Choosing a log suppler is probably one of the most important decisions to be made when building a log cabin. And in a strange way, I was lucky to read some really terrible stories early on about purchasing log packages that scared me to death! The realization that it’s possible to end up with nothing and be out a ton of cash is down right sobering. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the indicators I use when trying to decide if a business is reputable or not, but more time spent discussing how to find the best value when it comes to log suppliers. Since my cabin and 80% of log cabins being built these days use milled logs, I will focus on them.
Log Cabin Kits
Kits are good and bad. I liked looking at log cabin kits for their floor plans and their material list, but kits vary greatly, so it is hard to compare apples to apples. I spent a better part of a year trying to track down the best value log cabin kit without any luck. I would spend hours pouring over material lists and even created several spreadsheets trying to simplify the process. In the end I think this exercrise taught me a good deal about what may be needed to build a log cabin and that a kit, in general was just a marketing tool usually resulting in a higher price. So for me, kits were not a good value.
Sawmill Selection: Deal Directly With The Mill
There are many log suppliers out there, but I tried to focus on dealing directly with the ones that owned their own mill. These suppliers usually offered the best price, but not always a better value for me. Since I am new to building with logs, I had a lot of questions and a majority of mills did not want to mess with a DIY guy like me. This made my search much harder and I have a feeling if your reading this blog, you’re in a similar situation.
When speaking to log suppliers I always asked if I could swing by and see the mill, even if I had no intention of doing so. This seemed to be a nice way of finding out who really owned the mill and to gauge to what extent the person I was talking with knew the milling operation. I found that most mill owners took great pride in their operation and really seemed to know what it took to produce a quality milled log. They could tell you every detail about the logs and enjoyed teaching about their process.
I figured finding a supplier would be easy, but what I found was so many different schools of thought on logs it was overwhelming. It seemed like the more I dug into log suppliers the more questions I would have. This lead me to realize that, like many things in life, there are all sorts of solutions to the same problem and I needed to come up with some general guidelines to follow and move on. Your situation maybe different, but listed below are the ones I generally followed.
Guidelines regarding log source:
-Mill owners seem to generally have better knowledge of logs; stick with them.
-A mill you can visit and tour.
-Mill operator\owner that has experience building log homes – not just milling logs!
-A company that owns the mill and understands the process from tree harvest to delivery truck.
-A company that has a good packing and wrapping system – takes a bit to built a home and they need covered.
-Price – Beware of cheap logs!
-A company that uses kerf cuts – Controls cracking (checking) and dries better.
-Log species, Log Design and Fastening system.
-Heart logs made from a good species that is rot resistance.
-A milled log that has a decent seal and T&G system.
-Support – DIY’ers lifeline.
A word of caution…try looking at ALL the criterion, not just focusing on one, such as price. Like most people I am a complete sucker for a good deal. So when I tracked down a sawmill that was willing to sell me 6″x8″x8′ machined D-logs for $20 each, I started reaching for my checkbook. WRONG! Thank goodness I had to wait a day before I could get over to the mill and by that time I was a little more settled. The sawmill owner\operator was not trying to take advantage, I think he genuinuly did not understand log home construction. Like most small business these days, he is searching for new markets and jumped head first into the log home business when a good deal on a mill machine came around. Actually he was one of the more honest operators I have ever met, but again he just did not have the experience.
So, who did I track down as the ideal company for me to deal with?
Allpine Lumber is a family-owned and operated mill located in Colorado. They have an intimate knowledge of the industry, as we discussed above, from tree harvest, milling, drying, preparation and delivery. AND they had my coveted plus, experience in building log cabins. They were and are truly wonderful to work with. They have been patient and understanding with my slow-as-molasses DIY building schedule, pleasant to talk with, and so knowledgable. As a matter of fact, my wife and I just unwrapped a bunk of their logs tonight as we were building, and they just make you stop and look at them. You can’t help it, the logs are beautiful! I can’t wait to get this baby put together.
Well, this article has gone far past the length I like to keep them at, but there really is so much to think about and consider with this type of investment in your logs. I plan on posting more related articles and provide greater detail on topics such as:
–Air dried vs. kiln dried logs