Understanding Turnkey Log Home Prices and Cost Estimates

Sue | June 12th, 2013 - 6:50 am

As you move forward with the planning of your new log home you are transitioning from the ‘dreaming of a log home someday’ phase to ‘now I’m ready build!’ phase. Once you begin to formulate a target date of when you would  like to start building your new log home, turnkey log home prices become very important. I will warn you up front: there are many inaccurate ways people try to estimate the turnkey cost of a log home. So let me explain where some poor cost estimates originated and what some reasonable turnkey estimates. (These estimates are based on today’s turnkey prices we are seeing from log home builders in Montana (including ourselves Cowboy Log Homes), Wyoming, and Wisconsin.)

Multiplying The Package Cost Times 2, 3, 4, or ??

Back in the 90’s the practice of multiplying the cost of the ‘package’ times a multiple such as 2, 3, or 4 was introduced into the log home world.  What is left out of this ‘rule of thumb’ is you must specify what the package includes. The package they were referring to is a full dryin package, not a log shell only package. This equation is not even remotely accurate if you are talking the log shell only. Instead companies are assuming you are taking the cost of the full dryin package, not the log shell, and multiplying it against that for the full turnkey.

zephyr three quarter view

Let’s explore an example. A log shell in the 8 inch log size for the 2,040 ranch plan on our website is about $56,500. This comes to $27.69 per square foot.

If you multiply $56,500 for the log shell times 2 you get $113,000.
If you multiply $56,500 for the log shell times 3 you get $169,500.
Let me tell you first hand that there is no way to get this home built for a turnkey of $113,000 to $169,500 by a contractor.

Instead, realistically, a 2,040 ranch log home with a log shell price of $56,500 would require a turnkey log home budget of about $165 to $175 per square foot here in Montana based on a contractor built solution.

So, if you multiply $165 per square foot for a full turnkey times the 2,040 square feet you have $336,600.
If you multiply $175 per square foot for a full turnkey times the 2,040 square feet you have $357,000.
Honestly, this is a much more accurate ballpark to expect a log home builder in Montana to charge you.

Let’s take it one step further and examine the log home package times our variables above once more.

Log Home Packages

For a dryin log home package you take the log shell plus $20 to $30 per square foot for the other dryin materials. Theses dryin materials include things like exterior doors, windows, roofing, roof framing, soffit, fascia, first floor sub floor, exterior door and window trim, interior framing lumber, and 1×6 pine tongue and groove for the soffits and ceilings.

Let’s go back to our example above. The log shell about cost $28 per square foot. For the dryin materials let’s budget $25 per square foot (half way between $20 and $30 per square foot).  So, $28 plus $25 yields $53 per square foot.

Now take the $53 per square foot and multiply it by 3 and you get $159. This is a whole lot closer to our above turnkey estimate of $165 per square foot, starting out, then when we took the log shell only and multiplied it out.

Montana Log Cabin Builders

Another factor not always understood is that no matter if you call a log home a cabin or log home, they still cost the same to build. If you home is to be built of logs stacked up then it is a log structure, no matter how you think of it.

For a reasonable turn key log cabin or turnkey log homes estimates you are still in the same neighborhood. For an 8 inch milled log home that is above 900 square feet we are seeing turnkeys of about $165 to $175 per square foot now in Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnisota, and some other areas.


For a handcrafted log home we are seeing a turnkey solution of about $200 to $220 per square foot. Again, these are turnkey pricing we are seeing from recent fully built log home contracts in the same areas of the country.

Note: When your home is under about 900 square feet, the price per square foot can become skewed. The log package tends to cost more per square foot and sometimes the dryin materials are less as there are less doors and windows. But almost always the price per square foot is higher the smaller the cabin is. But inversely, the smaller the cabin the less the total cost will probably be.

Log Home Turnkey Cost Estimating Continued…

Cost  estimating by multiplying by the log package price is not an accurate science, as we demonstrated above. I highly recommend against it. Factors like log size and wood species change the log shell price while not impacting the dryin material costs. Your log home will be as individual as you. So with designs of log homes, they are extremely individualized. So striving to apply a ‘canned’ formula for cost estimating is not going to give a clear, true picture.

And I also want to note here that multiplying by a factor of 2 or 3 NEVER works for a handcrafted log home. The log shell of a handcrafted log home has its own set of costs which can even be double of the cheapest milled log a company offers.

So do yourself a favor and don’t be mislead by misinformation for estimating how much the turnkey for your log home will cost.

To gather an accurate turnkey number for your specific job site location is to call a local general contractor and ask what the turnkey for a conventional framed home is. Then take the log shell estimate for the plan you are interested in and add it to the conventional cost for the log home.  Let’s revisit our 2,040 ranch plan one more time. Here in Bozeman, Montana a turnkey estimate for a conventional framed home would be about $140 per square foot. If you add $28 per square foot to that you get $168 per square foot. So here we are right back to where we started with our milled log home turnkey of $165 starting out.

If you would like to talk with us about costs, projections, and building estimates applied to your specific location, log home plan, and log style, feel free to give us a call.  It is sad when people analyze themselves right out of the log home dream. It is best to stay somewhat flexible in the beginnings stages of planning. If you find that your favorite log home design is out of your turnkey budget don’t give up. Instead be willing to apply the scissors and trim down the floor plan, consider moving some rooms to a finished basement, analyze what is really important and prioritize the spaces and areas of the home. Don’t let your ideals destroy the build of your new log home.

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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