Page 1 << Due Diligence
Even though Bill and Martha felt an instant bond with the Wheelers, the couple nevertheless did their homework by checking references carefully. "I also checked with the state contractor’s board, to see if they had any liens or judgments against them," Martha says. "I don’t know how it is in other states, but in Oregon you can do that over the Internet." For the Deuchlers, that research and another meeting with the Wheelers gave them the confidence to proceed with building a 1,950-square-foot, Alpine-style log home. "The relationship that we developed was great, and the house turned out just the way we wanted it," Martha says. "Very few things went wrong, and that was due to our constant communication."
Besides finding a builder you can communicate well with and painstakingly checking references with past customers, you also should visit finished homes to personally inspect the builder’s work. Keep in mind that it usually takes several years for a log home to completely settle and expose any construction defects. A 3- to 5-year-old home probably is the best example of a builder’s art. Before selecting your builder, you also should check with the local contractor’s board or similar state or regional authority, including your state’s attorney general’s office, to see if the builder has been involved with litigation in the past. In today’s society, a lawsuit or two over the course of a career spanning decades would not be unusual. But multiple incidents in a shorter time frame would certainly be cause for concern.
It’s wise to choose a builder who is familiar with your local building codes and the environment of your site, advises Julie Rotvolt, co-owner with her husband Dan of Expedition Log Homes of Arizona, longtime builder-dealers who offer construction service and log home package sales. "And make sure your builder is licensed and bonded, too," she says. "Otherwise, if you run into problems, you could have little legal recourse."
The Best Teacher
Should you hire a local builder or someone from afar? "I would recommend that a buyer use a local builder, because if there’s a problem that local builder can more easily come back and fix it," says Lynn Gastineau, president of Gastineau Log Homes in New Bloomfield, Missouri. Is it imperative that a builder have experience in building log homes to make a project go smoothly? Most agree that if a builder is good at his craft, he can build a log home even if he’s never done it before. "Even if it’s a builder’s first time putting up a log home, I wouldn’t have any hesitation provided he or she is a quality custom-home builder," Lynn says.
The majority of log home companies today provide detailed construction manuals, and many offer weekend construction seminars with hands-on training to educate builders and buyers on construction techniques. However, if you’re choosing an inexperienced log builder, the type of log package should be considered. A pre-cut package is a lot more user-friendly to an inexperienced builder than a package of raw logs. "A pre-cut log wall package goes up very quickly, and the rest of construction is very similar to a conventional home," says Rich Horn of Northeastern Log Homes in Kenduskeag, Maine.
"Then there’s the matter of efficiency: An inexperienced log home builder may not be as efficient as one who has done a few before. That may not affect the quality, but the customer may pay more because of those inefficiencies, which naturally take more time and manpower." Rich says that if you choose a builder who is inexperienced working with logs, make sure that he is willing to learn. "Sometimes a builder will say, ‘This is how I do it and I’m not going to change just because Northeastern says to do it this way.’ You may run into trouble with that kind of attitude," he says.
Rich offers some final advice: "If a builder runs into a difficult situation on the job, have them call the manufacturer," he says. "That’s what we’re here for." So, if you do your homework, you and your builder can produce a log home you’ll be proud of for years to come.