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