The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

Financing Your Log Home - Part 1 of 3

Posted on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 @ 11:44 AM

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This 3-part series on Financing your Dream Log Home was co-written by Greg Ebersole, Mortgage Loan Officer/BB&T  and Donald Parsons, Appalachian Log Structures.  Mr. Ebersole has over 16 years in the Mortgage Lending field and specializes in Log Home financing.   Mr. Parsons has spent the last 23 years assisting several hundred satisfied homeowners realize their dream log homes with Appalachian Log Structures.

In recent years, the financing of new custom homes has transformed due to changes in the marketplace, increased government regulations and lower interest rates.  In order to assist in the navigation of these new financing rules and regulations this 3-part article was developed to  help guide people on the path to realizing their dream log home. 

Part 1 will focus on the individuals FICO score, Credit Report and Pre-qualification process.  You will learn what they mean in the overall development of your loan amount and possible interest rate both in the construction phase of the building project as well as in permanent financing.  You can prepare yourself with most of this knowledge before going to the lender so you have a better idea of just where you stand financially.

Part 2 will discuss how to search for a “log friendly” lending institution and starting the floor plan drawing process.   Although some banks or mortgage companies make construction loans on conventional built homes, there are some unique features of log home lending that not all institutions may understand or agree to.  You’ll also discover why it’s important to get your floor plans started now!

Part 3 will cover what to expect at loan closing as well as getting a good appraisal on your project.

 

Part 1:
FICO scores, Credit Reports and Pre-Qualification – OH MY!

What is a FICO Score?  A FICO score is a credit score developed by FICO, a company that specializes in what’s known as “predictive analytics,” which means they take information and analyze it to predict what’s likely to happen.

In the case of credit scores, FICO takes credit information and uses it to create scores that help lenders predict behavior, such as how likely someone is to pay their bills on time (or not), or whether they are able to handle a larger credit line. Scores developed by FICO can also be used to forecast which accounts are most likely to end up included in bankruptcy, or which ones are likely to be most profitable. And credit-based insurance scores, which they also create, are used to help insurance companies identify which customers are least likely to file claims.

What Goes Into FICO Scores?

The FICO score range is 300 – 850, with the higher number representing less risk to the lender or insurer. Consumers with high FICO scores (usually around 760 or higher, though every lender is different) are likely to get the best rates when they borrow, as well as the best discounts on insurance.

There is a popular FICO score chart that describes the main factors that go into these scores:

Payment History (35%)
Debt/Amounts Owed (30%)
Age of credit history (15%)
New credit/inquiries (10%)
Mix of accounts/types of credit (10%)

All of these factors are considered in other credit score models, so it’s safe to say that if you have a strong FICO score you likely have a good score with other models as well. When you check your credit score, don’t get too hung up on the specific number. Instead, focus on what areas of your credit are strong and which ones you might want to work on. 

What is a Credit Score? A credit score is a three digit number calculated from your data-rich credit report and is one factor used by lenders to determine your creditworthiness for a mortgage, loan or credit card. Your score can affect whether or not you are approved as well as what interest rate you are charged.

Mr. Ebersole says “Construction lending typically has higher credit score requirements than purchasing or refinancing an existing home.  Knowing your credit scores can help when having your initial call with a mortgage lender.  Some credit card companies such as Discover now provide you a credit score from one of the credit reporting agencies.  Please note that your lender will pull all 3 credit bureau’s (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion) and use the middle score (drop the highest & lowest scores) for determining the loan program available as well as the rates.  You can also request credit scores from places like freecreditreport.com.  However, I caution clients in using these scores as the assumption for scores when trying to secure a mortgage.  If you only get 1 of the 3 credit scores you will not know if that score is your highest, lowest or middle score.  There are over 200 different scoring matrixes used to determine scores based on the use of the credit inquiry.  My experience has shown that “free” credit report scores are typically 10-40 points higher than when a lender pulls the credit report.  If you are not aware of any late payments, charge-offs, collections or judgements in the past 5 years your credit scores are likely to be over 700.”

Once you understand what goes in to both a FICO and Credit Score and how important they are in the process, you can then begin the pre-qualification stage.  Please keep in mind that pre-qualification does not necessarily mean this is what a financial institution will lend, only a quick (un-verified) overview of your current income and liabilities to determine a possible loan amount.  Mr. Ebersole explains that “the first step in the financing process will be completing a pre-qualification.   To prequalify the lender will need basic information such as your full name, address, date of birth and social security number.  This information will be used to acquire a credit report to use in evaluating your current debts as noted in the credit report.  Additionally, the lender will ask for income information.  Based on the debts from the credit report and income provided the lender will give you a pre-qualification noting the mortgage loan amount you can qualify for at this time.  This is helpful information to use as you plan your search for land (if not already owned) and planning of your loan home.  Another consideration in the pre-qualification process will be the amount of monies available for down payment and closing costs.  The equity in your land can go towards your down payment depending on the appraisal that comes back during the approval process.”   CLICK HERE to start the pre-qualifying process with BB&T today!  

To help you save money on the Financing process, BB&T has a great offer for you.  CLICK HERE to learn more about saving up to a $1000 on Lending Fees with BB&T.

Be sure to check back next week to view Part 2 of this Financing Series.

16 Secrets of Affordable Log Home Designs

Posted on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 09:30 AM

affordable log home
You Can Create Your Dream Home for Less!

It’s a rare these days to hear the phrase “money is no object.” No matter what your net worth, chances are you’re interested in making smart investments—and getting the biggest bang for your buck. Building a log home is no exception.

Designers and builders can offer dozens of ways to cut costs. This can be called value engineering. Working with the pros, like Appalachian Log Structures, that belong to the NAHB's Log & Timber Homes Council will help you decide where you want to save money—and where you shouldn’t skimp. (Opting for cheaper windows and insulation isn’t usually recommended.) Here are 16 tips from Appalachian Log Structures and the Log & Timber Homes Council.

1. Use Proven Design
Instead of a custom design, opt for a stock plan from a log home producer’s catalog. Stock designs have been built many times before, so construction errors have been eliminated. When you opt for a stock plan, you’re getting all engineered and cost efficiencies built into that log home design. This strategy will save you both time and money.

2. Think Rectangular
Whether stock or custom, a rectangular design is the most economical shape to build. Add more than four corners and you’ll add more costs. For example, it takes 18 feet of logs to create a single Traditional corner with an eight-foot wall height. More corners, equals more coin.

3. Open Flexible Floor Plan
How much house do you really need? Keep square footage down with an open floor plan that eliminates unnecessary hallways. Look for innovative ways to use traditionally wasted space. Our favorite trick: adding a closet or built-in shelves under a staircase.

4. Trim Your Width
Keep your home’s width under 30 feet. Once you go over 30 or 32 feet, you have to beef up your support beams substantially. The longer the logs, the more they cost.

5. Think Long Term
So you’re envisioning a log home, guest house for the in-laws and perhaps some out buildings to house your hobbies and toys? But in this economic climate, you are concerned about affording the full tab? The solution is to plan your construction over several years, which will give you some financial wiggle room. Start by building the log home the first year, followed by the wraparound porch in Year 2 and the garage with breezeway in Year 3. Add out buildings, such as a guesthouse or barn, in subsequent years.

6. Clearing Land 
As much as 35 percent of your budget will go to clearing your home site, excavating a foundation, creating a driveway and installing utilities. These are fixed infrastructure costs that simply can’t be avoided. However, you can save on this portion of the work by performing some of it yourself, or hiring workers and supervising their efforts. Get started by clearing the land. Save any materials you can re-purpose during construction, as well as saving lumber for firewood.

7. Full Basement
A full basement with roughed-in plumbing and electrical lines is one of the most affordable ways to add extra living space to your log home. If you can afford it another 20% in concrete costs, add 10-foot high sidewalls to add volume to a space that can seem closed in.

8. Stacked Baths
Putting two bathrooms back to back—or above and below in a two-story design—will reduce your plumbing contractors work, which can save you substantially.

9. Mix & Match Exterior Finishes
To save money, you can opt to incorporate a variety of exterior materials such as stone, board and batten, cedar shake and even stucco. These materials can add character to the home and actually accent the logs.

10. Driveway Strategy
From a privacy perspective, locating your home far off the main road may be appealing. But you could save thousands in grading and compacting if you keep the driveway short. You can also delay your driveway installation for a few years. That time allows the soil to settle, so you’ll end up with a more stable driveway with fewer repairs over time.

11. Simple Roof Line 
Keep your roof simple with a single ridgeline instead of “hips and valleys” or multiple roof planes. Extreme angles, such as turrets or an angled prow under an A-frame, cost more in materials and labor.

12. Ceiling Height
If you worship cathedral ceilings, go ahead and enjoy them one in your great room. But keep the ceiling height in other rooms lower (in the 8-foot realm). Not only will you save on construction costs, but lower ceilings make your home easier to heat and cool.

13. Opt for Conventional Roof System
It can be quite expensive to put large, structural timbers with tongue-and-groove decking overhead in the great room. To save money, use a conventional truss or rafter roof system in the attic, with smaller, decorative timbers and non-structural tongue-and-groove decking. You’ll reduce your costs by a third without sacrificing aesthetic appeal.

14. Consider Solar Tubes
If you can afford dramatic skylights, go for it. But also consider solar tubes. They bring in natural light and cut down on installation and materials costs. They also make a great addition to master closets. Bonus: many of these modern money-savers also have venting capabilities for a breath of fresh air.

15. Hunt for Bargains on Appliances
If you’re craving an epicurean range but can’t stomach the price, check out “scratch and dent” sales centers run by manufacturers and retailers. New units are usually half price—a sweet savings for a few nicks you’ll hardly notice when it’s installed in a brand new log home.

16. What Hasn’t Worked in the Past? Now’s the Time to Fix It!
Often it’s the little things (extra lighting in the master closet, a quiet exhaust fan in the bathroom, or a computer workstation in the kitchen) that make life easier and more convenient. Think about what hasn’t worked in your past homes—along with how and where you want to spend time in your new one. Then invest a little more money in the spaces that mean the most to you.

When you're ready to start your affordable log home please contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant to help you with these and other GREAT money saving ideas in the design of your dream log home.

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Parts of this article were taken from the Log & Timber Home Council's website www.loghomes.org.

Are Log Home Logs Created Equal?

Posted on Fri, Apr 1, 2016 @ 11:00 AM

Are ALL Log Home Logs Created Equal?

log cabin home log profiles

There are some that think the logs used in log homes are all created equal.  That's why many potential consumers think all logs should all be priced the same.  As with any product, there are differences in quality, thus differences in price.  Let's take a look at a few of these differences.

THICKNESS - Most log home companies will advertise 6", 8" or 10" thick logs.  When you go and actually MEASURE these logs you'll find they are 5.5", 7.5" or 9.5" thick.  Appalachian produces FULL THICKNESS logs for our log cabin homes, thus more wood AND more insulation.

GRADE STAMPED - Know the difference between a graded log and a grade stamped log?  A grade stamped log guarantees that your log home building materials are structurally sound and approved to meet building codes.  Building inspectors will be looking for this stamp on each of your logs to verify that they meet the ASTM specifications.  Many log home companies talk about "graded logs" - BEWARE - these are NOT GRADE STAMPED logs.  Graded could mean a visual grade (not structural) or just that the guy running the mill thinks it looks good so he gave it a good grade.  Quality is the difference - you'll pay less (and get less) with a non-grade stamped log.

SPECIES - Still believe there is one wood species better than the rest?  Do some research and you'll find that besides some color and grain difference they are all about the same.  Think cedar or cypress is impervious to rot/decay or wood digesting insects?  Think again and start doing some research for yourself.  You'll soon discover that these species, just like all the rest of the wood species, need to be protected with preservatives for great looks and longevity.

TREATMENTS - What is the optimum way to protect my log wall?  Research pressure treatment and see why it is the best way to go.  Research Borates and you'll soon learn why we pressure treat with this organic (non-chemical) product.  In the 35+ years we've been providing log home building materials, not one of our homeowners have had to replace/repair any of their pressure treated materials we've provided.

Now that you begin to understand that not all logs are created equal, you'll start to understand some of the differences in QUALITY and pricing.  When creating your dream log home think about the type of products you want surrounding you and your loved ones as well as the quality of materials you plan to use in one of the largest investments you'll be making.

Don't forget to contact your local Log Home Building Consultant  to discover more about our log home building components and how they can save you time and money not only today, but for the lifetime of your log home.

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The Log Home: An American Dream!

Posted on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

Custom log home, log cabin home, cozy log cabinOver the centuries log homes have come a long way. The resurgence in log home construction came in the mid-1970's and along with it several opportunities to improve on what our forefathers taught us about constructing homes with full logs.

Of course when log home construction started in this country, our virgin timbers were HUGE and contained a lot of heart wood. Heartwood of all wood species is naturally resistant to insects and decay. Preservatives weren't so necessary then and what was used to help protect the wood was organic.

Now that we're on our 3rd or 4th harvesting of timbers in North America, there is a lot more sapwood exposed when the logs are milled or hewn. Sapwood of ALL wood species (yes - even cypress and cedar) is susceptible to decay and insects so preservation is very important today. It's the reason we started in 1977 to pressure treat our log wall building materials - something that no one had tried before - and we have never had a homeowner with insect or decay problems. In addition, just like our forefathers we're using an organic preservative in our pressure treating process - borates.

In the infancy of the new log home building industry the Log Home Council (LHC) was formed and became a division of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Appalachian Log Structures was one of the companies that helped form and support the LHC and still does today (Now called the Log and Timber Home Council). Over the years several white papers have been produced by the LTHC and one of them is featured here today. Click Here for an overview of the Log Home Industry and be prepared to learn some interesting and useful facts that you can take with you and use in your own dream log home project.

Don't forget to contact your local Log Home Consultant when you have questions or are ready to turn your dream log home in to reality!

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NC Log Home Owners use Strategic Planning

Posted on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

dream log cabin home

Good strategy, communication, vision and hard work eventually pay off for two homeowners who used all of the planning tools in their tool belt to build their dream log home.

It was not planned or executed overnight but over several years.  Cultivating the dream, envisioning the finished product and working towards a common goal all paid off in the end.  Now this beautiful log home is the Shaffer's dream log home come true.

A lot of their own blood, sweat and tears went in to their retirement home in Western North Carolina and it really shows.  For the protection of their investment, they chose to use logs pressure treated with borates to guarantee against wood digesting insects and decay.  In addition, they also liked the advantages that the spring loaded thru-bolt offered - keeping their log cabin home tight and energy efficient over the years.

Now that it's complete - they enjoy their time on the porch looking over the picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Their home was featured in Country's Best Log home magazine and you can CLICK HERE to see more photos and read about their experiences.

When planning your dream log home, take your time, think it through and don't forget to work with a Log Home Consultant that has your best interest at heart.

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Log Home Construction Bids - How do Builders Charge?

Posted on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

Sorting out the differences between ‘fixed bid’ and ‘cost plus’.

log home constructionEven if you plan on doing some or all of the work on your log home yourself, you will still need specialty contractors, including plumbers, electricians and HVAC installers. This is why you need to understand how these trade professionals charge for their services.

You will be contracting with a builder or subcontractors to provide labor and materials in one of three ways.

1) Fixed bid
2) Cost plus (also known as time and materials or an hourly rate)
3) Combination of the above two

Which is better? Read on to discover what to expect when you are making that dream log home a reality. This information is provided by the Log Homes Council, an association of log home manufacturers. Their goal is to enable you to make the most informed decisions when buying and building your log home.

Fixed Bid

Builder or subcontractor furnishes you with a bid that tells you exactly how much you will pay to have a finished home by such and such date. Sounds straight forward, right? You get what you want, the contractor gets what they want and everyone goes home happy. Just like the rest of life, it’s more complicated than you might think.

Fixed Bid Advantages:

• If there’s no surprises, fixed bid can be a good option
• To keep their bid competitive, contractor will be looking for the best deal on all materials
• The contractor will try to get the job done as fast as possible, so he can move on to the next job
• Fixed bid employed by trade contractors, such as electricians, HVAC installers and plumbers
• Common contract clause is “per the plans, in place and to code”
• Once it passes inspection, the trade contractor expects to be paid
 
Fixed Bid Disadvantages:
• The contractor has to ensure he or she doesn’t lose money on a wide range of challenges that may—or may not—come up
• Example scenario: Mountainous terrain.
The builder may need to factor in the blasting of bedrock and excavation to install the basement. This can increase yours costs by thousands of dollars—and that’s all before concrete is poured for the basement.
• You may not get the most competitive price with a fixed bid, because the contractor will have to add in contingency funds for what-if situations

Cost Plus

• A contractor will base their estimate on the amount of time and labor it will take to construct your home, plus a percentage markup on all material that goes into your home
• This tactic is used on projects where costs are harder to predict
• Many log home builders use this formula, largely because there are so many unknowns in log home construction

Cost Plus Advantages:

• If you and your builder keep track of your budget and avoid change orders, this can be the most competitively priced way to get your home built

Cost Plus Disadvantages:

• No incentive to do the job as fast as possible
• No incentive to wisely purchase materials, since everything that goes into the home is marked up

Combo Deal

A combination of these two is increasingly common in log home construction. Some parts of the house are done on a fixed bid, some on an hourly rate and other parts on a time and materials basis, plus a percentage.

Combination Advantages:

• If you invest your time in choosing cabinets, why should a builder take a percentage for ordering them
• A combination bid can help make the process easier for both builder and buyer, while building trust

Combination Disadvantages:

• Not all builders will offer this
• Log home builders are specialists
• If you find a reputable one who is available, you may need to compensate them for their expertise in whatever manner they see fit 
 
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This is a re-printed article from the Log Homes Council library (http://loghomes.org).

Tags: log homes

What's New in Heating and Cooling Technologies for Log Homes

Posted on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

log home solarFrom a recent post on the Log Home Council's Web page - another great and timely article that is relevant and informative.

New advancements in heating and cooling will enable you breath easy while spending less on energy. Here’s a primer on the plethora of choices for your new log or timber home.

Wouldn’t it be great if new homes came with stickers on the windows that predicted its energy performance, just like today’s automobiles? This would come in handy, especially in this era of higher fuel costs. Then too, our expectations of comfort have changed drastically in recent years. Today we not only want to be perfectly cozy whether it’s frigid or scorching outside, we want our indoor air to be clean and germ-free, with just a kiss of humidity.

Fortunately all this is achievable in your new log and timber home, provided you create a heating and cooling strategy long before you build, advises experts with the Log and Timber Homes Council.

It’s important to think of your home as a total system. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be super energy efficient. That’s why one has to approach heating and cooling strategy on a whole-home basis. Rather than just cobble together a furnace, water heater and air conditioner after the home is built, one has to plan a comprehensive strategy of how the home will operate if you value your comfort and energy costs.

Start With Where Will You Be Building?
A log and timber home in the Southwest desert will need a far different heating and cooling strategy than one set along the coast of Maine. Is your area prone to power outages, wind or snow storms? Your local climate will influence the design of your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

Site Orientation
Simply orientating your home properly on the building site can reduce your energy bill by up to 30 percent, say the experts at the Log and Timber Homes Council, part of the National Association of Home Builders. Although it is best to face windows directly south, it can be oriented up to 30 degrees away from due south and lose only five percent of the energy savings.

Design Do’s & Don’ts
The volume of space can affect your heating needs, as can the number of windows and doors. Cathedral ceilings, in particular, take more energy to heat and cool since it creates more volume.

What’s Overhead
A home’s biggest culprit in energy loss is the roof. At issue is insulation and how effective it is. Discuss with your log and timber home producer how your roof will be configured, its cost and how it will affect the home’s energy performance.

Power Up
Your selection in HVAC system will be influence by fuel and its costs. Natural gas is the predominate fuel in the West, fuel oil is common in the Northeast and propane is often used in areas when one can’t easily access either. If you’re building site is located far from the power grid, you’ll likely have to employ alternative technologies, such as wind and solar power.

The Benefits of Thermal Mass
Logs are an excellent insulating material, thanks to thermal mass. Log walls collect and store energy, then radiate it back. One can increase energy efficiency by adding more thermal mass—upgrading the diameter of your logs or installing tile floors in front of south-facing windows. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home.

Choices in Windows
To help keep your home cool in summer and warm in winter, window manufacturers offer “low-e” coatings that block ultraviolet rays. Compare performance with U-value ratings, which range from 1.20 to .20. The lower the number, the better the energy performance. In cold climates, a U-value of .3 to .5 is worth the extra you’ll pay for it.

Be Cool
Recently the Department of Energy (DOE) raised the minimum Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for central air conditioners and heat pumps by 30 percent, from 10 to 13 SEER. You’ll pay from $400 to $1,200 more for the 13 SEER. However, the good news is it will pay for itself in energy savings in 10 years. Other air conditioning options include ceiling and attic fans, and evaporative coolers (also known as swamp coolers). The latter is only used in low humidity environments.

The Heat Is On
Here’s a rundown on your heating options:

  • Forced Air Furnaces: Powered by either propane or natural gas, these units deliver warm air through floor registers. Compare performance with the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating, a yellow tag on the side of the unit. Least efficient 78 AFUE; most efficient 98.6 AFUE. Builders recommend a 90 AFUE or greater. Pro: They are inexpensive and most contractors are familiar with installation. Plus, they can be paired with air cleaning systems, including filters, ultraviolet lights, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, to kill germs and airborne bacteria Con: They’re noisy and offer poor comfort because of temperature variations within the home.
  • High Velocity Forced Air: Air delivered to a room enters at a higher velocity (typically 2,000 ft/sec), creating better comfort. Pro: The ultra quiet, two-inch insulated tubes can be installed nearly anywhere. Plus, these systems cost less than conventional forced air. Con: Not all HVAC contractors have experience installing them.
  • Radiant Heat: Hot water radiators were the first example of this. But now the concept has been updated to in-floor units, a system that offers unparalleled comfort and energy efficiency. Pro: It minimizes heat loss by keeping heat at floor level. Plus, the boilers can also provide your hot water needs. Con: It’s slow response time for temperature changes make it impractical for infrequently visited vacation homes (which can be mitigated with Internet-enabled controls).
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps: Ground-source heat pumps use the earth or groundwater as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. Pro: Energy is inexhaustible and it’s energy efficient. Con: Requires a significant parcel of land for underground excavation.
  • Hearth Products: A toasty fire on a winter’s night goes together like butter and popcorn. Pro: Factory made units are certified as clean burning. Plus, a plethora of fuels are available; firewood, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, electricity, corn and wood pellets. Con: Are impractical as a primary heat source.
  • Combo Systems: Experts recommend combining two or more systems to provide the ultimate in comfort. Mike at Seven North, for example, often recommends a radiant heat system on the basement level, with a high velocity forced air system for the upper floors, which can deliver both heat and air conditioning for summer months.

Air Quality Control
Since log and timber homes can be super tight, experts recommend a triple approach to maintain healthy indoor air.
1) Air-to-Air Exchangers: These mechanical units, which attach to a forced air system, regulate indoor air quality by drawing in fresh air and ejecting stale air. Plus, they transfer 70 to 80 percent of the heat .
2) Humidifiers: Indoor air humidity in the winter can drop to as low as five percent, drying out your skin, lips and respiratory system not to mention damaging your home. A whole house humidifier is the solution, which range in cost from $400 to $800.
3) Ventilation Fans: Bathrooms equipped with motion activated or humidity sensitive controls exhaust steam from showers and unwelcome odors.

Instant Hot Water
Today’s gas or electric storage tank water heaters are becoming much more energy efficient. Another option can be tankless hot water heaters, which produce hot water on demand. Tankless units are available in propane (LP), natural gas, or electric models. They come in a variety of sizes for different applications, such as a whole-house water heater, a hot water source for a remote bathroom or hot tub.

Light Up For Less
Energy efficient lighting fixtures can now be found at most home centers (look for the Energy Star label). These can significantly save you money in direct lighting costs, as well as in cooling needs in the summer (lighting fixtures produce heat).

Going Green
If you’re looking to tread super light on the planet with your new home, you have more options than ever. What’s more, many states are offering tax incentives to those who opt for these alternative technologies. They include

  • Wind Power: A new generation of wind turbines can allow you to meet most of your electrical needs. Pro: If you’re on the grid, you can sell excess energy back to the power company. Con: Some consider them unsightly, which could be a problem in areas governed by covenants, including resorts or subdivision developments.
  • Active Solar PV systems
  • Wind Power
  • Geothermal
  • Fuel Cells

Home Energy Costs
Just where does the average $1,400 each homeowner spends on energy go every year? Approximately 45 percent goes to heating and cooling costs; 11 percent for water heater; 10 percent for washer and dryer, seven percent for lighting, six percent for refrigerator, two percent for dishwasher, two percent for computers, two percent for TV/DVD/VCR. The remaining 15 percent can be attributed to appliances that use electricity even when they’re “off.”

Appropriate Appliances
When buying an appliance, remember that it has two price tags: what you pay to take it home and what you pay for the energy and water it uses. Everything from refrigerators and computers to freezers and TVs now comes with an energy rating, detailing how much it will cost to operate annually. Energy Star-rated appliances can save you anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your energy bill.

Home Sense & Science
To create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment is a science. The addition or subtraction of one method can affect the home’s system as a whole—sometimes adversely. Members of the Log and Timber Homes Council can provide an analysis of what’s right for your local climate and give you advice on how to get the most bang for your buck.

Thank you Log and Timber Homes Council (LTHC) for another GREAT article to share.  Be sure to visit the Log and Timber Home Council's web page (www.loghomes.org) to learn more about this and other relevant topics.

Visit one of our model homes and speak with a Log Home Building consultant near to you and let's get started on your dream log home.

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8 Ways to Stick to Your Log Home Building/Remodeling Budget

Posted on Fri, Jan 8, 2016 @ 11:45 AM

exterior_right.jpgRecently I ran across this blog on houzz.com (written by Bud Dietrich, AIA) and thought it was very relevant to any building project.  Several of the points he covers below I've touched on in my blog posts, but thought another point of view besides mine might be educational as well as informative for those looking to stay on budget while building or remodeling their dream log home in 2016.

"Inevitably, any new client will ask me "How much will the project cost?" The answer isn't always straightforward and easy. You see, a home construction budget, in both its creation and its maintenance, is more art than science.

Sure, it's easy to say the project is a new 2,000-square-foot house that will cost $200 per square foot to build. But what does that represent? Will it be the home you want? Does it factor in all of the intangibles and idiosyncrasies that any home construction project has? And you can certainly ignore any cost-per-square-foot guideline if it's an addition or remodeling project. Dealing with an existing house, especially one that's a little older, has its own set of rules.

Having said that, the best approach to identifying costs for your specific project and location is to talk with several architects, designers and builders. Each will probably give you a different "number," so you'll have to drill down into the detail of what that number means. Just remember that the devil is in the details.

1. Identify the project. Will it be a new home, an addition to your existing home, a kitchen or bath remodel or some combination of these? Each has its own budgeting method. While a simple "per square foot" cost may work for a new construction project, it definitely won't work for kitchen and bath remodels. And for something like an addition or renovation to a historic home, toss out any sort of cost guidelines. The best approach to establishing a budget for projects like these is to talk to professionals with experience.

2. Identify the pieces within your budget. Clients often don't identify all of the pieces of the budget. Sure, the largest piece might be the construction costs, but there will be many other costs. They can include land costs, legal fees, moving, decorating, landscaping, impact fees, architectural fees, permit costs and financing costs. At the outset, identify all of your potential costs and assign each a value. It would be a shame to finish the house but have no money left for landscaping or furniture.

3. Know thyself. If you just have to have that beautiful range that costs as much as a new luxury car, don't budget for the generic range from the local appliance store. Think about what you really want and how you really want to use the home you're creating, and make sure you've budgeted for it.

4. Expect to splurge. In the budget, allow for the few places where you'll want to splurge. For example, the kitchen backsplash is a place you may want to do something truly special and remarkable. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the backsplash is something you'll see several times a day for many years. Even if it costs a significant amount, allow yourself to splurge a little on something you'll enjoy.

5. Have a plan. A sure way of busting your budget is to defer decisions or, as they say in Washington, "kick the can down the road." Construction has started and you haven't made nearly enough decisions about what tile, what plumbing fixtures, what trim, etc. The builder starts pressuring you to make decisions or, worse, just does something without your input. You may find yourself tearing out work or, worse, have to live with something you really don't like because you don't have the time or money to change it.

The best way to avoid these nightmare scenarios is to have your architect and/or designer prepare a detailed set of drawings and make all of your decisions before starting construction. Then, don't change your mind. It's easier said than done, but preparing a plan and sticking to it is the best way to stay on track.

6. Have a contingency. Like other laws of nature, the law of a construction project is that "stuff happens." It could be a problem with the bearing capacity of the soil or uncovering rotted wood when getting ready to build the addition. The best way to deal with the unknown is to allow for a contingency in the budget.

The best approach is to start with a higher contingency, say 15% to 20% and then gradually reduce the contingency as you go through the project phases. When you first start the design, you'll have a line item in your budget for a, say, 20% contingency. After the drawings are done and the pieces of the project are identified you might reduce the contingency to 10%. As you you go through construction, you'll be able to reduce the contingency even more so that when construction is complete the contingency is zero.

You don't have to spend that contingency. If it isn't used, consider it found money that you can save. That's a great way to feel good about staying on track and coming in under budget.

7. Beware scope creep. A sure way to bust your budget is the dreaded "While we're it we might as well ... " You may justify it by saying "it'll only be a few hundred dollars," but once you do that a few times, you'll have added a bunch of work and will definitely blow your budget. Remember that you made a plan and remain determined to stick to it.

8. Consider tradeoffs. Sometimes it's difficult, if not impossible, to pass by that truly remarkable item that you find during the project that's not in the budget. When this happens, take a look at your budget and what you have left to accomplish, with the goal of reducing the cost of something else to afford this new find. Is there a part of the work, such as painting a few rooms, that you can do yourself? Maybe you can use carpet in lieu of hardwood in the guest bedroom. Get what you want and stay on track by moving budgeted amounts from one pocket to another."

In order to assist you with determining the cost of your custom log home, download our helpful Cost Estimating Worksheet that will keep track of the expenses you may experience while building.  Another resourse to use to help determine cost would be to contact your Local Independent Log Home Consultant.  They have years of experience helping others realize their dream log cabin home.

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Modifying Pre-Designed Log Home Plans to Meet YOUR Needs

Posted on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 @ 11:30 AM

Fair Oaks, log home, log cabin home, pre-designed plan        modified fair oaks, custom log home, modified log home floor plan

Although Appalachian Log Structures offers over 60 pre-designed log home floor plans, the majority of our homeowners have chosen to either modify or fully customize a floor plan to suite their lifestyle. In over 32 years of manufacturing log home packages we've rarely cut the same log house twice!

Take for instance the Fair Oaks floor plan above (left). We modified the Fair Oaks floor plan (above right) to take advantage of a beautiful lake front view for homeowners in Tennessee. We reversed the kitchen/dining area on the left hand side of the plan so the dining room could flow out on to a covered porch through beautiful sliding glass doors (with sliding screens). This offers wonderful opportunities for entertaining family and friends with traffic flowing easily from the kitchen and dining room to the specatular views from the porch and deck beyond.

The first floor 1/2 bath and utility area was re-designed to make easier access to the kitchen from the front door and to add a nice pantry to the kitchen area.

Upstairs, the two doghouse dormers on the front of the original plan were moved to the back of the house in order for both of the upstairs bedroom to have views of the lake and mountains beyond.

To take advantage of the sloping lot, a drive under two-car garage was designed for the basement and included another full bath and large gathering area with access to another deck below the 1st floor deck.

The modifications were done keeping in mind where the views would be, how the traffic would flow through the home and to take advantage of the wonderful weather in Eastern Tennessee and access to the lake from the home itself.

When viewing our pre-designed log floor plans, keep in mind that these are just a "starting place" from which your ideas can flow. Based on the building site, slope of land, the directional orientation, lifestyle, want/needs and especially your BUDGET, our experienced Log Home Sales Consultants are ready to help you modify or customize a floor plan to suite you. Let us help make your dream log home become reality!

View the two log home magazine articles that featured this Modified Fair Oaks by clicking on the links below:

Mail Order Log Home and Coming Together in Tennessee

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How Log Homes Meet GREEN Building Guidelines

Posted on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 @ 11:30 AM


E.jpgHere is an article from the NAHB Log & Timber Homes Council website that reviews the GREEN advantages of log home living. Although I've been in my log home for 20+ years and have been telling folks about these advantages, it's GREAT to see the Log Homes Council put these in a concise list that pretty much covers it all!

"Whether the goal is to save money, fuel, the planet or all of the above, American homeowners are increasingly going green. And while the average household spends $1,900 a year on energy, log home owners typically report that they spend far less than their neighbors on heating, air conditioning, hot water and lighting.

Energy efficiency is among several ways modern log homes qualify as “Green”-- an approach to building that started in 1993 with the belief that we can all pitch in to make the places where we live, work and play more environmentally friendly. The hallmark of “green” is to use less energy, renewable resources, limit C02 or “greenhouse gas” emissions and create indoor environments free of mold, formaldehyde, carcinogens, and other allergens.

The most obvious factor that makes engineered log homes “green” is their building material -- solid timbers grown from trees -- a renewable resource. During the milling process, manufacturers utilize all portions of the log, from bark and other sources for mulch, scrap from cut-offs for raw material used in carvings and other home products, sawdust used by farmers as bedding material, etc. The homes are sold as kits or “packages” with the bulk of the building materials delivered at one time. These packages consolidate delivery and generally travel shorter distances conserving fuel, says the Log Homes Council, which represents nearly 60 of North America’s leading manufacturers and promulgates industry and product standards. And, logs require less energy and man-made materials than stick-built construction. With the completion of a log home, you have walls that serve both the structural and insulative needs of a home, as opposed to using many products from siding, house wrap, plywood, dimensional lumber, insulation, drywall, and paints in traditional homes.

Heating and Air Conditioning
The massiveness of the logs plays a vital role in conserving energy. According to studies by the University of Maine at Orono, the logs absorb heat energy during the day and radiate it at night to even out the temperature, which makes the occupants feel more comfortable while using less energy.

In addition to the benefits of solid timber construction, Log Homes Council member companies engineer their log wall joinery and roof systems to eliminate air infiltration and moisture, conserve energy and increase comfort. This engineered approach continues with every product included in a log home package such as brand-name, double-paned windows and patio doors with low-e glass, proper venting and subflooring structures.

Engineered for Energy Conservation and Safety
Companies that belong to the Log Homes Council are up on latest developments in building technology and safety and maintain relationships with suppliers of roofing materials, heating systems, windows and other components. Council members constantly test and evaluate newer components to make sure they contribute to energy efficient, safe and trouble-free homes. Even the interior and exterior stains and finishes are evaluated for their suitability as solid timber coatings and to make sure they meet low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) clean air standards, in their quest for the ultimate green home.

The Builder
While a green philosophy begins with the log home manufacturer at the design stage, it has to continue with the builder who erects the home. The Log Homes Council’s parent organization, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), has been getting local builders on board by providing them with the knowledge they need to build green. As part of its effort, NAHB has partnered with the International Code Council to develop a consensus committee based Green Building Standard that provides a practical, nationally recognized baseline for resource-efficient, cost-effective home building.

The NAHB Green Building Standard and Certification Program addresses seven key green construction areas including site, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, homeowner education, and global impact. Direct ways log home owners can reduce their footprint include less impact on natural features and vegetation during building site preparation, choosing environmentally friendly components for subflooring, trusses and other conventional materials that go into a log home, choosing energy-efficient appliances, conserving water with low-flow plumbing fixtures and taking steps to increase occupant comfort and indoor environmental quality.

Homeowners
Log homeowners play a big part in going green too. These individuals embrace nature and consider their homes permanent dream homes where they are willing to invest in energy efficiency upfront to reap savings over the years. Their design preferences lean toward open flooorplans that allow for the flow of warmth throughout the home – in many cases, a wood-burning stove is the principal heat source.
From the manufacturer, to the builder to the homeowner, log homes are doing their part for a greener planet. Thankfully, log home construction is and always has been green. With new technologies and products available, log home owners can go the extra step to make their homes even greener."

When you are ready to start your dream log home and realize all of the benefits of eco-friendly living, give one of our Local Log Home Building Consultants a call to set an appointment.

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