The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

10 Easy Ways to Save Energy and "Green" your Log Home

Posted on Thu, May 19, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

10 Simple Ways to Save Energy and "Green" your Log Home

custom log homeAdopting a “green” philosophy is easier than you think and it does not require wind turbines, solar panels or wearing extra sweaters in January. Here are 10 conventional, easy to implement suggestions from the Log & Timber Homes Council on ways to reduce energy costs, increase comfort and make your dream log home a little greener.

 Passive Solar

Situate the home to take advantage of the sun. In colder climates, a southern exposure for the family room and kitchen is ideal. Rely on existing trees to lower energy costs. When clearing the site for construction, maintain fir trees as a barrier along the cold and windier north and west elevations. Plant or preserve existing deciduous trees along the south and east elevations. The leaves will provide shade in summer and in the winter; the bare trees will let in plenty of sunlight and warmth.

Energy  Star 

ENERGY STAR© is a government-backed program helping businesses and consumers protect the environment through greater energy efficiency. Look for the Energy Star label and rating on products you buy for your home.  The distinctive yellow label gives consumers guidelines for a wide range of components and savings can be significant. When compared to single pane windows, Energy Star rated low-e glass with solar shading, cut energy bills by $110 to $400 while increasing comfort, protecting furniture from sun damage and reducing condensation.

 The Kitchen

 Again, ENERGY STAR rated appliances such as refrigerators; dishwashers and vent fans incorporate advanced technologies that use 10% to 50% less energy and water than standard models -- more than making up for the slightly higher costs of these products.

Tip – old refrigerators are energy hogs; so keeping that extra fridge to occasionally store beverages and extra food is wasteful.

 Lighting

 Compact Fluorescents cut energy by 70 percent. Wherever possible install fluorescent fixtures and switch lamps to compact fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs have been improved in terms of ambient color, but if you still have trouble getting used compact fluorescents, start with utility areas such as the laundry and basement. Combine compact fluorescents with incandescents in bedrooms and living areas.  In addition, automatic lighting controls, ranging from outdoor light fixtures with built-in photo sensors to motion detectors to whole-house programmable controls eliminate waste.

 Heat Pump Systems

 For climates with moderate heating and cooling needs, heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. During the heating season, heat pumps take advantage of the outdoor “heat” and move it into the home.  During warm weather, the process is reversed. Because they move rather than generate heat, heat pumps can deliver up to four times the amount of energy they consume. In moderate climates, air source heat pumps use the ambient air. In severe climates, geo-thermal heat pumps, which are more costly, take advantage of the heat below the ground, which remains above 50 degrees.

 Hot Water

 Consider an on-demand heating system that eliminates having to keep an 80 or so gallon tank of water warm around the clock.  In addition to natural gas or propane, units that have to be vented or installed on an outside wall, on demand hot water heating systems are available in electric models that can be installed anywhere.  Additionally, solar water heating can be considered.

 Indoor Air Quality

 Consider incorporating a HEPA filter to the heating system. A HEPA (High- Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration system, removes up to 99.97% of small particles - pollutants that standard disposable filters simply do not touch.

 Ceiling Fans

 Ceiling fan and light units circulate warm air in the winter and make occupants feel cooler in the summer. Look for ENERGY STAR rated models, as they are 50 percent more efficient than conventional units. This saves $15-$20 per year on utility bills to say nothing of the air conditioning and heating savings gained.

Tip: In the summer, use the ceiling fan in the counter-clockwise direction to create a wind-chill effect. In the winter, reverse the motor and operate the fan at low speed in the clockwise direction to produce a gentle updraft, which forces warm air near the ceiling down into the occupied space.

Keep these tips in mind when designing your log home and be sure to contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant for more insights in to the design of your dream log cabin.

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This article was taken in part from the article "Today's Log Homes Go Green" by the Log Homes Council.

Financing Your Log Home - Part 3 of 3

Posted on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 11:46 AM

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

Part 3:
What to expect at loan closing and how to get a good appraisal on your custom log home

According to BB&T's Mr. Ebersole “much of the application process can be handled electronically including signing the documentation electronically vs. signing hard copies.  During the application process the lender will ask for documentation to support your income (W-2’s paystubs, tax returns) and other documentation needed for the approval process based on each client’s situation.”  Additionally, Mr. Parsons add that “this is part of the loan process that can take a lot of time, research and patience.  Sometimes additional documents are needed besides the ones listed above or on a list that may be provided from the lending institution.  Don’t despair, this happens more frequently than not.  Be prepared and have patience while the loan is closing and be quick in responding with the information being asked for”.

A loan will typically take 45-60 days to close from the time the application and all documentation is submitted.  There have been instances where the process took longer  than 60 days, but this is where patience pays off.  Parsons suggests to “ask to be kept in the loop and don’t  be shy asking about the status of the loan if the process is taking longer than 60 days.  Your mortgage councilor should be able to keep you up to date on the progress.”

One of the biggest unknowns in the loan process is what the appraised value of your finished log home will be based on the independent appraiser’s report.  “What is required from the appraisal varies from lender to lender in terms of requirement of log home comparable sales” says Mr. Ebersole.  “Many lenders will ask to see 1-3 comparable log home sales to determine the value of the log home.  Log homes typically do not resell as frequently as stick-built homes so finding log homes sales can be a challenge.”   In these cases, the appraiser will seek to find 3 homes that have sold in the past 6-12 months that are similar in square footage, bedroom & bath count and acreage.  The appraiser will also take into consideration the upgrades/amenities going into the home based on the specs that are provided to the appraiser.  If you are working with a lender and/or appraiser that is un-familiar with log homes, send them to the Log and Timber Home’s Council web page (www.loghomes.org)  where they will find a booklet in .pdf format that describes the process and considerations an appraiser should take when appraising a log home.  The booklet was developed in part by Marshall & Swift  (which provides the building cost data necessary for real estate cost valuations and is widely considered the authority on the cost approach) and the Log and Timber Homes Council.  In the past it has assisted many homeowners, appraisers, banks and other financial institutions with getting the proper appraisal on log homes.

When the appraisal is finalized and the loan is closed, you are a step closer to breaking ground and getting your dream log home started.  Although this entire process (from getting your FICO and Credit Score to Loan Application/Appraisal/Closing) may take 3 to 6 months, it’s important that during this time that you are designing a home that will fit the budget you’ve set aside.  Sharing your budget with both your Loan Officer and Log Home Manufacturer from the beginning will help you stay on target throughout the building process.  Although some folks think it unwise to share what their budget is, “it’s the ones that don’t share that typically wind up overextending themselves” says Donald.  “The one’s that do share their budget are trusting that the lender, the builder and the log home company are doing their best to guide you in making the right decisions on the size, design and finish of the home so you come in on budget.  None of us get a good reference if we don’t!”

When you’re ready to start the financing process of your dream log home, please keep Greg Ebersole and BB&T in mind (Lending in AL, DC, DE, FL, GA, IN, KY, MD, NC, NJ, OH, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA & WV).  Although you may have a local BB&T branch in your area, that branch may not have the experience in log home lending that Greg does.  To shorten the loan application time, consider calling Greg direct to begin with (717-449-0043)To help you save money on the Financing process, BB&T has a great offer for you.  CLICK HERE to learn more about saving up to a $1000 on Lending Fees with BB&T.

And when you are searching to partner with a quality log home manufacturer, give your local Appalachian Log Structures Building Consultant a call or visit one of the 15+ model home locations.  You’ll find knowledgeable, experienced and helpful consultants ready to assist you with your dream log home and make it become a reality.

Financing Your Log Home - Part 2 of 3

Posted on Thu, May 5, 2016 @ 11:45 AM

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

Part 2:
Finding the right Lending Institution for your Dream Log Home and Starting the floorplan process

A key step in having a smooth loan process is finding a loan officer and lender that are familiar with the nuances of financing a log home project.  Many lenders are not familiar with log homes and may only offer adjustable rates that they hold in-house vs. having a 30 year fixed term.  You may find log home financing at places like:

  • BB&T/Greg Ebersole – 16 years’ experience in log home construction financing
  • Credit Unions
  • Local Bank
  • Using your own funds – borrowing against your equity accounts

When searching for a “Log Friendly” lending institutions Mr. Ebersole “recommends asking how many log homes the loan officer and lender have financed in the past 2-3 years.”   Here are some key differences in financing a log home project:

  • Release pre-cutting funds - Some lender’s will allow for releasing monies for pre-cutting of the log home building materials while many other’s will not.  The amount that can be released is typically based on how much land equity the client has at the time of closing.
  • Pay log package @ delivery - A key uniqueness with a log home financing is paying for the log home package at delivery of the product. The log package can be a large percentage of the overall construction costs and many lenders are not comfortable paying for the logs at delivery.  The lender may require the logs to be completely stacked before payment.

Part of the documentation process needed to apply for a construction loan is having finalized floor plans, signed material contract & specs with the log home company and a signed construction contract & specs with the builder.  These finalized items are needed in order to structure the loan amount and order the appraisal.  Changes to these items after submitting the loan for approval can cause delays in the loan process so it is important to have costs finalized before applying for the loan.

Mr. Parsons explains that “Most log home companies have a fee for drawing a set of modified or custom floor plans.  While these fees are usually applied as a credit to the log home package when the log home order is placed, you should expect a small investment upfront to get the plans going.  Depending on the size and complexity of the plans Mr. Parsons says “you can expect to invest anywhere between $1200 and $3000 or more for a quality set of preliminary or construction set of plans”.  These plans are necessary to present to contractors and sub-contractors to collect bids for the construction process.  Contractors including graders digging the footings for your foundation to electrical, plumbing, HVAC installers and all of the suppliers of your finish materials (floor coverings, cabinets, counter tops, electrical fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc.) will need to review these plans to come up with an estimated finish cost.  CLICK HERE to view a sample Cost Estimating Worksheet that a builder/contractor would follow to provide a turn-key bid.  It’s quite involved but necessary in order to determine that the build price meets your expected budgeted loan amount.

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

Be sure to check back next week to view Part 3, the last installment, of this Financing Series.

Financing Your Log Home - Part 1 of 3

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

Budget_Header_1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

What Goes Into FICO Scores?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 Secrets of Affordable Log Home Designs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Log Home Logs Created Equal?

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

Are ALL Log Home Logs Created Equal?

log cabin home log profiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Log Home: An American Dream!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NC Log Home Owners use Strategic Planning

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

dream log cabin home

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

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

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

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

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

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Log Home Construction Bids - How do Builders Charge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fixed Bid

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

Fixed Bid Advantages:

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

Cost Plus

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

Cost Plus Advantages:

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

Cost Plus Disadvantages:

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

Combo Deal

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

Combination Advantages:

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

Combination Disadvantages:

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

Tags: log homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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