|I spent eight years writing the design column for Log Home Living, and during that time there were few design topics upon which I didnt touchand some I expounded upon more than once.
Its interesting but not surprising that the same themes recurred. When people go through the act of conceiving and building a log home, they often run into similar challenges. To give you a head start in thinking about the issues youll likely face, Ive prepared this checklist of things to consider at each phase of the log home process.
Planning and Budgeting
- Start by writing a program of the rooms you require. This will give you accurate sense of your home. Include their approximate sizes and allow for hallways and wall thicknesses when determining square footage.
- Create a realistic building construction budget (including taxes), then add a significant contingency fund.
- Include a separate line item for site clearing, grading, roadways and utilities installation.
- When cost is an issue, build a smaller, finer home.
- Make areas do double duty to reduce size and cost.
- Get your bankers blessing before proceeding.
Site and Climate
- Check local zoning, codes, covenants and restrictions before purchasing property.
- Make sure power, water and cable are available to the propertyand research the cost.
- Ascertain that water is available, as well as waste disposal (septic or sewer).
- Purchase property before starting the formal design process. The site has as much to say about the project as any of the owners.
- Build in context with the surroundings, the neighbors, local styles and forms. Traditional building forms and responses to the local climate are the appropriate ones.
- Plan landscaping to protect and enhance your building.
- Collect a scrapbook of design ideas.
- Keep your design simple.
- A bad (design) idea isnt worth building.
- Select a designer or architect who has log home experience.
- The logs have as much to say about the project as any of the owners.
- Design is a process. Dont hurry it!
- Create a plan that makes sense.
- Keep hallways to a minimum.
- Create a plan that allows for re-sale of the home.
- With your plan in mind, visit the site. Follow the sun throughout the day and plan how to use its light to best advantage.
- Protect the sides of the house from which storms are most likely to blow.
- Build your home with wide eaves, overhangs and porches to protect the logs.
- Use broader overhangs on the sunny sides to shield your home from the hot summer sun.
- Plan a home that can be used by people of all sizes and ages.
- Think in three dimensions and keep in mind how your homes façade will look.
- Listen to your log builder!
- Design a home youll be proud to drive up to each evening.
- Keep door and window openings proportional to each other and to the building.
- Plan outdoor spaces thoughtfully; they create outdoor rooms.
- Every home needs a sense of entryboth from the exterior and the interior.
- Protect entry doors from the elements.
- Plan a back door, mudroom or secondary entrance.
- Group wet areas (bathrooms and sinks) on each floor; stack them above and below each other to make plumbing runs easier.
- Place stud-framed walls between wet areas to accommodate plumbing.
- Compartmentalize the sections of each bathroom so more than one person can use the bathroom at a time.
- In a small home, provide a second entry from the hall into the master bath.
- In the master area, plan a cozy sleeping space with a ceiling thats not too high.
- Make other bedrooms, offices, dens and hobby rooms generic and interchangeable; define their uses with furniture.
- Pay attention to acoustical privacy. You dont want the Sounds of a TV or conversation in one area to intrude on another.
- Provide a second-floor joist system to accommodate heating, plumbing and lighting runs to your upper rooms.
- Install a good-quality heating system, as well as backup heating for emergencies.
- Design in flexibility so you can easily install future generations of technologies and systems. You dont want to struggle when the next generation of something like fiber-optic lighting or high-speed computer cable comes along.
- Provide adequate and proper ventilation.
- Plan and provide plenty of storage, both indoors and out.
- Build in a garage and park in it.
- Work with building codes, not against them.
Finishes, Fixtures, Furnishings
- Choose natural finishes to complement the logs.
- Use materials that are nontoxic and have low-VOCs (volatile organic compounds) wherever possibleespecially indoors.
- Choose bold, textured finishes.
- Not every wall should be log.
- Not every finish needs to be wood.
- Define the planes of each room (floors, walls, ceilings) through varied colors, textures and materials.
- Select fewer, larger furniture pieces in scale with the logs.
- Choose furnishings with bold patterns, colors and textures.
- Purchase good-quality plumbing fixtures in classic or neutral colors and styles that will not become dated.
- For countertops and cabinets, choose classic colors or easy-care natural materials that are durable and will not go out of style.
- Select multipurpose furniture with built-in storage.
- Introduce color through furnishings.
- Choose larger light fixtures in styles that complement a log home.
- Use task and accent lighting in conjunction with general lighting.
- As much as possible, keep light fixtures, switches and outlets out of the logs.
- Do business with the real decision-makers in a company, not their employees.
- Get all agreements in writing.
- Provide adequate construction drawings and written specifications to both the log builder and the general contractor.
- Visit each producers log operation.
- See occupied examples of a builders work before deciding who will bid on your project.
- Call builders references; have a list of prepared questions to ask; keep notes of the answers.
- Find a fair way to compare cost proposals for log home packages. The lowest price isnt always the best price.
- Hire a general contractor who understands and respects logs.
- Be certain the log producer and general contractor are working together.
- Work with people you feel good about.
- Be an available, attentive, responsive and decisive client.
- Ask questions and seek clarifications.
- Communicate clearlyand in writing whenever possible.
- Treat people fairly and honorably.
- Plan an easy-to-clean, easy-to-maintain log home.
- Select log finishes specifically formulated for logs.
- Use vinyl- or metal-clad wood windows if you wish to avoid additional repainting and maintenance.
- Plan and install native, drought-resistant plantings.
- Create and follow a maintenance schedule for your new home, record your work annually.
- Attach the maintenance schedule and annual record to your deed.
- Love and enjoy your log home.
Jean A. Steinbrecher A.I.A. is a licensed architect in Langley, Washington. She specializes in log homes and is a former executive board member of the International Log Builders Association.