Blueprints and Third-Party Inspections
Obtaining your building permit from the county and/or state can be an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Building inspection offices are for the protection of consumers against people who build or use inferior products. And when it comes to old log cabins, we have to deal with the past, present and future of these products.
The past: What can time tell us? Our 1808 cabin has withstood the test of time—storms that can snap trees like toothpicks and make rooftops sail, hurricanes and high winds that can cause walls to collapse. Only solid foundations can survive Mother Nature’s unbridled fury. Our cabin stood for 200 years, braving the Civil War, Great Depression and harsh winters, because its builders were great craftsman. The homesteaders built their cabins to endure hot summers and cold winters, harsh times and good times; it was their home.
The present: Today, we have state and county building inspection divisions. And state regulations vary. For permits, plans and/or blueprints, they may regulate whether drawings should be rendered by a draftsman or architect. Your plans may need to be stamped. Some states may require a licensed engineer be involved in the project. County regulations and costs vary as well. Believe me, I know—especially the cost part. Plus, building codes are different for conventional-built homes versus log homes, some of which may involve third-party inspections. Attention to effective dates also can create a hassle.
The future: Working with the existing footprint and creating the perfect layout was progressing nicely, until I found out in June about a new building code requirement: “Effective July 1, 2009, all log homes will require third-party inspections.” That means any log, prior to shipment to the job site, must be approved and stamped by a licensed third-party company that has graded and inspected each log. Traditional milled logs are graded—my company, Grandfather Mountain Log Homes, has been using third-party inspections for 19 years on such logs. (Word to the wise: Make sure you know what you’re buying.) But this project does not involve traditional milled logs—ours are 200 years old! I was left with two options: Get a building permit before July 1, 2009, or have all the reclaimed logs inspected after July 1 and then apply for building permit.
The summer is a busy season in our industry, so I elected to get the plans drawn by a residential engineering firm so I could obtain a building permit from Chatham County prior to the third-party inspection effective date. I have worked with Residential Engineering Services of Gibsonville, North Carolina, for several years. Brooke Carpenter and the rest of the folks there are super to work with on both traditional log homes and our authentic log cabins. Residential Engineering accesses and provides reports of the authentic logs as a third-party inspector prior to construction, and Brooke will actually come to the job site to work with us regarding any changes that affect codes and the structural integrity of the cabin. (Such changes require a letter of engineering.)
The folks at Chatham County were very helpful, too. (It never hurts to consult and get guidance from your local office prior to submitting final plans, no matter which state you are planning to build in.) In short, in only three weeks, we had licensed engineered blueprints and received our approved building permit June 29, 2009—just ahead of the deadline.
It’s really like tying your shoe or riding a bicycle, once you’ve done it several times, getting the permits is no problem. Let’s have fun building the cabin; don’t sweat the small stuff!
Back to 1808 Restoration Diary.