, and they feel that, in many ways, they did build it themselves. How so?
First, they were fortunate in having a close, trusted friend who is a general contractor ù Russ Engle of Lakeville, Minn. He was willing to take on the assignment; Ralph and Pat were able to work closely with him on all details of the house ù not only in drawing up initial plans, but throughout actual construction.
"Also," says Ralph, "we spent Saturdays and some Sundays for five months at the site, cutting trees from our own pine grove for support timbers, and otherwise working with our contractor.
"On many Saturdays, friends and acquaintances came to help ù peeling bark from timbers, putting up log walls and otherwise helping in the house raising." Ralph and Pat credit a large part of their good results to being able to communicate well and work closely with the contractor.
Ralph offers these points about contractors:
"You can't hire experience in log homes because most communities have so few such homes, and because so many are owner-built. Very few contractors ever get a crack at one. So chances are, if you approach a contractor, it may be his first log home.
"The result is that when you ask for a bid, he's leery ù doesn't know how to estimate the job, and simply covers himself by adding in extra dollars as a hedge."
Ralph and Pat, knowing their contractor well, were able to cover this problem by agreeing on an open-end contract. "While the expected cost of the house was estimated in advance, we agreed to cover any losses. The contractor agreed to make only a small profit on the house.
"Unless you're working with someone you trust completely, such an open-end contract can keep you awake nights," Ralph cautions.
As it turned out, however, their home cost only 5% more than estimated, primarily due to add-ons over and above original plans. Also, lumber prices declined somewhat during the 1979-80 winter period while the house was under construction.
How does this kind of cost compare with other homes? "We believe we did "pay a premium," says Ralph. "Our contractor figures our home cost $6,244 more in log construction than it would have in conventional stud walls ù that's about 7%."
For others planning a log home, Ralph and Pat offer this checklist of possible "surprises and pitfalls":
Wall logs. These need to join tightly as they stack, and at the corners. Log home manufacturers use a variety of systems, some good, some not so good. "We bought our log package from Beaver Log Homes, which uses a double tongue-andgroove system with two soft rubber gaskets between logs,"
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