Log Cabin Directory | Log Home Helpful Buying Tips
Energy Efficient Windows
When pricing out the components of a new log home package, looking for opportunities to cut costs is something we all naturally do. Think twice about trying to save money on windows and doors by buying bargain products. The cost savings in energy alone over the years can make up for any added expense at the beginning.
Whether buying new windows and doors or replacing old components, make a few inquiries. In some parts of the country, local or state governments often offer programs to help taxpayers with such improvements. Additionally, the federal government has programs to assist or rebate homeowners for such purchases. Contact you local county or city building offices to see what is available in your area.
Logs – Thermal Batteries
The logs In a log home wall acts as insulation. Wood’s thermal resistance or resistance to heat flow is measured by its R-value. The higher the R-value, the more thermal resistance.
Logs function like “thermal batteries” and can store heat during the day and gradually release it at night. This generally increases the apparent R-value of a log by 0.1 per inch of thickness in mild, sunny climates that have a substantial temperature swing from day to night.
For designing an energy-efficient log home, you should consider using the whole-house systems approach. You might also want to incorporate some passive solar design features.
If you are new to this log home building/buying/designing business, and still in the discovery and learning phase of your quest, you are probably confused about a number of things. Don’t feel like you missed something, this industry uses a lot of terminology that is unique to log & timber homes. If terms such as Swedish cope, butt-and-pass, clean peeled logs or saddlenotch corners make your brain tired, you may need a crash course in LogHomeology!
With you in mind, we are developing a new website that explains all these strange words and phrases. While you’re doing your research, you may want to bookmark LogHomeology for future reference. That is, unless you already know what purlins and saddlenotch corners are.
Green Texas Log Homes
Building a log home in Texas offers some ‘green building‘ advantages not found in most other states. Due to the amount of sunshine Texas receives (even in winter), makes it ideal to utilize many solar solutions. As an example…
Positioning your log home so that part of the roof faces south is great for installing solar water heating panels and energy collectors. Planting large shade trees such as Live Oak on the east and west sides of the home will keep the entire house cooler and save a bundle on air conditioning.
Buying not building?
If you are in the market to buy an existing log home instead of building one, make sure you are getting what you think you’re buying. ALWAYS order a home inspection from a qualified inspector with log home familiarity. Discovering problems with settling, rot, insect damage, chinking, etc. is different than what one will find with a stick-built home.
Make sure your inspector has a knowledge of log building, or find one who does. Also, make sure the utilities are turned on prior to inspection as it will be impossible to perform a thorough inspection of appliances, plumbing and other critical components that rely on electricity to function properly.
Exterior Cabin Stain
Forget what you’ve heard or read about the longevity of exterior stains and finishes for log homes. Of course, some are better than others, but none of them seem to last as long as the manufacturer’s claims will have you believe. Wind, weather and sunshine will destroy ALL finishes.
Verticals will typically weather in accordance with manufacturer’s claims, but horizontals (decks, stairs, railings, etc.) always seem to need re-treating long before the warranty states. In climates with harsh winters, horizontals will often need to be re-treated every other year.
How deep is your water well?
A log home perched high on a mountain top overlooking majestic valleys is an enviable vision. Before you choose your mountain on which to build, know that you will have substantial additional costs to achieve that altitude. Site access, utilities and water can double the cost of such a project.
In the mountains, especially in the west, elevations of 500 – 1000+ feet may provide spectacular views, but you could be looking at drilling a well 500′ or 2000′ to reach a reliable supply of fresh water. The cost to drill a well is determined by the size and depth of the well and also the drilling conditions of the site (can you say rock?). Not including irrigation, swimming pools, etc., an average household requires 75 gallons per day – per person. A family of four would need approximately 300 gallons in a 24 hour period. Your lending institution will probably require that your water well pump 5 gallons per minute.
Trenching utilities and building a safe road access are also huge costs that one does not always consider when envisioning their dream house. You may be getting a great cost-per-square-foot price on erecting your log home, but getting that home to the site could be cost prohibitive. When planning, take your time and get all the costs on paper before you start digging a hole!
Do your floors talk back?
You don’t have to live in a log home (or in Canada) to have squeaky floors. Humidity, changing weather conditions, house settling, leaking plumbing and other factors can play a part in creating a floor that talks back to you.
If you have access under the floor, this can oftentimes be fixed by adding bridging members or adding additional screws angled from the joists to the subfloor, which can snug the floor and eliminate the movement (squeaks).
One quick, but temporary fix is common “talcum powder”. Sprinkling the powder on the floor and letting it settle between the boards acts as a dry lubricant. If you have large gaps between your boards try using sawdust, which can function similar to the powder recommendation. Remember not to vacuum for a while so that the talcum or sawdust can settle down between the boards. However, if the squeaking persists, you’d might consider calling a Pro to determine the cause of the noise.
Code of the Windows…
Unlike the old ‘Code of the West’, which was often ‘assumed’ and not written for public compliance, there are formal building codes that pertain to windows. In addition, some local codes can be more strict than the International Residential Code that requires an egress window to be a specific size and distance from the floor. Why is this important?
Log homes and timber frame structures are constructed in a way that makes use of spaces not always utilized in a conventional stick-built home. Exposed timbers and ceiling designs can eliminate the attic spaces one would find in a standard home, and these open roof areas will create knee walls on second floors. Placing windows to permit light may sound like a great idea, but it may not be acceptable to some building codes. Be sure to double check such things when you are designing your log home.
Additionally, having your builder add a window in mid-phase of the building project is where people sometimes get into trouble. If such changes were not part of the architectural design, besides code violations, you could also damage the structural integrity of the building.
As you decorate and undertake different DIY projects around the house, don’t forget the basics. Just as matting and a frame complete a wall hanging, accents like crown molding and wainscoting can dress up a plain room and add that touch of wood that ties everything together! This is a great help when remodeling rooms that have plaster walls and you want to blend the space with adjoining rooms of log walls or timbered ceilings.
Most log home owners furnish their homes with a rustic flair. Hopefully these examples will give you some great ideas.
Green building means the builder too!
When you select your log home builder, choose one that builds to “Energy Star” standards. This will assure you that your home is 30% more energy efficient than conventional homes, and save you hundreds of dollars per year on utility bills. To learn more about ‘Green Building‘, see our green building information here.
How ‘green’ is your home?
Building ‘green’ is a red-hot topic these days and for good reason. Green is good… green is healthy… and green means that our children and their children’s children will be able to share in this planet’s natural resources for a long time. Besides being a popular political topic, green does not always mean green any more than “organic” always means our produce is truly organic. There are various shades of green and it is worth the effort to find out how green things really are.
Green building starts with understanding the true meaning of green products and practices and a good place to start is the U.S. Green Building Council’s ‘Green home Guide’, which provides educational content on how everyone can create a green home.
Log home community living
Many people want the log home lifestyle, but they don’t want to live ‘out’. Most depictions of log homes include a beautiful home nestled in the forest or on a mountain top – away from the world at large. However, many people like the feeling of community and neighborhoods and prefer to have people close by. If this is your ideal setting, check out the many log home communities that are being built all over the country. Ask your log home dealer or manufacturer for some locations.
Handcrafted vs. milled log homes
It is not a question of which style is better, as much as it is a matter of personal taste (and budget). Typically, handcrafted log homes are more expensive than milled (round) log homes but the look of handcrafted custom log homes (see examples) is distinctive and demand has been increasing. To find out what you should look for from a handcrafter, begin with their portfolio of completed homes. If you discover a style and floor plan that you like, you can begin to discuss ideas with their architects.
Green can make you happy!
85% of people who own a “GREEN” home are happier than the rest of us….. (well maybe not happier than everyone else). But according to the National Association of Home Buyers, they are happier with their ecologically friendly home than their previous homes. Being green and living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is not as difficult as some might think.
Did you know that if you install dimmers and lower your lighting levels, by 50% you can actually use 40% less electricity? Imagine the national impact on our energy usage in the USA if everyone took that approach.
Increase your living space economically!
When you are designing your log home you can increase your living space by as much as 100% if you look down… Often overlooked is the basement as part of your home’s living space, but if planned properly it can become the most popular area of your home.
To best utilize the basement, plan for higher ceilings (9′-10′) to give depth and add visual space. Plumb for an extra bathroom, seal your walls thoroughly, add a wood stove and make it a walk-out basement. In addition, this is an area you can finish over time. Unlike the main living level, it doesn’t need to be completely finished to enjoy your home.
Log home companies – who to trust?
Buyer beware! The age old problem of “who do you trust to do business with” has certainly not escaped the log home industry. There are ‘great log home companies’ and there are ‘not so great companies’ just as we find in any other industry.
The fact that a business is listed in any directory does not constitute an endorsement any more than a listing in the Yellow Pages implies a good company. As buyers, we must make our own decisions as to whom we choose to do business. Most reputable log home companies will gladly provide contact information of their customers for you to talk to, and a satisfied customer is always a great reference source. You should also check out the local Better Business Bureau and other public sources of company information. Don’t forget the Internet… people that have had a bad (or a good) experience with a company will often post comments on blogs and forums.
Once a company passes your basic due diligence, the final decision is often based on your comfort level with the company’s representatives and your belief that they can deliver what you are requesting. Like everything else… if something sounds too good to be true — it most likely is. Trust your research and trust your gut.
These tips were on The Log Cabin Directory and was great help for their visitors.