The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

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 www.builderonline.com 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 MetalRoofingSource.com.

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

 

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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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Step #5 - Timelines for Building a Log Home

Posted on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 @ 09:30 AM

Goldenrod Way-46-ZF-6752-91945-1-001-045-1.jpgSome folks like to set a date that they want to be moved in to their new log home like Christmas, Thanksgiving or a special anniversary or birthday.  Setting goals is a great idea but they need to be matched with realistic expectations.  If you’ve never had a custom home built before, now may be the time to investigate a bit further.

There are several factors that will affect how long a log home building project will take.  Here are just a few:

  • Complexity and size of the house plan
  • Location of the building site
  • Availability of building supplies
  • Weather
  • Size/experience of construction crew

On average our homeowners have told us that from the time they started clearing their lot until the time they moved in, it took them approximately 12 months to complete.  Remember, this is an “average” so some folks building smaller, simpler designs may have spent fewer than 6 months and some with very large (7000+ sq ft) complex houses on difficult building sites may have spent 18 months or longer.

If you have a move-in date selected be sure to keep the time lines and what can effect them in mind so you know when you have to start.  To help you along, click here for a sample time line to help you along in planning.  For further assistance, use your local Log Home Consultant as a wonderful resource for insights in to the time line planning process.

Our next topic is Step #6 – Ordering Blueprints

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The Mountains are Calling: 5 Ideas for Your Next Trip to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge (Bonus: 2 Ways to Help Recovery Efforts from Home)

Posted on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 @ 02:12 PM

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"A lot of people come in and they believe there may not be a Gatlinburg at all to come to. A lot canceled vacations,” says local business owner Eric Hensley in USA Today in March. Gatlinburg businessman Ken Kooch adds that much of the reporting on the November wildfires in Sevier County makes it sound like everything is gone.

But in fact, the majority of attractions, restaurants, lodging and even the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sustained minimal damage. As Jim Gaines reports in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, “though hundreds of cabins in the wooded hills were lost -- about 2,400 structures burned county-wide -- all the major attractions survived, and most hotels came through with no or partial damage.”

As a result, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are working hard to counter images and news stories focusing on the destruction. Travel planning websites such as Gatlinburg.com and Mypigeonforge.com assure potential visitors that shops, restaurants and hotels are open and ready for business. A handy travel map on the Mypigeonforge.com home page makes it easy to see that Pigeon Forge is easily accessible from many US cities (scroll to the green map and city chart).

Tourism is critical to the Sevier County area. According to Nashville Public Radio, “Gatlinburg is a city of just 4,000 full-time residents, but it has about 12 million visitors each year. Officials say the industry accounts for nearly three-quarters of the city's jobs and brought in $620 million in tax revenue last year.” Pigeon Forge, with about 6,000 residents, has about 10 million annual visitors.

Lots to See and Do

  1. Festivals and events happen year-round from the Gatlinburg Beans and Cornbread Festival in May to Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest to Tennessee Smokies minor-league baseball games in nearby Kodak. Find dates and details about these and other events in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
  2. Attractions abound including Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, arts and crafts shopping in Gatlinburg, Ober Gatlinburg resort and others (check out Trip Advisor’s top 10 and “hidden gems” lists for more ideas). John D. Ivanko’s two-part article on Gatlinburg eco-tourism on Mother Earth News’s blog highlights activities including guided nature treks, birding, zip lining, fly fishing and locally-sourced cuisine.
  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has something for everyone: hiking, camping, fishing, ranger-led walks, historic cabins, wildflowers and even auto touring. The park’s four visitor centers are good starting points to talk with a ranger, get a map or see a schedule of events.
  4. A total solar eclipse will happen on August 21, 2017, when the moon will pass between the earth and the sun. The eclipse will be visible along a 67-mile wide path across part of the United States, including the western portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Viewing spots in the park include Cade’s Cove and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
  5. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Smoky Mountain Field School, a series of non-credit courses taught by experts in ecology, natural history, biology and environmental stewardship. This joint program of the University of Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park includes indoor workshops and outdoor exploration. You can see the full course catalog and register online at the Field School website.

Or, Help Without Leaving Home

  1. Donations are still being accepted for the Sevier County Community Fund and the Gatlinburg Relief Fund. Learn about both of these at the Mountain Tough Recovery Team website.
  2. Your shopping dollars support local businesses in Gatlinburg even when you buy online. This handy guide to shopping in Gatlinburg includes arts and crafts galleries, specialty foods, jewelry, clothing, hiking and fishing gear, and more. Many shops have websites for ordering or take orders by phone.

As they say in Sevier County, the mountains are calling. The message? We’re still here, so come on and visit.

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Tags: wildfire recovery, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge

The Help You Need for Long-term Wildfire Recovery in Sevier County

Posted on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 @ 02:22 PM

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Photo credit: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean

 

Spend a few minutes reading about the effects of November’s wildfires in Sevier County, Tennessee and you’ll quickly realize there's far more to the damage than destroyed buildings. Even after food, water and shelter are distributed, wide-spread wildfires lead to personal, social and economic challenges that outlast the flames. These include homelessness, bankruptcies, unemployment and traumatized survivors left with the little they grabbed as they fled. 

Organizations like the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and the local Rotary work tirelessly to address immediate victim needs. However, as time passes, efforts shift from urgent relief services to long-term recovery, which could take months or years. As time marches on, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by various resources and relief programs. Is FEMA money still available? What about state funds? Any private organizations willing to help? 

To help you keep track, we’re highlighting a selection of available resources and programs. We also encourage you to check the following sites regularly:

You can also sign up for text alerts from the Mountain Tough Recovery Team or call 2-1-1 for assistance. 

The following is a selection of available resources and may change at any time. Keep up to date by checking the websites below.

Clean-up and Housing Resources

Financial Support

  • The Dolly Parton Foundation’s My People Fund raised over $9 million to help families whose primary residences (owned or rented) were destroyed by the fires. The fund distributes $1000 per family for up to six months. Details and distribution dates are online.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest Economic Injury Loans for businesses, homeowners and renters. For disaster damage to private property that's not fully covered by insurance, apply for an SBA disaster loan by September 15, 2017.
  • In March, Governor Haslam signed a law to allow “prorating the 2016 tax assessment for a homeowner’s real property or a business owner’s personal property if the property was damaged by 50 percent or more. If 2016 taxes were already paid, those people would get a refund,” according to ABC affiliate WATE in Knoxville. Apply by June 30, 2017.
  • Financial counselors from HOPE Coalition America are available at First Tennessee Bank in Sevierville to help with questions about emergency budget and credit management, insurance claims, replacing legal documents, assistance agencies and more. Call 1-888-388-4673 for information.

Employment

  • The Mountain Tough Recovery Team’s website links to employment opportunities with the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville and Sevier County. Information on county disaster unemployment assistance is also available.
  • A National Dislocated Worker Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor funds jobs for workers dislocated by the wildfires. According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the jobs (with employers Sevier County, the city of Gatlinburg, Sevierville Solid Waste Inc., Sevier County Humane Society and the National Park Service) focus on clean-up efforts around Gatlinburg. Jobs could last through December 2017. Apply or learn more at the American Jobs Center in Sevierville, or call 865-286-6378.

Counseling and Crisis Support

After a wildfire, psychological distress is common, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and difficulty sleeping. “Everybody needs to talk about it … We can’t ignore that this happened … The more we talk about this individually and as a community, that helps everyone heal,” says psychologist Dr. John Kupfner, quoted in a WATE story in March 2017.

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing distress from the fires, contact the Tennessee Recovery Project at 865-255-6716. This crisis counseling program is funded by a FEMA grant to provide emotional support and education for disaster survivors in Tennessee.
  • Help is also available through the Disaster Distress Helpline, a national crisis counseling hotline for people experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Call 800-985-5990.

Legal Assistance and Documents

Wildfire recovery is a long journey that looks and feels different for each person. Following up with these and other resources can help start you on your way.

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Tags: Sevier County, wildfire recovery

Sevierville Home Show Answers Your Questions and More

Posted on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 @ 11:38 AM

 

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March’s Log and Timber Home Show in Sevierville was about turning log home dreams into reality. Visitors browsed exhibits from 80 vendors, including over 30 log and timber home builders. “This year we are hoping to help restore dreams to the Gatlinburg community,” says show manager Eric Johnson.

Appalachian Log Structures Regional Sales Manager Donald Parsons understands those dreams. From cabin rentals to private homes, the Smoky Mountain region is synonymous with log structures. "For many [tourists], staying in a log cabin has been a dream of theirs for years,” Parsons says. Families whose homes were destroyed know just how special a log home is too. “It’s hard to describe what it’s like to live in a log home … there’s nothing else like it and that’s why we want to help folks get back into theirs.”

Read on to see what we learned at the Log and Timber Home Show and what you might have missed.

9 Questions You Didn’t Know You Had about Building a Log Home

Home show visitors often ask about cost per square foot, wood species, log dryness and building timelines. While these questions are important, Parsons also likes to speak to customers about questions they hadn't considered. Categories and questions include:

Invest in quality materials and methods

  1. Are kiln-dried logs dry enough? Wood may change in moisture content and dimension while awaiting shipment, during fabrication, in transit and in storage. What’s more, kiln-dried logs will continue to dry until they reach an equilibrium moisture content with the surrounding atmosphere.
    Interestingly, professional log home builders are not concerned with how dry the logs are. They want to know how the building system accommodates the movement in the wood as it continues to reach equilibrium moisture content over a newly-completed home's first few heating seasons.
  2. How are preservatives applied? Kiln drying sanitizes logs, but doesn't prevent insect re-infestation. The industry standard preservative is sodium borate, applied by brush, dip tank or pressure treatment to different effect. Keep in mind that dip, brush and spray-on methods are merely surface treatments. Only pressure treating will penetrate the sap wood completely, offering superior protection against decay and wood-digesting insects.
  3. What type of fastening system should you use? As they dry, logs compress and walls settle. Fasteners affect how much walls twist or shift. One example is the thru-bolt, which keeps the log stack compressed during settling. Other methods include log home screws, spikes, lag screws, drift pins and wooden dowels.
  4. Which components are pre-cut and which are random length? Pre-cut systems save time and labor by reducing cuts made on the job site. Find out which parts of your home package are pre-cut and which aren’t. Pre-cut window and door openings, interlocking corners and ship-lap wall joints mean faster, tighter and more energy-efficient log stacking.

Understand how times have changed in home construction

  1. If you’re rebuilding, have codes changed? “The days of taking a sketch of a home to the building department and getting a building permit are past,” Parsons says. Be sure your builder is familiar with local building codes and knows what documentation is required for permits.
  2. Does your lender require a general contractor? Construction loans can be complicated and have risks, as this Money Crashers article explains.

Look for integrity

We covered ways to protect yourself when selecting contractors in a previous post, but what else should you ask?

  1. Does your log home manufacturer belong to the Log and Timber Council and does your builder belong to the local home builders’ association? These organizations hold members to high standards of construction quality and ethics. Check the Log and Timber Council’s membership directory and your area home builders’ association online.
  2. What does the warranty cover? Warranties range from a few years to a “lifetime” so ask exactly what's covered. Lifetime warranties usually apply to manufacturing defects and seldom address structural failure caused by rot, decay and wood-digesting insects. The Appalachian Log Structures warranty covers these items that others don’t.
  3. What is required to maintain the warranty? You may have to use a certified contractor or periodically reapply sealants or preservatives to the logs. Knowing your responsibilities is crucial to the warranty agreement.

So - when attending a show like the Log and Timber Home Show, Donald and the Appalachian Log Structures team like to get attendees thinking. You might just leave the show with more than you bargained for - and that's a good thing!

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Tags: dream log cabin, log home shows

How Much Per Square Foot Does it Cost to Build a Log Home?

Posted on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

Goldenrod Way-46-ZF-6752-91945-1-001-045.jpgWOW - what a loaded question and one that is virtually impossible to answer in just a few minutes.  We get this question several times a day and hopefully by posting this article from Andy Stauffer (president of Stauffer & Sons Construction based in Colorado Spring, CO) you'll understand why.  Although the article mentions a frame home, the same applies to any type of home being built.

Mr. Stauffer writes "Ask any farmer what a bushel of wheat costs and he'll have an instant answer for you. Similarly, the price of a barrel of oil and an ounce of gold are common knowledge, with costs quoted down to the last cent. But try asking a home builder about the "cost per square foot" to build a home, and you'll likely get any number of responses, including lowball guesses, unhelpfully vague price ranges, or even outright irritation from the respondent. Why is new home construction so different? A simple question like this seems fair, so why is it met with disdain by home builders?

The disconnect stems from the fact that in residential construction, there is simply no agreed upon standard for what constitutes a square foot. No grocer would have trouble telling you what a gallon of milk costs, and what it contains. It is not so easy, however, to decide what is contained in a square foot of home. For example, do builders only include finished square footage in their estimates? Do they count unfinished basements? Does a square foot include the garage and deck? Therein lies the complication: it's up to each builder to decide for themselves.

For illustration, consider the hypothetical Jones Residence. The Jones family wants a rancher with 2,000 square feet on the main level, an unfinished basement, a three-car garage (700 square feet), and a covered deck (200 square feet). Simple enough, right? The savvy Mr. Jones, seeking more than one opinion, meets with two separate builders and asks them, independently, what they would charge him, per square foot to build his dream home.

Builder A looks at the project and considers it a 4,000-square-foot home since, after all, while the basement will be unfinished, it is nonetheless conditioned space and thereby “countable”. He also reasons that all of his homes generally have a 200-square-foot covered deck with a three-car garage, an integral part of the house. His price? Only $100/square foot.

Builder B looks at this very same layout, but considers it a 3,417-square-foot home, after using “tried and true” math: He counts the main level area (2,000 square feet) at full value; the basement and garage at half value (1,000 square feet and 350 square feet); and the covered deck at one-third value (67 square feet). He proudly presents his reasonable cost to build the Jones Residence: $117/square foot.

That’s a difference of $17/foot between the two, and their calculations are 583 square feet apart...and they’re both right. Notice, despite the disparities mentioned above, they’ve both quoted a home that costs about $400,000. Builder B just looks more expensive, on paper.

This scenario plays out in real life all the time. Unfortunately, it often results in a homeowner selecting a builder based on who can provide the “lowest cost per foot” without taking into account the bigger picture. Each builder, when presented with plans and specifications, is able to implement unit costing and vendor quotes to arrive at a total construction cost. At the end the day, the square-foot cost is largely incidental – a house costs what it costs.

All too often, however, folks who come into my office will attempt to pit me against another builder by stating, “Builder X says she can build for $110/ square foot, what’s your square foot cost?” Before I answer, I’ll whisper a silent prayer: “Lord, forgive them; they know not what they ask..."

I then dive into my highly conditional response, which goes like this:

First, we’ll make the following assumptions:

1.    Tap fees and/or well and septic costs are excluded (for now);

2.    The house will have a three-car garage and 200-square-foot covered deck;

3.    Site conditions are favorable (i.e. there are no expansive soils, and no blasting is needed);

4.    The house will be fully finished (minus 5% of area for mechanical room);

5.    The driveway and utility lengths are 100 feet or less;

6.    We’re using standard construction systems and methodology (i.e. 2x6 exterior walls, composition shingle roof, forced air, vinyl windows, 50/40/10 split of carpet, hardwood and tile floors, granite counter tops, gas fireplace, etc.);

7.    Landscaping is excluded.

After rattling these off, I catch my breath… then continue. Then the magic happens: once we’ve defined what is and what isn’t included, the square-foot pricing conversation actually begins to make sense. There we sit – builder and prospective client – having a productive conversation about what the house costs.

Suddenly, I am able to show Mr. Jones that his initial plan of just multiplying $100/foot times 2,000 finished square feet on the main level isn’t going to give him an accurate understanding of cost. He will learn that no math, used by any builder, will net him a $200,000 home. (How many times have you had this conversation?) Most importantly, he will learn why. This helpful conversation allows me to show my attention to detail and instills a level of confidence on the part of the client. To think: If I had just stated a ballpark “cost per foot” without qualifications, I wouldn't have earned the opportunity to get into these details, especially if my ballpark square foot cost was higher than "the other guy’s."

The lesson here is that it's incumbent upon the builder to meet the prospective client where they are. The question of cost per square foot, despite our wishes, may never go away, and that is because perfectly reasonable folks will continue to seek a way to traverse a sea of information, advertising, and sales propositions, and find a simple, quantifiable unit of measurement. That’s fair enough.

My suggestion to those in the building industry: When you’re asked what your square foot cost is, answer the question with a question. This isn't being evasive; it's being honest. These days, I find myself saying, “Well, that depends: What do you mean by square foot?” and that's a great conversation starter.

It does take time to explain the rules, and to clearly delineate what is and isn’t included, to be sure. But this technique accomplishes two key objectives: First, the prospective client is able to determine how far she can expect her dollars to go, and second, the builder is able to qualify the prospective client so neither party wastes their time unnecessarily. Once the square footage discussion has been had, both the builder and prospective client can focus on the viability of the project and the possibility of working together.

I used to dread the square foot question. But now, when Mr. Jones asks me, “What is your cost per square foot?” I’ll try to put him at ease by validating his concern, knowing that we have to start somewhere. But the question behind the question is really “how much will my house cost?” and this is far easier to answer, and results in a happier builder, as well as a happier client."

When you are ready to discuss the costs associated with building your dream log home, contact your Local Log Home Consultant.  We're ready to help you get started.

Part of this blog was taken from an article written by Mr. Andy Stauffer for builderonline.com. 

Sevier Rebuild? Learn While Saving Time and Money at the Log and Timber Home Show

Posted on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 @ 03:56 PM

 

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If you’re rebuilding or remodeling, do you know all of your choices?  Exhibits and workshops at the upcoming Log and Timber Home Show in Gatlinburg, TN will teach you what you need to know, whether you're unsure about where to start, looking for expert advice on home maintenance or anywhere in between. It's a great opportunity to meet builders and contractors, ask questions, view floor plans, search for bargains and gather ideas. You can also examine siding, cabinetry, flooring, furniture, stairways, interior décor, windows and doors and exterior coatings and finishes, up close, all in one place. And we'll be there! New Call-to-action

The Details

What: The Log and Cabin Home Show
When: March 24 (11am - 7pm) and 25 (10am - 6pm)
Where: Sevierville Convention Center, Booth 215
Tickets: $15 online/$20 at show/free for wildfire victims (email Samantha Watters for more information)

Additional information, including a full list of exhibitors, is available on the Log and Timber Show website.

If you're ready for more advanced log home information, educate yourself at the Log and Timber University. This half-day course goes beyond the basics of log and timber home construction and gives you a chance to meet and question experts in the field. Topics include budgeting and financing, floor plan design and room layout, log vs. timber construction, building foundation considerations and care and maintenance of finished structures.

5 Ways to Get the Most from Your Show Visit

It’s your home and your future, so it pays to have a strategy for the show (especially if you're stressed out about a home rebuild). Follow these tips to ensure you leave the show with what you need. 

  1. Before the show, make a list of exactly what you want to see or questions you have. Try to be specific. Good questions might include the following.
    1. Is a timber frame kit or custom design better?
    2. How and when do I apply stains or sealants to my home?
    3. Can I save money by cutting and notching the logs myself?
    4. How can I maximize my home’s energy efficiency?
  2. If you already own land, bring site photos and a list of property basics with you. Include things like lot size and features (think trees, wells, existing or planned outbuildings, etc.), the orientation of the property to driveways and roads and your budget. Keep this information in hand as you talk to builders and make decisions.
  3. When you arrive at the show, pick up a floor plan and spend a few minutes going over the layout (including restrooms and seating areas). Circle the exhibits you don’t want to miss (including Booth 215) and map out your path. It’s easy to get sidetracked, so refer back to your map often and mark the exhibits you want to visit a second time.
  4. Bring your camera or smartphone. You might think that you’ll remember which vendor had the cabinets you liked, but why not snap a quick picture of them to be sure? Take a picture of the company’s business card or brochure while you’re at it. Keep track of ideas with a note taking app on your phone, or bring a notepad and pencil to take notes as you tour the exhibits.
  5. Dress for success. You’ll do a lot of walking and standing at the show, so be prepared with comfortable shoes. Dress in layers for comfort and remember to stay hydrated. Consider carrying belongings in a backpack to leave both hands free (and as a place to collect brochures, business cards and other materials).

For more smart tips, check out eLocal.com’s suggestions for making the most of a home show visit (be sure to read the comments section too), and this Home Show Survival Guide.

 

 

Tags: log home shows, log home rebuild

9 Critical Considerations when Rebuilding

Posted on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 @ 01:47 PM

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Rebuilding, whether due to a natural disaster, a need for more space or something else, leads to countless questions and many big decisions. If you built a home years ago, the construction world (and zoning law) has likely changed. If you purchased your home, you may be wondering where to start. No matter what your level of experience is, consider these nine points as you rebuild.

1. Insurance

Secure your property, document your losses and file your claim immediately after a disaster. FindLaw’s tips for fire insurance claims states, “Prompt action is...important if there were many other homeowners affected by the fire [or other disaster]. If you don't act immediately, you could fall to the bottom of the list of policyholders who have...insurance claims, and it could be a long time before the adjuster reaches you."  In addition to your insurance company’s adjuster, consider hiring an independent expert to create a “scope of loss” package. Wildfire survivor Kerri Olivier recommends your package contain “documents, diagrams, photographs and itemized listings that explain what it will cost to put your property back in its pre-loss condition.”

If you have a mortgage, payout checks are written jointly to you and your lender. The money is held in an account and only released when rebuilding starts. Funds are usually disbursed in “progress payments,” for example, one-third up front, one-third at 50 percent complete and the final one-third at 100 percent complete. See United Policyholders’ article, “Getting your mortgage company to release insurance proceeds,” for tips.

2. Contractors

No one intends to pick a bad contractor, but you need to know who you can trust, who might be peddling a scam and who has the most experience. Always do your homework. Start with our tips.

3. Weather

You can break ground, pour a concrete foundation and begin construction in winter thanks to portable ground heaters, insulated concrete forms and concrete additives. However, “it takes an experienced crew and one with the proper equipment to protect the concrete so it can cure enough to resist freeze damage,” says Tim Carter of askthebuilder.com. You must decide if it’s worth the extra expense.

In rainy weather, wet building materials, flooded work areas and muddy roads make it difficult to transport supplies. Conditions can be hazardous for the crew too. Strong winds make it dangerous to lift larger materials and can blow dust and debris around the site causing additional delays. An organized contractor may make alternate plans, but try to be realistic about site condition and worker safety.

4. Timelines

Expect a minimum of six months for custom log home construction; longer in challenging locations, bad weather or complex designs. Construction time does not include time spent filing and collecting insurance claims, designing the structure and obtaining permits. Understanding possible delays will help you stay realistic about the timeline.

Your contractor should provide a schedule. “If you’re using a general contractor, the schedule may show only site preparation, foundation work, completion of dried-in shell and mechanical rough-ins, and finish work,” according to Log Home Living Magazine. The authors recommend you ask about “alternate suppliers and subcontractors in case the main sources are delayed or unavailable.”

5. Foundations

Your home’s foundation transfers its weight and loading through the ground. It also keeps logs and timbers off the soil, protecting them from insects and moisture. “The foundation you decide to build for your cabin will be influenced by: your site’s rock and soil type (rock, chalk, gravel, sand, clay or peat), the size of your log cabin, water tables, rock and gravel contours, drainage design, site ground (topography), [and] construction budget,” according to Log Cabin Hub.

Depending on local building codes, a shallow foundation (e.g. raft or strip foundation) may suffice, or it may need to reach below the frost line. It may be worth the expense to create a full basement (think rec room, storage or HVAC hub). Common types of basement construction are cement block, poured concrete and precast concrete.

6. Maintenance

Design with maintenance in mind whenever possible. Dry logs and sealed gaps make a solid house, so pay attention to the height of your foundation, water runoff, gutters and downspouts and the slope of the ground. According to the US Department of Energy, logs still absorb moisture once they are dried, so you must apply proper sealants and stains. Use caulk and chinking to fill gaps that result from building settlement over time. Roof overhangs and covered porches further protect the logs and can add beauty to your home.

7. Materials

A good contractor uses plans and past experience to estimate material quantities, but many variables affect the actual amounts needed. Building materials are subject to availability. The log profile or imported marble you love may be backordered or discontinued, so have a backup plan. Your budget should include reasonable allowances to buy extra quantities due to breakage, detail cutting and imperfections in natural materials. Some products only come in standard sizes or quantities, resulting in surplus. For example, if you need 53 feet of deck railing but it comes in ten-foot lengths, buy extra and make cuts.

8. Energy Efficiency

Even without conventional framing, insulation and waterproofing methods, you can maximize energy efficiency in log homes. For example, “cool roofs” are made of materials that reflect sunlight and aid cooling in summer. Passive solar design is another example: This careful window placement lets in warm sunlight in winter and extended overhangs create shade in summer. Check out the US Department of Energy website for more strategies.

You can save energy inside your home, too: A properly sized furnace, SIPs (structural insulated panels) in the ceiling, programmable thermostats and tankless hot water heaters are all energy savers.

9. Universal Design and Your Lifestyle

Universal design often means ramps, low countertops and wide doorways to accommodate wheelchairs; but, if you’ve fumbled with a round doorknob while carrying an armload of groceries, you might appreciate additional universal design features. Things like lever-style door handles, easy-access showers with grab-bars and open-concept floor plans make getting around easier for everyone. Consider whether your needs have changed or will change. Would a full bath on the main floor be more practical than upstairs?  If you're looking ahead to aging-in-place strategies, think about incorporating universal design elements.

Rebuilding is also an opportunity to add or change amenities that complement your current lifestyle. For example, it’s easier to include a dedicated pool table area in your floor plan now than to convert a seldom-used bedroom later. Likewise, if you never filled up the walk-in closets in your former bedroom, build smaller ones and reclaim the space for the master bedroom.

Good luck on your project, and thanks for reading. Questions? Call 1-877-LOG-HOME (877-564-4663).

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Tags: log home, log home rebuild, home rebuild, disaster relief