06
May

Log Rhythms: Selecting a Log Home Supplier…

Two weeks ago I recounted our educational journey about selecting logs for our log home at the Reserve in Montalba, TX. In case you hadn’t already deduced this, we elected to go with northern white cedar logs for the main construction. Northern white cedar is incredibly stable, is naturally bug resistant and tends not to twist over time. We will use some other woods for particular uses inside, but northern white cedar will be trucked to Montalba in June.

How did we learn all of this about logs? We met with several log home suppliers. From attending a couple of log home events, we learned that it’s important to select a supplier that is financially sound. With the recent recession many suppliers went bankrupt. Also, a supplier should be easy to work with–if people don’t return your calls or emails, obviously, there are going to be problems down the road as construction begins.

There are a ridiculous number of log home producers. Just in the Log and Timber Homes Council alone, there are 36 members! Quite obviously, one is going to need a process of elimination to get to a reasonable group of producers to consider for providing logs for a home plan. So, here is how we wound up with the “finalists” for our cabin:

  1. I went to the Better Business Bureau and only selected producers willing to supply logs to Texas. If the supplier did not have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, they were out! Those with A+ ratings are probably financially sound and have decent dealings with their clients.
  2. If they had ads in the Log and Timber Living magazines, that’s another indicator that they’re probably financially sound, because struggling businesses usually cut their advertising budgets to make ends meet.

 

Even with these criteria, we had a list of 26 companies. The hubby sent out an email to all 26, specifying that we wanted pricing information for our plan. Being in sales himself, he wanted to see that these companies were not afraid to compete with each other and that they responded in a reasonable amount of time to his request. He gave them 14 business days to respond.

The responses were interesting. To date there are still some that never responded! Since he sent the email about 14 months ago, that’s a pretty good basis for elimination!

Others said our project was too small for what they typically build. Some producers specialize in large-scale log “mansions.” Still others answered that they were so busy (even though we said we had no strict timeline for building the cabin) that they could not add another project to their calendars. Some said that the type of home we were building was not their area of expertise. While this was a little disappointing with some producers, we were grateful for their honesty and promptness in replying to the email.

Many of the remaining group either emailed or phoned my husband and asked any questions they needed answered in order to provide pricing information. And they contacted us promptly and impressed us with their professionalism.

Once the pricing information was received from these producers, we eliminated the “outliers.” That meant that if they were incredibly cheap or incredibly high, they were no longer considered.

The result? 7 companies made the final cut. Thankfully, the hubby travels a lot and has a lot of frequent traveler points for airlines, hotels and car rental companies. We scheduled trips to each of these “finalists.” And boy, are we glad we did! There were huge differences between suppliers. In an effort to not disparage a company that may be better suited for other log home projects, we are going to refer to each of these finalists as: Supplier A, B, C, D, E, F, and G and only reveal the one that we eventually selected.

The hubby scheduled two visits in conjunction with his professional duties. Supplier A was pretty much at the top of our list because they have major operations in Texas. They utilize dead-standing timber and their mill was decent sized. While dead-standing timber is a very “green” approach, we wondered about guaranteeing a certain “dryness” percentage for their logs, since dead timber might dry at different rates even within one tree. Even so, we concluded that one could build a home with them and the cost would not reasonable.

Later on, we also learned of another supplier in the Utah and Idaho area and the hubby saw that mill as well. While Supplier B had beautifully crafted logs, they only provided logs for Swedish cope styles of log homes. Since we are going for an Arts and Craftsman-style log home, this didn’t fit into our plan very well. (In other words, Ms. Aesthetics over here vetoed this choice!)

Supplier C had a competitive estimate and a model log home close to where we live. They were having an Open House and we attended that. We were saddened to see that the model home was poorly constructed. Also, this producer complained a great deal about competing with other suppliers for our business. This made us nervous.

The remaining producers were located far away from us and where my hubby travels, so we scheduled trips over the next few months to tour their mills. We loved the look of Supplier D’s cabins and their staff was friendly, helpful and professional. They took us to 5 different homes built with their materials and we were shocked to see sap actually emanating from their logs as the home was being constructed. The sap was coming inside the home. 

Also, this builder used styrofoam-based chinking between logs and that seemed like a security risk to us since these materials are easily punctured. Their logs were impressively huge, but even in their model home, we could see these massive beams twisting. We were also shocked to see that their mill was virtually non-existent! They contracted with other companies to actually mill the logs.

We weren’t expecting much out of Supplier E. They were an Amish company; we thought their operation would be modest. We were wrong. They had modern log-drying and milling operations and their logs were gorgeous. There were stacks of beautiful, square logs as far as the eye could see and yet, our host apologized for the lack of logs! He showed us two homes and a barn constructed with their materials. While each were built a long time ago, the logs were holding up well. They had great people on staff, who were objective, helpful and professional.

Supplier F built a home at the Reserve. The people were knowledgeable, friendly, helpful and professional. They had done extensive, independent research on logs and concluded that northern white cedar was superior. They built their own computerized milling operation so that the logs would be bar-coded and numbered to make it easy to construct. Their logs are pre-cut and pre-drilled. Located where green methods are vital, they utilize every bit of wood they harvest, making flower boxes, porch railings, and log playground equipment out of “scraps.” They even burn the shavings as an energy source for their operations.

Because of the computerized system, they can provide logs quickly and the logs are of great quality. We toured the owner’s log home, built in the 1980s, and it was holding up well. They had even added on to the home over the years. Finally, they put spacing between the inside of the logs and the interior log facing, to make it easy to put in electrical wiring and plumbing. This provides a higher R insulation rating, as well.

Supplier G felt that one can get logs  wherever they wished. In fact that was smart because one could shop around for the best price. While they were hospitable and showed us their log home, we noticed that some logs were already twisting and we weren’t wild about some of their construction methods. The kicker was that they flat out refused to give us a detailed estimate unless we signed with them.

By the end of this process we concluded that Supplier E and F were the “hot contenders” for our home. You would think, at this point, it would be easy to select the “winner.” It wasn’t and that will be the topic of the next Log Rhythms post on Friday, May 27th.

Monday’s Post: What’s Your Guess for this Week’s WOW?

You Might Also Like: Log Rhythms: All I Ever Wanted to Know about Logs and Then Some

This entry was posted on Friday, May 6th, 2016 at 12:20 pm and is filed under Miscellaneous. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

leave a comment