Smooth Sailing

by | Jul 9, 2021 | How-To, Planning

Many log home lovers spend years dreaming about how to build their perfect rustic retreat. While taking on an expensive and long-term construction project may seem daunting, careful research and planning in the beginning can eliminate headaches and lead to a happy ending. Here are eight tips for a smooth building process.

1. Do Your Research
The first and most important step to building your log home is to do careful research about everything from home mortgages and log producers to finding land and construction. This issue is a great starting point, and our website ( offers a wide variety of resources. Additionally, you may want to check out the website of the Log Homes Council (, an arm of the National Association of Home Builders that is the most recognized national association representing the log home industry.

“I love to see people come to our facility carrying a notebook,” says Rachel Meadows, vice president of sales at Honest Abe Log Homes in Moss, Tennessee. “I love it because they’ve got pictures and other information gathered—they’ve done their homework, and they know what they want. Those are the customers who are ultimately the most satisfied.”

2. Set Your Budget
Before you can move forward with a building project, you’ll need to select a lender and get prequalified for your loan. That will help you determine how much you’ll be able to borrow. And if you’re paying cash, decide how much you want to invest in the home. The price you’re willing and able to pay ultimately will affect everything from location and log type to floorplan, design, and amenities.

“The decision on how much to spend is personal based on how much you want to put into the house,” says Lynn Gastineau, owner and president of Gastineau Log Homes Inc., in New Bloomfield, Missouri. “That amount will guide everything else.”

3. Buy Your Land
When you set out to buy a piece of property, consider where you want the house to be located, what kind of views you desire, and whether you want a solitary retreat or a home in a developed community. Consider whether the typography and natural features of the lot will be compatible with the style of house you have in mind. For example, if you envision a house featuring expansive windows that showcase panoramic views, you wouldn’t want to choose a densely wooded lot with a low elevation. Bob Carper, of New Hampshire Log and Timber Homes, LLC, in Glen, New Hampshire, likes to accompany clients when they’re looking at potential property so that he can help them determine whether the land will fit their dream home.

“The customers might have an idea in mind of the type of house they’re interested in, but not every house design matches every piece of property,” Carper says. “So oftentimes, if they’re looking for a specific style of home, we need to have a specific lot and house design that will complement each other.”

The sticker price of the land isn’t the only cost to consider. Be sure to find out how much you’ll have to pay to build on the property—to get basic amenities such as road access, electricity, septic and water. For secluded, undeveloped lots, this could get costly.

“You may find a cheap piece of ground, but it may cost double or triple the price of that land to get utilities to it,” Gastineau explains. “You should find out the cost of all those things before buying.”

4. Choose a Log Home Producer
The log home industry offers plenty of choices, from full log to a conventionally framed structure with log accents. But different companies provide different options. In every issue of Log Cabin Homes, as well as on the magazine’s website at, you’ll find listings of log home producers, builders, architects, and other industry professionals who can help make your dream come true. You’ll also find a wide array of resources on the Internet. Narrow your search to just a few companies that can deliver what you want.

“You’ve got to find a log home company that you’re a good match with,” says Meadows. “Don’t waste time going off to visit companies that are not a match.” Find out how long the company has been in business, ask about their warranty offerings, visit the manufacturing facility, and meet the staff. Most important: Get a list of past customers who are willing to talk to you about their experiences.

Fay Construction; InForm Design/photo by Heidi Long

5. Choose a Floorplan or Design
Many factors will influence the design of your home, including the property’s natural features and views, your family’s lifestyle, and your personal preferences. Consider the basics first: Do you want a one-level ranch or an expansive, multistory home? How much square footage do you and your family need to live comfortably? Where are the views? Do you want your master suite on the main floor? Will this home be a future retirement home?

“Every customer has a vision,” says Meadows. “They already know what they want their log home to look like. We’re basically designing from the outside in—they want that look, and we’ve got to put that on paper to get the square footage and floorplan they want.”

Even if you want a custom design, feel free to use the company’s stock floorplans as a starting point. Don’t rush the design process. Study your floorplan and make sure each room, window, and door is placed exactly where you want it. Changing those things can become costly once construction has begun. And finally, visit the company’s model homes to get an accurate feel for the size you want.

“A lot of people overdesign the house, meaning they build it bigger than what they need,” Carper says. “It’s often difficult to translate between the plans and the actual house how big that house is actually going to be once it’s built. Be sure to visit model homes and get a sense of the actual size.”

6. Choose a Builder
If the log home company you select doesn’t provide turnkey service, you’ll need to hire a builder to finish out the project. Most log home producers will provide a list of potential builders who have successfully worked with them in the past, and you’ll find a listing of builders in the back of every issue of Log Cabin Homes magazine. But whether you select one of those contractors or find one on your own, do your own research to make sure they are reliable and experienced at building log homes, financially stable, and licensed for the full scope of the project. Be sure to verify that the builder is properly insured with general liability and worker’s compensation. The Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce are good resources for this information. Most of all, you’ll want to choose a builder you feel comfortable talking to—particularly when problems arise.

“Not every contractor will match with your personality,” Meadows cautions. “Work with someone you trust and who will be on your side.”

7. Secure Financing
Once you have gotten a complete estimate of the construction costs, you can start shopping for your loan and filling out loan applications. Look for a lender you feel comfortable with, and find out what the lender requires. You will need to provide a basic floorplan/design, which will be used for the appraisal—or estimation of property value. Gastineau points out that the appraisal value, which is determined by the sales prices of recently sold homes in the area, is affected just as much by the location of your construction site as it is by the house itself.

“The appraisal value can change the amount the lender is willing to loan for the project, no matter how good the buyer’s credit may be,” Gastineau says. “And the appraisal has nothing to do with the cost to build the home.”

Keep in mind that most lenders will set a timeline for the construction project—typically six months with an optional six-month extension. To keep your project moving forward, delay finalizing the loan until construction is ready to begin.

8. Stay Involved During Construction
No matter how involved you want to be in the actual construction of your home, it’s important to stay in close contact with your log home company and the builder throughout the process. Make sure the contract spells out clearly what tasks, if any, you’re responsible for and what your general contractor will manage for you. Know the project’s timeline, but be flexible if unexpected problems arise—such as inclement weather—to delay the process. Pay attention to the details and be available to address any concerns that arise.

Building a log home isn’t a rush job, experts say. Take your time to get all the key pieces in place, Meadows says, and your experience will be “smooth sailing.”