The nuts and bolts of kitchen cabinets

Selecting kitchen cabinets for your new log home is an "exciting...big" decision.  It maybe the most important room in the house and with so many choices out there we wanted to arm you with some basic knowledge before you start shopping.

Traditionally kitchen cabinet manufacturers offer different product lines and quality levels.  Meaning they may offer stock, stock-plus (semi-custom) and/or custom lines of cabinets.  Now on top of that you'll have a host of options and upgrades (and price points) to choose from that you can add to your kitchen package based on a product line.  

Stock cabinets:  Just as the name suggests, the manufacturer pre-builds specific sizes and styles with a very limited list of options to choose from (i.e.: wood species, colors, hardware, etc.).  Stock units streamline and lower manufacturing costs which is reflected in the price and one of the benefits is product availablity.

Stock-plus cabinets or semi-custom: In order to bridge the gap between stock and custom, many manufacturers offer a stock cabinet, but allow you to customize them with a wide range of optional features, upgrades and sizes.  When ordering these cabinets expect a 4-6 week wait for delivery.

Custom cabinets:  Are unlimited in size and design because they're custom designed to your specifications and budget.  Make sure you ask the cabinet maker how long will it take to custom build your cabinets.

Now let's talk about the cabinet box design itself.  There are two distinct styles of kitchen cabinets, framed and frameless.

Framed:  Are cabinets that have rails and stiles that make up the face frame around the cabinet door opening.

Frameless:  A more modern style of cabinet, the door covers the entire cabinet opening, offering wider drawers and cabinets openings, hence more accessible storage room.

Construction Materials:  The construction of the cabinet box is an important factor when choosing your kitchen package.  Here's where, "you get what you pay for" factors in.  Typically a less expensive cabinet box is made from MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or particle board with a laminated surface.  Higher quality cabinet boxes are made from furniture grade plywood or solid wood.  No matter what you select, make sure the cabinet box has a closed back for greater stability and strength.  

Higher quality drawers and cabinet fronts/doors will be made from solid wood in a variety of species and styles and lesser quality maybe made from laminate MDF.

Box and Drawer Construction Methods: When shopping for cabinets check to see how the cabinet boxes are constructed, meaning the joinery. Lesser quality cabinets might be glued and stapled together with plastic bracing. Higher quality boxes might have dadoes that are glued using screws/nails with wood or metal corner bracing.
The type of drawer joinery is also a sign of quality. Lesser quality drawer construction will be pieces butt together and fastened with glue, staples or in some cases snap together. Higher quality drawers are made from solid wood or furniture grade plywood and typically use strong joinery such as dovetails with glue or to a lesser degree use dadoes with glue and nails to hold them together.

Quality vs. performance: How you'll use your kitchen should impact your quality level choices. For example: If your kitchen is going to get a workout, say with a large family then you'll want to pay attention to stronger materials and joinery methods. Also look closely at the cabinet door hinge and drawer slide options. You'll have performance choices here with different price points. If you shop smart, you can find a quality cabinet that is well made at reasonable prices.

Budgeting: When developing your materials budget for your kitchen package you'll have three primary areas: Cabinets, counter tops and appliances. Budget 50% for the cabinets, 20-25% for appliances and 25-30% for counter tops.

Things to consider:
  • define your vision of your new kitchen and put it on paper. 
  • take a closer look at your current kitchen, what do you like and what would you change? 
  • what changes in your lifestyle do you expect once you move into your new log home? More entertaining perhaps? If so, incorporate those lifestyle changes into your design. 
  • a kitchen package is a big investment, so shop and compare quality versus price choices based on your needs. 
  • make sure you bring your floorplan with you when kitchen shopping. 
  • be prepared to define either through words or photos the kind of kitchen package/design you're looking for. 
  • checkout cabinet manufacturers online before you start shopping. A little homework before you grab your coat will be well worth your investment in time. 
  • make sure you consult with your builder about your choices. He or she will definitely have an opinion, so factor that into your decision making process. 
We hope this article helps educate you just a little about the "nuts and bolts" of kitchen cabinets. Happy shopping!

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC 

Log Home Cost Metrics: The Pros & Cons

There are two commonly used metrics in log home industry that help folks get an idea of potential costs.  These tools are helpful early in the preliminary planning process "ballparking" potential costs, but only if you understand the limitations of these metrics.   Here are the pros and cons...

1.  Cost per living square foot:  Widely used  in the construction biz and commonly used in conventional construction.  It's a simple calculation that typically factors in the living square foot of the home times a square foot price to determine total cost per square foot.  The multiplier is the cost per sq. ft. which is estimated based on a wide variety of variables such as quality of finish materials, local labor rates, similar size homes, etc.  Example:  1,500 square foot home x $175.00 per square foot = $262,500.  

Pros:  This is a good metric to use for the big picture cost potential and provides a ballpark idea of the cost.  Typically used very early in the log home education process.  

Cons:  Limiting because typically only factors in living space, not construction sq. ft.  Many times it doesn't include decks, porches, garages, dormers or other non-living sq. ft. features.  It may also not factor in the complexity of the structure (number of corners, roof planes, etc), quality and completeness of the log home package, quality of construction, quality level of finishes, scope of your project, etc.

2.  Cost X the log home package price. Commonly used in the log home industry to calculate the total cost to build a log home, take the log or timber frame package price times the multiplier to give you the cost.  Example:  If the log home package cost $100,000 times the multiplier which is typically 3-4 times equals the total cost range from $300,000 to $400,000 (more or less).  Again, it comes back to defining the multiplier which can be based on quality level of finish, labor rates, similar homes, etc.

Pros:  Simple to calculate and understand. Typically used very early in the log home education process. 

Cons:  Only gets you close if you can determine a realistic "multiplier".  Factors that influence the multiplier can be quality level of finish, quality of materials used, amenities or upgrades from standard, etc. An experienced and knowledgeable log home dealer/builder will be able to help you determine your cost  multiplier.  

The Take Away...

The bottom-line…these calculating tools are great for "ballparking" potential cost and really nothing more.  Because each log home is unique, getting a realistic cost number can only be done by taking the next step...meeting with a log home dealer and/or builder of choice and going through the preliminary planing process.    An experienced and knowledgeable dealer and/or builder will be skilled at guiding you through this process to help you develop your design, related building cost and budget.  

If done well this can be a fun, exciting and educational experience and only through this process can you get the answer to your question...”how much does it cost?”.  

The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC 

Drywall adds flair and function to your log home

For most log home lovers, even the purist, there can be such a thing as too much wood. From wood walls to wood ceilings, wood trim, log accents, cabinets, floors...somewhere wood needs a break.  In fact, because wood tends to absorbs light, all that wood can create a dark space potentially requiring additional windows or lighting.  

That's where drywall can add contrast, colorful flair and brighten a room.  This conventional wall covering is the perfect pallet to add color plus accent or enhance all the wood features of your log home.  

By strategically selecting which interior walls to be drywall you can create that perfect living space without compromising your log home look and feel, even if you're a purist.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Tips for shopping at a log home show

Log home shows are a great way to shop for a log home package and meet your potential local dealer in person.  Typically almost everything you’ll need is under one roof.  But not all shopping experiences are created equal.  If you do some homework before you attend you can save valuable time and money and lets face it comparison shopping can be frustrating.  I’ve outlined a few suggested tips that can help make your visit to a log home show a fun an informative experience. 

  1. Do some homework:  Find out what log home companies are participating in the show.  If the show is advertised as a “log home and/or timber frame show” it’s a good bet all the major players in the industry will be there. 
  2. Beginning shoppers:  If you are just getting started please do yourself a big favor and do some preliminary research of products and services before you attend.  This can be done using the internet.  Be an educated consumer so your purchase decision is based on facts plus your needs and budget.  From your research develop a list of comparisons based on the things that are important to you.  Some examples might be availability of wood species, log profile, log size, warranty, dealer network, member of the Log Home Council (, dealer representative services, package content and costs, etc.
  3. Educated shoppers:  Make a game plan.  Outline which company’s you want to speak with, have your questions ready and go for it.
  4. Talk to a dealer representative:  Each booth will have local or regional dealers that represent the company so it’s a good chance to meet the individual who maybe selling you the log home package.  Keep in mind, you’re not only comparing log home company’s your also evaluating the local dealer representative.  It’s important that you have a good rapport.  Don’t be shy… ask tough questions (don’t forget to bring your notes).
  5. Call ahead:  Call the local dealer representatives and speak with them before you attend.  Tell them you’ll be at the show and would like to meet them to discuss your log home project.  It’s a good way to jump start the relationship.
  6. Notes:  Bring your notes, written questions and pen and paper.  If you don’t take notes all the information will begin to run together.
  7. Attend the free seminars:  Some of the log home company’s will conduct free seminars.  Attend them.  There’s plenty of good information and often a Q&A session.  Remember to take notes.
  8. Bring your floorplan:  If you already have a floorplan, bring it with you, along with some copies and ask for a log home package quote.
  9. Make a game plan:  Most shows are two to three days.  Consider attending more than one day so you can spend quality time getting to know your local dealer, ask detailed questions and learn more about their products and services.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the experience!
By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Planning for retirement

Many of us who are considering purchasing or building a log home in the coming years typically do so with one thought in mind, “retiring to my dream log home”.  So it’s a good idea to start planning with the issues that come with getting older.  

For many of us aging is something we try to ignore, but aging issues should be addressed when planning for your future needs.  If you plan to grow old in this new home then careful and well thought out planning will make your life much easier in your senior years.  Here are some simple tips to follow:

Building design:  Give serious consideration to building a single level home, eliminate stairs and make hallways at least four feet wide for wheelchair accessibility.  If a two-story home is required now, design the master bedroom on the first floor.  If you can design your home with limited hallways all the better.  Choose wider doors that are wheelchair accessible.  Eliminate or reduce floor level changes and if you do plan any make sure a change in floor covering in this area to assist when failing eyesight becomes an issue.

Lighting: Provide more light than you think you need right now.  Place windows strategically to maximize natural light.  Have hardwired nightlights installed and make sure there are sufficient lighting at all exterior entries.

Emergencies:  Consider installing a back-up generator for power outages.  Plan for a security system.  Does your area that you plan to build have adequate emergency services…fire, ambulance, police.  What is the proximity to the local hospital?

Maintenance:  Single story homes are easier and less costly to maintain than two story homes.  Make sure your home has maintenance free exterior clad windows.  Consider composite decking materials that reduce maintenance.  

ADA Compliance:  Plan the whole home with ADA features in mind.  Seek advice in this area.

Accessibility:  Keep the structure closer to the ground (check local building codes), limit the number of stairs and either build or make a provision in the design for future approach ramps that are wheelchair accessible.

A log home is one of the most peaceful and attractive types of housing on the market today.  The Leelanau Log Home Company can work with you to ensure your log home will be easier to care for and enjoy in your later years.  Contact us to learn more.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC 

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Lighting your log home

Lighting can influence how you feel and create the atmosphere you envisioned when designing your log home.  Lets review some lighting basics to help you get started.


  When developing your lighting plan, the experts suggest incorporating three lighting types in your plan which is determined by function and fashion.

  • General: Also known as ambient lighting. Provides the area with overall lighting and creates sufficient brightness in any room.

  • Task: A direct light that can be focused on a specific area. This type of lighting usually directs a light source down to the specific task area. Used in kitchens for cooking, home offices for reading, etc.

  • Accent: Used to accent a specific item or used to highlight a decorative feature of your home, like the fireplace mantel, log or timber features, etc. Also used in landscaping as well.

Log Home Lighting Challenges:  

Log homes offer some unique challenges when compared with conventional homes.

  • Large great rooms with seating/furniture in the center of the room create the need for floor outlets for general or even task lighting.

  • Some interior log wall surfaces can make wall mounting fixtures challenging.

  • It’s often difficult to place concealed lighting in a log home.

  • Wood tends to absorb light rather than reflect it. The correct lighting in combination with window location and the use of drywall for interior walls can help make the room appear lighter.

Make A Plan:

  Developing a lighting plan during the design stage is a smart idea.  A preliminary lighting plan will allow your general contractor/builder to provide you an estimate for your preliminary electrical plan for budgeting purposes so you can avoid cost overruns at the budgeting stage.  H

ere are some things to consider when developing your lighting plan:

  • You’ll need to determine the use and what type of activities will occur for each room.

  • What is the atmosphere and/or style of décor do you wish to create for each room?

  • Determine how much natural light will each room receive?

  • Factor in the amount of natural light in combination with the window and door location affect your lighting choices?

  • How will furniture and your choice of décor affect your lighting choices?

  • It’s also a good idea to list outlets and mark them on your blueprints.

  • Review the lighting in your current home. What works and what doesn’t work?

  • Also consider energy efficiency when determining your lighting needs. Effective use of fluorescent or low-voltage bulbs and incorporating dimmers can help. Consult a local lighting professional and electrician for assistance.

Start Your Lighting Education Here:


 which is an excellent lighting resource.  

Ask your log home builder/dealer and electrician to assist you in developing your lighting plan or seek a certified lighting consultant at a local lighting showroom for assistance.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC 

Copyright 2011 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Are solid or full log homes energy efficient?

With home energy costs on the rise and energy efficiency changes in the building codes one of the most frequently asked questions, “Are full log homes energy efficient?”  

The simple answer is yes.  Most folks know the term R-value, which is used for conventional framed housing, but I bet you didn't know that full log homes are measured by their thermal mass.  Here are the two terms defined.


  Measures a materials resistance to the transfer of heat from one side to another. 

Thermal Mass:

  A materials capacity to absorb, retain and slowly release heat over time.

Logs have a relatively low resistance to heat transfer, but they do posses the ability to absorb and retain heat in there cellular structure.

In the 90’s the Log Home Council of the National Association of Home Builders was able to define two things.  First, logs have a thermal mass because of their cellular structure, bulk and thickness.  Second, thermal mass offers significant energy saving benefits because it releases heat back into the home when the temperature drops.

The first study focused on heat loss through the log wall compared to a stick framed wall.  The finding was that energy leakage occurred in the same places as a stick framed home, around window and door frames, at the peak of the cathedral ceiling and at the top of walls.  The conclusion that leakage was not due to the log walls.  The second study concluded that the thermal mass of the log wall does significantly reduce energy use for hearting in cold climates.

As a result, the Nation’s Model Energy Code recognized the energy conservation benefits of thermal mass.  This recognition was the goal of the Log Homes Council, a part of the Building Systems Councils of the National Association of Home Builders. 

This summary of the study was interpreted by The Leelanau Log Home Company.  To learn more read the study by the NAHB Log Homes Council:

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2012 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Healthy Log Home: Controlling humidity

Take the humidity test:
  • Do you wake up parched, dry nose or itchy eyes?
  • Are the hardwood floors in your new log home creaking like an old ship?
  • Does static electricity make loved ones and pets cringe at the touch?
If your answer is “YES” to any or all of the above you and your home could be suffering from lack of moisture in the air.  The measurement is called “Relative Humidity” which is defined as the ratio of the water vapor density (mass per unit volume) to the saturation water vapor density, usually expressed in percent.  

Too much can encourage mold growth, dust mites and place condensation on cold windows. And too little can create potential respiratory problems, damage to the home (remember you log home is made mostly of wood!) and furniture, plus the annoying items listed above.  Both extremes can be potentially bad for humans and your log homes performance.  I bet you didn't know that dry air can also be expensive…by adding water vapor to your home you can also reduce your heating bills.  Increasing the relative humidity by 10% is roughly the equivalent of raising the room temperature by one degree.   

Years ago folks would boil a kettle of water on the wood stove, which was not very effective.  Today’s log home is typically much larger and using the kettle method is just totally inadequate.   The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor relative humidity between 35 to 50 percent.  The good news is there are several options to create and maintain the appropriate relative humidity in your log home. 

Here are some suggested guidelines to help you decide what’s best for you:

Increasing humidity: 

Portable humidifiers:  Simple to operate, easy to install, counter top size or free standing.  Prices range from $25-$150.  The main disadvantages are the small area they cover (you may have to purchase more than one), they can be noisy and a hassle to refill with water.  Select an evaporative unit, one that creates water droplets can emit bacteria or aid in mold growth.  Make sure you check the humidifier output to insure its sized right for your home.

Whole house systems:  By far the best way to go is to have it installed by your HVAC contractor at the time of construction (you can also add it later).    Costs can range from $400-$1000.  The main advantage is they connect to your central water supply and you can control the level or percent of humidity.  They still require maintenance and should be checked periodically like other appliances in your home. 

Reducing humidity: 

Portable dehumidifiers:  Inexpensive and simple to operate, but noisy, only affect a small area and a hassle to empty the water.  Prices range from $100 to $400.  A portable dehumidifier is best used in conjunction with your air conditioning system.

Air conditioning:  Many folks think that by installing a whole house air conditioning system will control the level of humidity in the home.  By lowering the actual air temperature in your home can actually increase relative humidity and reduces the temperature of the materials in the structure which increases the risk for condensation.  If you attempt to control humidity by reducing the temperature you’ll accomplish only having a very cold living space, jack-up your energy costs and put excessive wear on your cooling system. 

Whole house dehumidifier system:  These systems are designed to remove moisture from your home.  Depending where you live, this may be a sound choice.  A whole house dehumidifier senses the level of humidity in your home and maintains that ideal level.  Better systems work in conjunction with your air conditioning system.  Check with your HVAC contractor for prices.  By maintaining the right level of humidity in your home using these systems you’ll be able to increase the temperature without sacrificing comfort, ease the wear on your cooling system and save energy costs       

Which ever systems you choose, always consult a HVAC professional for advice and costs. 
Think of controlling humidity as an investment in your home and your health.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC 

Copyright 2011 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Log Home and Construction Terms

Every industry has their own lingo and the log home and construction biz is certainly no exception.  Ever have this happen to're shopping and want to learn more about a product and the salesperson is using technical terms and you have no idea what he's talking about.  Very annoying!

When meeting with a log home dealer/builder to discuss your project a professional dealer/builder will be able to gauge your knowledge base and use terms that are easy for you to understand.  These experts are adept at explaining  complex and technical details with clarity and are focused on educating, not preaching.  It's a small point, but if you run into this it maybe a sign about future interactions and may identify their 

ability or inablity

to communicate with you effectively.

For a list of log home and construction terms, visit our website by clicking on this link below:


The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2011 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Is there a difference between a builder and general contractor?

The answer is yes!  Like many industries, construction terms and titles can have different meanings depending on the individual and can be toss about with the assumption that you know the meaning(s).  Here's how we define them.

The builder is typically the individual who will actually construct your home that may include  

setting the foundation, raising the 

log walls, framing, roofing, install windows and doors, trim carpentry, etc. 

The general contractor (a.k.a the G.C.) will act as the project manager who will prepare and present you the construction contract and schedules, execute the schedules, monitor quality, coordinate and communicate with the subcontractors (s

ubcontractor is hired typically by the G.C. to perform specific work such as drywall, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc.)

, prepare the paperwork for draws for the title company and bank, communicate progress and issues to the homeowner, etc.

For smaller companies the builder not only swings a hammer, but serves as the general contractor.  This individual wears many hats and is typically on the jobsite daily.

So before you sign the construction contract, make sure you know who's wearing which hat!

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Copyright 2011 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Log Home Preliminary Planning Basics: Needs vs. Wants

We're amazed how even the most educated log home buyer struggles  to articulate clearly their design ideas and vision for their log home.  Maybe it's the complexity and unknowns of building.  

Before you sit down with your log home dealer and/or builder, we recommend completing a “Needs and Wants” list based on your log home vision.  This exercise can be revealing and help get you started to define your new log home.  Think of it as an your living conditions now, what works, what doesn't and how will you design elements into your new home that fit your lifestyle needs more effectively and efficiently.  

The better prepared you are to share this vision in some detail, the better your dealer or builder will be able to serve your needs.  

Here are some tips to develop your Needs and Wish list.   

  1. It’s best if you can create two lists side-by-side in an Excel spreadsheet.  If you don’t want to use a computer, use two sheets of paper which will work just fine.

  2. Create 3 columns for your Needs and Wants list.  The first column is for the item, the second column is for notes or references and the third column is for a priority rating (keep it simple and use numbers such as a 1 through 5 scale).

  3. A Need should be defined as an element that you must have in your log home.  For example:  ranch design, hardwood floors in the great room, tile master shower, large deck, etc.  A Wish is an element you would like to have if the budget allows.  For example: granite counter tops or 3-car garage or additional bathroom or gourmet kitchen, etc.   

  4. If you already have a design in mind, start by listing needs and wants room by room.

  5. Often times when you are working with your list and learning more about costs, items will start moving from one list to another.  So keep an open mind.

  6. Use photos from log home magazines or the internet to help you communicate your ideas to the dealer and builder.  Start a file folder by room (i.e. great room, kitchen, etc.) to organize your ideas and photos.

  7. If you are 2-3 years away from building your log home, it’s a good idea to do this exercise now.  As you get closer and become more knowledgeable about costs, you’ll want to make adjustments to your lists.

Tip:  a good dealer and builder will review your lists with you and help you prioritize the items on the list based on your budget and design.  Then outline optional choices based on cost, type of material and quality of materials. 

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC 

Copyright 2011 Under the Influence of Wood Blog

Waterfront Foundations

Waterfront lots are prized for their value, recreational access and setting.  Because the foundation of any home is critically important, a home near water requires special consideration from you as the homeowner, your builder, local building department and the foundation contractor.

As the homeowner or builder, you should visit your local building department and gather any information about the sub-surface soils you are about to build on.  Your local building inspector, in most cases will have information about the soils and earth layer make-up of your water front lot.  Keep in mind this will be an educated guess based on historical data from other completed home sites. 

You may want to choose a foundation contractor who has experience on your particular lake or river.  They’ll also have the knowledge of soil conditions, remedies for high water tables and be able to offer additional solutions to keep your foundation performing for generations.  As the homeowner, you may want to contact your new neighbors and ask them about the performance of their basement/crawl space.  Do they have water problems, poor indoor air quality, foundation stability issues, etc.  Review their foundation depths and compared their responses.  Does your builder of choice have experience building on water front sites?  If not, do you really want to be his first?

The important thing to remember is to set your foundation floor at an elevation above any normal and high water tables in order to maintain a dry and healthy home environment.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Log Home Site Planning Basics: How to stakeout the location of your new log home

You've been walking your property for years pondering where put your log home.  After careful consideration during the site planning process, you've found the perfect spot.  If you’re smart, you will want to pinpoint (to within inches) exactly where your new home will permanently sit.  This is an exciting first step in the construction of your new log home, so lets get started.  Depending on the size and shape of your new home, you will want to purchase enough 4 foot stakes and string to lay out the perimeter of your house in full scale. Here are the materials and tools you'll need:
  • Stakes for all the outside corners of your home
  • Colored string
  • Hammer 
  • 100’ measuring tape
  • Scaled floor plan of your home
Let’s begin, first you’ll want to start with the exterior wall that has the primary view typically the great room wall and stake each side according to your floor plan.  The remaining walls will be measured and staked off this wall.  Next from one of the stakes your just installed, measure the next wall  dimension to the nearest inch according to your floor plans and plant a stake.  Try to keep them square as possible, you'll return to each stake to make sure they are aligned properly later.  Keep repeating this step until you've staked the entire perimeter of your home. 

Next you'll want to square up your stakes by measuring the primary four corners diagonally to assure your stakes are squared.  Check and recheck and adjust all the walls as necessary.  
Once the stakes are squared to within just a couple of inches per your floor plans, go around to each stake and drive them into the ground with the hammer at least 12 ".  Next take your color string and wrap it around each stake to outline the perimeter of your new log home.

Now you can actually walk through your future home in full scale and see what the views will look like from each room.  This is the critical point to evaluate your placement and re-stake if desired.  

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Log Home FAQ: Exterior Maintenance

How much Exterior Maintenance Is Required For A Log Home?

The amount of exterior maintenance will vary depending on the location and position of your home on the site. Typically you may have to reapply a stain coat every 3-7 years, but there are many variables at play such as UV exposure, quality of finish, quality of preparation and application, log moisture content, caulk job, etc. 

Areas of your home that receive longer periods of sunlight (UV exposure) will require re-coating more frequently. Typically a darker the stain color will last longer due to the dark pigment that protects against UV.  Plus t

here are new products on the market today that can extend the life of your stain. 

Your log home dealer and builder can recommend stain and caulk products, review how to  conduct routine maintenance inspections, suggest tips how to extend the life of your exterior stain and review with you the importance of caulk.

The bottomline...maintaining your exterior finish on your log home is an ongoing process and protecting your investment by learning tips from the pro's is a wise decision.

Click on the link below and read this excellent white paper from the Log Home Council website:

Download a PDF about the maintenance of log structures.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

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:

  • 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.


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 

Fireplace & Stove Basics

Imagine…its January…blustery cold…you plop on the couch after a tough week at work...gazing through the window of your log home you can see kids ice skating on the frozen lake.  Totally relaxed now, you turn to the fireplace to add another log on the fire. 

For many, a similar Norman Rockwell like image is etched in their minds when they think of their dream log home.  The fireplace is often a center piece of any design and adds comfort and value to your investment.  

But today you have many choices, here are some basics to help you get started.

There's a wide selection of size, style, quality, price, efficiency, performance, etc. for a fireplace or stove from numerous manufactures.  To help you narrow your search, start by asking yourself these questions to help you determine what’s best for you.
  1. How often do you plan to use the fireplace or stove?  As a heat source (alternative/primary) or just have an occasional fire for ambience?
  2. What type of fuel do you plan to burn, hardwood, pellets, corn, coal or gas?  What are the availability, access and cost of your fuel of choice?
  3. Is efficiency or environmental concerns important to you?
  4. What level of priority is a fireplace or stove on your “wish list” and how much can you allocate to this item in the budget?
Fireplace Options:
The traditional masonry fireplace or firebox which is typically made of brick/stone and mortar and requires substantial structural support to carry the weight.  If this is your choice you’ll need to plan ahead and design in footing and foundation support at the preliminary design stage.  A traditional fireplace is very inefficient, around 10%.  You’ll also have an option to install a fireplace insert to improve efficiency.
The most popular option today is to install an engineered (also known as pre-fabricated or zero-clearance) fireplace unit with a double wall stainless steel chimney pipe inside a framed wall with culture stone veneer.  This option, you get the look of real stone, but with the choice for higher efficiency than a traditional fireplace.  Many manufactures offer outside air intakes and fan blowers to push heated air into the room.  There are typically three grades of fireplaces in this class, builder grade, heater grade, furnace grade.  The later can be EPA certified, offer insulated fireboxes, heat exchangers, upgraded doors for improve efficiency and offer higher quality of construction.
Masonry heaters (a.k.a.: Russian Stove, Finnish Fireplace, Soapstone Fireplace) are common in Europe and are a becoming a popular option in the USA (this will also require planning at the preliminary plan stage for structural support in the foundation).  They are designed to burn a hot fire where the exhaust flows through a series of baffles which allows the masonry thermo mass to slowly absorb the heat energy and release it back into the space.  These units are very clean burning, emit little smoke and very efficient up to 90%.  Masonry heaters can be custom built or you can purchase manufactured units of all sizes.  If you want to heat efficiently with wood and have the budget, this maybe a choice for you.

Stove Options:
Typically less expensive than a fireplace this is a cost effective way to add heat to your home as a primary or secondary heat source.    There is a wide selection of stoves on the market that burn a variety of fuel such as wood, corn, coal, gas, wood pellets, cherry pits and more.  Typically the stove is placed on tile or stone over a fire retardant underlayment.  Some pellet or gas stoves are near zero clearance and can be placed close to a wall with direct horizontal venting through the wall.  Efficiency varies by stove, but expect up to 60%.

No matter what system you choose, we recommend you consult with a fireplace professional to explain more about the products, performance and costs so you can determine which fireplace or stove that’s right for you.   Your builder can often supply you with names of local fireplace stores that can assist you.  We always recommend that you have your fireplace, stove, masonry heater built or installed by a professional. 

TIP:  If you plan to burn daily as a primary heat source, you’ll want to review with your builder of record and/or HVAC contractor about maintaining the correct relative humidity level in your log home.  

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Log Home Site Planning Basics: Determining the foundation elevation

Have you ever seen a house that sits low in the ground?  It looks like it's sinking and you have to wonder if there are water issues in the basement. 

Part of developing the site plan involves determining the depth of the foundation wall footings in relation to the foundation wall height, terrain, water table level and the final grade.  It's basically a balancing act that factors these elements to get it just right.  Before we dig the hole, we’ll spend a significant amount of time at the building site doing all these calculations to determine the optimal footing depth for the foundation wall.  It’s so crucial to the appearance, performance and overall health of the home.  Since many log homes are built near water or on uneven terrain or both, this challenge becomes even more important when preparing the site plan.  

There are three key areas that we factor when setting the footing depth: 

  • Appearance of the log home with 18-24” of foundation wall showing at final grade.

  • Site water table and if there are hydro-static water pressure issues.

  • Site terrain and final grade on all four sides of the home (water runoff and drainage).

Here are some steps we typically take when working with the foundation contractor.

To determine the water table depth on the building site, we’ll test dig 1-4 holes at least the depth of your basement or crawl space floor and 1-2 holes at least 1-2 feet deeper than the basement or crawl space floor.  Let them sit for 24-48 hours and check them to see if water is in the hole(s), that tells us the water table level.  We’ll measure from the water level to the top of grade to help us calculate footing depth in relation to the foundation wall height and factoring the grade and 18-24” of foundation wall show.  This test also will give us a good idea of the seasonal high water mark based on the time of year of the test. 

Next we’ll meet with the foundation contractor on site prior to the scheduled excavation date to review the overall game plan for site clearing, excavation, location of topsoil pile, seek his opinion on the test hole results, discuss if additional fill sand maybe required and review the our estimated footing depth measurements.

On excavation day we’re there as they dig the foundation hole.  Once the hole is dug for the footings at our pre-determined depth we’ll evaluate the soil conditions (sand is good, clay is bad) and check for water issues if any and if necessary make adjustments to the footing depth.

If there is water or a potential for water issues, we’ll take the necessary steps to insure the foundation will perform properly.  Typically we’ll spec perimeter drain tile around the outside of the foundation at the footings, plus drain tile inside the foundation draining into a sump crock with pump.  We may also spec 6” of pea stone fill inside the foundation under the slab floor which effectively dissipates the hydro-static pressure.  In addition, we may upgrade the foundation wall coating to waterproofing or membrane barriers if there a significant risk of excessive hydro-static water pressure issues.  These steps are inexpensive insurance and will help protect your investment from potential water issues.

Factoring the existing terrain we'll make sure the grade is away from the foundation and we achieve 18-24" of foundation showing with the final grade on all four sides of the home.  This may require additional fill.

Because each new home is unique and presents its own challenges not every foundation site plan will be the same.  We hope this gives you some insight into the many factors used to avoid that sinking log home look. 

By The Leelanau Log Home Company

Log Home Site Planning Basics: General

Determining the placement of your new log home on your property is not a casual exercise.  It can be as simple as fitting a rectangle house on a square lot to as complex as finding the best location on 100 acres.  The key in any scenario is to carefully evaluate all the factors that go into developing your site plan so your new home functions well within its surroundings .  Here are some of the key elements you should consider for your site plan:
  •          View and view angles
  •          Summer and winter solar angles
  •       If you already have a design, window locations
  •          Driveway approach
  •       Relation to other buildings, i.e. detach garages, pole barns, etc.
  •          Seasonal wind direction from the North and West
  •          Privacy from roads and neighbors
  •          Zoning setbacks
  •          Utility access and connection paths
  •       Potential drainfield constraints
  •          Determine which trees you’ll keep for aesthetics and/or for shade
  •          Soil conditions
  •          Natural terrain
  •          Drainage

Typically your log home dealer and/or builder offer this service and will work with you to evaluate all the elements that are specific to your project and assist you in developing your site plan.

Keep in mind that site planning can take an enormous amount of time, forethought and vision.  But the time invested to get it right will be realized every time you pull into the driveway. 

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC

Log Home Construction Basics: Should your builder of choice be local to your project…does geography really matter?

Well that answer is a matter of opinion, but we think it does.  Yes, there are excellent log home builders and general contractors that do travel long distances.  However, we've outlined some distinct benefits to consider by choosing a local log home builder or general contractor (GC). 
  1. A local builder/GC is typically on the job-site daily and can answer questions, has the knowledge of the project to make changes, etc.
  2. A local builder/GC will have the knowledge of quality subcontractors in the area, such as plumbers, electricians, foundation companies, etc.
  3. A local builder/GC will have the knowledge of local sources for products and materials for your project.  Potentially savings to you $$$ with lower transportation costs.
  4. A local builder/GC is already home.  Therefore they aren’t charging you for travel, lodging and meal expenses whether it’s a line item in there proposal or included in their labor fees.
  5. A local builder/GC will have knowledge of building code requirements for that specific state and/or county of your project.
  6. An established local builder/GC will have local projects that you can visit, speak with the owners about their experience and see for yourself the quality level of craftsmanship.
  7. Reputation matters, today more than ever.  An established local builder/GC understands that his livelihood depends on the outcome of any project big or small.
  8. An important aspect that many homeowners overlook is the builder/GC warranty.  Typically warranties range from 12-18 months from the date on the occupancy permit with a couple of routine service intervals during that warranty period.  But what if there’s an emergency issue(s) that needs immediate action?
  9. Staying close to the project timetable is critical for you and your lender.  If the builder/GC of choice has more than one project in progress what impact does that play for your project if there are delays from weather, materials shortages, etc.
  10. Supporting your new community by contracting with a local builder is always a good thing.

The bottom line, it’s your home and whom you choose is ultimately up to you.  We hope you find these considerations helpful.

By The Leelanau Log Home Company LLC: