Most builders of hand-scribed homes perform their operations out of doors due to logistical and construction reasons. Frontier Builders began their company by constructing their homes one at a time at an outdoor “log yard” facility. But after dealing with the inclement weather for a decade and trusting “mother nature” to dictate our construction schedule, we took matters into our own hands (literally) and built a 14,000 square foot controlled-environment facility. This investment has paid dividends in the form of satisfied customers whose homes were completed in a timely manner and whose raw materials, and Craftsmen were not subjected to the wear and tear of the elements during the construction process.
In our Northern Wisconsin climate there are nine months of the year when staying warm is the major comfort concern. The days in October through February are short. In order to work a good 10 hour day we need the lights to be on, so the guys can work a set schedule, this keeps our projects on schedule and this is attractive to the experienced craftsman. Think of any job you do outside and the possibility of doing that job indoor’s. What a difference this can make in the quality of the product!
Most companies kiln dry small or “short” logs. We dry our short logs too, but we distance ourselves from our competition with our capability to dry larger logs. We take the slow and low approach to drying our big logs. We are currently testing some new drying processes to further improve the large log drying process. Our first log dryer went on-line in the summer of 2008. It’s a simple structure made of two large shipping containers connected together. We have a track system to run the logs in and out of the containers. We will be expanding this system in 2010-2011 and hope to have the capacity to dry enough wood for our average size home.
Log seam gaskets have been used as an option in our home packages for many years. Due to the excellent results we have had since we started “double gasketing a few years ago. This term means that both inside and outside laterals and all of the notches. Our focus is on product quality, not the risk of losing a project to a company that doesn’t gasket, or share our long-term commitment to your building. We therefore double gasket all of our homes.
Of the many gasket styles available, we use a high quality “P” shaped gasket with a stapling flange that keeps it in place. Since this is the best gasket available, it is also, unfortunately, the most expensive. The initial cost is well worth the investment because it prevents air from moving in or out of your home, thus creating substantial long-term energy savings for our customers.
We have been proactive in testing air movement through our buildings by using a “blower door test” to see where the leaks are before our buildings are occupied. Its easy for us to address air leaks before you move in, our customer’s appreciate this and you will too!
Are the logs machine-peeled or hand-peeled? While hand-peeling would appear as the most authentic way to prepare a log for building, it is not the most efficient or the most economically sound. While hand peeling is a great way to prepare your logs, it is very labor intensive because there are so many logs that need to be peeled. Ninety-eight percent our peeling is done with our machine and we peel all of our logs twice. After the first peel, which we call a “rough peel,” the log is dried and then right before we build the home, we do a “finish peel”. We perform both jobs on the same machine which was designed to be expandable so we can do more than just peel the log.
My father, Jerry and I, spent many hours traveling all over the world on our quest to find an automated peeler that would deliver the look of a hand-peeled log. While we found some very nice systems, most of them were expensive and designed to do more than we needed too. We weren’t looking for anything that complex. During our search, we found technologies designed to do just what we wanted, but we quickly learned that after the machine did its thing, someone would have to get the draw shave out and finish what the machine couldn’t do.
We liked the old German peelers, but they were designed to peel smaller logs. So, we contacted a company that had built a new version of an older peeler. After a couple years of designing and a couple more years of tweaking, we created what I believe to be the best log peeler on the market. It delivers lots of bang for our customers’ buck. Using our system, I have fooled many builders and most of my customer’s into thinking that we still hand-peel our logs. It’s the closest thing to hand peeling that I’ve ever seen, and requires very little touch up work after the log has been peeled. This is another technique that allows us to be efficient with our customers’ money. When presented with problem’s our Old farmer’s method of hard work and common sense has helped Frontier Builders manage the challenges of building fine homes .
So, when you’re shopping for a log home builder, be sure to ask how they peel their logs, and how many times they are peeled. Some will use a small curve shoe-planer which can leave ‘planer marks” and when that log is stained, all the little marks are more prominent and detract from the “natural” look of the log.
While many people could build there own log building with excellent results by taking a class or reading a book, most of the people we build for just can’t take the time from their busy lives to devote themselves to their project like a professional log home builder would.
Frontier builders was started in 1982 by my Father Jerry Wait, at that time the revival in the handcrafted log home industry was getting started, today we are starting to see the second generation of log builders working in our industry, myself as well as many of our craftsmen have hosted and attended many log building class’s over the years. We are hoping to in the near future begin to have semi annual info weekends hosted by us for prospective customers. I have attended a couple of these done by the kit guys and I think they can be helpful. Call or email us if you’re interested in attending.
While stacking log walls may seem pretty straight-forward, constructing roof systems is not. They can get very complicated and be very labor intensive. Many people can’t believe how much it costs to build these cathedral type roofs. Lots of hours of labor, shop drawings and experience goes into each one.
I believe that we offer more bang for the buck now than at any time in our history. We bring a competitively priced product to our customers. We have taken the best log crafters, and put them in a controlled indoor environment. Add to that the finest raw materials, a top notch design team, the finest peeling system, and our service after the sale and we just might be the Log building company for you!
Since logs are nature’s purest form of material, there can be some settling, shrinking and other changes in the constructed log walls over time. Not only do we use the driest wood possible, we also utilize several other methods to ensure log wall stability.
We use settling jacks at the support posts in key areas of the structure to allow adjustments to be made to the roof and floor systems as the structure settles. The settling is typically due to continued loss of moisture content in the log as well as compression from roof loads over time. As an option to our buyers warranty we will come out to the completed project once a year up to 5 years to adjust the jacks as necessary.
In addition we will drill thu-bolts at key places from the top of the wall down through the bottom of the wall and into the sub-floor system. These bolts add a high degree of added stability as well as secure the roof to the rest of the structure. The window and door openings are cut and splined to allow a “buck” to be installed that provides a secure mounting point for the window/door and at the same time allow the logs to settle naturally.
I believe the old adage that competition makes everyone better. As a matter of fact, one of the important lesson’s my father taught me was to listen to, and emulate other successful builders. So to give you a completed home “ballpark cost” projection, hand crafted log homes can range from $150.00 to over $300.00 per square foot for a turn-key structure. This price will be impacted by the selected building styles, log sizes, wall heights, ceiling designs, and levels of detail in the building. This is why high quality construction plans are so important. If you don’t want to pay for a formal plan, sketch something up, to scale, with elevations, give us a call and we’ll sit down and come up with a ruff estimate cost. If all you have is a little sketch, have someone do some design work, there is no substitute for good plans. It’s a very important first step in the building process.
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We build a few log homes every year and have been blessed with loyal customers. Like most builders, we strive to improve our product while trying to keep the customer’s cost and our margins fair. Our goal is to be in business for another thirty years and beyond.
Thank you for reviewing these questions. We welcome your input. Please contact me at email@example.com with your comments or questions. Good luck with your building project!