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Top Ten Biggest Mistakes Made in Log Building
Author Robbin Obomsawin shares some excerpts, photos, and drawings
from her new book Best Log Home Plans .

1. Designing too much home for the budget -- When custom building, it is very easy for things to spin out of control for the owner before he/she even has a clue that it is happening. “Live now and pay later” and “Well, I didn’t know”, doesn’t exempt you from the choices made. Overspending or insisting on having it all does not support your dream when you are suffocated by the stress of repaying the debt. Be prepared and informed of your project’s cost. Building a home is a big investment and it takes time to learn and absorb all the information.

2. Not enough thought and planning before building starts -- Any of you that have actually been through the process of building know that planning takes a lot of self evaluation, research and a focus. Detailed thought and planning about each phase of construction, including good construction plans, are critical to a successful project and the realization of your dream home.

3. Installing the log shell or other natural framing members too close to the ground even when there is no snowfall -- You must also consider the splash-back area created by the rain’s run-off from the roofline as it hits the ground and splashes back onto the house’s siding materials or log work. An exception can be made for a covered porch which has no walls, and therefore can be ground level. Just remember to have proper porch post installations.

4. Building too short of a roof overhang -- Oversized roof systems are more than ornamentation; they are a very important design feature of quality home construction. If your contractor does not have this information clearly marked on the construction plans or tries to build shorter roof overhangs to save cost, you will pay many times over in the long run. Log Homes can withstand getting wet and actually thrive with humidity, but constant and repeated water saturation shortens the life of any home.

5. The use of cheap quality materials – Low grade materials can stand out like a sore thumb in a quality log home, and devalues the appearance of the home overall.

6. Choosing an inexperienced general contractor or log builder – Look for a contractor that appreciates or understands log homes with a solid background and experienced in general construction as well as loves his job.

7. Purchasing the log shell or overall home’s bid solely based on price -- Take time to understand the different quality and styles of log joinery. The least expensive bid is not always the best choice, whether in log work or general construction. It is often hard to know how to evaluate an overall bid, but with a good contractor, experience becomes very important. Many homeowners base their decisions solely on the bid amount and not on the content and supporting documents of the bid. I also often see homeowners who turn down well prepared, professional contracts because they are very long (and intimidating), often not understanding much of the content or do not agree with just a small part of the contract, opting for the inexperienced contractor with the one or two page contract that seems less threatening. In reality the short, loose ended contracts leaves the homeowner with an open translation of materials, content, construction methods, and builder vs. homeowners’ responsibilities. Also note that a one-sided contract or a contract you do not fully understand is also a hazard. Be sure to go over the contract with the builder in detail as well as having your attorney review the contract proposal before signing.

8. Not allowing enough room for shrinkage in the wall systems -- Never underestimate the power of shrinkage! Shrinkage and settlement is a natural process that occurs with time and is created as the content of the moisture in the logs drop. The design detail of shrinkage is not hard or complicated for an experienced carpenter to understand with proper detailed drawings. It only becomes difficult when ignored!

9. Taking on a building project beyond your experience in construction -- Without a good understanding of or experience in construction, the project can end in disaster and often cost much more than hiring out to a professional builder. Construction is much more complicated than it may appear. I understand the urge to build without practical experience, and with great embarrassment I can tell you that with our first log home built for ourselves over twenty years ago, we made every “green-horn” mistake that could be made. Even though I was dedicated to watching each and every Bob Vila’s program and read every book I could get my hands on about construction, it simply does not compare to hands-on, practical experience learned over time. I am not saying that you cannot take on a portion of the project, but unless you have a lot of time on hand in combination with experience, your home could end up like a circus in a blender.

10. Drinking too much coffee and overworking on job sites. Stuff happens.

Avoiding the common pitfalls of construction and learning from other’s mistakes can be direct detours to the most common mistakes made in building.



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