When we think of the simple life, we often dream of living in a log cabin in the wilderness. This rustic beauty appeals to everyone who thinks about putting down roots, and wants to build a legacy for the generations that will follow. The log home has come to symbolize the spirit of our pioneering ancestors, whose resourcefulness, and sense of adventure led to the opening up of this vast continent we call home. This spirit of adventure and desire for permanence is still alive, in today’s log home owners.
When the first settlers arrived in North America, they did not live in log cabins. Due to the lack of time and tools, most early homes were rude huts, tents, and covered pits. The early log homes with the saddle-notched ends and horizontal logs, were built by the German and Scandinavian settlers, about 1638. It was an ideal design for the new country, due to the necessity of clearing Virgin forests for cropland.
The abundance of felled trees provided building materials for homes, barns, and forts for protection from the elements. The only tool needed was an axe, and the design was so simple that a small group of men working together could erect a cabin in a single day.
The home style was easily adapted to the climatic conditions. In the northern areas, the spaces between the logs was filled with wattle – a mixture of clay and twigs, to stop the chilly winds. In the south were they welcomed a break from the summer heat, the space was left open to allow the breeze to blow through, cooling the home. When the design and construction of homes became more complex, people turned to other building methods and materials which required special tools and special craftsmen. The log home was soon relegated to hunting lodges and summer retreats.
With the use of power tools and new techniques, log home construction methods have changed. The design principles have remained the same but we are now able to make more complex styles and shapes, and new materials have allowed us to build a more energy efficient home that requires minimal upkeep and maintenance. The handmade cabins of the pioneers have evolved to the architect-designed pre-cut or "kit" log homes we have today.
Once considered the ideal material for vacation homes, log built houses have moved into the mainstream of North American housing. Most of the log homes being built today are primary residences. Today’s log homes are sturdy shelters that blend with the natural surroundings. They are practical, adaptable and have a romantic appeal. The modern log home, however, has the advantage of technology. Tight construction and energy efficiency are hallmarks of today’s log homes. Log homes today come in a variety of homestyles; A-frame, rambler, two-story, and ranch. The log home has moved into a new era of comfort, convenience and beauty. But it is still the American Dream.
Log homes aren’t cabins anymore." says Rich Horn, technical advisor of the Log Home Council. "Engineering, technology and computer-aided design make log construction a legitimate housing style for today’s families, what ever their residential setting or personal style." That is why 9 out of 10 log homes built today are primary residences and why increasing numbers of these homes are being built in outer-rim suburbs where people can escape the stresses of city life.
Log homes give you the beauty, warmth and character found only in solid wood. They also combine energy efficiency, ease of construction, low maintenance and duribility, not found with conventional housing. Add the benefits of back-to-the- basics construction with up-to-date building materials and you get modern, comfortable and attractive homes.
According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, log homes are a better than average investment for home owners. The log homes seem to appreciate in value in just a short period of time. Resale and appreciation values of log homes exceeded those of conventional single family detached housing by more than 15 percent. Log homes appreciate rapidly with annual rates exceeding 20 percent. The average annual increase in housing values nationwide (for all housing) in recent years has been between 5 and 10 percent.
The high rate of appreciation also is explained, in part, because log home owners add improvements after moving in. More than 500 log home builders continent wide are producing upwards of 30,000 log homes a year – 90 percent of which are primary residences. The log home market continues to find emphasis shifting from first-time buyers to existing home owners moving to larger residences.
Factors that most influence the purchase of a log home – in order of preference – exterior appearance, high quality construction, interior appearance and saving money by helping with construction.
Don’t settle for less than the perfect location for your new log home. Although many people purchase their land well in advance of buying a log home, there are some fundamental considerations in making your land selection.
Location is number one. It’s important to find out how close the land is to work, schools, stores, health care and fire protection. It may be a prime location, but if it takes too long to get places you may not enjoy living there. Homes far from fire protection pay more for insurcance. Check with your county and municipal planning boards to see whether future growth of the area will be compatible with your lifestyle. Is your land valued properly in relation to its location? Study the terrain and get professional opinions if necessary. Does it have good drainage and is it safe from potential flooding? Will it accommodate the home you envision? Be sure to check for zoning, restictions, development or homeowners’ associations codes. What about utilities? Does your land have access to natural gas? Electrical sources? Sewer hookups? A municiple water supply?
You may have limited choices on how to site your home on a small lot, but, on larger tracts you will have opportunity to use southern and northern exposures in the most energy-efficient manner. A log home can take any shape, but , the more you deviate from the basic rectangle, the more you’ll pay for style over function.
Log homes appeal to home buyers who want to put down roots and build the home of their dreams. Building a log home also appeals to those who want to be involved with design and planning and perhaps even some of the actual construction. Generally, ther are three types of log home material packages that home buyers can choose – walls only, structural shells or complete packages.
Many packages include precut logs, labeled in order of use and delivered for assembly to the building site. Your package should contain the materials unique to log construction: galvanized spikes, specially designed windows and doors, special frame stock, gasket material, log rafters or log joists and other hardware.
When comparing prices and products among manufacturers, know what materials and services each package includes and make sure they are of comparable quality. Design, delivery, financing and field support are four services that should be carefully evaluated. Ask yourself these questions:
* Design: does the design blend imagination and respect for tradition? Does the design suit my lifestyle? Is the fee for design separate or included in the package?
* Delivery: are all materials shipped together? Or, are two or more shipments timed to coincide with the construction schedule? Am I prepared to handle any problems related to theft or weather damage?
* Field Support: Are representatives readily available if there are problems or questions? Are construction manuals thorough and easy to understand? Can the manufacturer supply a list of qualified contractors for site work, foundation, plumbing and other work?
* Financing: What does the dealer offer?
The information in this article has been compiled from information provided by the Log Home Council, the National Association of Home Builders, and years of experience of building and manufacturing log homes.