Thursday, November 29, 2007

Log Cabin Update - Building in Snowy Conditions

I visited our cabin site this morning in Gaylord, It was windy, lightly snowing and 15 degrees outside. Not exactly ideal conditions for building but with Gaylord being the "snowbelt" in Michigan, we expected this. The crew was using brooms to sweep the snow off the main cabin floor as the roof is not up yet. They also had to put up boards on the basement windows because they were tired of shoveling snow out of there! I asked our builder when he thought our cabin would be done - his reply - "ask the weatherman." (Ha, ha.) But overall, I think the crew is moving fast and we're pleased with the progress. They are starting on the loft level and will be putting in the roof joists.
Ideally if I had to do it over again, I would've set aside 2 years for planning our log cabin and began construction early summer. My husband and I lost time on our preliminary plans being revised and obtaining financing approval so we ended up with construction starting on October 28th.
The Lesson Learned - it takes close to 2 years to plan a log cabin! (And it's worth it!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Log Cabin Construction

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Log Profile Styles

For our log cabin kit, the log size choices were 8", 10" and 12" diameter. Here were the profile styles which our log home provider offered. (You would select based upon your personal preference):
  • Full round log

  • D-style log (whereby it's round on the exterior of the home and flat on the interior)

  • Half-log

Dependent upon the log style selected, the joinery styles that were available from our provider were double tongue & groove and swedish cope. Other log home companies can offer butt & pass, interlocking corner and post & beam method.

We selected a full round log - double tongue & groove. We felt this style log was an authentic throw back to the log era and had a warm look.

About Gaylord, MI (our log cabin site)

We choose Gaylord, MI because of the many recreational opportunities (fishing, hiking, birding, skiing, golfing, snowmobiling) and simply because it made us feel like we were truly "Up North" with all its beautiful scenery.

Gaylord is located north of Grayling in Otsego County. Some information and things to do in Gaylord:
  • ALPINE VILLAGE - Downtown Gaylord has an Alpine Motif which they adopted in the 1960's. There are many great specialty shops - clothing, chocolate, beads, home decor, quilts, birdhouses, sporting equipment and so on. Check out Mossback Creek Company - I buy something every time I go there. In July, Downtown Gaylord has the Alpen Festival with people dressed in Swiss costumes, arts & crafts and a carnival.
  • GOLF - Gaylord is known as the Golf Mecca in Michigan with over 20 championship golf courses - some of which have won many awards from golf magazines. They have so many courses to choose from - no matter the level of your playing. I am not so good - my personal favorite is Marsh Ridge with it's beautiful wooded setting and the fact I'm not so far away from the hole! Visit .
  • SKIING - Gaylord has 2 local ski resorts - Otsego Club and Tree Tops. Boyne Mountain is approximately a 30 minute drive.
  • SNOWMOBILING - Gaylord is recognized as a snowmobile mecca as well! They have over 300 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. To check trail conditions and obtain a trail map visit .
  • FISHING - Great fishing opportunities in Gaylord. Otsego lake is stocked with Walleye by the DNR. Other lakes for consideration include Big Lake, Big Bass Lake, Big Bear Lake and Bradford Lake (my husband's favorite.) Ice fishing is also quite popular here!
  • ELK VIEWING - Pigeon River State Forest (105,000 Acres) hosts the Midwest's only free ranging elk herd. It's also a great place to go hiking.

Choosing A Log Home Builder

One thing we discovered is that building a log home is a craftsman skill - a work of art. You need a builder that is passionate and specifically experienced in building a log home. We were told constructing a log home was more challenging (and we were able to witness this fact as our log home construction began.) Some log companies do offer construction services for their packages. Our builder was local to the area we were building and an economical choice as well as meeting the professional criteria. We choose our builder based upon seeing his work, calling references, asking the city/county about him and after extensive interviewing.
Here are the things we think were helpful in selecting a builder for our log home:
  1. Is he licensed and insured?

  2. Is he a member of a professional building organization? (Is he a member in good standing?)

  3. How long they have been building log homes.

  4. Do they enjoy building log homes? (We found this to be a good question especially after one builder we asked said that he preferred to build a timber or half log home and that "we're in Michigan, we don't live in Colorado or Montana" where he thought you would typically find log homes. What's interesting is that Michigan has a growing log home industry so he was way off the mark. Obviously we didn't think we would receive the attention to detail and have a good working relationship with this person.)

  5. Type of kits / custom homes they have built. Are they familiar with your log provider?

  6. What types of challenges have they come across in building a log home and how did they overcome it?

  7. How do they account for log shrinkage / settling?

  8. How do you price the construction? Per square foot?

  9. Can I have the names of your 5 most recent clients?

  10. Can I visit at least 3 or 4 log homes you have built? This doesn't necessarily have to be all the most recent. It's nice to see a little bit older one and see how it's fared so far.

  11. How do you take care of the logs once they are delivered? (It is important to have the logs tarped from the elements until the builder is ready to use them.)

  12. How do you like to handle updates / communication? Are you responsive? (My husband and I live 3 hours away so we rely on weekly phone calls from our builder to obtain updates - even if we have already visited that particular week.)

  13. In looking at the floor plan we have chosen, would you make any recommendations or forsee any problems?

  14. Estimation date of completion.

  15. Will you handle the staining of the logs?

  16. Are you able to work with our draw schedule from our bank? (This is if you are financing the home. Some builders get concerned about the # of draws, when they receive them, etc. )

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Log Delivery

The logs were delivered on November 9th. It was very exciting to see the semi coming down the road to our property with the logs all stacked. Felt like I was back in the lumber era of the late 1800s! Once the semi arrived, our general contractor went through the list with the truck driver to make sure all of our items arrived (logs, caulking, nails, etc.) All the logs were numbered and stacked accordingly.This is important as it ensures a smoother building process and making sure the right log gets in the right place. Our builder organized the piles once they were unloaded. The log piles then needed to be set off the ground (you don't want your logs rolling around in the mud in case it snows or rains.) The shrink wrap should be removed from the logs and the builder will tarp the piles until they are ready to use them. Prior to odering your logs, ask your log company if they are protected (shrink wrapped or tarped) for the delivery. Otherwise, even if the logs are kiln dried, if they are exposed to the elements on the way to your site, they can end up absorbing moisture. Additionally, you need your logs as dry as possible for the staining once the home is complete.
When they begin building and start stacking the logs - it's almost like your childhood lincoln log set on how they fit right on top of each other. The 1st row gets screwed in, then they lay the foam strip tape down, lay the next log, and then screw the log together.

Choosing Your Log Home Provider

In choosing a log home dealer - we quickly realized that not all log home providers are created equal! We had elected to go with a "cabin kit" whereby you choose a standardized plan. This is a more affordable route to a custom home and you can still make minor changes without upsetting your budget. Here is my checklist in comparing dealers:
  1. Find out how long the company has been in business and see if they are a member of the National Association of Home Builders - Log Homes Council. Also inquire if they offer at least a 25 year guarantee on their package. We found that guarantee with almost every log home dealer except 2. You need a company that stands behind their product.
  2. Obtain as much information on the log species that they provide. Ask them if their species will work in your climate area. Find out if they are kiln dried and graded logs. Inquire what you should expect shrinkage wise.
  3. Find out about the log styles and profiles they use (swedish cope, half-log, tongue & groove, etc.) The style you choose is a personal preference. Greg & I choose a full round log with a tongue & groove profile.
  4. Greg & I customized a standard plan -changing a few of the interior walls to increase the size of 1 bedroom and our kitchen. Will your log home company allow you to make changes to their floor plan?
  5. Confirm that they have a maintenance program for the logs and what its requirements are.
  6. Confirm that they will provide a detailed construction manual for your builder.
  7. Ask if they provide on-site technical assistance. We received 8 free hours with our Hiawatha Log Home package. Additionally, we paid one of their dealers to stay an extra day to help consult with our builder and to ensure the process started off right.
  8. Obtain at least 3 references. Often these log home companies have "log raisings" and you can visit a project in process. Additionally you can view some of their customers finished homes and interview them on their satisfaction level, what they did right and what they wished they would've changed. Right now my husband & I wish we would've bumped out our floor plan and made our log home a little bit bigger. Also, if you do make changes, ask the log home company for guidance on achieving an economical floor plan. Typically, the more square your plan is, the more economical.
  9. One of the things we did not realize was how lengthy the process is (the floor plan, scheduling the delivery, etc.) Ask them how long it will take to turn around a preliminary plan to you, and also how long if you make changes. We made 2 minor changes on our floor plan and it was 3 weeks before we got our design back. This put us behind in the construction schedule! Also inquire about how long it will take them to mill the logs and schedule the delivery.
  10. If you are choosing a log cabin kit - find out all the items it includes and more importantly what it does NOT include. Not every dealer includes all the same items. Ask how much upgrades will cost.
  11. Some dealers offer either a shell or "weather-tight" package or a turn-key. We personally found it more economical to do a shell and have our builder purchase the other items (such as bedroom doors, decking and tongue & groove paneling" at a savings to us.
  12. Inquire to their payment terms. A company might require an initial deposit to do a preliminary plan - and then might require up to 50% before they even start milling the logs with the rest due either prior to delivery or within 48 hours of delivery. This is important to know and this should be a negotiable item with your log home provider. If you are obtaining financing - find out how your lender handles payment terms and then submit the schedule to the log home company and see if they will accept it. They should if they want your business! Make sure to do this before you sign anything or give any sort of deposit to the log home company.
  13. Ask the log home company why you should choose them. We choose Hiawatha because of their focus on the log quality and process. We also liked their wide variety of floor plans to choose from.