Have you ever seen an ad with a photo of a log home entirely built, complete with landscaping, and a very low price written in bold numbers across the top? You think, “Wow, how can this company sell log cabin kits for that low price?”All excited you circle the ad. But soon your excitement over a steal of a price subsides… for as you read the fine print, alas! The price is only for the random length logs.
If in your searches for log home kits for sale have left you frustrated, you are not alone. Every log home company has its own method of package inclusions and pricing. Even the logs themselves are so many different styles, wood species, log sizes, and different levels of pre-cutting— not even to mention the other dryin materials that some cabin kits include.
There are actually three versions of log home pricing that I have seen over the years. The first is a very inexpensive log shell price, as I portrayed above. The two primary things you need to research about this type of ad is if the logs are precut or random length and what grade of logs are being advertized.
A random length log is one which comes milled to a consistent diameter and shape — most commonly an 8″ D-log. But the openings for doors and windows are not pre-cut into the log shell. Instead you have the undertaking of of stacking up the logs and cutting in all of the openings yourself.
A pre-cut log shell is where at least the door and window openings are pre-cut into the log shell and the corners are pre-made. The handcrafted log shells are fully pre-cut, with even electric box holes pre-cut and wire holes pre-drilled in to the logs. The milled logs are not quite as fully pre-cut but that is the nature of the milled verses the handcrafted log shells. One reason handcrafted log shells are more expensive is because they have all of the hand work done.
The grade of the logs refers to the quality each log possess. The two most common are Premium Grade and Cabin Grade logs. Cabin grade logs are less expensive. Often the logs have bug holes and have more twist and wain from one end of the log to the other. Also the cabin grade logs are often milled from smaller diameter raw logs leaving more sap wood instead of heart wood for the wall log. This in turn causes more shrinkage, checking (cracking to the log), and twisting than logs cut from the heartwood.
So for our first type of advertized log cabin kits for sale be sure to check the level of precutting and the grade of logs being sold.
The second type of ad is one that advertizes a very cheap dry-in log cabin kit price. These may or may not come with pre-cut logs. In this type of log cabin kit check the log grade and precutting, and also the package inclusions. Carefully read the materials the supplier is including to comprise their dry-in package. If the first floor subfloor is included, ask what materials go into the subfloor. Certain key structural elements may not be there. If windows and doors are listed inquire as to what brand, style, vinyl or metal clad, and what series of window. You may be further ahead to purchase just the log shell and get the rest of your materials locally.
Another good idea is to get your log home builder to look through the materials list and see if he believes them to be suitable for your job site location. Several years ago a customer asked us to bid the construction of their log home. After reviews the plans and materials listed we discovered that about $5,000 worth of brackets, bolts, and other hardware were not included with the package. I called the log home supplier and they said that that hardware was not necessary! So we specifically told the owners that we would not build their home without the hardware we felt was vital to the structural soundness of their small log home kit.
Going along with log home kits for sale is the issue of turnkey pricing. One favorite tactic of some log home companies is to advertize very low turnkey pricing. At almost every home show I have seen at least one vender with exceptionally low turnkey pricing. My favorite question to ask them is, “Can you refer me to the builder who can build your A frame log cabin kit model for this?” I have never had the company actually produce the builder who would sign a turnkey contract for their advertized amount. Instead, they tell me that their turnkey estimates are just based on general pricing they see, not one live turnkey contracts they have signed. That is a big difference!
So be sure to research carefully what the cabin kits include and what is not provided. Have a log builder evaluate the package inclusions. We have reviewed many small log cabin kits for Montana over the years. Don’t be misled by inaccurate estimates. Just because a low number is shown don’t blindly hang onto that number. To make the build of your log home fun instead of disastrous you must base your numbers on live material and construction costs, not just a low estimate you read or heard somewhere. One of the worst positions to be in as a log home owner is to reach the end of your project and be under funded and not be able to finish.