Much in today's world is done faster than in the past. You don't have to go to the bank to transfer money between savings and checking; you can do it over the Internet. You don't have to go to a shopping mall to buy a winter coat; you can order one online. People expect faster service.
But building a custom log home is still more a matter of craftsmanship than speed. It is a complex project requiring a host of interconnecting skills. Modern technologies have helped log home building but mainly in making longer-lasting, lower maintenance materials, lowering the prices of materials and making a safer workplace rather than in delivering a finished product at Internet-speed to the homeowner.
Every purchaser of a custom log home should have a basic understanding of what a builder goes through in order to deliver a log home the client expects. Following are some points of which the client should be aware.
Satisfaction with a design is not the end of "the blueprint stage." The plans must be approved by the local building department. Officials there need to check that every element of the design conforms to the local building codes. The proposed plumbing, heating-and-cooling, and electrical plans all have to be approved by separate divisions within the building department, and there can be permits needed for the likes of a well, septic field, and more. The building department officials may call for alterations, which the builder has to present to you for resolution. Then he has to return to the permitting authorities to win approval of the changes.
After actual building begins, the builder must call the building department to ask for building inspectors to drive to the site and approve aspects of interim construction. Most inspections can only take place at a particular time in the process. A foundation's footings, for example, have to be inspected and improved before the foundation walls are built on top of them; plumbing pipes have to be approved after the wall studs are up but before they are covered with wallboard or plaster. There are at least a dozen such inspections and could be more. A builder will plan ahead and call for inspections to be timely, but he is at the mercy of the inspectors' schedules.
Every blueprint change has a ripple effect. It causes new plans to be drawn. It can mean going back to the permitting authority for an approval. Even a small change in a bathroom can send the plan back for re-approval by the plumbing, and, if it moves electrical receptacles or a wall, then to the electrical and structural departments as well. These cause delays, which can upset the subcontractor scheduling, which can cause further delays.
The log builder likely has permanent skilled employees, but he also contracts with, schedules and manages such independent subcontractors as electricians, plumbers, roofers, tilers and more. Scheduling these subcontractors is a tricky and exacting business, and is one reason why builders spend so much time on the telephone.
Scheduling the subcontractors is like constructing a Chinese puzzle; everything has to be done to an exacting sequence or the process does not proceed smoothly. Carpenters have to erect the interior walls before the heating/air-conditioning men come in, who need to do their work before the plumbers, who need to do their work before the electricians. If one subcontractor is delayed, none of the others can start their work.
Some construction cannot be done in some kinds of weather. Excavation and foundation work generally cannot proceed when rain is hard or temperatures below freezing. A hard rain can stop outdoor wall framing. Exterior painting should not be done when temperatures are below 50 or above 90 degrees. Once a house is "closed in," that is, capable of keeping out the weather, then interior work can generally proceed normally. Many projects attempt to complete the excavation, foundation and close-in before December so that interior work can proceed over the winter, followed by exterior painting and landscaping in the spring.
The log builder should have checked on the availability of all the materials before submitting to you his bid. But he has to rely on materials suppliers, who in turn rely on their own suppliers and transportation companies. The more exotic the material, the more likely it is to be unavailable when needed. An example is a material normally obtained from overseas. It could be held up owing to conditions in a foreign country or tight shipping capacity. Material from overseas might be distinctive stone, special plumbing fixtures, ornate chandeliers and the like.
Often, during the design phase of a log home, the selection of materials is put off to a later date. Bids are even completed with clauses specifying dollar amounts for materials but actual selections to be completed later. Bear in mind that if you then chose Italian marble or Finnish faucets, there may be a delay in receiving them, setting off other delays.
Every log home building project is different and each has its own challenges. Partly, this is why a builder chooses this profession – it's not dull. Building a log home is not like making an assembly-line toaster. Problems crop up that require novel solutions. Good builders and log home companies confront them aggressively, but they may require time to solve. Just as a home is not a toaster, so a builder is not a machine. Respect his ability to work through problems in a professional and deliberate fashion.
Treat a builder with respect and respect is likely what you will receive in return. He may not be able to solve a problem by sundown, but more often than not he can deliver a professionally built home in the time frame allotted.
For five generations, the Propst family has set the standard for excellence for fine wood homes. We are a family run log home company, where we pride ourselves on personal service, friendly staff and precision craftsmanship. For more information on Estemerwalt Log Homes contact them at (800) 515-2060 or www.estemerwalt.com.