Frequently Asked Questions 

 

Financing
Design
Engineering
Wood
Pre-construction
Construction

 

Financing

Will I be able to get a loan to build a new log home?

Whether you intend to build your new home yourself or have professional build it for you, chances are you’ll need two loans before you new log home becomes a reality. The first is a construction loan that provides money to pay the bills during the building of the home. The second is the standard 15- to 30-year mortgage loan. The two loans are necessary because financing any home (regardless of the type of construction used) that you will build yourself or have built for you on your land has different collateral requirements than financing an existing home. Financing a home to be built on your land is more complex because there’s no existing home to serve as collateral, only the potential that a home will exist when construction is complete. In this situation, loan officers require other assets for collateral. Still, thousands of log home projects are financed and built each year, so you should be able to obtain the financing you need.

For more information, see Financing Your New Log Home.

How is a construction loan different from a mortgage?

A construction loan is a short-term loan that is separate from a long-term mortgage loan. Its purpose is to pay for the materials and labor needed to build your home. These loans are made for periods of six to 18 months and have interest rates a few points over the prime rate because they are considered riskier than normal, secured loans. Some lenders now offer a single loan that provides two components: a construction loan and a long-term mortgage. These construction to permanent loans can save you money in origination fees.

For more information, see Financing Your New Log Home.

How do I pay for my log home package?

The construction of a log home presents a slightly unique situation to the lender providing the construction financing because you will be purchasing a large percentage of your building materials in one package from the log home producer. Log home producers often require a substantial portion of the cost of the package in advance of cutting and delivery. Your lender may view a log package as just another load of lumber, or as work under way at the producer’s plant, and release funds to pay for it when you and the manufacturer request. In other cases, the bank may refuse to release any money until the package is actually present on your lot. Your builder-dealer should be able to help you arrange payment for the log package.

For more information, see Financing Your New Log Home.

Who offers loans for home construction?

The best source of construction financing may not be a bank at all. Insurance companies often make construction loans. Some institutions work exclusively with do-it-yourself home builders. Sometimes credit unions make employee loans for home building projects at very favorable rates. There are about a half-dozen lending institutions that specialize in making log home loans. Most of these companies regularly advertise in Log Home Living and some are listed in the Suppliers Marketplace on this web site. A growing number of log home producers are also offering financial packages along with their log home packages.

For more information, see Shop For Your Loans.

How much money will I need to bring to the mortgage transaction?

Loan charges, or closing costs, vary considerably around the country and even from lender to lender in one city. There is enough money involved to make careful shopping a must. In addition to your down payment, you may need to cover the cost of points (a percentage of the loan amount that the lender charges for making the loan), application fees, appraisals, title insurance, legal fees, credit reports, inspections, real estate taxes, recording fees and surveys.

For more information, see Shop For Your Loans.

What kinds of mortgages are available for log homes?

Log homes can be financed with any of the available types of mortgage loans, including fixed-rate mortgages, fixed-rate buy-downs, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), graduated-payment mortgages and FHA and VA loans. You’ll need to meet with a lender to discuss the type of mortgage that’s best for you and your financial needs and goals.

For more information, see Shop For Your Loans.

What if a lender refuses to loan me money for a log home?

Qualified log home owners with a solid plan for building their log home seldom have trouble with financing today. Our advice is to be realistic, even conservative, when planning your home. Some home owners do encounter obstacles when searching for log home financing. Common problems typically concern the location of the home, the amount of equity, unrealistic construction plans and lack of comparable sales.

For more information on overcoming these obstacles to financing, see Common Obstacles.

Back to the Top

 

Design

How do I start my home design?

First, pay attention to what other home owners have done in their homes. Look through magazines and books, and clip out photos of rooms, décor, colors and styles that appeal to you. Keep a scrapbook of your clippings and sketches. The next step is to sit down with your family and create a list of the spaces you need in your new home and the function of those spaces. Don’t limit your list at this point; your goal is to document all your wishes. With this list, your scrapbook and the help of a design professional, you can begin to sketch out preliminary designs for your home.

For more information on the design process, see Designing the Perfect Log Home.

Can the design for a conventional home be used for a log home?

Yes, you can use floorplans designed for conventional homes as a basis for a log home design. A designer familiar with log homes should review the design, however, to make sure the engineered aspects of the home will be suitable for log construction. For more ideas that will inspire your log home design, see Design Ideas. Will my home’s location affect its design? Your home’s site will greatly affect its design. Because your site will affect design factors like basement feasibility, the placement of windows and even your home’s size, you should wait to begin designing your home until you have purchased land.

For more information on how location impacts the design of a home, see Design Considerations.

How do size and shape affect the cost of a log home?

There are many factors that will affect the cost of your log home. Of course, size will play a definite role in determining how much you will spend. Keep in mind that three factors come into play when estimating the cost of a home: Size, level of amenity and budget. You can only control two of these three factors at one time. If your budget is fixed, and you have your heart set on a home of a certain size, you will have few choices when it comes to level of amenity. If you want a home with every bell and whistle, but have a limited budget, the size of your home will have to be decreased. Another rule of thumb to consider is that it’s typically less expensive to build “upâ€? than “out.â€? In other words, a two story home with 1,000 square feet on each floor (for a total of 2,000 square feet) will have a smaller footprint, and lower costs for roofing and foundation, than a home with 2,000 square feet spread out over one level, with a much larger foundation and twice as much roof area.

See Design Considerations for more information on planning a cost-efficient home.

Are professional drawings necessary for a log home?

The design and construction of log homes are very similar to conventional homes. Because the walls of log homes are solid wood, however, a few normal construction practices require special design attention. The blueprints that accompany your log home will generally contain sufficient detail to guide builders around any potential problems. But if you happen to be using a builder or subcontractors for electrical, plumbing or HVAC who are unfamiliar with the differences between building conventional homes and log homes, you may run into some problems. Blueprints generally omit much of the detail, replacing it with phrases like “follow standard practices.” A log home isn’t going to be built according to standard practice, though. To avoid confusion or uncertainty, make sure your blueprints contain all the detail needed by a builder unfamiliar with log home construction.

For more information on construction drawings, see Working Plans and Drawings.

Back to the Top

 


Engineering

I’ve seen different kinds of log shapes: flat, round or milled with tongues and grooves. Is one shape better than the others?

Obviously, you want a log wall that will be structurally stable. And although there are many different horizontal interface designs (or log profiles), generally they all accomplish the same objective, that is, providing a structurally stable and weathertight log wall. When the logs used to build log homes are stacked to form a wall, the load-bearing surfaces that touch are known as horizontal interface surfaces. These surfaces form the top and bottom of the log profile, or its shape as viewed from the end. They provide structural stability in a log wall and contribute to the air and water infiltration sealing system. They are shaped accordingly to serve these functions.

For more information on log profiles, see The Design of Horizontal Surface of Logs.

Will water and air get between the logs of my house? Is one kind of sealing system better than the others?

Today’s energy-efficient log homes are a far cry from yesterday’s drafty log cabin, thanks to modern sealing materials. Many of these products have been developed especially for log homes. They include caulking, chinking, foam gasketing and spline systems that interface with logs sawn into a wide variety of shapes or profiles. The function of a properly designed and applied sealant system is to prevent air and water infiltration through the corner intersections and horizontal interface surfaces of the logs—those surfaces that touch when logs are stacked in a wall.

For more information see Sealing Systems and Materials.

Is one style of corner better than the others?

The design of a log home’s corner intersection should achieve three things: structural stability, weathertightness and ease of construction. It should also appeal to you visually. Because log walls are fastened together along their lengths, the structural stability or strength of a certain corner design may not be an overriding concern. Corners should remain weathertight, however, through a system of precision fit and appropriate sealants. If you’re planning to hire a builder to provide you with turn-key construction service, you may not be concerned about the ease of construction of your home’s corners. However, if you’re doing the job yourself, it may be of utmost importance. The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” holds true for log homes. Each corner design has its own aesthetic qualities; one will surely appeal to you over the others.

For more information see The Design of Corner Intersections.

How are logs graded?

Logs are graded against standards developed by the log home industry to provide you with some assurance of the quality of the materials you select for your home. The standards provide uniform product evaluation criteria and serve as a basis for analyzing the structural capabilities of log buildings designed and built in accordance with its provisions. Two entities—The Log Homes Council (a branch of the National Association of Home Builders) and a private agency, Timber Products Inspection Inc.—provide log grading training and services.

For more information and a description of the criteria used to grade logs, see Log Grading.

Are log homes energy efficient?

People who live in log homes invariably notice that their new log home is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This condition results in heating and cooling bills that are demonstrably lower than those of their neighbors who live in frame and masonry homes. This phenomenon can be attributed to thermal mass, which tends to collect and radiate warmth slowly. Of course, in order to ensure the energy-efficiency of your new log home, you should look at each component of your home—its windows, doors, roof system and foundation—with an eye toward making it as efficient as possible.

For more information, see Energy Efficiency of Log Buildings.

What is an R-value?

An R-value is a measurement of a material’s thermal resistance and insulative qualities. The higher the R-value, the more resistant a material is to the flow of heat. Most state and local building codes suggest specific R-values, or thermal resistance values, for the wall, ceilings and floors of houses. The suggested R-values vary with geographical location and climate considerations. Unfortunately, strict reliance on R-values does not take into account the thermal mass effect of the logs on a log home’s energy efficiency.

For more information, see Energy Efficiency of Log Buildings.

Are log homes more vulnerable to fire?

The results of burn tests of log structures indicate that, in the event of fire, log homes burn more slowly than conventional housing and therefore risk less fire damage. Experts generally weigh two criteria to judge a structure’s susceptibility to fire: fire spread and burn-through. Because of the way logs and other large solid timbers burn, the speed at which a fire progresses in both of these areas is less than in other building materials. Fire will spread much slower across the face of a log wall than on other wall-covering materials, which have higher fire-spread rates. Burn-through rates for logs are also lower than for other building materials. Tests on some logs have shown they burn at a rate of only 11/2 inches per hour. That means that in a home with 6-inch or 8-inch walls, a fire would have to burn intensely for hours before the log wall or structural beams would fail because of burn-through.

For more information, see Residential Fires.

Is it more expensive to insure a log home?

According to insurance industry officials, log homes are no more expensive to insure than brick or wood frame homes built in the same area. The key to insurance rates is not so much the building material used as it is the home’s location: A home built in a city within a few minutes response time of the fire department would have a lower insurance rate than the same home built in rural area, where
the response time may be longer.

For more information, see Residential Fires.

Back to the Top

 


Wood

What is earlywood, latewood, heartwood and sapwood?

These terms refer to various sections of a tree. Trees grow by adding new wood cells to the existing wood in a yearly cycle that produces annual growth rings. The portion of the ring formed in the spring is light in color and is called earlywood. The portion formed later in the growing season is darker and is called latewood. Latewood is generally denser and stronger mechanically than earlywood. The wood formed just inside the inner bark is known as sapwood, the portion of the tree that contains mostly living cells that carry sap, the tree’s food, from the roots to the leaves.

For more information, see A Cross-Section of a Tree.

How will shrinkage and settlement affect my log home?

Wood contains moisture, which is slowly released after a tree is cut. As wood dries, it changes dimensionally. One of the changes it can undergo during this process is shrinkage. Shrinkage causes logs to check (crack) and can cause an 8-foot-high log wall to shrink as much as one to two inches when green wood is used. Log home builders take wood shrinkage into account as they design and build their houses. They can calculate the amount of shrinkage a log, whether green or kiln-dried, will undergo, and they use construction techniques to allow for shrinking.

For more information, see Physical Qualities.

What’s the difference between green and kiln-dried logs?

Green logs, air-dried logs and kiln-dried logs all contain some degree of moisture. The difference is in percentage of moisture content. Green logs are those that are used soon after the trees are cut. Air-dried logs have been dried for several months or more. Kiln-dried logs are force-dried in a kiln. The proponents of each type of log offer explain the benefits of using one over the other.

For more information on these benefits, see Kiln-Dried vs. Green Logs.

Are standing-dead logs and those killed by insects safe to use in a log home?

Despite the somewhat off-putting term, standing dead logs are completely safe to use in log homes. In many areas of the West, there is a considerable number of standing dead trees that have been killed by fire, insects or some other cause. The wood in these trees is generally not affected by whatever killed them.

For more information on the benefits of using this kind of logs, see Standing Dead Timber.

How do I choose a wood species for my log home?

Of the two dozen or so species used to build log homes, no one species is better than all the rest. Typically, the characteristics of wood that generally concern log home buyers are appearance, resistance to decay, insulation value, cost and stability—that is, how much shrinking, twisting, warping and checking the wood is likely to experience over the years. Log home producers also take into account the availability of the particular species in commercial quantities and the ease with which the wood can be cut and shaped into building logs.

To review the different species used and read a description of their characteristics, see Choosing Your Wood Species.

Are log homes more susceptible to insect infestation?

Log homes are no more susceptible to insect damage than any other type of home; in fact, the log home owner may actually be in a better position to detect the presence of insects before they become a problem. In general there are only four species of insects that pose a serious threat to log homes; termites, powder post beetles, old house borers and flatheaded borers. There are also several minor pests, such as carpenter ants and bees, that cause more emotional distress than actual physical damage. With proper precautions, infestation can be avoided. If pests become a problem, there are steps you can take to eliminate them.

For more information on pests, see Insects That Attack Wood.

How often will I need to re-treat my logs?

To maintain your log home, you will need to regularly apply a wood preservative specially designed for log homes to your home’s exterior. How often you need to apply this preservative will depend on your home’s location and exposure to the elements. Check your home after a rain. If the water beads and runs off the walls, your water repellent is working. If the logs become soaked and spotty, you know the repellent barrier is breaking down and it’s time for a re-application. You may not need to Certain walls of the house get more sun than others, and, very often, only one or two walls need re-treatment regularly. Protected walls may not need to be retreated for seven to eight years.

For more information, see How to Apply.

Back to the top

 


Pre-Construction

Can I build a log home myself?

You can choose to build your log home yourself, act as your own contractor or hire a contractor to do the work for you. The decision needs to be based on how much skill, time and money you have available and an honest evaluation of your personal motivation. Building your own log home can be a challenging and rewarding. But don’t be fooled into thinking that building a log home is easy. Plenty of very hard work is necessary to build any home, and there are many skills to learn. You probably shouldn’t attempt to build the home yourself unless you are willing dedicate all of your free time—including weekends and evenings—to the project for the next six to 12 months.

For more information, see Pre-Construction Activities.

What is a turn-key contract?

If you choose to contract with a professional builder to do all of the work on your log home, you’ve chosen a “turn-key” contract. Your only involvement is turn the key and walk into a finished home. Of course, you will still need to make hundreds of decisions, from selecting the wallpaper to specifying the quality of hardware, but you won’t have to get involved in working with subcontractors and construction management.

For more information, see Pre-Construction Activities.

How long will it take to build my log home?

The time needed to complete a home construction project will vary from project to project. A professional builder can normally complete a home in three to four months. That amount of time will probably not be enough for a first-time, do-it-yourselfer builder who may be working part time. So allow much more time to complete the home if you are planning to do a major portion of the work yourself. Also schedule rest days and catch-up days so you can stay on schedule even if you fall behind on individual projects.

For more information on the sequence of events in a construction project, see Create a Construction Schedule.

Do I need to insure my home before it’s completed?

If you decide to build your home as an owner-builder, you will need certain types of insurance to protect you, your employees and property during the construction of your home. You should review your plans with your insurance agent, but in general, you may need title insurance, public liability, builder’s risk insurance, worker’s compensation, vehicle and equipment insurance and bonds.

For more information, see Insurance and Services.

When should I order my log home package?

Log delivery usually takes several weeks from the date of ordering, but varies widely throughout the industry. The builder-dealer will know the situation with the producer and help you arrange delivery. The logs should be delivered soon after the foundation and first-floor decking are completed so that they will not be stored too long at the building site.

For more information on scheduling delivery of your logs, see