Breaking All the Rules

by Gary Solmi

Editor's Note
Dreams become reality. It happens. And there is no single, perfect way to do it.  Herešs just one method that worked . . .

Deciding on just the right log home builder to create your dream home can be a very exhausting experience. So, how do you make that right choice between the many builders that are available? Fortunately, most of the established and experienced log home builders can be counted on to build a strong and reliable log structure. This searching process can end with the first builder we visit or it may take years. Fancy brochures, magazine ads and video tapes can also be very misleading. Bigger in this industry is not always better. Let's say, for instance, you have decided to purchase one of the premier sports cars in the world. Your choices might include a Lamborghini, a Ferrari or even a Mclaren's F1. You will not view any of these autos blasted onto your TV screen or advertised in every auto magazine you look at. These fine autos speak for themselves and need very little advertisement. This rule can and does apply to some of the premier log home builders that turn out just a few outstanding log homes per year. Most often with a small builder you will see the owner/builder arrive with his wonderful creation to see that everything is assembled properly and that his client is satisfied. With the owner/builder on site, any changes or corrections can be made without a long delay. These changes can also be made correctly.

My wife and I started our crusade to find that special builder in 1988. We first checked close to home within about a 400 mile radius. In between trips we started our collection of log home magazines, brochures and builders guides. This would be helpful in locating and planning our next trip to builders further away. Is this starting to sound familiar? In 1989, we took an extended trip, visiting five states and Canada. We viewed big logs, small logs and every kind of notch that you can name. We had visited the B. Allan Mackie School in Canada which was closed but the caretaker gave us the grand tour and we were able to view various notches and building techniques. We visited builders that were warm and friendly and others that were totally indifferent. On one visit to a builder's yard, my wife and I were greeted as we entered the model log home. We were seated at a nice desk and proceeded to discuss our log home plans with a representative and his associate. We had barely rolled out our three view drawings on the desk when in walked two well known television stars. Both representatives got up from the desk and left us sitting there in total disbelief. We patiently waited and waited and finally left when no one returned to acknowledge our presence.

Our quest to find a builder continued. In March 1990, I retired, sold our home and business. Our new property was located in Oregon along the Umpqua River so we stored all our furniture nearby. With our truck camper loaded and our tow vehicle secured, we loaded up our Dobie and our cat and proceeded to a campground in Oregon where we made our home, becoming full-timers in the camping world. We had moved out of a five bedroom home on three acres into a camper mounted on a truck with a dimension of 8' x 11'.  And don't forget the dog and cat! We now had plenty of time to locate the right builder . . . or so we thought.

Days became weeks, which turned into months. I finally made 10 copies of my three view drawings and purchased 10 large mailing envelopes and enough stamps to mail them. We poured over the builders we thought would do the best job, looking through all the brochures and magazines, trying to recall our on-site visits. After selecting the 10 builders and mailing off our envelopes, we waited. One by one our requests were answered. With nine down and one left to go, we still hadn't made a decision. The first nine answers had been returned in big envelopes with quotes, brochures and letters. When the final quote arrived, it came in a business envelope with just a letter. The letter stated that since they were located quite a distance from our home site that we might do better buying close to home which would save us transportation costs. After all, we were in Oregon and they were in Ontario, Canada. Not to be denied, I made a personal call directly to the builder and again asked for a brochure and a quote on my drawings. My wife and I had agreed to keep our home simple with a rectangular shape, single story with a front porch. Our home would be built from round logs and be handcrafted. The envelope arrived and this time contained a brochure and a quote sheet attached with the approximate cost of our home delivered to Oregon. The price was competitive with all the other quotes. The enclosed brochure also contained a home that was built for another client and both my wife and I fell in love with. I made that fateful second call to find out how much this other home in the brochure would cost to build and the rest is history.

I guess you might say that we broke all the rules for buying a log home. As things turned out, we couldn't be more satisfied. About the only thing that resembles our original log home plans is that our new home is also handcrafted. We now have square logs with dovetails instead of round logs, porches that wrap around the entire home instead of on one side, three stories (including the basement) instead of a single story and finally, a great timber framed roof system. A work of art that came from the other side of the world and ended up costing us less than we could ever have imagined.

1. Visit a log home that your proposed builder has constructed.

2. Ask the owners if this builder performed all that was promised.

3. Visit a few of his older log homes to see if problems have occurred over time.

4. Visit several log home builders and compare workmanship and make sure that their owners are completely satisfied.

5. Be able to deal directly with the owner/builder and feel comfortable about it.

Reprinted with permission.



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