The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

Donald Parsons

Built my log home in 1992 and have been actively promoting and selling log homes since then. With Appalachian's experience in milling log homes since 1977 for thousands of satisfied homeowners and my experience assisting 300+ homeowners achieve their dream log home, I'm happy to share some of the insights from my homeowners as well as my own.
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Recent Posts

8 Suggestions on How To Stick to your Log Home Build/Remodel Project

Posted on Wed, Jan 24, 2018 @ 07:45 AM

exterior_left.jpgRecently I ran across this blog on (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 in the past, 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 2018.

"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.

custom-bath1.jpg4. Expect to splurge. In the budget, allow for the few places where you'll want to splurge. For example, the kitchen back splash is a place you may want to do something truly special and remarkable. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the back splash 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 resource 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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Log Homes throughout the centuries.

Posted on Thu, Dec 7, 2017 @ 06:30 AM

old_log_wall-resized-600.pngThe origin of the log structure is uncertain. It is probable that it began in northern Europe sometime in the Bronze Age (c. 3,500 B.C.). By the time Europeans began to settle in America, there was a long tradition of using logs for houses, barns, and other outbuildings in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Northern Russia. These regions had vast stands of softwood timber that could easily be worked with simple hand tools. According to C. A. Weslager, whose book on log cabins is considered a classic, the Finns, as well as the Swedes, had a "close attunement" with the forests, and both groups had well-developed forest industries. Weslager goes on to say:

"The Finns were accomplished in building several forms of log housing, having different methods of corner timbering, and they utilized both round and hewn logs. Their log building had undergone an evolutionary process from the crude "pirtii"...a small gabled-roof cabin of round logs with an opening in the roof to vent smoke, to more sophisticated squared logs with interlocking double-notch joints, the timber extending beyond the corners. Log saunas or bathhouses of this type are still found in rural Finland."

When the Finns and the Swedes began to arrive in New Sweden (along both banks of the Delaware River into modern Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland), they brought their knowledge of such wood construction with them. So did later immigrants from Germany. The Scots, Irish, and Scots-Irish had no tradition of building with logs, but they quickly adopted the technique. The log cabin suited early settlers and later pioneers. It would have been nearly impossible to carry building materials across the ocean in the small sailing ships of the time. It would have been equally difficult to transport building materials on horseback or even in the wagons or river barges pioneers used to cross mountains and valleys in their search for their own land. So, wherever there were forested areas, the log cabin became the preferred type of initial dwelling. Log cabins did not even need nails or spikes to hold them together. Until the 19th century nails were made by hand by blacksmiths, which meant they were quite expensive, and like lumber, they were also heavy.

Log cabins were relatively easy to build. Weslager reports that a record was set by three men who cut down trees, trimmed them, dragged the logs to the building site, notched the logs, and built a one-room cabin with chimney and fireplace in two days. For most people it took a bit longer, but it was possible for a man working alone to build a cabin in one to two weeks. However, a man alone faced some problems. Because it is physically difficult to lift a heavy log above one's head, most men could build cabins only six to eight logs high. With help, it was possible to build several logs higher--even two-story log houses were possible. First, skids of two logs were placed against the wall at an angle to serve as an inclined plane. Then forked sticks or ropes were used to position the logs.

Most log cabins had a single room, or "pen," some 12 to 16 feet square. There was one door, and usually no windows. If windows were cut into the walls, animal skins or boards fixed to slide across the openings were used. Some builders used paper greased with animal fat, which made it both translucent and waterproof. Most log cabin builders placed the fireplace at one end of the cabin and built the chimney of wattle. Stone or clay was used for the hearth and the interior of the fireplace. As these were not very safe constructions, later builders used brick or stone if they could be obtained. Fireplaces provided warmth, light, and fuel for cooking. Back bars and cranes made of forged iron were used to hold cooking pots. Not until the 1840s were cast-iron ranges available that would burn wood or coal, so cooking over a fireplace did not seem a hardship.

Inside walls were often chinked with clay or cloth. Most floors were simply beaten earth, although some cabins had floors of puncheons--logs split lengthwise and laid close together with the flat sides up. A family often built a sleeping loft if the roof were high enough. The loft could be reached by pegs pounded into the walls or by a ladder built from tree limbs. The loft also was used to store foodstuffs.

Log cabins were never meant to be permanent, but many log houses were. The difference between the two was primarily one of size and attention to detail. Most pioneers preferred "flat" walls to rounded log walls, and so most used hewn logs for building. These not only made the houses look (from a distance) more "real," but also withstood the elements much better, since the bark and the decay-prone outside wood were removed from the logs. When milled lumber became available either from a local sawmill or by railroad transport, most people chose it for their homes.

It seemed that as the frontier disappeared, so would the log cabin. However, at about the same time the Finnish homesteaders were, of necessity, building their first homes of logs, Easterners were rediscovering the log structure. William A. Durant, land developer and president of the Adirondack Railroad, pushed the idea of Great Camps in the Adirondacks. These camps were enclaves where the very wealthy could escape the summer heat of the cities and retreat to the "simple life" of log-cabin living in the country. Such "cabins" were hardly simple. Designed by architects, they were huge structures with many rooms and fireplaces and porches. But their log exteriors recalled the "good old days". National park structures also fueled the revival of log cabin living. Many park lodges were made of logs so they would fit their surroundings. The Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park is a prime example. Built in 1904, the inn has an eight-story lobby some 185 feet high. There are 140 guest rooms and three sets of balconies.

Another factor that kept the tradition of log building alive was the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service to build thousands of log structures throughout the national forests and parks. Had it not been for these the log cabin might have disappeared, but because people saw the log structures and liked what they saw, many began to build modern log cabins and log houses. These homes seemed to represent all that a family could want: a sturdy shelter from the elements and a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle. The log cabin remains a popular building style.

If you are planning to build a NEW log home, be sure to visit our web page and locate the Log Home Consultant nearest you.  Since 1977, we've been shipping quality log home building materials worldwide.

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Special thanks to the National Parks Service the provider of this article 
C. A. Weslager, The Log Cabin in America: From Pioneer Days to the Present
(New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1969); Virginia and Lee McAlester,
A Field Guide to American Houses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984);
visitor's guides to several western national parks; and other sources on the history
of the western frontier.

Step 10 - Ordering Your Log Home Package

Posted on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 @ 08:32 AM

custom log home
Now that you've successfully completed the previous 9 steps in Planning a Successful Log Home Project you are ready to order your log home package of building materials. 
Remember to contact your helpful and knowledgeable Log Home Consultant so they can assist you with this process.  They are a great resource of information.  If you do not plan on financing any part of the project most log cabin home manufacturers require a 10% deposit to complete your construction set of plans and to start planning for your order.  Usually a 40% deposit is needed to begin the manufacturing of your materials with the 50% balance due upon delivery.  If you are planning on taking a loan, most financial institutions that have previously worked with log homeowners will require the borrower to put down at least 10% with the log manufacturer and the 90% balance due will be released from the lender on day of delivery.  This is all subject to the loan closing before any manufacturing occurs. 
From this point it will take an average of 6 to 8 weeks for the materials to be manufactured, packaged and ready to ship.  This gives you time to clear and grade the building site, dig and install the foundation and ready the sub floor.  On the day of delivery all that needs to be done is to put the log bundles on the sub floor and start the installation process.  You can look back over the recent past, re-trace the steps you took and be satisfied with all of the planning you did to make your dream log home become reality!
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Step 9 - Log Home Construction Loan Application

Posted on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 @ 11:15 AM

This step can take some time to complete and will take some patience.  There are several items that most financial institutions require you provide when you apply for your loan.  Listed below are just a few:

  • Last 3-4 years of tax returns and/or W-2’sLEE_3724a-LoRes.jpg

  • Last 3-4 pay stubs

  • Your address for the last 2+ years

  • Current statements from checking, savings, portfolios, etc

  • Employment addres for last 2 years

  • Copy of deed/title to the land you are building on or being purchased.

  • Set of floor plans and builder contracts/estimates

There is a lot more information that will be requested before the loan is closed so be prepared to keep digging through your files and have patience.  Our Log Home Sales Consultants assist folks everyday who are going through this process, and believe me, you are not the only ones who feel like they are going through the hoops as this process takes place.

At some point in the application process an appraisal will be ordered for your log cabin home building project.  The appraiser will take your log home floor plans along with the contractors contract/estimates and will determine a value of your home setting on the lot you have chosen.  This value will become part of the basis for the amount of funds the lending institution will loan towards your log cabin home.  Once this amount is determined, the draw schedule can be completed, papers can be signed and you can begin building your dream log home.

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Our next and final blog in this series is Step #10 – Placing your Log Home Package order.

Step #8 - Choosing a General Contractor for your Log Home Project -

Posted on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 @ 09:15 AM

Unless you are building your dream log cabin yourself, you will be speaking with, and interviewing several, general contractors or if you plan to act as your own general contractor, numerous sub-contractors. 

In this process not only is it recommended that you ask for references, but also to call and visit those on the reference list from the contractor.  The references should contain both recent projects completed, within the past 12 months, as well as some older references, 2+ years old to see if the service after completion was performed satisfactorily. 100_0054.jpg

Ask for copies of licenses, certification of insurance and other coverage’s and check with the local building code office or Home Builder Association to get some additional insight of those you are considering.  For vendor references check with the local lumber yard or “big box” store to see if they pays their bills and sub contractors on time.  The folks at these places of business see and hear things that others may not. 

Remember, when choosing a general contractor, you will be working with this person for an average of 6 months +/-.  It is best to make sure that you communicate well, that they understand the scope of your log cabin home project and that all agreements (from BOTH parties) are put in writing so mis-understandings don’t arise.  Don’t be afraid to ask to see a recent or sample contract so that you know what to expect when yours in completed.

Ask questions; take notes on how long it takes to get an answer and just how complete an answer you get.  The more specific your questions and their answers, the better log home build project it will be.  If you need assistance, be sure to contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant - we're here to help!

Next time – Step #9 – Applying for your Construction Loan.

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The Landscape of Log Home Lending

Posted on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 @ 10:48 AM

More and more articles are appearing in various media regarding the process of obtaining financing for log homes.  This artical appeared in the Log Home Living magizines on line web site and thought I would share it as it has some very good points to consider if you plan on financing your log home.

GA&NC Trip 0807 018.jpg


Most log home buyers finance their purchase. The tax write-off alone makes getting a mortgage enticing even for those rare few who can pay cash. But how do you determine how much house you can afford, and how much of that will come from the bank? When you’re ready to buy your log home, calculate your target budget by adding your assets and how much you can borrow. It’s that simple.

However, even though interest rates are still hovering at historical lows, the days of “no money down/no equity required” and so-called “exotic loans” are long gone. Like everyone else, banks need to protect their investments and doing so means reducing risk with sizeable down payments and proof of real collateral.

“Money is still readily available for qualified buyers,” according to log home mortgage specialist Tom Coronato with Citizens Bank. “A lot of these loans are going to be more lender specific or portfolio based, meaning that the banks that grant them and service them are one and the same.”

In other words, the bank is carrying the full risk. Lending expert Greg Ebersole with BB&T agrees.

“The idea that qualified borrowers have been rejected is a lot of media hype,” he says. “I’ve never seen a qualified customer not be able to obtain a mortgage. The real difference now is that we need a lot more documentation than what was required in the past.”

“Log home loan applicants are a little different, because we typically have a well-educated, sophisticated buyer; but often we find they still have difficulty with the basics and don’t understand why we have to ask for so much information,” Tom explains. “They think they can leverage their relationship with a bank or get a light-document loan, but TRID changed all the rules.”


Construction Loans and Draw Schedules

Once you have what it takes to qualify, financing proceeds. If you are purchasing a pre-existing log home, the process mirrors every other kind of home loan. But if you are like most log home buyers, the biggest difference from a conventional loan and yours is the fact you’ll need two. One is the standard mortgage, ranging from 15 to 30 years. The other is a short-term construction loan.

The construction loan pays for the materials and labor needed to build your home. These loans are made for periods from six to 18 months and have higher interest rates than mortgage loans because as far as banks are concerned, they carry more risk. According to Greg, lenders will want at least a 20 percent deposit on a construction loan because of that risk.

Typically, you pay only the interest until the project is completed and the mortgage takes over and adds the construction loan principal. As a general rule, the lending process works smoother and should be less expensive if one lender handles both loans.

You may even be able to get a one-time-close loan (a definite advantage in terms of reducing paperwork and closing costs), though Greg says these are tougher to come by than they used to be. Otherwise, you’ll qualify for the mortgage first and get a letter from the mortgage lender that assures the construction-loan lender its loan will be repaid.

Before granting construction loans, lenders carefully study the project and evaluate the builder’s ability to complete the home according to the plans, budget and schedule. Once the loan is granted, the lender disburses the money according to a draw schedule, which pays certain amounts at various milestones to cover work completed up to that point. Progress is verified by onsite inspections, which determine that the labor was performed and specified materials were used.

Typical draw schedules include five or six payments. The first might be made when the foundation is completed, the second when the log shell is erected and under roof. The next-to-last draw will probably occur when the house is completed and the certificate of occupancy issued. The last draw generally comes 60 to 90 days after completion to allow sufficient time for any subcontractors or suppliers to have filed mechanics’ liens.

As the balance of the loan dwindles because of these draws, the interest amount also goes down thanks to this lower balance. A big difference between construction loans for log homes and other custom homes is that the log home company providing the package expects to be paid a substantial down payment before cutting and shipping the logs. Avoid making a large down payment for your package until you’ve secured your financing; then there are several ways to proceed.

Some lenders view a log package as just another load of lumber or as work under way at the producer’s plant. They’ll release funds when you or the manufacturer request them. In other cases, the lender may refuse to release any money until the package is delivered to your lot. If this occurs, ask your lender to issue a promissory note to the log home company guaranteeing that payment will be made on delivery.

Often, the lender can wire transfer the money the same day as the logs arrive. In any circumstance, your builder/dealer (Who’s that? See page 53 for info.) should be able to help you make arrangements for the most convenient financing of your log package.


Comps and Appraisals

The most formidable obstacle, apart from the down payment, is the appraisal process, specifically comparables (aka, “comps”). Why? In most areas, log homes are few and far between, and there are even fewer recent sales to establish comparable resale values. (The fact that you never intend to sell your log home is of no consequence to the lender.)

Some appraisers will consider non-log custom homes of a rustic or wood-sided nature as comps, but even these can prove scarce. Distressed sales during the housing crash haven’t helped matters either. A helpful sales rep should be well equipped to explain a log home’s true value to lenders and their appraisers.

When the time comes to submit a formal application, lenders will require 20 percent down. Some may accept a smaller deposit, if you qualify, but expect to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance). On the flip side, according to Greg, if your appraisal comes in short, your lender may ask for a bit more up front. Other factors that affect their decision to approve you are the ratio between your income and the expected mortgage payment and the ratio between your income and total long-term debt.

These ratios can fluctuate, but as a rule, the expected mortgage payment cannot exceed 28 percent of your family’s monthly gross income. In addition, your total monthly expenses, including the mortgage payment, shouldn’t exceed 36 percent of your monthly household gross income.


Other Requirements

Besides your financial status, lenders will want to know exactly what you’re going to build, how much it will cost, how long it will take and who’ll be doing the work. This will help the lender estimate the home’s potential value and determine how much it will lend. Here’s some information you’re likely to need:

Building Permits.

Blueprints or construction documents that comply with local building codes will have to be presented to the local permitting office for approval before you can obtain a building permit.

Sales Contract for the Log Home Package.

This should include a complete bill of materials that your log home producer will supply.

Plans and Specifications.

A floor plan in a producer’s catalog isn’t enough. Bring working plans, detailed materials specifications and descriptions of building materials. These documents will tell the lender exactly what is being financed and help the loan officer assess its value.

Complete Cost Estimates.

You’ll need copies of written bids and estimates to determine a detailed cost estimate.

Builder Contract.

If you are hiring a general contractor to build your home, you must have a copy of the agreement showing costs and specifications. Note that to keep risk in check, most lenders are more comfortable approving a loan if a professional, not an owner/builder, is at the helm.

Statement of Your Construction Abilities.

If you do intend doing some or all of the work yourself, supply the lender with information on your qualifications, such as photos of projects you’ve completed or other evidence that you’re capable of tackling — and completing — the construction of your log home. The more you can reduce risk of default in the bank’s eyes, the better your chances of getting approved.

Survey or Plot Plan.

This plan shows the exact location of your land and provides a legal description of the property.

Land Deed.

This document shows the title and mortgage information on the property where you intend to build.

Information on the Log Home Producer.

Anything that explains what kind of home and services you’re buying will be helpful, including a copy of the company’s annual report and its construction manual. When giving the above information, be sure the lender clearly outlines its fees and provides a written estimate of all closing costs associated with your loan. Charges vary among banks, so this information will let you shop for the best rate among the lenders willing to finance your log home.



What Do You Need to be Prepared?

Tom Coronato from Citizens Bank has helped scores of buyers secure log home loans by helping them put together a complete picture of their current financial positions. Here’s what he says he and other lenders need to help you qualify for cash:

  • A 700+ credit score is ideal
  • Two years of W2, 1099 and full 1040 (federal, not state) forms, both personal and business, plus K-1 form (if applicable)
  • Thirty days of paystubs or monthly pension advisements
  • Your Social Security or pension award letter
  • Two months of complete bank statements for accounts, including savings, checking, stocks, etc. — every page, not just the summary
  • Your most recent quarterly 401k statement and/or other retirement accounts
  • A letter of explanation on any negative credit (if applicable)
  • A mortgage statement for your current home and any additional properties you own
  • An estimated contract for your new log home plan to justify the amount you want to borrow
  • A contract for the land on which you intend to build (a HUD-1 prior to October 2015; a CD after that date)
  • A 20 percent down payment

With this information, lenders will look at your income-to-debt ratio, any large or unusual deposits (per The Patriot Act) and your work history to help them determine your ability to repay the loan. If the bank deems you a qualified borrower for the amount you are requesting, there is plenty of money to be had.

Navigating the New Lending Regulations

If you’ve purchased a home in the past 40 years, you likely recall terms like TILA (the Truth in Lending Act) and RESPA (the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act). But as of August 1, 2015, these processes and forms that have been around since the mid-1970s were replaced with something called the TRID, which stands for the “TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure” rule. In addition, the previous use of the Good Faith Estimate and Truth in Lending disclosures were eliminated in favor of a new single Loan Estimate form, or “LE,” and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement was replaced by the Closing Disclosure, or “CD.”

All of these changes sprung from the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 by President Obama, which placed major regulations on the banking industry in the hopes of preventing another financial collapse like the one experienced in 2008. So what do these changes mean for you? The most relevant and impactful change to home buyers applying for a loan today is that the CD must be provided to you a full three days prior to closing so you have time to review it thoroughly. (The new rules also mandate that the LE be provided to you no later than three business days after a lender receives your loan application.)

Previously, you reviewed the HUD-1 at the closing table with your loan officer present. Changes were made on the spot. Now, if there are changes, your lender must make the revisions and provide you with yet another 72 hours to review that new statement before closing. The intent behind these new regulations is not to cause you headaches or delays — it’s to make it easier for home buyers to understand the terms and streamline the loan application process by placing all the relevant details on one page. In addition, the LE and the CD look very similar so you can better compare your actual charges (the CD) to the estimated charges (the LE) when you applied for the loan.

Each provides true dollar amounts down to the cents, rather than rounding to whole numbers as previously done with the HUD-1, for total accuracy and disclosure. Since TRID went into effect in 2015, there have been some concerns that the new rules will delay closings or make it harder for people to qualify for a mortgage. This is not the case. In truth, these guidelines are in place to protect you from mistakes or other factors that could cause you to default on the loan, placing both you and the bank at risk.

Sources: National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Realtors, Citizens Bank and AmeriFirst Home Mortgage

Using Borates to Protect the Investment made in Your Log Home.

Posted on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 @ 09:30 AM


Thought we would share a great article written by a log home owner who also sells products that help homeowners protect their log home investment.  Although the products he mentions, and reps, are used mainly for restoration and/or repairing an existing log home, they are sometimes used on newly constructed log homes.  You'll notice the author mentions that the penetration of these surface treament products are not complete, however recommends that using borates in the PRESSURE TREATED logs is the way to go.  As most of you reading this already know - we PRESSURE TREAT our new log homes BEFORE they arrive to your building site.  Once pressure treated, you'll NEVER have to re-treat the home with borates again.  Just keep a quality exterior finish on the logs, siding, and porch timbers will keep rot,decay and wood digesting insects at bay.  Enjoy the article....





Paul Peebles is Perma-Chink System's West Coast Director of Sales, and has over 20 years experience in the log home industry. As a log home owner, his first-hand experience helps customers get the right products and correct solution to maintain and protect their homes.

There are two kinds of wood – wood that is rotten, and wood that one day will be rotten. This statement may seem a bit extreme, but it is a fact. Wood is a product of nature and its nature is to return to the earth in a natural process. As professional log home contractors, it is our job to ensure that wood used in the construction of log homes lasts for many years.

Borates have been used to preserve wood for many years, and because people have lately become more concerned with the toxicity of products used in their homes, it has steadily grown in popularity. This newsletter will discuss the use of borates to preserve log homes in detail.

What are borates and how do they work?

Simply put, borates - or borax - are naturally-occurring water-soluble salt-like acids. It is about as toxic as table salt to humans and pets, but kills wood-consuming insects like termites, powder-post beetles, and old house borers. More importantly, it kills the wood destroying microorganisms that cause rot.

Rot in log or conventional homes cause far greater damage to homes every year than damage by insects.

For borates to be effective against insects, they must be eaten by an organism. Interestingly enough, consuming borates does not instantly kill termites or other wood destroying insects. It kills the bacteria in their digestive system. The bacteria help insects digest the cellulose fibers that make up wood. Insects die of starvation without these bacteria. Funny how nature works.


Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.

Borax is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound, in the manufacture of fiberglass, a texturing agent in cooking, as a precursor for other boron compounds, and along with its inverse, boric acid, is useful as an insecticide.


Perma-Chink Systems markets four different forms of borates for the purpose of preserving wood.


Sold as a powder that is mixed with water on-site and then sprayed onto wood.


Comes pre-mixed and is Ready-To-Use.


Contains the highest concentration of Borax with food-grade glycol added to deepen wood penetration and must be mixed with additional water on-site. The Concentrate is usually used in extremely wet or rot-prone conditions, on active rot, or insect infestations.


Made from borax and copper, are compressed and heated to form a glass-like rod. The rods are inserted into holes drilled in rot-prone areas, like porch posts. Cobra Rods are so effective that they are now inserted into all new utility poles installed in the southern U.S.

**It is important to note that Armor -Guard, Shell-Guard RTU, and Shell-Guard Concentrate do penetrate into the wood to some extent. They are an inexpensive step during initial construction to prevent wood rot, forming an effective barrier against wood-eating insects and topical rot. However, it is very important to understand that while they will stay in the wood and prevent rot for as long as a waterproof coating is maintained on the home, they are not a permanent, fool-proof solution to wood rot.**

When most homes are constructed, the logs are clean and smooth with very few checks, or cracks, in the logs. During the first few years, these checks open up, expand, and deepen. Many checks extend to the center of the log – much deeper than any topical application of borax can effectively reach. These exposed deep checks CAN and DO collect water. Over time, this will cause the log to rot. It is very important to include the application of borates into checks during any and all maintenance work done on a log home prior to a maintenance coat of stain, clear coat, or caulking. (Note: Pressure treating with borates will saturate the sap wood in the initial treating process and continue to diffuse in to the heartwood over the following weeks.  Unlike topical applications of borates, the entire cross section of the logs, timbers and siding will be saturated with borates when used in the pressure treating process.)


I have used borate treatments over the years in many other special and unusual applications that I will list below. For antique log homes – Owners of antique log homes have spent a lot of money purchasing old logs, timbers, and siding because of their unique appearance. They love that silvery-gray rough texture inherent to old timbers. They are very reluctant to remove this look in order to properly apply a protective waterproof coating that would protect these logs from rot.

An alternative for this unique and growing segment of the market is to simply treat the exposed logs every year with borates. The treatment must be done every year because borates are water-soluable and rain will eventually leach the product out of the wood. The borates will not change the color of the wood and it is almost impossible to over-apply.

For additional protection against insects inside new homes – During initial construction, spread powdered Armor-Guard into open stud wall cavities and on the floor where base cabinets are to be located. Then close up the stud walls and install the base cabinets. The borate powder will stay in those locations forever and kill all roaches and ants that come in contact with Armor-Guard.

Now, I told you earlier that insects must consume the product to be effective and that is true. Insects can crawl through the powder without being harmed. However, ants and roaches belong to a group of insects which constantly groom themselves to stay clean – or a clean as a roach or ant can be. To stay clean, they lick their legs and other body parts. When they do, they consume the borate and will die.

For log replacement projects – I highly recommend a thorough treatment of all replacement logs and log siding with liquid borates and Cobra Rods. The chances are that homeowners who have not maintained their homes in the past will probably neglect them in the future. A more permanent treatment today will lower your liability in the future as a contractor. An even better plan would be to have replacement logs pressure-treated with borates.  I do know that Appalachian Log Structures will pressure-treat logs for use in log replacement. They also produce many different log profiles. If I were to replace a log on a customer’s home that was pressure-treated, I would have no problem extending a lifetime warranty on that log – a good selling point for log home contractors. (Note: Appalachian Log Structures not only pressure treates logs for use in log replacement, but on their new log home products as well.  They've been providing this valuable service for their customers since 1980 and offer a 25-year warranty against rot, decay and wood digesting insects.  They've never had a warranty claim in their 37-year history of operation).

For active infestations – I have successfully used borates against insects that are actively living in isolated spots on structures. In the pictures below, powder-post beetles infested barn wood on my porch. I injected Shell-Guard RTU into the actual holes using a syringe made for injecting marinade into food.

Any plastic syringe will work when held tightly against the hole to inject the liquid.

Application hole in woodDead bugs

I treated these holes one afternoon and found them dead on my counter-top the next day. I may have simply drowned them, but that was a year ago and they have not returned.

The same type of method can be used in isolated areas of rot or termite damage using – believe it or not – a bulb-type turkey baster or cheap ketchup squirt bottle. Simply drill angled holes into the wood on the upper part of the log (you have to drill to get the product into the wood past the existing water-proof stain on most logs) and insert the bottle or baster full of borate solution into the hole and walk away for a couple of days. The liquid will slowly soak into the log and saturate a large section of log. If the product simply flows quickly into the log, then you will probably be facing a log that is too far gone and it may need to be re-faced or replaced. Once the product is deep in the log, it will soon kill the rot or termites.

I recommend Shell-Guard Concentrate for this procedure as it has the highest concentration of borates. Remove the delivery device and add a Cobra Rod as extra insurance and longevity. 

For log railings – Log railings exposed to the weather are a maintenance nightmare. They are very difficult to maintain a stain coating on because they develop checks on the upper curvature of the rails which gather water. However, when located on a raised deck or stairway, they can be downright dangerous. How many homes have you visited a homeowner who warns you not to lean on the railing during your inspection of the home? (Note: Appalachian Log Structures offers borate pressure treated log railing with their log home packages, as replacements or for new projects on any type of home)

Think about it – the only thing between you and serious accident is a rotted handrail! Many state codes now require pressure-treated handrails.

These things are a serious safety problem – and this warning does include cedar or redwood which last longer, but also rot.  (Note: the same is true for these wood species used in log homes - they are NOT impervious to rot/decay as some may have been lead to beleive)

Railing Rot #1Railing rot #2

If you are at a new home site, you can treat new hand rails as they are assembled by drilling a hole into the end of each spindle and inserting a Cobra Rod. The borates and copper will dissolve into the surrounding wood and protect against rot. I would also soak all the components in one of our other liquid borate products.

If you would like to learn more about borate pressure treated log homes and log home building products call Appalachian Log Structures at 800-280-2574 or one of our Independent Log Homes Consultants.  You may want to also consider visiting our mill during one of the Plant Tour/Seminar events held in Princeton, WV to see for yourself the advantages of pressure treating with borates and how it saves new log homes from expensive re-treatments or restoration/repair of logs infested with rot, decay or wood digesting insects.  Now you may understand why our by-line is "PRESERVING America's Log Home Heritage".

Metal vs Shingle - Things to consider for your Log Home Roofing Solutions

Posted on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 @ 09:30 AM

Ran across an interesting article (see below) in that may interest many of you when researching roofing solutions for your new log home, or if you are considering re-roofing your existing home.  In the 24 years of selling log homes, this is one of the most frequently asked questions we're asked to give an opinion on.  It really comes down to budget, but the insight offered below is valuable when making a decision.

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If you were to ask a sampling of production builders what is the best roofing material on the market, they’re likely to tell you asphalt. The average residential architect, on the other hand, would probably say metal is the real deal. Heaven only knows what a home buyer or custom home client will choose—slate, clay, concrete—or if they’ll even care.

The roof is arguably the most important surface in a home, perhaps even more essential than the exterior walls. As the most exposed plane, the roof has a mammoth task. It’s under constant assault from the sun and rain, and, if leaky, could result in thousands of dollars worth of direct repair as well as ancillary damage. Still, a roof is one of those things that many consumers don’t think about until there is a blizzard, hail storm, or rainstorm.

So what accounts for the discrepancy in material tastes? That builders, architects, and home buyers have opposing views of roofing material is telling, but their preferences speak to individual agendas as much as it speaks to the materials.

Most home buyers, for example, care mostly about price and don’t care as much about material as long as the roof functions properly and for the foreseeable future. Production builders care about looks and function, too, but affordability is top of mind. And architects want a roof to function well, but they are concerned that it be aesthetically pleasing.

Naturally, the asphalt industry says its product is the best roofing you can buy. “Asphalt roofing is easy to find, easy to install, and easy to maintain,” the Washington, D.C.-based Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association says. “It's also incredibly easy on the eye. And let's not forget, it's easy on the wallet, too!”

Indeed, asphalt is easy to install and produces a decent-looking roof, but most architects and builders say the product is popular mainly because it’s economical.

Depending on the product line, shingles come with warranties lasting anywhere from 20 to 30 years, though builders in the field say the numbers are often shorter depending on the location of the country and maintenance.

The asphalt roofing industry makes a good case for its product being No. 1 because its product is No. 1. Industry estimates claim four out of five roofs are covered with asphalt, though if you drive around most subdivisions—new or established—that number seems woefully low.

Asphalt’s market share notwithstanding, the metal people say their product is much better. According to the Metal Roofing Alliance in Belfair, Wash., “Longevity is one of the top reasons consumers report choosing metal roofing for their homes.” The group says “metal roofing can last as long as 50 years or more, requiring very little maintenance and looking beautiful all the while.”

When HUD’s Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing launched the Concept Home program some years ago, the group’s mission was to use the best available materials, products, and technology for the homes it builds. The group settled on metal roofing for its subsequent homes in Omaha, Neb., and Charleston, S.C., because of the looks and the longevity—benefits that architects often cite as their reason for choosing the material. They are mesmerized by the crisp, contemporary look; that it lasts forever is gravy.

But longevity and good looks come with a very high price, one that turns off even ardent admirers of metal. “I use asphalt on all my projects,” says Texas-based builder Robert Aiken. “Metal is a better roof, but it costs three times as much.”

So where does that leave you? The tradeoffs are not so simple. Both materials are versatile, offering a variety of looks. But is it enough to specify an asphalt roof that should last 20 years or more? Or is it worth it to pay three times as much for metal that could outlive the homeowner and the house? Considering how long the average home buyer stays in a house, the answer may be simple.

Here's a handy guide that outlines the pros and cons of asphalt versus metal roofing. Use it to evaluate the options for your customers, and let us know what you use and why.

Pros for Asphalt Shingles:

An accepted and proven material that builders know and trust. There’s a reason so many builders use the product, and it comes down to 100 years of service in the home building industry. Plus, home buyers are comfortable with it, which is extremely important.

Economical. The low cost of asphalt is probably its biggest selling point. A basic three-tab shingle roof might set you back about $100 to $200 per square (or a 10-foot-by-10-foot area), making it ideally suited to production housing or to entry-level housing.

Easy to work with and handle. Perhaps no other roofing product is as easy to install. In some cases, a house can be done in one day by professional contractors. Even serious DIYers have been known to tackle roofing projects, though it’s highly recommended that they don’t because of warranty issues.

Easy to repair. As easy as asphalt is to install, it’s equally easy to repair if it gets damaged.

Style options. Asphalt comes in basic offerings for the cost-conscious, but it can be ordered in fancy styles that mimic wood shakes or slate. Basic three-tab shingles dominate the category, but thicker, high-end laminates are available in many colors and with deep shadow lines.

Good performance record. Depending on the product line, asphalt shingles come with a 20- to 30-year warranty. Many are fire-rated (as high as Class A), and require minimal maintenance. Some manufacturers offer products that meet Energy Star requirements and qualify as a cool roof under federal standards, making them eligible for tax credits.

Cons for Asphalt Shingles:

Can be boring. Though snappy colors and styles are available, builders tend to select basic single-color products that have a tendency to look dull.

Susceptible to severe weather. In general, asphalt provides good uplift protection, but the product does not hold up well to severe weather such as hail. The NAHB Research Center sayswind- and impact-resistant shingles are available, but they cost about 50 percent more than conventional products. Moreover, asphalt roofs that do not get adequate sunlight can be vulnerable to moss, mildew, and algae, which can shorten lifespan.

Longevity questions. Warranties on asphalt roofs are relatively high, but performance is closely tied to a well-ventilated roof deck and homeowner maintenance.

Can be heavy. While basic shingles weigh about 200 pounds per square, some laminated, textured, and higher-end architectural shingles can clock in at close to 500 pounds per square.

Nascent recycling. According to the Northeast Recycling Council, the U.S. manufactures and disposes of about 11 million tons of asphalt shingles per year. Most—about 10 million tons—is from installation scraps and tear-offs from re-roofing. Moreover, the group cites EPA studies that shingle waste makes up 8% of the total building-related waste stream. The asphalt recycling industry is still young, however, though manufacturers are developing ways to find uses for the material including pavement, new roofing, and road and ground cover, says the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

Pros for Metal Roofing:

Lightweight. Metal is about the lightest material you can install on your roof. Though weight varies based on type, contractors and manufacturers say aluminum varies from about 50 pounds per square, while steel can be anywhere from 100 pounds to 250 pounds per square, says

Longevity. Metal offers good weather resistance and can last a long time. There are rumors of copper and zinc metal roofs in Europe lasting well over 100 years. Though this might be possible with care and maintenance, you can reasonably expect a metal roof to last about 60 years, give or take.

Long warranty. Many metal manufacturers offer limited warranties that last up to 50 years.

Stellar extreme-weather performance. Contractors say metal is excellent at preventing leaks, offers good wind resistance, and is fireproof. In fact, says the Metal Roofing Alliance, some insurance companies offer home buyers up to 30% reduction in premiums for weather-resistant metal roofs .  

Environmentally friendly. One of the most energy-efficient roofing materials, metal reflects heat and helps keep houses cooler in the summer. Plus, the product often contains high, recycled content and is itself recyclable.

Cons for Metal Roofing:

Very expensive. Metal’s biggest drawback is the cost. Though manufacturers say prices have come down, metal, on average, costs three times as much as asphalt. Pricier metals such as stainless steel, copper, and zinc can cost way more.

Can have a harsh appearance. Metal has a long history on barns and agricultural buildings, but for those who aren’t familiar with this look, it can be harsh in a residential subdivision.

Extreme expansion and contraction. Critics contend that some metal roofs expand and contract quite a bit, which compromises their long-term performance and their ability to remain water tight. This is often a function of the installation.

Past failures and perception issues. Architects say there was a time when basic corrugated metal roofs corroded in 10 years or less. In some seaside applications, rust on some roofs is visible. Most products today, however, are made with alloys and specialized resin paints that can handle salt spray, extreme heat, and heavy precipitation without issue, the industry says.

Product selection is important for good performance. Though high-performing materials such as stainless steel, copper, and zinc are available, low-end steel products are still available. Architects advise against low-grade metals that are thinner and less durable, especially near seaside locations.

Nigel F. Maynard is a senior editor for Builder magazine.

Step #7 - Estimating Log Home Construction Costs

Posted on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 @ 09:30 AM


Now that you’ve got your floor plans drawn by your log home manufacturer, you can start gathering more accurate construction costs.  Up until now any estimates or quotes you have received have been “any ones guess”.  Most quality contractors we hear from won’t provide any type of pricing until a set of log home floor plans has been produced and folks are ready to spend some time discussing their wants/needs and budget for their log home project. 
Once a floor plan drawing is completed contractors now have something specific to associate bulding costs to.GA&NC Trip 0807 018.jpg

For financing purposes, you will not only need a set of your log home floor plans to submit with the rest of your documents, but your construction estimates as well.  If you have chosen to have your home professionally built by a general contractor, they will provide to you the estimated construction costs. 

If you plan on being your own General Contractor or building the log cabin kit yourself, our Cost Estimating Worksheet will be of great assistance.  When I built my log home 24 years ago, we used this form to gather our costs and budget our money accordingly.  Not only did we come in on time (we developed and executed a realistic construction time line) but we came in on budget as well thanks to this form.

Be sure to add in about 10% in cost overruns for unanticipated expenses, price increases, or in case you forgot to include an item you REALLY wanted in your new dream log home.  Don't forget to contact your local Log Home Consultant and use their experience as a great resource tool for your building project.

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Next up – Step #8 Choosing a General Contractor.

Step #6 in Planning for Success - Purchasing Floor plans

Posted on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 @ 10:38 AM


custom log home floor plans


Assuming that you have progressed through the first 5 steps in the Successful Planning series; you have now completed your research, set a realistic budget, know where you are going to build your log cabin home, sketched some log home floor plan ideas on paper and are within the building/move in timeline you have set for yourself. It's now time to have your preferred log home manufacturer start drawing your dream log home design.  Whether it is a floor plan that the log home manufacturer already has pre-designed, there are some slight modifications you want made to that plan or if you have your own custom log home design, gather your ideas, sketches and other information and get with your Log Home Consultant to get underway.

For folks wanting one of our pre-designed floor plans we offer a Study Set of plans that will help you gather building costs and/or provide to your lending institution for appraisal purposes.  For those wanting to modify a pre-designed plan or customize their own plan we have a Preliminary Plan option that provides the same type of information as the Study Set of plans include.  Contact your local Log Home Consultant for more information and pricing on the Preliminary Plan option.

Over the year's we have found that those homeowners who start working on their log home floor plans early are the most confident and well prepared when construction actually begins.  You should be very relaxed and not rushed through this step as it is your dream log cabin home.  Both your log home manufacturer and your Log Home Consultant are very interested in assisting you through this process.

Coming soon - Step #7 Obtaining Construction Estimate.

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