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For a Lifetime

Following years of travel, retired Army family retreats to a new Kentucky home.
by Amy Laughinghouse
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Ever since Gene Staten was 5 years old, he has been captivated by log homes. “My grandfather lived in one in West Virginia, and my cousin lived in one in Kentucky,” says Gene, a retired civil service engineer and Army veteran. “I was just kind of fascinated by their appearance.”

But Gene and his wife, Jackie, never had a chance to put down roots and build the log home of Gene’s dreams. During Gene’s 23 years in the Army, he and Jackie moved 17 times, and Gene continued to travel extensively throughout his 14-year stint as a construction project manager for McDonald’s.

Then, in 1996, with Gene approaching retirement, the Statens decided the time had finally come. Gene and Jackie bought 5 1/2 acres in Crestwood, Kentucky, near their son and grandchildren, and they began researching log homes in earnest.

They poured through magazines, attended log home shows and visited several log home sites under construction in Ohio and Kentucky.

“It kind of overwhelms you,” Jackie says, “because there are so many log packages. You get lots of information, and you’ve got to narrow it down to what you want.”<

As for Gene and Jackie, they knew they wanted kiln-dried logs, because the wood is not as prone to shrinkage and movement as green wood, which continues to lose moisture and settle after being placed in a home and can therefore create problems with the opening of windows and doors.

Jackie also preferred a home without chinking. Plus, she favored flat interior walls, so that she could hang pictures and enjoy additional decorating options for the future.

Finally, the couple needed a home that was handicapped-accessible on the first floor to accommodate Jackie’s mother, Alberta Holbrook, who would share their home in Kentucky.

The resulting plans, which Gene drew himself, called for a 2,970-square-foot home with a soaring cathedral ceiling, a warm, welcoming sunroom, a spacious loft and master bedrooms on both the first and second floors.

“We probably drew it up six times and kept changing it,” Gene says with a laugh.

When the couple was finally satisfied, they sent their blueprints to several different companies, asking for quotes. After considerable deliberation, the Statens chose Kuhns Bros. Log Homes, based in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

One of the deciding factors was the company’s willingness to break down the log package into detailed, itemized pricing. The couple genuinely favored such an approach.

“Kuhns was the best to work with,” says Gene, who turned to Don and Marlyn Shellabarger, independent dealers of Kuhns Bros. Log Homes in Greenville, Ohio.

“Kuhns gave me the prices of the different components, like the tongue-and-groove paneling and the windows, doors and roofing,” Gene says.

Ultimately, he opted to purchase his own windows, doors and roof shingles, calling upon his background in civil engineering and construction.

Kuhns Bros. supplied the remainder of the log home package, including the D-profile, 6-by-8-inch eastern white pine logs. The pine logs were chosen “primarily for their price,” Gene says, but he then opted for western red cedar trim to complete the look.

“It’s more durable and weather-resistant,” he adds.

In January 1998, nearly two years after purchasing his lot, Gene arranged to have the footings poured for his home. He hired subcontractors to do the concrete, plumbing, electrical, roofing and septic work, but he relied on Tom Malone, president of T.C. Malone Construction in Crestwood, Kentucky, to oversee the log erection, interior partition wall construction and floor installation.<

Though Tom typically constructs stick-built homes, he has 10 years of experience erecting log homes and knows just how to handle the unique challenges log homes can present, such as wiring for electricity.<

“You don’t have a stud wall with a cavity in between to hide wiring,” Tom says.<

Instead, all holes must be drilled through the logs and the wires then threaded through those holes. Though some log home manufacturers pre-drill in order to accommodate wiring, electricians often have to drill the holes themselves.

Erecting the logs requires its own level of skill and experience. “We have special crews that know how to put logs together,” Tom says.

Tom hired Paul Moon of Paul Moon’s Log Home Construction in Georgetown, Indiana, to handle the Statens’ log home erection. Among the home’s features are butt-and-pass corners, but Paul saw other challenges.

“It was the largest log home I had done, and we took a lot of pride in it,” says Paul, who relies upon his wife Tina to inspect each log before he installs it.

“We try to build the log home to our liking–whether we would want to look at those logs for the rest of our lives,” he continues.<

And Kuhns Bros. offers “excellent logs,” Paul says. “They stand behind their product 100 percent.”

One of the most laborious aspects of the home’s erection process was installing the laminated ridge beam that runs the length of the Statens’ home. “It’s extremely big and heavy,” says Don, who unloads and inventories every home package he sells. “It was a little difficult getting that ridge beam up there for the second floor. We had to use a crane.”

But the result is well worth it, he insists. “It’s breathtaking,” Don says.

Thanks to the cathedral ceiling, characterized by that massive ridge beam and nine sturdy tie beams, he says, “The second floor is very roomy. When you walk out to the loft area, you almost get weak in the knees looking down.”

A clear polyurethane finish on the home’s inside brings out the natural beauty of the pine, while a redwood stain on the exterior lends the logs a warmth and richness that complements its wooded, rustic setting. The foundation walls are covered with the same cultured, or faux, stone that the Statens selected for use on their fireplace.<

“We compared it to real stone, and you can’t tell the difference,” says Gene, who had used it before on the exterior of some of the McDonald’s restaurants he has built. And, though cultured stone can appear virtually indistinguishable from real stone, it costs only half as much, Gene adds.

On August 28, 1998, two months after Gene retired from McDonald’s, the Statens moved into their new log home. The only black cloud hovering over their building experience, they say, was some trouble with their bank loan.

“We got the loans for the log package, no problem,” Gene says. “But then our loan officer left and someone else replaced him, and she had no clue about log homes. When the logs came, the bank didn’t want to pay for it until it was in place. We worked through that and they did pay for it, but with subsequent payments, it was very difficult.”

Part of the problem, Gene says, was that the bank needed the home to pass various inspections before they would dole out more money, but log homes cannot always be held to the same ruler as stick-built homes. For instance, at one point, the inspector told him the home wouldn’t pass inspection until he installed drywall.

“I told him, ‘Well, I’m not having drywall. What you see is the home’s actual finished product.’ They had a real hard time understanding that,” Gene says with a sigh.

To keep construction moving along, the Statens dipped into their stock investments, and they eventually received the full amount of the loan they were asking for.

“It was a new experience for the bank–, but we educated them!” Jackie says with a good-natured laugh.

Despite their difficulty with the construction loan, the Statens have no regrets about building a log home. When asked how long they plan to stay in their log home, Gene quips, “Until we die!”

Jackie agrees. “Oh, this is it,” she says. “A lot of people travel when they retire, but we traveled many years in the service.

“I have to really push Gene to go on vacations, because he likes it here so much,” Jackie continues. “He’s very happy not to go anywhere!”

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