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HOUSE & DOCK
Log Home Dreaming

by Lori Wolak

 

If you have been thinking about building the log home of your dreams, chances are there is a stack of well-worn log home magazines in a corner of your home somewhere. One log home builder I know gauges the seriousness of a prospective homeowner's inquiry by how tall that stack is. Log homes have a lure for those of us who yearn for a home that embodies the spirit of the wilderness and simple living.

One of the questions every log home dreamer eventually asks is: 'How does the price of a log home compare to conventional homes?' Here are some guidelines regarding the actual differences in the price of a conventional custom home and a custom log home.

If the two custom homes have the same footprint and the same features, the price will be very close, regardless of whether they are built of logs or more conventional materials. Keep in mind, you rarely see heavy timber roofs, interior wood walls, cathedral ceilings and lofts in a conventional home.

Building any type of custom single family home has some common basic requirements. Typically, the buyer must purchase land, get permits, put in well and septic, a foundation, install electrical, plumbing, finishing, cabinets, floors, driveway, roof, heating and air conditioning, and maybe a fireplace. Log wall materials will cost a bit more, but might cost a bit less in labor, so you can end up with very similar costs.

If cost is a big issue, consider making design choices that can help keep costs down. Designing a log home more like a conventional home can help. Making choices such as using low ceilings, or carpeting instead of hardwood floors, can maximize the resulting usable space, and save you a few dollars.  In the end, just make sure the choices you make do not take away from the log design theme of your home.

The cost of any home varies in the same way as the purchase of a new car. There are wide differences between the cost of the lowest price choice and the top of the line. The total cost of a home depends on the quality of the options that the homeowner selects. A log home, regardless of which company you choose, will average between $120-$150 per square foot. This number does not include the land cost. However, these square foot numbers includes a turn-key operation with normal excavation, a short driveway, a well and septic, a foundation, sub-floor, the log package, the labor to erect it, and all the interior finish items of above average quality. You can affect this cost by determining on how much sweat equity you want to put into the home. Any work the homeowner can do himself will lower the price per square foot.

No one wants to pay too much, but it can be worse to pay too little.  Log home construction is a specialty field, even in the custom construction industry.  Within their quote, a builder will often give allowances for masonry, stonework, flooring, cabinetry, fixtures and appliances.  These allowances are designed to give the homeowner a budgeted amount to shop with, as they are often the one choosing fixtures.  The basic law of business prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done.  If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is good to add something for the risk you run.  And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.  Remember, paying less up front often leads to extra costs in the end.

What determines the cost?

Exterior Costs:  Designs with a larger footprint, more roof gables, and lots of windows and doors, will cost more than simpler, smaller log home packages. The same logic that applies to conventional houses also applies to log homes. It is cheaper to build up than out. Log packages are priced according to the linear footage of logs in the plan.  By keeping the footprint symmetrical, and minimizing bump-outs and corners, you can keep the costs down. Roof lines with lots of gables that tie back into the main roof will cost more in materials as well as labor. The bigger the roof is in square footage, the more it costs. There are ten to twenty thousand dollars of windows and exterior doors in the average 2,500 square foot home.  Those numbers can vary significantly according to the homeowner's customized selections.  Round top, trapezoids, and other specialty fixed glass windows will add extra cost to a home package. We saved a lot of money using French doors instead of windows to open up our lake view.

Foundation:  The more corners and turns in a foundation, the more materials and labor it takes to construct it. The average poured 4' crawl space costs approximately $9.10 per sq. ft. The average 8', full basement costs about $17 per sq. ft.  A new alternative to block and poured foundations are manufactured wall systems. These 8', 9' and 10' foundations start at $12 per sq. ft. Unfinished basement space is another good way to keep costs down. Finished basements typically cost about $25 per square foot.

Well and Septic:  The typical cost for a well with a well pump is about $6,000, and a septic system for a three bedroom home costs about $6,000. These costs will vary according to the depth of the water table, and the soil conditions on your lot.

Framing:  Log homes are usually designed with open interior plans, with minimal interior framing. It is a good idea to plan your furniture arrangements early in the construction phase, because many log homes have a loft area with support posts. These posts can be moved to accommodate furniture placement during the planning stages. Lining up bathrooms in the loft area above the bathrooms on the first floor helps keep plumbing pipes hidden in the interior partition walls.

Roofing:  Roofing materials are a hot topic of discussion for log homes. Everyone likes the look of tin, but the cost is usually prohibitive.  The price of heavy gauge tin starts at $400 per square, plus the installation costs. Some log home builders will give you an allowance for the materials package of shingles to use towards the tin roof. Frequent complaints of tin roofs are expense and leakage. If you choose to get a tin roof, get the installer to guarantee it against leakage.

Interior Walls:  Whether you choose to finish the interior with drywall or tongue and groove you won't experience much of a cost difference. The materials and finishing costs of drywall are comparable in price to tongue and groove.

Painting and Staining:  The do-it-yourself approach can save you some money on painting or staining. Otherwise you will pay for the labor, which is a fairly large expense in the overall budget.

Flooring:  The least expensive flooring materials are vinyl and carpet.  However, both of these have a wide range of potential prices. Vinyl is usually laid over 1/4" luan underlayment, and may have an additional 1/2" plywood, if it abuts a hardwood floor. Installed prices start at about $23 per square yard because of the underlayment expense. This number is based on vinyl costs at about $9.00 a yard. Vinyl can run as much as $35.00 a yard for higher end choices. Carpet and pad can start at $20.00 per yard installed for a lower grade, but more expensive choices can quickly increase this cost.

Hardwood flooring is another area that can increase cost of your home significantly. Unfinished flooring starts at $1.75 sq. ft. plus finishing costs, or pre-finished for $4.50 sq. ft. and up.  All of these prices depend on the wood variety, thickness of the material, and width of the planks.  The cost of installation starts at about $1.50 per sq. ft. Some of the other choices, such as laminate wood floors, can provide a similar look and feel as hardwood, but cost significantly less. Ceramic tile flooring starts at $9.00 per sq. ft. installed over Durock.

 

 

 


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