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Thread: Things too look for & questions to ask when buying a prebuilt log home?

  1. #1

    Things too look for & questions to ask when buying a prebuilt log home?

    I understand this forum is geared toward owner/builders so I hope my questions are not too out of place here. Much respect to all of you who are dedicated enough to build your own log homes - makes me feel like I'm cheating!

    Anyway... we're looking at a pre-built log home that was built in 2006 and sold to an investor who finished the inside and added a 2 car garage. It has never been lived in, but looks to have been well maintained.

    It's a Colorado mountain home that faces south and it's in an area that get as a lot of wind in winter. Heating is in floor radiant. It's an open floor plan with finished walkout basement and loft area. Roof is metal and the basement exterior is finished in rock (I'd imagine it's concrete underneath). There is no obvious rot or damaged logs, at least to my untrained eye.

    The roof does not overhang by more than about a foot, except for 2/3rd of the front, south facing wall, which overhangs by about 10ft.

    The log's are off the ground by a minimum of 2-3ft. All doors appear to open and shut without issue. There are a lot of dead moths inside the house.

    My expectations is that it will be expensive to maintain the exterior (around 2K per year?) and somewhat expensive to heat due to the location and exposed post and beam ceiling. It will also be a pita to clean the inside due to the round log walls and exposed beams. Changing some of the light bulbs will be an extreme sport.

    I have access to the original builder. What should my questions be?

    So far I've though of

    (1) Were the logs Kiln dried?
    (2) What type of pine are the logs?
    (3) What is the finish on the exterior
    (4) Has the wood been treated for bugs?

    We're getting a local log builder to inspect it but I would like to know any potential pitfalls. Any help is much appreciated!

  2. #2
    LHBA Member edkemper's Avatar
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    I'd have to say you should take the class before you buy.

    Building our way:
    (1) They don't need to be
    (2) Doesn't matter what kind
    (3) Don't need to be finished but there are lots of options
    (4) We generally Borate them

    A local log home (kit) builder comes with their own bias.

    There is much on this forum about kit homes. You might want to read a bit more before you buy.

    Good luck.
    edkemper

  3. #3
    LHBA Member rocklock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colorado^ View Post
    I understand this forum is geared toward owner/builders
    (1) Were the logs Kiln dried?
    (2) What type of pine are the logs?
    (3) What is the finish on the exterior
    (4) Has the wood been treated for bugs?
    We're getting a local log builder to inspect it but I would like to know any potential pitfalls. Any help is much appreciated!
    Your questions - 1. no one kiln dries real logs... 2. Pine is good 3. Get a can of the exterior finish... so you can read the instructions. 4. if it hasn't, you can do it your self.

    I doubt I would even consider a log home with out at least a 3 foot overhand... 5 would be better.

    I would not even consider a log home with out knowing what he has done to deal with shrinkage of the logs... I presume that the home does not have chinking or else you would have asked questions about that... Hence you will have shrinkage and must deal with your roof... Most have some kind of screw to lower the roof... Log uprights don't shrink in that direction hardly at all, but the logs walls will shrink about 8% over many years...

    Just to be clear, my log home does not shrink. My roof does not have jacks. My windows and doors do not have shrinkage built into them. My plumbing and electrical are fixed and are not subject to shrinkage...

    My log home is a tightly pinned (over 900 pieces of steel in the home) butt and pass with chinking and insulation between the logs. You might look at some of my pictures...
    Dave
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    --> If can, can. If no can, no can... Hawaiian Pidgin
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  4. #4
    LHBA Member spiralsands's Avatar
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    It's a 6 year old house that has never been lived in?

    If it's a kit home I would try to find out what company manufactured it and see what kind of stuff they put in around the windows and doors. You mentioned the doors opening and closing but you didn't mention the windows. If you get the name of the contractor builder you may be able to get info about the roof insulation. I get that Colorado is pretty dry but that 1 foot overhang is chinsey even by stick-built standards. I had bigger overhangs on my Florida block house. Where are you getting your water up there? (City, well, trucked in?)

    Frances

  5. #5
    LHBA Member rreidnauer's Avatar
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    I'm not going to try to talk you out of it, just answer your questions.
    * Questions 1 and 2 really have no bearing. 3 and 4 are good to ask him. I'd want to know wall thickness.
    * The North and West sides are the ones that will take the worst beating. Be sure to really check them over thoroughly.
    * Take a stepladder in with you and look for daylight at top of walls and around windows and doors. I'm wondering how the moths are getting in. If the jack screws haven't been adjusted for shrinkage, the doors will function properly, but you will have open gaps somewhere.
    * Find out exactly what was used for insulation in the ceiling, and how it was installed.
    * Plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and building code compliance would be high on my list.
    * Chances are good it would fail a REScheck, but that is to be expected of many kit builts. You're likely correct the maintenance and heating costs will be high.

    This would be a place that I'd love to have Mike Holmes check out for me first. Never lived in really spooks me.
    Rod Reidnauer
    Class of Apr. 9-10, 2005
    Thinking outside the vinyl sided box

  6. #6
    LHBA Member loghousenut's Avatar
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    Pay your expert with cash and be sure he/she has no interest of any kind in the sale.

    If you tell your expert that you are considering building your own LHBA home, be prepared to be identified as a know-nothing moron with a touch of goofball on the side. That doesn't necessarily mean that you should not trust your expert and it certainly doesn't mean that you should not trust LHBA members. It simply signifies a difference of direction and a difference of allegiances.

    Ask your expert about any long term maintenance issues such as exterior finish, caulking/chinking, screw jacks, and signs of existing (or fututre) rot.

    Identify the moths and determine why you have an infestation.

    Make SURE that the place is a bargain and make SURE that you can sell at a profit in a few years.

    Be aware that you would never buy this house after taking the LHBA class. It's kinda like chainsaws; Homelite makes a great chainsaw until you have owned a Stihl. We are a bunch of fanatics and we like it that way.

    If you want to build your own home with your own hands, and if you want to do it without a 30 year mortgage, walk away from this deal and take the class. There will always be 5 year old kit houses on the market and some of them will always be priced right.

    Never love anything that can't love you back.... Including a house.

    Thanks for thinking enough of us to ask our opinions. We would love to have you among us if this deal doesn't pan out.




    Eighteen year old log home builder Jake Smith (loghousenut jr) in action. His Grandkids will inherit this house.



  7. #7
    Thanks for all the reply's everyone.

    The house was built in 2006 but the builder ran out of cash to finish the interior, so it was sold to an investor who then funded the rest of the project. Buy the time it was finished, the housing market had collapsed and it's been for sale for a few years. It's in a "holiday home" location away from the ski resorts and would be tough to sell in this market. This is reflected in the asking price. I don't believe it's a kit, but I will ask the builder.

    I may have misspoke in regards to the roof overhang - the east and west ends of the house do have about 2.5-3ft of overhang. It's too hard to tell from the photo how much overhang is in the rear (north facing) side of the house, but I'll take note next time I'm up there. The house has six gables, three south facing and three north facing which have log cladding. These do not have much overhang at all.

    A local log builder just got back to me and gave the construction an "average build quality". He didn't have an issues with the roof overhang - he said the sun gets too low in the sky in winter for it to matter much in this location. Overall it looked sound and no sign of settling/structural issues. I'm meeting with him on site next week, so we can go over it in more detail. He was recommended by our REA as a fair and very honest guy who knows log homes.

    Not many of the windows open (the house is at 10,000ft) and those that do have a small louver section that cranks open - I'll test them out next week - thanks for the tip.

    The house is on a well with a cistern that is presently frozen! Seller will be addressing that with an allowance at closing (aprox cost is $10K to fix).

    The log inspector said the entire log exterior needs refinishing at a cost of $6K, and upkeep would be $4-5K every 3-4 years (house is approx 65x35ft + normal sized double garage with log cladding).

    Unfortunately we do not have the time in this stage of our lives to build a log home. But I do admire the spirit of those that can pull it off!

    I think it's realistic to think we could sell it for a profit once the market rebounds, but it would take a long time to sell due to the limited market for a large 'second home' that's 45min from a ski resort.

    One again thanks for all the help and I'll be checking out the houses that have links in the signatures.

  8. #8
    Also wanted to add that the logs are approx 10" which the inspector said was a good size for our climate.

  9. #9
    LHBA Member edkemper's Avatar
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    Colorado,

    I hope you stick around and waste a few days reading as much as you can on this site. You may not be interested in building a log home yourself but there is an awful lot of things you need to learn to effectively analyze this house. Not saying not to buy it, just make sure you understand what you're getting.

    Good luck.
    edkemper

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by edkemper View Post
    Colorado,

    I hope you stick around and waste a few days reading as much as you can on this site. You may not be interested in building a log home yourself but there is an awful lot of things you need to learn to effectively analyze this house. Not saying not to buy it, just make sure you understand what you're getting.

    Good luck.
    Thanks Ed, I have been skimming the web looking for info on log homes. A lot of the info seems to revolve around the quirks of the kit industry and the issues of pests, rot and maintenance. Not sure how much of this translates to logs at 10,000ft up in the Rockies. I don't think we get carpenter bees and our climate is very, very dry so I wouldn't think rot is much of a concern, but what do i know!

    I will stick around and read, but in the end the house is the house, take it or leave it. I just need to know I'm going in with my eyes wide open.

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