Ask any happy log homeowner and he or she will tell you that perfect dream homes don't just come together overnight. However, if you need or want your new log home built in record time (and who doesn't?), time-saving strategies and choices are available at every stage of the planning and building process.
While making rushed decisions or hurrying your builder is never a good idea, these tried-and-true tips will keep your home on track for a timely arrival.
1. Secure financing.
Even before you know exactly where and what you want to build, you should talk to a log-friendly lender. By calculating the amount of your nest egg, income and debts, a loan officer can determine what type and size of loan you qualify for.
When it's time to actually take out a loan, never underestimate the amount of money you might need. Having enough to cover unexpected expenses will prevent work stoppages. Also, even though you plan to fast track your building project, make sure to give yourself plenty of time on your construction-loan schedule; otherwise, you'll pay more in unnecessary penalties if you go over the allotted time.
2. Pick a smart site.
To reduce prep time, choose a flat or gently sloped lot with easy road access. "A steep slope will require extensive footing, rocky terrain will demand additional blasting, and wetlands often necessitate shoring up the foundation," advises Mathew Sterchi, vice president of sales and marketing with StoneMill Log Homes in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Before buying a piece of property, make sure the land can pass a "perc" test. A perc test indicates the soil's ability to handle wastewater and determines the size and type of septic system you'll need. If you already own land, Mathew suggests contacting your local zoning office or building department to find out if there are any easements or zoning regulations that might affect your home's footprint, placement or design. If there are potential problems, it's better to tackle them sooner than later.
3. Attend a log home show.
Save yourself miles of travel and months of time by getting to know most of the major log home producers at a log home show, when they are together under one roof. At these shows, you also can meet builders and lenders; familiarize yourself with the latest products for log homes (such as eco-friendly stains and green-technology stone facing); and take advantage of workshops and seminars tailored to prospective homeowners on subjects ranging from financing to design.
4. Work with a stock floor plan.
Consider using a stock floor plan for your home. An entirely custom design requires an extensive back and forth period with an independent architect or designer for a log producer, plus additional time for engineering and drafting an original plan. Most stock plans, however, can be customized to suit your needs in a matter of weeks.
"Using pre-cut milled (manufactured) logs, as opposed to hand-hewn ones, is another timesaver," notes Robert Lockerby, owner of Summit Handcrafted and Milled Log Homes in Boise, Idaho. "Milled logs usually have a shorter wait time for delivery, and because of their uniform size, they're quicker to stack. You can always add hand-hewn charm to your home by selecting 'character' posts, beams and mantels," says Robert.
5. Make smart design decisions.
Explore exterior and interior options that save time and complement your home's style. Randy Fudge, Vice President of Moss, Tennessee-based Honest Abe Log Homes frequently suggests using a simple roofline and truss construction rather than raftering to homeowners who are in a hurry.
To speed up construction, locate your bonus room, home office or guest suite in a daylight basement instead of on a second story. Including usable square footage as part of your foundation can meet your family's need for space without requiring extra man hours of log stacking.
Another timesaver, according to Josh Beasley, the dealer sales manager at Honest Abe, is to choose a flat log or tongue-and-groove paneling for your home's interior. "Scribing round logs into the trim work or to fit curves and contours can take more time," Josh explains.
6. Work with a builder/contractor.
Unless you're purchasing a "turnkey" home, in which the log provider manages the entire construction process, consider hiring a builder/contractor instead of managing the project yourself. Working with a professional experienced in log construction almost always speeds up the building process.
"Acting as your own general contractor may not be the best decision when a fast move-in is important," says Randy. "Check references carefully to find a professional who knows how to stay on schedule; makes sure the necessary plumbing, HVAC and electrical contractors are available at the right times to minimize down time; and is able to tackle problems efficiently should any arise."
7. Choose the best time to build.
Find out which months are peak home-construction season in the area in which you plan to build, then try to avoid the rush. The time between signing a contract and first delivery is often shorter in the fall and winter, but you'll want to balance the time saved on an off-season delivery date against the possibility of wet weather and storms that could increase the actual build time.
8. Look into building a modular log home.
Consider building your home using pre-assembled wall panels or modules instead of individually stacked logs. When most of the work is done off-site, a crew can assemble the panels in only a few days time with the help of a light crane. Some pre-built or system-built homes provide panels that are already framed, sided, stained, chinked and insulated. Other manufacturers ship panels along with exterior log siding, which must be attached onsite, then stained and chinked.
9. Offer incentives.
It's often said that time is money, so consider offering your contractor bonuses for finishing early. Most building contracts include a clause that damages will be paid by your builder or general contractor if completion dates are missed. In addition to this penalty, you may want to include a bonus clause that offers a percentage of the fee or a pre-determined financial motivation for a job that's finished ahead of schedule, but to your satisfaction.
10. Avoid delays.
Plan ahead, get all your ducks in a row and, most important, stick to your plans. Even minor changes can snowball and cause major delays. Make sure your crew knows how to reach you at all times. Returning calls and e-mails promptly lets everyone know time is of the essence.