Bob and Alana Indelicato shared a dream: Create a luxury log cabin resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tired of the daily grind of operating a bed-and-breakfast in St. Augustine, Florida, they felt that running a vacation cabin destination would be less stressful but just as rewarding.
“We loved the hospitality business, but wanted to slow down just a little,” Bob says. After purchasing 33 acres of wooded mountain top property near Hendersonville, North Carolina, the next step was to find a log home company that could provide five cabins for their new resort. They found a log company — but the build time for site- built construction was six months to a year or more. They had to have a faster timetable.
“We needed to reinvest our earnings from the sale of our business in St. Augustine,” said Bob. “We were driving back to Florida down Interstate I-26 when we saw Blue Ridge Log Cabins near Campobello, South Carolina.” When the couple learned that Blue Ridge could complete their cabins in two to three months and the entire Indelicato project within six months, they were elated. “It was really a no-brainer for us. The time-line was correct, the price was right and the quality was there as well,” Bob says.
The project, Carolina Moon Luxury Log Cabins, consists of four rental cabins that are each about 2,000 square feet. A fifth slightly larger cabin is their home. Business is great, says Bob, especially during the summer months.
How could Blue Ridge Log Cabins finish the Indelicato’s project in roughly half the time promised by the other company? The answer is simple: Blue Ridge manufactures a modular, or factory-built, log home.
“Modular housing is one of the fastest-growing segments of the residential construction industry,” says the National Association of Home Builder’s web site. “Builders and buyers are increasingly realizing the advantages to this type of construction.”
Elements of the Indelicatos’ story pertain to anyone interested in building a second home or a smaller home. So what is modular construction and how is it different than conventional milled log home construction? What are the advantages? Are there limitations? What about cost? How about quality?
Both modular and site-built homes begin their life in a factory or mill. The major difference between the two is the percentage of completion that occurs in the factory. Modular homes are almost completely made indoors. Large sections, including exterior and interior walls, are assembled in modules and then shipped to the job site where they are placed on a foundation with a crane and connected. The home may already have cabinets, appliances and fixtures mounted. While large portions of the home are constructed at the factory, a modular home is not a house trailer.
Conventional site-built log homes also arrive at the build location on large trucks, but they’re shipped as unassembled kits or packages. They require a general contractor and crew to build on-site. Typically an electrical contractor and plumber are also required. While you may require the services of these contractors for modular construction, the time they spend on the job will be far less than with site-built construction.
Blue Ridge Log Cabins is one of the only modular log home companies to use 8-by-6-inch kiln-dried white pine logs. Most modular companies that build log-style homes use 2-by-6-inch exterior wall studs and cover the outside with log siding. While there are certain advantages to typical stud wall construction (such as the ease of installing wiring), Blue Ridge offers the customer the experience of owning a true log home. They also install all of the wiring at the factory.
In fact, a Blue Ridge log home is basically a complete home minus the foundation system. The company provides plumbing, electrical, flooring, roofing, cabinets, appliances, bathroom fixtures, tongue-and-groove pine for ceilings and walls, and even ceiling fans. Blue Ridge also sources a crew to do all of the interior trim once the house is set on the foundation.
“The savings in personal time is huge,” says Bob Indelicato. “Imagine all the time you would spend in Home Depot or Lowe’s sourcing all the fixtures for your vacation home. We didn’t have that kind of spare time.”
“Quality, time and price are our three major advantages,” says Wayne Roberts, director of sales and marketing for Blue Ridge Log Cabins. “The quality is there because we use kiln-dried logs and assemble the homes in a controlled environment. Weather doesn’t have a negative impact because construction occurs indoors. The short time required for us to complete a home is a big plus.”
Roberts estimates that the cost of a Blue Ridge home package averages around $100 per square foot. Of course this does not include shipping, site prep, a foundation system, well/septic, or a HVAC system. But compared to site-built construction costs, which may average as much as $160 per square foot, the modular method works for those looking for something a little more modest.
One limitation of the modular method is fewer choices in floor plans. “With site-built construction, you’re limited only by your imagination and your budget,” says Ed McGinnis, former president of the Log Homes Council of the NAHB. While this may be a major concern with a primary home, it is probably less of an issue with a second home.
The modular formula has worked well for Blue Ridge, which recently broke ground on a new 100,000-square-foot addition to its manufacturing facility. As customers look for a smaller home that can go up quickly, the market is ready to react.