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Once you've chosen what kind of log you want, you will discover that manufacturers each specialize in their own unique fastening system. Almost all manufacturers use double-sided foam tape between log courses. Some companies use lag screws, threaded bolts, or spikes to add integrity to walls; others use fancy spring-loaded through bolts that compress logs. Once again, choice becomes a personal preference.
It would save a lot of work for buyer to get a "turnkey" price on logs, lumber, windows and doors, and roof - what is commonly known as a "weathered-in shell". However, this complete system only makes sense if you are local to manufacturer; otherwise, you'll be spending thousands of dollars to ship ordinary lumber across country. After all, there is no difference between a roof used on an ordinary house and a roof used on a log home. You choose kind of roof you want, but it'll come from same manufacturer. The same goes for floors, doors, kitchen, and heating system. Windows can be a little tricky; you'll have to find a manufacturer that is willing to make a extended window-sill (or jamb) to accommodate thickness of logs. Most major window companies are able to do this.
Remember that log homes are completely custom. No log home company will offer you a choice of kitchens or bathrooms like a development builder. You will have to shop for these yourself, and possibilities are limitless. Your builder may make some decisions for you, but you will be better served to pick your own flooring, light fixtures, faucets and even door knobs. Most manufacturers do not want to have anything to do with foundation; that is not their business. You can use any kind of foundation you want, but you'll need to contact a local contractor to do that job, or have your builder do so.
Almost all log home manufacturers have an in-house architect who will configure your plan to fit their own particular system. Unless you have a lot of money to burn, don't hire an outside architect to design your house, because manufacturer will have to rework plans anyway. If you want a quick start, manufacturer will have a set of stock plans for you to choose from, and alter to fit your needs. Or you can design your home from scratch, and give them a rough set of drawings from which they will devise a set of building plans. This service is usually offered at no extra charge; there may be an up-front fee that is credited toward final cost of package.
Log homes are not maintenance-free - nor are they overwhelmingly laborious. Although products on today's market do a fantastic job of protecting logs from sun, rain and insects, they do need to be re-applied ever three to five years depending on wall exposure. This "maintenance coat" is much easier to apply than original coats of stain, and no, you don't have to strip off old coat first. So it's not as bad as it sounds! However, you must inspect logs at least once a year for excessive cracking (or checking) - especially when check opens upward, creating a water trap. These need to be caulked on exterior walls. Also, do everything in your power to direct rainwater away from house; if you have an overflowing gutter, deal with it at once. A damp log attracts rot and insects.
Expect your milled log home to take anywhere from 4 to 8 months to construct, depending on your weather, availability of crew (are they sharing your job with others at same time?) and your planning. The most important thing you have to plan for is protecting logs and lumber from elements. Set aside a large space (preferably covered with gravel) exclusively for logs; you don't want them sitting in mud. Cover your gravel with a tarp, and bring extra tarps for logs. The logs are going to get scattered as crew picks through them, and they're going to get stepped on and tossed around. They're going to get rained on, and you'll be amazed how quickly logs weather. You'll have to immediately remove plastic wrapping when logs are delivered, or they'll get covered with mildew. The tarps will do job. If your windows get delivered with log package, you'd be best served to rent an enclosed trailer to store them in (FRAGILE is operative word).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. As you may have gathered, people who build log homes tend to be more hands-on than with other kinds of construction. Log home customers are usually very well informed by time they break ground - and they need to be! Cost overruns are often caused by unforeseen difficulties, and since your house is a one-of-a-kind, you're in for quite a challenge. Luckily, industry has matured quite a bit, and you are no longer completely on your own.
Mercedes Hayes is a Hiawatha Log Home dealer and also a Realtor in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She designed her own log home which was featured in the 2004 Floor Plan Guide of Log Home Living magazine. You can learn more about log homes by visiting www.JerseyLogHomes.com.