Should I Hire a Log Home Builder?

Sue | November 4th, 2012 - 6:29 am

When you walk though a log home the beauty seeps into your soul.  Soon you start to think that no matter what you can build your own log home. “It can’t be that hard, can it?” crosses your mind. In some cases building your own log home is a great idea, but in others it can be disastrous. So here are some thing to consider before you hire a log home builder or decide to pick up the hammer and start construction on your own.

Time For Building the Log Home

First ask yourself how much time you really have.

Be honest!

Don’t try to fool yourself.

Log homes are more time intensive than a standard construction home to build. For a 1500 to 2500 square foot log home we would estimate about 9 to 12 months of construction time. The log home we are building now in Bozeman, Montana is taking us 10 months for the full turnkey and the home is 1,736 square feet with an attached two car garage.  So if you don’t have a full year to set aside where all you do every day is work on your home and have family or friends that can help you, you may not really have the time required.

When considering time, also ask yourself and your family when you want to move into the home. By taking more time you wouldn’t have to have all of the home finished in a year. But without devoting a large portion of your attention to the project it may take 2 or 3 years to finish your log home, or longer…

Handcrafted Log Home Under Construction

Log Home Construction Knowledge and Expertise

If you have built a home before or have good carpentry skills you would probably do just fine with our log homes.

If you have no construction experience I would not recommend taking on a project like a log cabin for your first building attempt.

Once a log home is dried-in or weather-tight it is much the same as finishing a standard construction home. Our handcrafted log shells come fully precut and prenumbered so it makes it takes almost all of the guesswork out of the log work. Also we often send a technical adviser to oversee the stacking of the logs on your job site.

Shrinkage Channel Top of Log Home Wall

The shrinkage and compression of the logs is the issue that can play havoc with you mentally, and also with the log home itself, if you don’t do the shrinkage channels correctly. Enough space must be left between the top of any framed walls and the logs, and also on the tops of the door and window opening to allow the logs to settle and not conflict. Without shrinkage gaps or if the builder tries to just force the logs to stay put with bracing it may result in binding. Then things like cracked ceilings, broken windows, and doors that won’t open can occur.

A Dry-In Contract for Your Log Home

OK, so now I have you scared!

You are thinking, “What in the world is a shrinkage gap?”

And, “I can’t afford to hire a general contractor!”

But of course you still want your log home…

So here is a solution you might want to consider:

Hire a general contractor for the dry-in of your log home!

But what is a dry-in???

A dry-in contract is when a log home contractor comes and installs your first floor sub-floor, stacks your logs, installs the exterior doors, windows, roofing, soffit, fascia, exterior door and window trim, and interior framing lumber.

Then you can finish the rest of the log home yourself. Oh, and you can also save money by either doing your own cement work for the foundation or you can hire a local contractor for just the foundation work.

To me a dry-in contract is a win-win situation for a homeowner that is trying to build their own log cabin. With a dry-in contract you are only paying the contractor’s labor, not a mark up on the whole project or on a lot of materials. You benefit from the contractor’s knowledge of log cabin building.  The guess work is taken out of the project. And the home is safe from the elements. Once the dry-in is completed you could take as much time as you need to finish the house with out worrying about the house itself being damaged. The only thing I should add is that the outside of the logs must be treated with an outside sealant like Perma-Chink or Weatherall  to keep the logs from being damaged.

Building Your Own Log Home

Overall for a contractor built log home we see about $150 to $160 per square foot for a full turnkey on  a milled log cabin. For a handcrafted log home we encourage customers to budget approximately $180 to $200 per square foot for a full turnkey.

If you choose the route of being your own log cabin builder then you need to carefully break down the costs to see what you need to budget. Keeping a spreadsheet is a good idea. Since a contractor is not doing it for you, you will need to lay out each phase of the home and keep running totals.

A break down of log shell, foundation and excavation, dry-in in the cabin (with the materials listed above), dry-in labor, and then finishing the interior.

This is a break down that we give customers at times~
Log shell for milled $22 to $28 per square foot
Log shell for handcrafted lg home $40 to $55 per square foot
Foundation (varies on area) $18 to $20 per square foot
Dry-in materials other than logs $18 to $25 per square foot
Dry-in labor $25 to $30 per square foot (depending on area)

Log homes are a dream that deserve to be seen from beginning to end. They are a bit more complex than building a stick framed home, but not out of the reach of those who have some construction background and have a deep desire to learn to build a log home. Hiring log home builders for at least the dry-in phase insures that the critical mechanics of the home are installed correctly and then you can have all the time and fun that you would like finishing and working on your home without the threat of the weather damaging the interior.

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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