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Rustic style gets an update

Log homes span spectrum from hunting hideaway to lakefront chalet
By: Jane Rounsaville, Special to Home & Garden
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There’s something irresistible about log homes. Maybe it’s the fragrance of cedar or pine in the air, waking to the ultimate foothill view from your bedroom window, or that “instant vacation” feel you get the moment you walk through the front door. Log homes have come a long way from the days of dark, drafty pioneer shanties. Today’s log home builders offer everything from rustic hunting hideaways to luxury lakefront chalets. As recently as 10-12 years ago, many log homes were simple structures measuring less than 1,000 square feet. These days, buyers can choose large-scale log and timber hybrid homes, with high-end contemporary features like interior drywall, tile floors and granite countertops. “The majority of our customers are the baby-boomer generation,” said Chuck Clark, vice president of the Western region for Lincoln Logs in Auburn. A lot of people are into the big chalet these days, he said. One of his company’s most popular models is a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home that runs about 2,500 square feet. “Today, we sell our houses anywhere from 2,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet,” Clark said. “It is no longer a cabin — it is a log home.” Homebuyers need to do a little research before staking their claim on a log home plan, though. While buyers don’t usually give much thought to the technical aspect of stick homes, they need to know as much as possible about the different types of building materials and processes used in log home construction. The construction process takes an average of about nine months, depending on whether buyers build their log homes from scratch, order a turnkey home package, or make modifications to an existing plan. “We actually have a catalog that we will have customers come in and generally use that as an idea base,” said Stan Chisum of Golden State Real Log Homes in Colfax. “However, probably 90 to 95 percent of our homes are actually custom homes. We do a lot of turnkey products where basically the customer says, ‘Here is my property, here is what I want — hand me the key when you’re done.’” Clark said that about 90 percent of the log homes he sells are made from some species of pine. “It is a good economical wood. It’s structurally sound, and does not cost an arm and a leg,” he explained. Cedar is also a popular building material, but it costs about 30 percent more than pine. But, no matter what type of wood is used, logs need to be maintained periodically. Log homes must be treated with a protective finish every few years. Golden State Real Log Homes uses a product called Transformation, which comes in a variety of shades. “The more pigment in the finished product, the more UV protection you have,” Chisum said. “That would be true of any wood surface. It really depends on the amount of direct sunlight. Most of the log homes are being built in a wooded area, so you tend to get a lot more shade. “It really depends on how much direct exposure to sunlight that a log home gets. It would be the same as you would with any painted wood surface. Maybe every five to seven years, you would want to do a power wash, and then put a finish coat on.” According to the Log Homes Council, today’s log homes are more energy efficient than most stick-built homes. “Log homes should save you about 20 percent on utility bills, compared to conventional built home,” Clark said. “With very few modifications, you can make a log home reach PG&E’s 5-star rating, which is the most energy-efficient on the market.”