Definition: What is a preliminary design?

A preliminary design of your custom log home is exactly what you think it is. It’s the initial version of your ideas placed on paper. Typically you’ll have the floorplan for each level and four elevations of the log home. The preliminary design will have the basics such as:

  • Overall log home and room dimensions

  • Bathroom, laundry room and kitchen configurations

  • Porch and deck dimensions

  • Basement/foundation dimensions with mechanical room location

  • Window and door sizes and locations

  • Staircase locations

  • Key structural member locations

Many log home companies (such as Strongwood Log Homes) will also provide a 3-D rendering during the preliminary design phase so you’ll be able to visualize the inside and outside of your new log home.

The preliminary design phase is where you’ll flush out the details of your home and make the necessary design decisions based on your lifestyle needs and budget requirements. Most folks will go through 3-4 revision cycles before they are satisfied or at least very close to a final design.

Once you have approved your preliminary design, your builder will use this plan to secure estimates for your project.

Tip: Make sure your preliminary design is very, very close to what you want to build. Never leave areas “to be designed” during construction. Not only will your preliminary estimate be incomplete, but change orders during construction are very costly.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2019 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Maintaning your log home - Caulking

One of the most overlooked areas of exterior log home maintenance is keeping the exterior logs, windows and doors caulked. Typically when your new log home is stained, the contractor will caulk the “checks”, log corners, around the windows and doors. 

Here’s a checklist for monitoring and maintaining the caulk on your log home.

  1. Do a visual inspection every spring and fall. Take photos or videos of the exterior of your log home for future reference and to track areas of concern.

  2. Create a caulking log to track when and what you caulked for each side of your log home.

  3. Caulk areas with the most weather exposure first. Use a quality brand made specifically for log homes.

  4. Keep log corners caulked! This is a critical area that can be susceptible to log decay if water is able to penetrate and sit inside log corners.

  5. Inspect the logs for checks that face towards the sky or any check that tends to hold water. A great time to inspect your logs is after a good rain. Fill those checks with a quality high performance caulk specifically made for log homes. For large (wide and deep) checks use a backer rod then apply the caulk.

  6. Check log penetrations where pipes, vents, electrical outlets, fixtures, etc. have been drilled through the logs. Look for gaps and caulk closed.

  7. Check between the wood trim and the window and door frame and keep this area caulked.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2019 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Log Home Design Tip - Window size and placement

Visualizing your dream log home is easy or is it?  When working with a log home dealer to design your log home make sure you considered the size, placement of windows and doors and how that will affect living inside your new home? Here are a few design tips.

  1. How the log home sits on your property and balancing views and the relationship to solar (sun) angles during the summer and winter months. How does that affect the window size and placement? Are you taking advantage of passive solar gain? What are the trade-offs between window size/location and views.

  2. In the great room how will the window and door size and location affect furniture placement and views. Many great room designs have large French patio doors or windows that preclude any furniture placement in front of them. How can you achieve a layout that works with your furniture, provide the views you want and has a wall area for the TV.

  3. In bedrooms how will your bed and other furniture fit inside the room? Consider a wide awning window placed high enough so your headboard can fit underneath giving you natural light and ventilation.

  4. During the early stages of your design, factor in how you will light the areas and what type of fixtures for each room.

  5. For a visual reference, look at your existing home and how each room works. What would you do differently or do you need to go furniture shopping?


By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2019 Under the Influence of Wood Blog


Log Home Overhangs, Gutters & Porches

Okay this is not a very exciting topic, but overhangs, gutters/downspouts and porches are important elements to include when designing your log home.  Keep reading...

  • Overhangs are typically wider-deeper on log homes compared to conventional housing to protect the logs from rain water, especially the corners. Most are at least 2 feet or wider and are effective at keeping rain water off your log walls.

  • Gutters and downspouts in our humble opinion are must haves and here's why. Not only does it prevent rain water splash-up on your bottom rows of logs which can extend the life of your stain finish, but also reduces the potential for log rot. They also move rain water away from your foundation wall when you use buried drain tile connected to your downspouts. Can you guess how much volume of water runs off a 1,500 sq. ft. roof during 1" rainstorm? The answer is surprising, 935 gallons, half an inch is 467 gallons!

  • Side porches are great features for any log home and offer added protection for your log wall from the elements - rain, snow and sun. Not only will your stain finish last longer under a porch but its a functional outdoor space that adds flare to your design.

During your preliminary design phase consider these important features for your log home.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Purchasing a Log Home Package: Things to consider


Purchasing a log home package is an exciting step towards realizing your log home dreams. Each log home manufacturer will have their own specific purchase process, but there are some universal basics that should apply.  Here are a few tips to consider.

1.  Understand what is included and not included in the log home package.  Your log home manufacturer should provide you with a detailed materials list.  If there is any ambiguity, get them clarified in writing so there is no confusion or additional costs later.

2.  Understand the sales agreement, especially the terms and conditions.  If you have any questions or need clarification, get answers before you sign.

3.  Understand how the log home package payments are to be executed and the timing of those payments.  If you're financing the log home package, make sure your bank approves the payment terms and timing as well.

4. Confirm with your builder that all the necessary materials that are not included in your log home package are included in his estimate to complete the home.  Unless you like additional cost surprises.

5.  Make sure you and your builder are clear on the material delivery schedules set by the builder, dealer and log home manufacturer.  And on the day of delivery there is equipment on-site to unload and folks to do an inventory of the materials.

6.  Speaking of delivery is the log home package delivery expense included or not included in the log home package price.  If it's not included get an estimate from the log home manufacturer before you sign the agreement.

7.  How many sets of final construction drawings will you receive from the log home manufacturer?  Your builder will need 4-6 sets.  Ask if there are additional costs to you if you need more.

8.  Will the log home manufacturer or the builder prepare the energy study required to secure the building permit?  Plus if there are questions from the local building department during the plan review who at the log home manufacturer will you contact to get answers to the questions?  

9.  If there are issues or questions with the delivery, material shortages, construction or design, etc. know who to call.  If your builder is also the authorized dealer that simplifies things.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC


Copyright 2015 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Energy Efficiency of Log Homes


My outdoor thermometer read -14 below zero this morning!  As I tossed another log on the fire I thought energy efficiency might be a timely subject for a blog post so please read on.

Its probably no surprise, but one of the most frequently asked questions is how efficient are log homes?  Maybe better stated is how do log homes compare to a conventional constructed home in terms of energy performance.  The simple answer is log homes perform better and many log home owners will confirm that statement.

So if energy efficiency of your new log home is one of your priorities, it's well worth reading the energy performance study performed by the Log Homes Council.  Click here to visit the Log Homes Council website and download The Energy Performance of Log Homes.  While this document is a little technical it does prove the benefits of thermal mass.  Enjoy.

In addition I recently was asked to guest blog for one of our suppliers, Woodhaven Log & Lumber and the topic just happens to be energy efficiency.  It's a general overview and illustrates there are many elements you should consider when designing and building your log home.  To read the post, click on the link:  6 Tips of Making Your Log Home Energy Efficient.

Thanks for stopping by and if the polar vortex is headed in your direction stay safe and warm!

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2015 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

A log home builders perspective

Working closely with a client for months to plan, design and build their dream log home you get to know them.  From awkward beginnings evolving to collaborative teamwork, that relationship is cherished and the friendship is often lasting.  Each project is unique as are the experiences of stacking logs to shingling the roof, quick lunches on a favorite log cut-off to frozen fingers nailing up cedar shakes in January and everything in between. Memories that will be forever etched in our minds.

On a recent visit to a clients home I snapped this photo.  Ah the memories...

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2014 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

What's the best time of year to start building my log home?

The best time to start construction in Northern Michigan is during the summer/fall months.  Our winters are very cold and timing the project start can pay off with some advantages.  Lets explore some of the reasons why.

-For most builders and sub-contractors, it's easier and more productive to work in the summer versus the winter months. Productivity is really compromised during the winter when workers must wear bulky clothing, thus move more slowly and become less efficient.  Some will contend winter construction can impact the overall quality outcome, but that's subject to debate. The bottom-line, the work is more enjoyable and productive when your not battling your environment.

-Typically there are many more work delays in the winter due to frigid temps (Polar Vortex!) and dangerous wind chill.  Plus the days are longer during the summer months so more work can be accomplished.

-It may cost you more to start the build in the winter months.  There are extra precautions when installing footings and foundation in the winter which will require ground heaters, warming blankets or heated enclosures and the associate labor costs.  

-Getting the log home package unloaded and delivered to the construction site can be challenging with snow on the ground.  Also moving and staging the log home package and other materials on the site is much easier during the summer months.

-You'll have additional expense to keep the site and driveway plowed and temporary heat and lighting so work can continue during the dark days of winter.

-There may be additional labor costs for items that are built during the winter months, such as roofing, building the weather tight shell, etc.  Ask your builder if there is a winter differential charge for labor.

The Take Away:  

If building in a cold weather climate such as ours, work out  a preliminary timetable with your log home dealer and builder very early in the process so you can avoid a winter start. If the majority of the construction is headed for the winter, get your foundation installed during the fall before the snow flies and frost begins to penetrate the ground.  The bottom-line, warm weather starts are the best time of year to start building your log home in Northern Michigan.

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2014 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Custom Built Log Home - What does it really mean

Recently I was taking a nice couple on a tour through several of our client log homes and a question popped up about the commonly used phrase in the construction industry, "custom-built and semi-custom built log home" and what it really means.

So let's explore the levels of custom.

Spec (speculative) Log Home:  The log home is built to be turn-key ready, however depending on the stage of construction you find the home you may be able to make some personal choices such flooring, counter tops, paint/stain colors, etc. Typically there can be some cost savings because the builder has built the design before and understands the complexities of the construction and costs are known. In most cases the log home will offer an attractive universal design that will appeal to a wide spectrum of potential buyers and most important the builder will have wisely chosen features that are the best value (bang for the buck).  In today's housing market, spec log homes are a very rare find.

Semi-Custom Built Log Home:  This is most common type of log home constructed.  The homeowner chooses a design from a catalog of standard floorplans from the log home manufacturer and works with the dealer and/or builder to make modifications to meet the specific requirements of the homeowner.  These changes can range from adding an attached garage, deck or sunroom, moving interior walls, changing the footprint or roof lines, etc.  Often this is the most cost effective path when working with the builder to determine design, features, amenities and the level of quality materials used in the log home.

Custom Built Log Home:  The custom built home is designed and constructed entirely to the homeowners vision and specifications and is unique, no two log homes are alike.  The homeowner works with the log home dealer and manufacturer to create a clean-sheet design and determines everything that goes into the log home.  From room sizes, shape and style, features, amenities and material quality that are included in the final design.  This type of log home is often the most expensive especially if it's a complicated design and has high end materials and features.

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2014 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Ten Questions to Ask a Log Home Dealer

When you're done researching log home companies and their dealers and ready to call your short list, here's ten questions you can ask during that initial phone call.

1.  Please describe the services your dealership offers (i.e. site planning, custom design assistance, log home construction, etc.).
2.  Do you have a model log home and client log homes in the area that we can tour?
3.  Please explain the log home product(s) you offer:  log profiles and sizes, corner styles, wood species, log wall settling specifications, method of drying the logs, pre-cut log package?, etc.
4.  Please explain and provide me with your log home standard materials package description of whats included.
5.  Please provide me with your standard log home designs and the package prices.
6.  Please explain the custom design services that the log home manufacture offers, is this service included in the price and what part do you play in the design process.
7.  What is the typical time-frame from start of the design through log home package delivery. 
8.  Is the log home package delivery included in the price or is there an additional transportation charge.
9.  Do you offer construction services or can you recommend an experienced log home builder in my area?
10.  Please explain the log home package purchase process.

Take Away:  Yes there are more key questions you'll need to ask, but these ten starter questions will help you evaluate your short list during that initial phone call so you can determine your next move.  Have your questions in writing for each dealer Q&A and take notes on their responses.  The dealers that make the cut, meet with them at their model home to learn more and be prepared to ask your next round of questions.  Good luck.

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Log Home Preliminary Planning Basics: 20 Strategies To Save Costs

Regardless of your log home budget, getting the best value possible should always be the goal.  But cutting costs doesn't mean cutting corners.  Instead, take an informed, measured approach towards creating the log home of your dreams for less.  Here are 20 cost saving strategies to get you started.

1.  Integrate the players early for design success.  Get your builder of record on board early during the preliminary design phase, why? Imagine designing your home without the log home builders knowledge of construction methods and codes, material and labor costs and expertise in design cost savers and drivers.   

2. Sweat equity.  Today it's common for homeowners to do some of the work themselves and we encourage our clients to review areas where they can contribute.  It's a great way to save on labor expense and can be a fun and rewarding experience.  But before you grab your tool belt, make sure you have the time, flexibility, skill and understanding of the building process so you don't delay YOUR OWN project or worse create issues resulting in costing you more in the end.  Think this through thoroughly and seek your builders guidance on this one before you commit.

3.  Select a "D" profile. Today's milling technology has spawned a variety of log profiles to choose from. There are many kinds of round or square profiles and sizes to meet most desires.  But one profile in particular is more cost friendly, the D profile.  Here's why...because it's round on the outside and milled flat on the inside, kitchen and bath cabinets fit nicely on the log walls without modification, window and door trim lays flat, electrical switch and outlet covers lay flat, less labor cost for cutting into round profiles to fit all of the above.  Its probably the reason why it's the most popular profile in the USA.

4.  Roof design.  Elaborate designs with steep roof pitch with multiple roof planes adds significant costs to your project for both materials and labor.  There's a variety of roof design and construction methods so ask your builder how to create the look you want, but for less.  

5.  Think drywall.  Select drywall for some or all of your interior partition walls to add color to your home, plus it brightens it as well.  Drywall is less expensive than T&G paneling, plus if gives you the flexibility to change colors in a room.

6.  Build down.  Every house needs a foundation, so if your land will allow a full basement foundation you can capitalize by designing living sq. ft. in the basement from the start.  If your property has walkout basement potential, even better.  You maybe able to reduce the overall footprint of your home by designing down.

7.  Build up.  Building up is always less expensive than building out.  Consider designing loft space or bedrooms on a second level.  Keep dormer design under control so costs don't creep.

8. Don't get cornered.  A log home that has 4 outside corners is the least expensive to build.  Each corner beyond four (both inside and outside corners) will increase costs simply because there are more materials, added complexity which adds time to build.  

9.  Be your own general contractor.  If you have the time and knowledge to be the project manager of your log home construction, then you could yield substantial savings.  The general contractor wears many hats with some of the duties that might include: hiring and scheduling the subcontractors, oversees performance and quality, trouble shoots issues and conflicts, orders materials and tracks costs, etc.  Keep in mind the G.C. is a full-time job that requires you to be both on-site and in the office to keep the project moving.  Plus don't forget you're the homeowner who has to make all  decisions regarding amenities and products selections.  Check with your lending institution to see if they allow a homeowner G.C. option.

10.  Complete the design.  Seems logical, but finish the entire design as you move through the preliminary phases to final construction drawings.  If you take the approach of, "we'll figure that part of the house later, just draw it as is", be ready to accept the consequences, such as costly change orders and/or design or construction conflicts that may impact other areas of the home.  

11.  Understand where to invest.  Consider both short and long term approaches during the preliminary planning stages.  There are design and construction elements that must meet national, state and local building codes.  But beyond the codes there are areas of the home that you may want to invest if they are offset by lower operating cost over time.  Such as the higher insulation values, high performance windows, energy efficient heating and cooling systems,  high performance wood burning stoves or fireplaces.   Do the math yourself to calcuate if skimping on some of these items may actually be more costly over time.  

12.  Size maters.  Keeping the log home footprint in check will help keep material cost down.  If your builder of record is with you during the preliminary design process, he'll be able to explain the cost drivers for materials and labor based on the log home footprint.  

13.  Choose pine versus cedar logs.  Yes, cedar does have more resistance to heartwood decay than pine, but it also carries a premium price tag of 30-60% more.  So when you consider the cost differential between the two species, pine maybe the smart option for your log home.

14.  Room with a view.  Top-of-the-line premium windows and doors can get expensive and can be 8-15% of your total budget.  Most window and door manufacturers offer several product lines with varying degrees of options, quality and performance levels.  Shop smart and review the performance specifications between the manufacturers best and mid-level window and door offerings.  In many cases you'll find performance features that carry down to the mid-level which can save you thousands of dollars.  Ask your builder to review and explain performance measurements (NFRC Energy Star Ratings) with you so you can make an informed decision.

15.  Site planning is one of the most overlooked aspects of building a custom log home.  Your dealer and builder of record should walk your property with you (multiple times) to conduct a building site evaluation using your preliminary design.  They'll consider the entire scope of the project for the best placement of your new home and review things like the foundation elevation, solar angles, views, set-backs, utilities, driveways, maintenance, etc.  Your site evaluation probably will influence design changes, which may produce some cost saving opportunities, but the overall goal is to insure your log homes performance and costs are maximized based on the unique features of your building site.  

16.  Odd or even?  The majority of dimensional lumber and wood materials are produced in even numbers.  As an example, if you've designed your log home to be 27' wide, things like floor joists and other materials will be ordered at 28' to accommodate the odd number width.  Plus there maybe additional labor costs for all that cutting and trimming by your builder, not to mention the material waste.  So pick even numbers when you design your log home.

17. Upgrade later.  There are areas of the home that you can upgrade later to reduce your initial cost, such as flooring (carpet v. hardwood), fixtures (plumbing and electrical), counter tops (kitchen and bathroom), appliances, etc.

18.  Place interior log posts, beams and rustic accents wisely.  These beautiful log details add costs to your project.  Consider using these structural or design elements only is specific rooms such as the great room and forego areas such as bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways.

19.  Avoid custom built kitchen and bath cabinets.  Today you can easily find very high quality stock kitchen and bath cabinets with a variety of optional stain finish colors, sizes and operating hardware choices.  Custom cabinetry can cost 50-100% more than stock cabinetry.

20.  Needs and wants list.  By creating a list of things you must have ("needs") and a list of items you wish to have  ("wants") can help you prioritize your ideas when developing your design.  It's a great way to keep your ideas organize when you have to begin to make decisions as you develop your preferences through the preliminary planning process.  It's all about designing a log home with the amenities and elements that fit your vision, but also that fits your budget.  

Do you have some cost saving strategies you'd like to share?  Post them here.

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Log Home Design Basics: Roof Planes & Pitch

Many folks let out an audible "ooh & aah"  when they see a dramatic high pitched ceiling in a log home.  There's no question that a home with a high roof pitch and multiple roof planes has more curb appeal.  Just look around your own neighborhood.  These design elements are must haves for most log home lovers, but before you go design crazy there are some important considerations to understand that can influence the cost, performance and the look of your custom log home.  

Things to consider:
  • High pitched and multiple plane roofs add higher material and labor costs, additional time to construct and complexity to your project.  
  • If your design includes skylights, chimney chases, sun tubes, dormers, etc. penetrating your roof, how do they relate to the roof pitch and planes.  Are there conflicts that can affect the roofs performance?  
  • Once you have your custom log home preliminary drawings, take a closer look at your roof design.  Does it make sense?  Meaning, are there areas where potential rain drainage capabilities are compromised or areas where excessive snow build-up can create roof performance issues?  Keep in mind, that both form and function particularity with roof design should not be in conflict.
  • In colder climates such as ours, we're very conscience of snow loads and the potential for ice damming.  Your local/state building codes will require a specific snow load (in lbs.) at the time of design, but when you receive your first set of preliminary plans look at the elevations for potential areas that may require additional insulation, flashing, venting and other means to control ice damming.
  • A higher roof pitch in most cases translates into higher ceilings inside, meaning that an additional volume of air space will require heating and cooling which will add to your monthly operating costs. 
  • Consider lowering the roof pitch a little and upgrade to a 9' wall height (typical is 8') to create that feeling of airy openness.
  • Depending on the design of the log home, you maybe able to incorporate flat ceilings in areas such as kitchen, dining, bedrooms, utility rooms, etc. and save those high pitched ceilings for the great room.
  • Consider lowering the roof pitch a bit and adding gable end log trusses for exterior or additional log accents on the interior for design impact.
We hope this gives you a little insight into roof pitch and plane design.  Consult with your log home dealer and builder to review your roof pitch and planes for performance and cost.  An  intelligent design that looks good, built right and performs well will always stand the test of time.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC 

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

The Seven Most Frequently Asked Log Home Questions

Over the years we've been asked thousands of questions about log homes.  Here are the top 7 most frequently asked questions with an abbreviated response.

Question:  What is the cost of a turn-key log home per square foot?  
Response:  Full or solid log homes can start at $160 per sq ft and goes up from there based on a variety of factors, such as size of the home, complexity or simplicity of the design, amenities, species of wood, etc.

Question:   Are log homes energy efficient?
Response:  Yes they are, checkout the study conducted by the Log Home Council.  Click this link to read the study:  The Energy Performance of Log Homes

Question:  How much maintenance is required with a log home?
Response:   A log home does require routine maintenance as part of an overall maintenance program.  Typically a new log home will require re-staining at 4-7 years after completion.  But it all depends on how well the original stain finish was applied, type of stain used, if the raw logs where prepped correctly.  Usually the sides of the log home that receive the most sunlight during the day will need to be re-stained more often.  Today many stain manufacturers offer a maintenance stain coat.  Using a darker stain color (more pigment) will last a bit longer.  Plus it depends how well you maintain your log home.  Meaning do you keep corners and checks caulked, periodic washing and stain touch-up.  Read our blog post about this subject, plus read the Log Home Council on preservation and maintenance.  

Our blog post:  Proactive Log Home Maintenance

Log Homes Council:  Preservation & Maintenance of Log Structures

Question:  How long does it take to build a log home?
Response:Typically it takes approximately 6-10 months to build a custom log home.  But it depends on many factors that can influence the timetable such as, how well the homeowner and dealer/builder have done the preliminary planning, the size of the home, type of log home building system, complexity of design,  size of the building crew, level of communication between the builder and homeowner, weather, timeliness of sub-contractors, etc.

Question:  Air dry vs. kiln dry, what’s the difference and is one better than another?
Response: Logs that are air dried for typically 8-14 months or longer depending on the moisture content before they are milled.  Kiln dried logs are usually air dried for a period of time then are dried in a heated kiln for up to 30 days to remove the moisture.  Is one method better than the other?  We think that's the wrong question.  It's really a matter of quality or how well they execute their preferred method of drying the logs.  We've seen both methods that are poorly done resulting in excessive exterior and interior checking, staining and cupping/warping.  Visiting the manufacturer is one way to see for yourself, but if that's not possible ask to visit client projects and look at the logs yourself with the log home dealer.  

Question: How much do the log homes settle?
Response: This question is directly related to the question above.  A log that has a higher moisture content at the time of construction will typically settle a little more.  Each manufacturer will have engineered specifications on how much their log home package will settle (typically less than one inch to a 2-3 inches).  The manufacturer will provide specific instruction for the builder to follow so the structural integrity of the log home will be maintained and your windows and doors operate properly.  (Note:  does not include handcrafted log homes).

Question:  What's the best wood species for my log home?
Response:  Let's review some simple facts.  A log home manufacturer uses a wood species that is easily attainable and native to their region.  It's really about geography and the principles of economics that factor into what a log home manufacturer offers.  The pine (white, red, yellow, lodgepole) family is prevalent throughout the U.S. so it's the most common species offered.  It's also easy to dry, mill and build with and accepts stain well.  More expensive species offered in our region is cedar (Eastern White Cedar) which is known for its rot and bug resistance, but expect to pay 30-40% more.  So what species should you build with?  Well if you're building the in the Midwest, we recommend White Pine species.

For you wood geeks, checkout this book; The Wood Handbook  

Do you have a question you'd like to ask us?  Respond here or email us, we're happy to share our thoughts on any log home related subject.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company 

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Log Home Preliminary Planning Done Well

"Plans are nothing; planning is everything"
Dwight D. Eisenhower our 34th President

The preliminary planning phase is one of the most important stages of the log home buying and building process.  During this period, you'll define and establish key elements of your custom log home such as the overall design, explore features and amenities, construction cost and scope of the project.  So let’s break it down and review some of the  best practices in successful preliminary planning:
  • Know your budget range before you engage a dealer and/or builder.  Get pre-qualified by your financial institution of choice for a construction to mortgage loan so you know your budget range.  Knowing your budget number is vital so you can make early decisions about log style/diameter, home style, sq. ft./size, finish selections, amenities, etc.  All these things have varying price points based on the quality and quantity that will influence the cost of the project.  
  • Develop your Needs vs. Wants list for your log home.   This self-evaluation will help you define your priorities and better prepare you so you can make decisions about what's important to you for your custom log home.  Click on this link to read a previous blog post about this topic.   /undertheinfluenceofwood/2011/11/needs-vs-wants.html
  • Share your budget range or minimum budget with your dealer/builder.  I realize this seems counter intuitive, but by providing the dealer with your budget will enable him to better guide you through the myriad of design and feature choices while evaluating your priorities compared to your budget.  Plus, the dealer will be able to explore cost effective options and solutions as your design develops.   Sadly some folks start this process and  don't know how much they can afford.  The downside is creating a design with features and amenities that they can't afford, resulting in their disappoint and wasting valuable time.    As we like to say, "form meets function, and funding".  
  • Be able to describe your log home vision through a floorplan, photo's from magazines or the internet.  These visuals can help you describe your vision to the dealer/builder.  The folks who can best articulate their wishes accompanied by photos usually get a more accurate cost estimate for the log home package and construction.  If done poorly, you'll force the dealer/builder to make assumptions on your behalf and you know what happens when we assume.  We recommend that you organize your photos, floorplans, brochures, etc.  in a binder with tab sections for each area of the home.
  • Sweat equity.  Are you planning to do some of the work yourself?  It's very common today, in fact almost all of our clients so some level of work to save money.  What's important here is to disclose what areas you wish to complete yourself and discuss in detail with your  builder.  Make sure you have the skills and time to get your part done within the timetable, if not you may cause a delay in the project.   
  • Most folks try to fit the home to the land, but your land in many cases may dictate the design or at least influence your design choices.  It's vital that your dealer and builder walk your property with you (we recommend multiple times) to conduct a building site evaluation and develop a site plan.  They should be able to review with you how view angles, solar angles, wind factors, window placement, home placement, set backs, code requirements, minimal tree removal, etc. can affect your overall design.
  • Your dealer/builder should be skilled at assisting you with the design of your custom log home.  Whether you start with a standard floorplan from the log home manufacturer or create it from scratch, your dealer/builder should be knowledgeable of code requirements, construction methods, manufacturers product line and associated costs.  Plus, make cost effective recommendations for labor and materials savings as you design the log home.  If not, you may have another decision to make.
  • Understand the process.  Each manufacturer's preliminary process is a little different, but typically you'll work with the dealer to create the preliminary design that is sent to the manufacturer with enough detail to develop a preliminary cost for the log home package.  Some manufacturers will even provide you with a simple preliminary floorplan with elevations.  Couple of key points..make sure you understand how many plan review-revision cycles are included before you begin.  If your floorplan is well thought out from the beginning typically two floorplan revision cycles should be sufficient.  Also make sure you fully understand the manufacturers design to purchase process, like timetables for drafting/design, payment schedules and manufacturing to delivery of your log home package.  Depending on the time of year, it may take longer for these areas so ask the dealer for the current manufacturer timetables.
  • Make sure you understand what's included in the log home package.  Each manufacturer offers different levels of package content from logs only to complete weather-tight shells, plus a full line of upgrade options.  You should receive a quote document explaining the components that are included with your package.  We highly recommend that you meet with the dealer representative so they can review the log home package quote in detail, plus get answers to all your questions.
  • Get it writing.  Once you have scaled (1/4" = 1') preliminary plan drawings from the manufacturer in hand, your builder of choice will be able to develop a written preliminary cost estimate for construction.  This proposal is based on the culmination of your preliminary floorplan plus the decisions made over several meetings with a builder.  The proposal should have several line items for major cost centers, like electrical, plumbing, HVAC systems, shell-in labor, etc., plus detailed explanations associated with each line item.  The bottomline, you need to understand what's included and the scope of each line item.  Keep in mind, that the preliminary estimate for construction is not the final cost estimate number, but should be (if done well) complete enough for you to make a purchasing decision.  Again, if you haven't done a good job of articulating and defining your wants and needs to the dealer and builder, then both quotes often are lacking in accuracy or completeness.  
  • Face-to-face.  If you're comparison shopping builders, make sure you meet with each builder to review their proposal in person so you have the opportunity to ask questions and allow the builder to go into detail about their proposal.  And if you haven't already spoken to their client references and made home visits to see the quality of construction first hand, get this done before your make a decision on the builder of your dream log home.
  • The Take Away:  Budget your preliminary planning timetable wisely, expect to spend 3-4 months on this process alone.  Ask your dealer and builder to clearly outline the entire preliminary planning process so you know what to expect and can get prepared.  Remember your decisions that you make during this stage are the fundamentals of your custom log home. Don't make the mistake of rushing through this process, because revisiting overlooked items or requesting changes during the construction stage can be very costly in both time and dollars.  Planning really is everything!

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Interview Questions for a Prospective Log Home Builder

Choosing the right builder for your dream log home is one of the most important decisions you'll make.  Asking the right questions to evaluate a prospective builder is part of your due diligence before you sign on the dotted line.  

Here's a sample list of questions.

  1. Do you have a valid builders licensed and are properly insured? Also, do you request proof of liability insurance/workman's comp from your sub-contractors? Request a copy of the builders license during the interview so you can check the status with the state and note that you'll expect proof of liability and/or workman's comp insurance policies at the time the contract is signed.

  2. Are you currently building a home, if so what type of home is it. if not, when was your last custom home project? Gives you an idea how active the builder is and if he's in demand.It's also a good idea to visit the builders current project and meet the homeowner.

  3. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been sued by a homeowner, subcontractor or supplier or operated under a different company name? The answers to these questions should give you enough information to make an early quick decision.

  4. What format is your construction contract, fixed price, cost plus percentage, fixed price plus fee, etc. There are several contract formats and each have advantages and disadvantages depending on the project. Ask the builder what contract format he plans to use so you understand the basis of the proposal and how the project accounting will be managed. If you plan to comparison shop builders, It will be important that each contract format is the same.

  5. Have you built a log home, if so how many log homes have you built in the last 10 years? If the builder hasn't built a log home before, do you really want to be his first? Building a solid log home is much different than a stick-built home. Experience does matter, trust us on this one.

  6. Typically how many projects do you have going at the same time? The response will give you the next question, how do you manage more than one project and how often will you be at my project during the week?

  7. What log home manufacturers products have you built? Each manufacturer has their own specific building system and techniques. An experienced log home builder should have no trouble building any log home package. So your questioning should reveal the depth of experience building log homes.

  8. What are the roles performed by individuals in your company? You'll want to understand who you'll be working with (specific names and titles) during your project. Also gives you an idea if your "builder" is doing the work or is sub-contracting it to others and acting as the general contractor.

  9. Can you supply me with a list of sub-contractors that you'll use on my project? Contact them to ask for references about the log home builder-general contractor.

  10. Can you provide me a list of client referrals with their address and contract information? Develop a list of questions to ask and contact each client on the list. Ask to visit their home for a closer look. This will be a valuable experience for you to see the craftsmanship first hand and learn what the clients have to say about their experience with the builder.

  11. What is your building schedule for the next 18 months? This allows you to compare your timetable based on the builders availability.

  12. I'd like to do some of the work myself (sweat equity), list the items. Are you flexible for me to participate in those areas? If you plan to do some of the work yourself, make sure the builder is willing and flexible. Review these areas with your builder and make sure you have the time and skill to complete those sweat equity items. Plus have each item spelled out and incorporated into the contract.

  13. If you're the builder of record, how do you plan to communicate with me (methods and frequency) during the project? If you live far away, effective communication is the key to any successful project. Is your builder of choice fluent in the use of email, photos/video updates, Skype for conference calls, etc. to keep you informed?

  14. Do you have heavy equipment to unload the log package and other deliveries? The builder will need an articulating fork-truck to unload your log home package and other material deliveries.

  15. How have you handle issues or disputes with homeowners? This may give you insight into how the builder handles himself during these stressful points during the project. Make sure you ask for specific examples, plus develop a few scenarios to ask.

  16. Do you see any potential challenges with my log home design and construction? If you have an elaborate design with several roof planes, lots of inside and outside corners, etc. allow the builder to review in detail those construction challenges with you. This will give you a better understanding of what your builder considers challenges so you can be aware during those construction phases.

Take Away Tips:  

During the builder interviews, its a good idea

 to take good notes of each response.  These notes will come in handy when it's time to make your decision.  Invest the time to visit and chat with client references and don't be afraid to ask them pointed questions about the builder and their experience.  Verify the builders license with the state.  Many states have online sites (Michigan:

) that you can do the look-up to check for the builders license status and if any enforcement actions have been taken.  Happy interviewing!

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Effective communication between you and your builder

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place"  by George Bernard Shaw

It's common for folks to build their dream log home several hours away or even in another state, making t

he opportunity for daily site visits and frequent face-time with the 

builder impossible.  And with 

such a significant financial (and emotional) investment, its easy to understand why the long 

distance can leave some with an uneasy feeling.  

To lower concerns and stress levels, it's vital that the homeowner have an open and effective  level of communication with the builder and/or general contractor.  Its really the

key to any successful and satisfying custom home building experience.  As one example, we'll illustrate how we communicate with our clients, especially for those who live far away.

For many this may be their first custom built home and the angst that accompanies the unknown is understood.  To minimize the worry, w

e'll develop a projected project schedule, explain each critical building phase and review the overall scope of the project

. This review always generates lots of questions and helps to give the homeowner a  sense of the building process and more importantly the sequencing of the construction.

This seems unnecessary, but remember what happens when you assume.  We'll have a dedicated discussion about how we plan to communicate with each other during the building process for things like progress updates, questions/concerns, financial information sharing, etc.  And maybe the most important item is how we'll follow up and follow through if there are questions or issues that need to be addressed.  And if requested, we'll include the communication plan details in the contract.  First we'll determine what methods work best for both of us, email, phone, etc., the frequency of communication, scheduled conference calls, daily-weekly email updates, etc., define timetables to follow-ups to questions that works best for all.  Having this conversation does two things, sets clear expectations and begins the openness that creates the foundation for a good working relationship.  And finally, what other useful technologies can be incorporated to enhance communication such as the use of smart phones, tablets, photos, 

video, social media, etc. 

There will be key stages during the construction of your home where it's critical for the homeowner to make onsite walk-through's with the builder such as after the logs are stacked, the roof system framing is complete, pre-electrical and plumbing rough-ins.  These milestone events are a great time to review the build thus far, look at product samples and review your selections that will be part of your new home.  That's also a perfect time to update the project schedule and answer all the questions.  We'll typically prepare an agenda of things to accomplish during the visit so the time together is informative and productive.

More than ever today, homeowners wish to do some of the work themselves and we're happy to 


 them, in fact we 


 it.  However, due to the fluid nature of custom home building, schedules and timing can sometimes get out of sync.  If the communication is working then the timing issue is minimized through revised scheduling, especially necessary if there is a long distance involved and travel plans are booked well in advance.  We'll review and discuss projected date(s) in the schedule, review how much time it will take each task based on experience level of the homeowner, review the sequencing of log home construction again and provide work-with and work-around options to keep the project on schedule.

The one dimensional floorplans look great on paper, but once the log home starts to go up we have the advantage of seeing your design in 3-D.  We're continuously evaluating the build to identify potential areas where the planned design can be improved for better function, identifying potential cost savings or head off potential design conflicts.  We believe it's our responsibility to communicate our thoughts, but it also allows the homeowner the option to make important choices.  

In fact, very few projects are completed without some degree of change.  

Often we'll communicate our findings through email with photos and/or video and provide potential options, followed by a phone conversation to discuss.

There's nothing more effective than face-to-face communication, but if you live 2,500 miles away (like our current client who lives on the west coast) that's not possible, so the phone call (or Skype video call) is the next best choice but can be enhanced when accompanied by photos and/or video that illustrate the topics.  We discuss how often to have scheduled conference calls accompanied by an agenda listing the discussion topics so the calls are an effective use of everyone's time.

Financial tracking tools are essential to keep the homeowner informed of cost-to-budget for the project.  If there's a financial institution and title company involved, coordinating draws, waivers and project cost reporting, sharing that information with the homeowner is vital.  Therefore, we provide our clients a cost t

racking spreadsheet with all the financial data involving their project.  It's typically sent on a predetermined intervals or at the time of each draw.  As an alternative, we've used secured sharing programs such as

Google Docs



so the homeowner can access their financial information in real time.  We also review the costs-to-budget and  cost projections at the time of each draw request.  

So these are some of the ways we do it.  We hope this provides you some insight about the importance of effective communication between you and your builder.  Based on the feedback from our clients, they love it.

The Take Away:

 Before you sign the contract with your builder make sure you have a written project schedule, an agreement about which areas of the build you'll do yourself, discussion about the scope (overview) of your project and have agreed upon  communication plan.  

By The Leelanau Log Home Company 

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Proactive Log Home Maintenance Checklist

Proactive log home maintenance is essential to battle the adverse effects of Mother Nature.  By creating your own maintenance checklist you can help

avoid c

ostly repairs and keep your log home looking beautiful for generations to come. 

We've outlined a variety of key points that can be a part of any log home maintenance program. 

Maintenance Checklist:

  1. Conduct an inspection of your log home exterior 2-3 times per year.

  2. Create a record of your maintenance activities. Include the date and findings of inspections, record the type of maintenance work done and the location or area of the home, note areas of potential concern and document the overall condition of the stain finish of each side or area of the home.

  3. Take photos or video for reference, especially those areas that are of concern or might need re-coating more frequently.

  4. Keep a record of the finish stain brand, date of application, contractor info, stain color, costs, caulk color/brand and other products that you use on your log home.

  5. Inspect the logs for checks that face towards the sky or any check that tends to hold water. A great time to inspect your logs is after a good rain. Fill those checks with a quality high performance caulk specifically made for log homes. For large (wide and deep) checks use a backer rod then apply the caulk.

  6. Closely inspect log butt joints, corners (inside and outside) and between log courses. Make sure any voids or gaps are caulked. Check existing caulk and inspect for loss of adhesion and re-caulk as necessary. Pay special attention to the corners of your log home that are prone to water leaks and the potential for rot damage can occur. Make sure all voids and joints around the circumference of each log is caulked.

  7. If you log home has chinking, inspect for cracking or loss of adhesion and re-chink as necessary.

  8. Check window and doors by inspecting the flashing above and sill below (if you have a wood sill) to insure that it's secure and caulked properly. Also check the caulk around the window and door trim and re-caulk as necessary.

  9. Inspect the joint(s) between the log siding and full logs such as on gables ends or the log siding covering the bond. Caulk by filling any gaps.

  10. Check the logs on the side walls of dormers and make sure they do not contact the roof shingles. The logs should be above the roof line (shingles) so water can run past without touching. Check to make sure debris such as twigs or leaves are not collecting in this area that can wick moisture up into the log ends.

  11. If you have an underground water sprinkler system, make sure water is not being sprayed on your log walls.

  12. Check log penetrations where pipes, vents, electrical outlets, fixtures, etc. have been drilled through the logs. Look for gaps and caulk closed.

  13. Check gutters and downspouts for water leaks when it rains. If you find leaks, repair them immediately. Keep gutters and downspouts clean and free from debris, so overflow doesn't occur which can spill water onto your log walls or create splash-up. Make sure water from downspouts is moving water away from your log home and no splash up is occurring.

  14. Inspect logs closely. Look for discolored logs which could be a sign of finish stain failure or mold growth. Use cleaning solution recommended by the stain manufacturer to remove mold or mildew growth and follow the directions exactly. Also look for cracks or peeling of the stain finish which is a sign of finish stain failure.

  15. Look for signs of insect damage which can be small holes with wood powder near them. If you find them, there are several chemical and organic treatments on the market.

  16. Clean your logs a couple of times per year using the stain manufactures recommend cleaning solution and follow the manufacture directions exactly (note: re-read the stain manufacturers warranty). Some areas of your log home will require more frequent cleaning, such as near foundations, porches or decks, dormers or anywhere back splash may occur.

  17. Keep plantings, shrubs and trees away from your logs (at least 24 inches) that could potentially introduce insects and moisture to the logs.

  18. Keep a close eye on the first couple of log rows which are the most vulnerable to water splash-up and subsequent rot and/or mold/mildew.

  19. Evaluate how well your finish is holding up to the UV (ultra violet light) exposure. Compare the sides of your home that have the most sun exposure to the ones that don’t. UV degrades the finishes ability to protect your logs. The sides of your log home that receive the most UV will fade more quickly and will need to be re-coated more often.

  20. Based on your conditions you may have to apply a maintenance coat (several brands offer a clear finish that can be applied over your existing stain to extend the life of the finish, check with your original stain brand for product availability) every 3-7 years depending on the condition. However, if you've been diligent with a proactive maintenance program you may even extend that period of time. The key is to apply a maintenance coat before it actually needs it. How do you know when it’s time? When water droplets no longer bead-up, it’s time. Always use the same finish stain product as the initial application, follow the manufactures instructions and warranty guidelines and hire an experience applicator.

We hope you found these maintenance tips helpful.  If you have any questions regarding log home maintenance feel free to contact us.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Log Home Construction Basics: Definitions of shell-in and turn-key construction

These terms are commonly used in log home construction and refer to how complete the builder will construct the home.  And because each term can have different meanings to different individuals, its wise when speaking with a builder to ask them for their definition, because you know what happens when you assume.  Here's our definition:

  • Shell-in or construct the weather tight shell refers to the builder constructing the subfloor, log walls, install the windows/doors, interior rough framing and roof system through the shingles/metal roof on the foundation.

  • Turn-keyor turn-key construction project refers to the builder constructing the log home based on your specifications and ready for you to move in.

The Take Away:  Which ever path you choose to construct your dream log home make sure the builder of record provides you (in writing) the details explaining the construction of your home.  Because you know what happens when you assume!

By The Leelanau Log Home Company 

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

How long does it take to build a log home?

There's no golden rule, but typically it takes approximately 6-10 months to build a custom log home.  

As they say, the devil is in the details and because each log home build is unique there are variables that can impact that question of time.  Some of those are, how well the homeowner and dealer/builder have done the preliminary planning, the size of the home, type of log home building system, complexity of design,  size of the building crew, level of communication between the builder and homeowner, weather, timeliness of sub-contractors, etc.

So let’s break it down and review some of the key milestones and how long they may take in the building process.

The assumption is that your land is cleared and ready for the excavation of the foundation and your log home package has a scheduled delivery date.   

  • Permits, final site prep, excavation, footings/foundation, subfloor: Allow up to 3-4 weeks.

  • Constructing the weather tight shell: Allow 2-3 months depending on the size and complexity of the log home.

  • Completing the mechanical's (plumbing, HVAC, electrical) and rough-in inspections: Allow 4-6 weeks depending on the sub-contractor schedules.

  • Install insulation, inspections and miscellaneous prep for finish wall coverings: Allow 1-2 weeks.

  • Interior wall covering, interior trim carpentry, cabinetry: Allow 4-8 weeks

  • Interior and exterior paint and stain: 2-4 weeks

  • Mechanical final, tile work and finished floor prep: 2-3 weeks

  • flooring, hardware, trim final: 4-6 weeks

  • Inspections, clean-up: 2 weeks

  • Move-in!

By The Leelanau Log Home Company

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Websites for the log home shopper

The Internet has certainly changed the way we shop for products and services.   A simple Google search can produce an endless plethora of information on almost any topic.  But when researching a product or service, the goal isn't the quantity of information, but the quality, meaning trusted, accurate and relevant to your topic. 

To that end, there are five websites (that we often recommend to our clients) dedicated to everything log home.  These sites are excellent information sources that provide log home shoppers places to do their research and expand their knowledge. 

1.  Log Homes Council:   The Log Homes Council is a part of the National Association of Home Builders.  This national organization is made up of log home manufacturers from across the country.  This website is packed with information, from technical research found in the Library tab to an excellent Buyers guide.  To learn more go to:

2. is the online home for Log Home Living and Country's Best Cabins magazines.  This site has floorplans from various manufacturers, articles, tons of photos, planning and budgeting resources, dealers and builders listings, etc.  To learn more go to:

3.  Log Home Directory Sites: These three websites are excellent resources to find listings of log home manufacturers, dealers or builders in your area.  In addition, you'll also find floorplans, and log home related products and services listings, etc.


If you have a favorite log home website(s) please share them with us.

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC