2016 May 29: Update on Floor Plan & Cost Analysis

Floor Plan update:

Before I took the class, I made a post about our Floor Plan. We created the floor plan before the class to help us get an idea of the possibilities of our layout. I went to class and learned a lot of reasons why our floor plan should be changed.

One thing that impressed me is the use of square floor plans. Because I have a degree in Math, this is something I’m interested in. Here’s the argument:

Take your typical rectangular floor plan: 30 x 50. For simplicity, we’ll just consider the first floor. The square footage works out to be 1500 square feet. No problems right?

Now take those same dimensions (30 x 50), and subtract 10 feet from the long side (50 – 10 = 40), and add those same 10 feet to the short side (30 + 10 = 40). We haven’t increased or decreased the amount of materials, have we? No. They were just subtracted from the long side and added to the short side. Ok, so now, using the same amount of linear measurements, our dimensions are now 40 x 40, right? A square. Now, when we do our square footage calculations, we have 40 x 40 = 1600 square feet. So we just added 100 square feet to our house without increasing the amount of material we need for the walls. Pretty neat, huh? Yes, that 100 square feet will cost us on the floor and the roof, but it costs us $0.00 to add it to the walls.


My wife hates math. She doesn’t know it, but she’s actually very good at math. She makes quilts with patterns she creates. When I showed her the calculations above, she wasn’t impressed. To her, it was all about the layout. And rectangles work very well for layouts- ever heard of a “golden rectangle”? No? Very interesting. Square layouts…not so much. But what did make sense was when we go to submit our building plans, how would the City Building Inspector react to our hand-drawn (or even computer drawn, but by amateur) plans? Would he require “engineered plans”? How much of a stickler were we going to be dealing with here? Finding an engineer that is qualified on log home construction is hard enough, but then having him get you plans with a wet stamp on them adds to the cost. For the un-initiated, a “wet stamp”, as far as I can tell, means that an engineer licensed in your area, has signed off on the plan requirements- bolts, nuts, steel thickness, beam thickness, roof truss design, etc. The plans I found online all needed to be modified to meet our needs- large family, specific bedroom assignments, large pantry, super special other stuff, etc. I found plans for as cheap as $400.

I stated in my previous post that the plans from the class were $1700. When I got to class, they offered them at a steep discount- almost half price. And the plans they were selling included engineered drawings for three different sizes- 30×30, 35×35, and 40×40. And the plans included three different foundation layouts- crawlspace, full basement, and pier. And the plans included plans for a two-car garage. And they included plans for a 200 square foot shed. And they included lifetime building rights. Meaning, you can build as many of these homes as you like. I researched this last one (from an  article titled “The 10 things you must know about architectural copyrights“):


In many construction projects, the owner, construction manager or contractor will contract with an architect or designer to design the project. Regardless of payment, if the contract does not state otherwise, the original architect or designer retains ownership of the copyrights and the purchaser merely obtains a non-exclusive license to use the plans for that particular construction project. This means that the owner and/or contractor do not necessarily have the right to use the purchased plans for any other projects…

LHBA also provides free access to an engineer for members. If your Building Inspector requires a wet stamp, and architects in your area are unfamiliar with log home construction, you just give your architect this guy’s phone number, and he answers any questions for free. That alone is worth the price of the plans.

But let’s go back to the “build as many homes as you like”. Most people in this organization will build one home, and then they are done. I’m hoping to be in that category, so why is this important? Why should I care if LHBA grants me the rights to build as many homes as I like using their plans? For me, it means this isn’t a rip-off organization. They don’t exist to take my money for some over-priced (ha!) class that just shows you a few tips, and then says, “ok, go get ’em!” No. This is an organization that, at its very core, is dedicated to increasing a person’s ability to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That makes me happy.


We ended up really liking the 40×40 plan, even though in class, they are saying not to start with that one. Folks are saying it’s too big, hard to clean, more expensive, etc. We are planning so that all of our living can be done on the first level- kitchen, laundry, living, bedrooms, bathrooms. The second level is just for the older kids. A floor plan smaller than 40×40 just doesn’t give us the feeling of enough space on the first floor. We have lots of hobbies- she sews, and needs space for fabric. I like to knit and do woodwork. I’m also a musician- I play piano, accordion, sax- well, all the woodwinds except oboe and bassoon, and a little guitar. These things take up space…

Could have picked a smaller instrument to play, I guess….

My wife modified the interior somewhat- and we can make it work just as well as our rectangular plan. I don’t think I should share the actual floor plan here, but I can describe it: walk in the front door, living room on the left, kitchen on the right. Living area is open to all the way to the roof. A 3/4 2nd floor encloses the rest of the home. At the back of the living room are stairs that go up from left to right. Behind the stairs is a hallway, with one bedroom and a master bedroom with master bath. Behind the kitchen is a large pantry with room and next to that is laundry. There is also a backdoor. Across the hall from the pantry and laundry is the main floor bathroom.  Upstairs, there are two bedrooms above the 1st floor bedrooms. There are also some closets. There is also a bathroom and a study that could also be a bedroom. The entire house is enclosed by a large wrap around porch, with a special screened in area at the back porch, and a walkway leading to the detached garage.

Cost Analysis

original cost analysis- 3 months before I took the class.

Read the original post here. Not much has changed. I might not need to buy a sawmill ($3,000), but I ended up buying a tractor ($3,000), so that’s a wash. Chainsaw was $350, but I’m transporting my own logs, so that saves me $300 from my estimate. Chain hoists are going to run me $240, not $100, so that increases by $140. Rope was $70, so I saved there. OSB for forms are going to be more- I might be able to save some by going in with another member in Lacey Springs (30 min away), but it will be a couple hundred for the wood forms- you have to have them ready all at the same time. And on and on. The roof will probably go up by $1,000, now that I know how the class recommends doing it. I think, bottom line, the shell will cost me about $15,000. I’m still sticking with my interior estimate of $25,000 at this point. So, total cost to build: I’m still estimating $40,000.

The good news is, I’m adding $300 a month to a “build savings account”. I estimated this amount to offset the amount of money I started with to come up with the $40,000 total I would need. The other good/bad news is my time frame to complete is now nearing three years instead of two. Peeling logs is pretty slow. The reason this is good news is because at $300 month, an extra year will add $3,600 to my “build savings account”, not to mention the extra tax return for that year (that hopefully) will also add up, which is more comfortable for our bottom line.

That’s the latest update. I think we are still doing pretty well on costs.


Cost analysis

I got bored while looking for land, so I priced out all the materials I could think of that I will need to build this log home. I went to HomeDepot online, and just looked there for everything. I’m sure that I can get stuff cheaper if I keep my eyes open- for example, I saw an ad recently on Craigslist for 3/4″ OSB for $7.00/sheet.

The cost is very surprising. Assuming I can get the logs for free (I found a Craigslist ad for a guy that wants someone to come take 50 mature trees out of his yard), everything else prices out as below. I’d have to hire a logging truck to come pick up the logs, but I already found out it’s about $300 or less. So, here’s my price list: log-home-cost-analysis

For less than $10,000, I get the shell. That includes a sawmill, a chainsaw, other tools, concrete for the foundation, the logs, the spikes, and the roof. I forgot to add one thing: a tractor. Found out I’m going to need a way to load the logs onto the sawmill, dig holes, drag chains attached to pulleys, level the ground, build driveways, move dirt, and basically lift heavy stuff. I’ve been looking, and it appears I can get one for about $3500, so the shell will cost about $13,000.

The whole thing (not including the land) will cost about $40,000. I’m using the sawmill to make the beams, and also the flooring. We may even do concrete counter-tops like this: concrete-countertop

Our plan right now is 36’x48′ two levels, with 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, an atrium for plants, and a balcony. $40,000 for a 3,000 sq ft log home is pretty darn cheap!