Log Home Design Basics: Smart design on a tight budget


1.  Design and Engineering:
We recommend that when shopping for a log home company, they offer in-house drafting,    design and engineering services.  These important services offer you assurance that all the components of your log home will work properly together reducing the risk of structural issues down the road.  Think of your custom log home as a “system”, with all those parts working in concert together.  Expert design and engineering, combined with a builder that is skilled in log home construction will result in a quality built custom home that will be free of issues.

2.  Square Feet: 
Determining the overall size of your log home can be a challenging task.  Our advice is design room by room using your current home as a guide.  Here are some things to think about:
  • Rooms...how many bedrooms do you need now, plus how many in the future?  What size works with your furniture, are you planning on downsizing for this new home?
  • Too many hallways?  Hallways can waste space and take up room in your design that could be living space.  Are there ways to change the design to increase living space while allowing easy access to rooms?
  • Traffic flow.  There are simple rules of thumb when looking at the flow in your new log home design.  Entry ways, landings or hallways ideally should be at least 4 feet wide. Walking pathways through rooms should be at least 3 feet and have multiple access points.
  • Schedule with your log home dealer of choice to visit their model home, current projects for finished log homes to get an idea of room sizes and scale.  This will be a valuable experience for you and help you make the right choices for room dimensions.
  • Smaller maybe smarter?  The trend is to build smaller and use the space more efficiently and really invest those hard earned dollars towards upgrades such as elaborate fireplaces, flat screen TVs, custom built-ins and woodwork, high end cabinets, flooring, etc.
  • Don’t go it alone.  Work with your dealer or builder to help you with your design.  They can offer you options that you may not be aware of, while keeping your budget in mind.

3.  Shape of the log home:
Log homes are labor intensive which is one of the factors that affect the higher labor rates than a conventional stick-built home.  The shape of your home will impact the shell-in labor cost, which means the more complicated the design, i.e. the more inside and outside corners, built-up roof systems, multiple roof pitches that a home has the more it will cost to build.  The key here is to work with your log home dealer or builder on the design so they can offer options to minimize corners or complicated designs that can affect cost for those on a tight budget.

4.  Style and size of the log:
For many the style and size of the log is tops on their needs list.  Did you know that the most common log profile is the “D-log” which industry insiders say accounts for 70-80% of all the log home packages sold in the USA.  Since the D-log is common, construction costs for that log profile will be less expensive.  The larger the log diameter, expect to pay increased labor costs for construction.  

5.  Go log siding:
Conventionally framed homes with half log siding are all the rage today.  This log home building system has big cost advantages (lower materials and labor costs) than the traditional full log system.  You get all the log home look and appeal at a lower cost.  In fact, the last two custom log homes that we've built have been stick-built with half log siding system.  Terrific value.

6.  Design down, not up or out:
For many the basement is that place for a workshop, storage and a place to put all the mechanical systems.  Why not consider designing living space in the basement from the start.  Here are some advantages:

  • The basement with living space offers you the lowest cost per square foot in the home.
  • You can reduce the size of the log home footprint and actually increase your total living square feet by utilizing the living space in the basement.
  • If your land offers the option for a walkout basement, you have lots of design opportunities to save big bucks.
  • This is a great way to stretch that investment dollar and give you the room that you need.

7.  Interior finishes selections:
Interior finish items and systems can account for approximately 60% of the total cost of your custom log home.  Being wise and s

8.  Sweat Equity:
The definition of this term is when you as the homeowner perform some or all of the construction yourself.  Many log home builders are flexible and will allow you to perform certain tasks or phases to save costs.  However, let me share a word of caution.  If you plan to do some of the work, you’ll need to make sure you have the time and skills to perform the work. Otherwise you could delay your log home project or run up costs.        

9.  Upgrade later:
Certain parts of your log home may be delayed or planned for the future as time or money or both present themselves.  You may consider opting for laminate kitchen counter tops versus granite, or finishing your walkout basement at a later date.

10.   Allow enough time for preliminary planning:
In this microwave get it done yesterday society, many folks don’t allow themselves enough time to do effective and through preliminary planning.  By that we mean, taking the time to discuss, evaluate and determine all the project specifics with the log home dealer and builder.  Typically from the site visit through the final preliminary floorplan and cost proposals it will take 3-4 months.  in between there are numerous conversations and meetings to create your game plan.

11.  Think efficiency, think Green:
Green building has many definitions today, but at the core of this movement is energy efficiency.  By thinking “Green” during your preliminary planning phase and incorporating the concept into your design can actually save you money during the life of the home by making smart choices.  Here are a few ways to save operating costs by thinking Green:

  • Position your home on your site to take advantage of passive solar gain that can save you big bucks on heating and cooling.  You’ll need to determine room and window placement within the home design.
  • Consider the square foot of each room.  Do you really need a 24’ x 20’ Great room?  Can the design incorporate the kitchen square foot with the Great room?  Remember, all that space needs to be heated and cooled.
  • Volume of the home does matter.  Just consider that if you increase the wall height from a standard 8’ to 12’ you’ll need to heat and cool an additional 25% more volume of air.  Consider only higher ceilings in areas that create the ambiance you are looking for, while keeping lower ceiling heights in areas such as bedrooms.
  • What type of insulation you use can make a big difference in your operating cost
  • Determine what type of heating and cooling system your budget will allow.  For example, conventional gas forced air systems are most common and are cost effective systems.  But consider this, if you upgrade to a geo-thermal system your intial investment will be 50-60% higher, but could pay for itself in 10 years.  Add ceiling fans in strategic locations with in the home and consider a zero-clearance fireplace with a blower to off-set your winter heating bills.
Smart design concepts can help you create an efficient and cost effective log home.  

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC