Jeremiah Johnson Log Homes

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Standard plan revision: Save money, get what you want

24by Log Homes Illustrated Home Plans Issue

The editors of Log Homes Illustrated detail for you how to adjust a standard plan instead of creating a custom plan

Custom design is a big appeal of log homes. Often, however, potential buyers feel frustrated because their budget won’t permit a total custom design. Not to worry. You can easily and inexpensively modify a standard log-home plan to give it a custom touch.

Many log-home companies offer standard plans, also called stock plans, either individually or in a catalog or plans book. Some even show these stock plans on a CD or DVD or on their website. The plans represent a variety of styles and sizes that have proven popular with other buyers. Few actually order the plans as is. Working within the same footprint, buyers may move walls, switch rooms and otherwise change dimensions and configurations. Using computerized drafting equipment, log-home company designers can quickly adjust any standard plan to your liking and even combine the most appealing features of several plans.

It’s easy to look at a stock plan and regard it as already perfect. That’s why it ended up being published in a plan book. The trick is to recognize a plan that has the potential to become perfect for you, then figure out exactly which changes to make. It is often easier to make the floor plans and exterior design fit all of the factors and considerations than it is to modify something that appeared perfect for someone besides you and built somewhere other than on your property. Just because it is customized to meet your requirements doesn’t necessarily mean it will be more expensive.

On the other hand, many stock plans that are very fanciful and difficult to build can be made even more difficult and expensive by trying to force them onto sites that are not conducive to that plan. By the time you add 2 feet here and raise the log wall one course there, add a dormer or two and upgrade to a new log style, the cost savings of building a stock plan is gone. In this regard, a custom-designed home can actually save money and be more functional if all factors, criteria and considerations are analyzed and incorporated from scratch.

The most important aspect of any home design is the building site. It affects many other factors. Above all, the layout and shape of the house must conform to the site and its terrain. Log homes are generally built on larger parcels of land, and very seldom is that land flat.

When matching a building site to a particular stock plan, you need to consider three factors:

1)  The leach field and the well. Their locations will determine the specific spot on your lot for the home, thereby influencing its size and shape.

2)  Views. The best vantage points will determine positioning of the home and placement of rooms and windows.

3)  Roads and driveways. The approach route to the house will affect its configuration, as well as the location of the front door.
Each of these site factors may require or inspire you to modify the stock plan you like. The problem is that some changes can have serious repercussions on the construction of the house. And with all the other considerations given to size and function of rooms, orientation to the site and terrain, the views and southern exposures, it is very difficult to find a stock plan that meets those criteria, to say nothing about family size, age, entertaining family and friends, formally or informally. Add one more all-important consideration: personal expression.

The key to choosing an appropriate stock plan is affordability. Telling a log-home company not just what you need and want, but also how much you can pay, will help the company steer you toward plans in your price range. One way to ensure greater satisfaction if you’re on a limited budget it to find out how you can get more home for your dollar. For example, a story-and-a-half or two-story home costs less per square foot than a ranch style. Choosing a home up to 28 feet wide is more cost effective because it uses standard material sizes. Keeping a home shape square or rectangular lessens cost.

Another point is the your lifestyle. Couples with children may want a bedroom for each child, as well as the convenience of a separate master bath, meaning perhaps a two-story home. An older couple, by contrast, might find a ranch-style home more to their liking. Looking at a variety of stock plans gives buyers with different circumstances the opportunity to determine the style and layout of a home that would best suit their needs.

As you tour various sales models, it is also very helpful for you to see a floor plan of the model home you are visiting. It helps you visualize first hand the construction of the floor plan placed before you so that when you see the plan for your house, you will have less trouble envisioning what it will look like once it is finished.

Since the majority of log homes are custom designs or modified stock floor plans, don’t hesitate to make changes to suit your personal needs and desires. This will likely be the largest investment of your life, so you should strive to make your home as close to your dream as possible.

Along these lines, understand that certain modifications made to suit buyers’ needs usually result in additional design costs. Plans must contain some basic elements, whether you’re modifying a stock plan slightly or substantially, in order for you to secure financing, obtain the required building permits and provide contractors with a tool for estimating.

Elements of the plan include four elevations, the foundation plan, main-floor framing plan, main-floor plan, second-floor framing plan, second-floor plan, roofing plan and pertinent structural sections. Additionally, each drawing should include details that illustrate and define key elements for that particular section of the house. All of these basic elements should be included, regardless of the square footage of the home.

The most challenging aspect of modifying stock plans is the time factor. Many buyers believe that because they’re working from a stock set of plans, changes to these plans won’t take very long. With today’s computer-assisted drafting technology, modifying stock plans is relatively easy. Even so, depending on the amount of modifications required, this process could take anywhere from several hours to several days.

Some buyers purchase a kit manufacturer’s floor plans, then have it produced by another company. Sometimes the producer will have to modify the plans to accommodate its own log system and may charge the buyer for this conversion. There are also copyright issues affecting the copying, distribution and resale of stock plans. Some companies register their plans, giving them exclusive rights and ownership to them. In most cases, when you purchase a stock set of plans, you will have the right to use those plans to build one home, regardless of who the producer or supplier is.

Although stock plans are a good starting point for your eventual design, these plans change over the years. Many that worked well in the 1970s and 1980s are outdated today. People need space for home computers, Jacuzzi tubs, walk-in showers, big-screen televisions, handicap access and guests who require their own bath. A 1,600-square-foot log home that seemed roomy enough in 1978 might need to be 1,900 square feet today to fit in all those amenities and still convey the right sense of comfort.

This raises a key point. Log homes do not have to be large or complicated to be appealing. For a smaller log home under 2,000 square feet, start with a standard design or look that suits your taste, then modify the floor plan to fit your site and your way of living.

Actually, smaller log homes are more traditional than larger ones. Making the most of storage space, display shelves, built-in cabinets, cathedral ceilings and lighting help smaller homes appear larger by making the most of the volume.

It helps to locate furniture and traffic patterns in a home early on in the design process because your layout options may be limited. Simplified rooflines, offsets and textures are a key to successful small-home design. The use of covered porches, decks and outdoor features helps increase the usable space of a small home.

As for larger homes, they can be boring if all the construction is the same. That’s why buyers like to mix materials and construction systems in larger designs, using timber-frame construction and drywall in the interior, for example, and stone on the exterior to break up the wood while retaining the architectural theme. Large homes are not large boxes. They tend to be a collection or combination of smaller boxes. Once the box has been defined, it becomes easier to mix components. Custom-designed large homes are the norm rather than the exception.

Large or small, every stock plan should strive to have certain characteristics. When you are considering a stock plan or a modified version of one, this plan generally has to meet four major criteria: be both functional and suitable to the customer¹s lifestyle, be architecturally pleasing, be adaptable to the chosen building site and be one that can be completely built within the buyer’s budget. Because these criteria are different for each buyer, producers¹ stock plans vary drastically in regards to characteristics and components, the theory being that a company should have something for everyone.

The most common changes to stock plans are adding or deleting square footage; adding or deleting porches and decks; changing window and door locations, shapes and sizes; adding, deleting or rearranging interior walls; and adding garages, workshops, mud rooms and breezeways. Many times, what may be perceived as a small and simple change by the home buyer can end up being a very complex and costly change due to the overall effect the change may have had due to structural reasons. For example, you may want to eliminate a post that is supporting the roof. Accomplishing this might require the roof system to be totally redesigned, using different and more costly materials.

Buyers contemplating changes to stock plans should consider the four major criteria identified above and ask two questions:

1)  What effect will the proposed changes have on the four criteria?

2)  Do the changes have a positive effect in regards to achieving the four criteria?

If you can answer yes to this last question, then you are one step closer to having your dream log home. Always keep in mind that the only limitations are your imagination and your budget.   Above all, do your homework. The more information you give the drafts-person, the easier it will be for her or him to do the job‹and for the log-home company to produce the home you want. Some of the biggest problems that occur with a buyer¹s design ideas are structural, getting all the bearing points to line up, making sure that you don¹t draw something that cannot be built. This is vital.

Before you begin to study actual floor plans leading to your home, try creating a plan yourself or at least make a list of what you want. Then look at log-home magazines, books and catalogs. By then you’ll be ready to work with a log-home designer to make slight or major changes to a stock plan or embark on a brand-new custom design. Keep in mind, though, that virtually all stock plans originated as some previous customer’s custom design.

Whichever design route you take to your final home plan, careful planning plus understanding what you truly need and want‹can make the construction process move much more efficiently. The result will be a home that is created just for you.

This story featured photos in the magazine. Buy the 2007 Log Home Plans issue of Log Homes Illustrated by calling (800) 258-0929. It features other articles and dozens of floor plans.

Source: Log Homes Illustrated