Log Homes and Homeowner’s Insurance ~ Are You Covered?

Sue | October 5th, 2012 - 6:26 am

This article was updated in October 2015 to reflect current building cost estimates.

Whether you build your custom log home or purchase an existing log cabin, it is very important to make sure that your property is insured for the correct amount. With the fires this summer and fall in the Western states, some homeowners have become painfully aware that they were in fact under insured. So here are a few guidelines to consider asking your insurance agent about to be sure your log home homeowner’s insurance DOES have you covered.

One fact with log homes is they do cost more than a standard construction home to build. While $140 per square foot may be reasonable for replacing a standard construction home in some areas of the United States, a milled log home starts out at a minimum of $165 per square foot. This estimate is based on a full unfinished basement. Within the log home world there is a wide variation in log styles, wood species, log sizes, and other finish materials and features you usually find in a log home which varies this cost.

Recently I spoke with a homeowner who lost literally everything in a flash wildfire.  After the fire they discovered that they were under insured. The agent had not compared their home to other log homes in their area. Instead of researching the replacement value of a comparable LOG home with the upgrades the owners had included in the home,  the insured estimate on their home came to only about half of what the total replacement cost is.

So here are some hints that I have given to insurance agents when they call me and ask my opinion of insuring a log home.

1. Log Home Style-  a milled log home is the most common style. The logs are a consistent diameter. They are usually about an 8×8 inch size. These homes usually start out around $165 per square foot and go up from there. The most common wood species is some species of Pine. Handcrafted log homes are more expensive. The log shells are 12 to 16 inches in diameter, roughly, and the logs are all hand fit together. The least expensive wood species is usually pine. Handcrafted log homes usually range between about  $205 to $230  per square foot for a full turnkey. (Note: Finish materials and wood species and impact the total value of the home significantly.)

2. Wood Species- pine is most common, but there are many other types. Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Western Larch, Lodge Pole Pine, Englemann Spruce, White Pine,  White Cedar, are all among appropriate wood species to build a log home. Western Red Cedar is the most expensive of these. It can increase the cost of a home by a good margin. Also another factor to consider is if you are on the East Coast or Southern United States it may cost a lot more to ship in wood species that are native to the North Western States or even British Columbia– more on this in our next section.

3. Trucking- shipping the logs. Delivery is almost never included in a turnkey estimate. A home of 2000 square feet will require about two semi loads of logs. I have seen some trucking cost $10,000 per truck. So the larger the home the more shipping will cost. Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Western Larch are Western US products and Canadian Products, so don’t overlooking shipping cost estimates.

4. Other Features- fireplaces etc. Most custom log home have fireplaces, wood floors throughout, custom log staircases, log railing, wood ceilings, cathedral ceilings, wide roof overhands, custom kitchens, etc. A stone fireplace build from masonry blocks and native real stone can add a whole lot to the cost. If you have a masonry chimney I would recommend getting an estimate from a local stone mason before signing off on your insurance cost.  If the chimney is build with a zero clearance fireplace insert unit and covered with cultured stone it is still expensive. So it is always a good idea to get an estimate from a stone mason.

Wood floors are always more expensive than carpet. Ceramic tile is also more costly than vinyl. So be sure to add some to the value of the home for items like this. If your home has custom wide plank flooring, imported materials, slate tile, or other high end finishes be sure to point them out to your insurance agent.

Stone Fireplace

Another feature is log staircases. We have quoted spiral log staircases that cost $30,000 just for the staircase, not counting the railing for the loft edge and staircase. A handcrafted log staircase with half log stair trends, a landing, and log stringers alone can cost $2,500- $3,000. The matching railing can be another $4,000 or more depending on the size of the loft. A custom wood curved staircase, though not of log, may also be very expensive.

Stoning the foundation of a home is another factor. Many times when homeowners built their home things like stoning the foundation are done later. So it is easy for some of the costs to be forgotten about. So if your foundation is stone be sure to note the kind of stone – real or cultured, and how much of the foundation is stoned. A walk out basement has a lot more coverage area than a home sitting flush with the landscape.

Anyone who has ever redone a kitchen has an idea of how much various cabinets can cost. Kitchens can be minimal or they can cost enormous amounts. I had an aunt who remodeled her home and spent over $50,000 on her new kitchen about 12 years ago.

Finished basements are another area that can become overlooked. While finishing the square footage can be less expensive than the main living space, it is still a cost that must be figured in.

And attached log garages. Garages  that are build from solid logs, just like the house, cost much more than a standard construction garage. The logs serve as the exterior and interior of the home. In the handcrafted log home we built a few years ago in Bozeman, Montana the garage is just like living space except for a finished floor and some fancier lights– and of course the garage doors. There are two large picture windows in the garage, the log walls are all stained and finished just like the interior walls, the ceiling is drywall, textured finish, and painted, and there are two heaters hanging from the ceiling. If you put in some carpet and some fancy hanging lights you would have another 624 square foot room to the home. So don’t overlook the quality of a solid log garage.

With upgrades, cedar, improvements, and high end finish materials we have seen some milled log homes turnkey for $200 per square foot. One lady actually ended up with $372 per square foot because she ordered things like a $23,000 counter top from the middle east. Handcrafted log home can jump from a base of $205 and end up $350. We have found that the final turnkey of a home is highly dictated by the finish materials the owners choose.

One other factor is also location. While we may see $205 per square foot in Gallatin Gateway, Montana for a handcrafted log home, if you go another 30 miles south to Big Sky, Montana the prices jump to $350+ per square foot for a minimum on a turnkey. So be sure to also add some if your home is in an elite area like Big Sky, Aspen CO, Sun Valley ID, or Jackson WY. We have also found that Cooke City, Montana is much more expensive. A turnkey on an 9 inch Swedish Cope log home came in at about $172 per square foot. Right now in Cooke City, Silver Gate, Montana area we are pushing $210 per square foot due to the hard access to that neck of the world.

It is a terrifying and shocking thing to loose your home. Sometimes it can take a few months for owners to even get over the shock of loosing everything and to begin the rebuilding process. The last thing you want to be told is that your handcrafted log home is not insured for the value that it will take a contractor to rebuild it. So do your research before you insure your home, not after the fire comes and takes everything.  Make sure that the numbers and replacement value is high enough. Even if you are satisfied with the insurance company’s cost estimates do some inquiring of your own. Don’t be at disaster’s mercy– she is a hard taskmaster. In the last few months I have spoken with at least five log home owners who were left with a driveway leading to a pile of ashes of where their grand log cabin used to proudly stand…

Vincent house 5 (Copy)

Cowboy Log Homes





Any projected costs, cost estimates, material costs, and estimated construction/ building costs, are only the opinion of Cowboy Log Homes and are drawn from our experience. Every home is custom tailored to meet our individual client's wants and desires. The construction of a log or timber home is based on two primary costs: material provided by the log home company and construction costs contracted with Cowboy Log Homes as the builder or another builder of the customer's choice. Final costs are obtained and contracted with each respectively. Cowboy Log Homes is simply the "glue" that helps bring these two together to provide a final culmination of a customer's project. * Please note photos and elevations may differ some from accompanying floor plans.
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