Why Log Homes Are Better Than Conventional Construction

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Building a house is pricey. Between land, construction costs, and the eventual costs of upkeep, a place to live does not come cheap. And prices are rising: construction costs have soared an eye-watering 23.6 percent since 2004. This staggering growth is attributable to rising labor costs, strict zoning regulations, and rising land prices.

For anybody dreaming of building a new house, the dream can seem impossible. How do you build the place of your dreams without compromising on materials, or resorting to a floor plan the size of a postage stamp? One increasingly popular option is log home construction.

That’s right: sales of log homes, sometimes called timber frame homes, grew 56 percent between 2012 and 2017, according to a report by the National Association of Home Builders. Read on for more details.

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Why log homes?

As it turns out, log homes have several advantages over conventional construction. First, with the right construction strategies, log home can come on the cheap. The average costs for new home construction is a little over $150 per square foot in the US, depending on the geographic region.

Log homes can be cheaper than this, but with a few important caveats. There is a difference between “shell” and “turn key” construction costs. If you are only building out the frame, walls, and roof, then log homes cost an average of $45 to $150 per square foot.

If you include everything (“turn key” construction), from the carport to the kitchen sink, log homes run between $175 to $350 per square foot. Turn-key construction costs can be pricey, and so many log home hopefuls follow in the footsteps of their pioneer forebears and become builder-owners. They take on aspects of the interior construction themselves, saving thousands of dollars.

What materials should you use?

Log homes also involve the use of superior materials, as evident in specific construction methods like cypress log homes. Cypress is a large, fast-growing, evergreen or semi-evergreen tree that grows in swamps throughout the world, in America and in Australia.

Australian cypress is a popular hardwood floor material. American cypress wood was a favorite material of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Prairie School style of architecture that he used emulated the American landscape and favored American materials, cypress among them.

Tidewater cypress was one of the few materials Wright specified in the construction of his Usonian homes. His enthusiasm was well-warranted: cypress mills easily, accepts finishes well, and resists rot and insect infestation.

The reason for this longevity? Cypress produces an oil called cypressene, evolved to help the wood survive in southern swamps. Its rot resistance also makes the wood popular in the construction of boats, fences, and telephone poles. 

Are log homes cheaper?

Finally, log homes offer advantages for financing over traditional homes. As with any construction, you need two loans: a construction loan and a traditional mortgage loan. However, unlike a traditional home, log homes are often purchased as a full package from a log home provider. This means all of your materials will come in one load.

Looking for a lender can be tricky, as many lenders lack experience with log homes. Despite the growth, they are only a small share of the total home construction market. Lenders also need to know if you are going to be an owner-builder.

Lenders will often want assurances that you have experience overseeing a project like this, and may even ask for a resume that demonstrates some expertise. If you want the cheapest home loan, it is useful to have a close, open relationship with your log home builder, one that enables you to discuss financial terms frankly, and the same relationship with the lender arranging your financing.