Log cabins that come in a kit — what are they?
If you have looked at log cabins that come in a kit, then you’ve probably noticed they tend to be very expensive. If you found that to be disappointing, then you might be happy to hear that there is a little known secret about how to get log cabins for free — or at least for a shockingly small amount of money. And the cool thing is that the least expensive “kit” you can get, is the absolute best one you could possibly build. It will be the the easiest to build, the quickest to build, the least expensive, the most resistant to water damage, and the strongest.
First off, you should understand exactly what the average log cabin “kit” consists of. A manufacturer typically includes three basic items with a kit: logs, doors, and windows. Sometimes they will include roof material and a porch. A log home at that stage of construction is often called “dried in” (aka, it’s weather tight). It is vital to understand that a manufacturer can’t and won’t include finish materials, such as plumbing, electrical, floor coverings, kitchen cabinets, etc.
When it comes to pricing log cabins, salespeople who sell kits usually describe it like this:
1. The actual log cabin kit: $80,000
2. Materials for finishing your home: $80,000
3. Labor (with a local general contractor): $80,000
What they are really saying is that the rough cost estimate of just the “kit package” (at that dried in stage) is roughly one third of your total construction costs. They say that, in the same breath that they say “see, kit log cabins are inexpensive, it’s just $80,000 to build your home” — emphasising the dried in cost of your log cabin kit package, to minimize the fact that you will easily spend $240,000 by the time you’re done with your project. Any way you look at it, $240k is one heck of a lot of money and you should always keep your eye on the “finished” cost, not just the cost the log cabin kit.
Here’s where a lot of that expense comes from:
- Kit log cabins are made from milled wood products. That means the manufacturer takes raw houselogs from the forest, and does a lot of work to them. The finals product is usually a milled 4×6 timber with a special D or double D profile, and a tongue and groove feature top and bottom. Manufacturing such a “log” requires very expensive machinery, a lot of labor, and extra transportation. The kit manufacturer is literally getting raw logs dirt cheap, doing a lot of work to them, and then selling them to you at a huge mark up. Remember, it is a brute economic fact that a manufactured item is always much more expensive than the raw material that goes into it. Unfortunately it is just not feasible for the average owner builder, or even general contractor, to manufacture their own kit. The machinery involved is just exorbitantly expensive.
- Kit log cabins all experience settling (but not properly built butt and pass style log cabins). That means the overall height of your exterior log walls will get shorter over time. To compensate for settling, you must do a lot of complicated and expensive work on your kit log cabin… such as cutting keyways for your windows and doors, cutting settling space above windows and doors, installing screw jacks under the home, using slip joints on all the plumbing features, all thread with self adjusting nuts, et cetera. This can all be very complicated and expensive work which must be done absolutely perfectly to avoid potential problems. This kind of work is generally beyond the capacity of your overage owner builder and in fact beyond the capacity of your average general contractor who lacks specific log home building experience. It cannot be stressed enough that this work must be performed absolutely perfectly if you are to have any hopes of avoiding commonly experienced by kit log cabins.
Log cabins made from scratch
Now here’s the secret. If you build a genuine Butt and Pass log home, then you can use raw logs purchased for rock bottom prices locally instead of a manufactured wood product purchased from a kit manufacturer. Or you could use raw logs purchased from a neighbor who is thinning the trees on their land. Or using trees harvested from your own land. There are even ways to get your logs for free. This “kit” of raw logs would literally consist of a logging truck full of unprocessed logs.
And if you build a traditional Skip style Butt and Pass log home then there are several other very important advantages. Your log home will require no notching, no milling, no keyways, no screw jacks, no slip joints, no self adjusting nuts — because a Skip style Butt and Pass log home will experience no settling. In other words it requires none of the things that makes a manufactured kit cost so dang much. And perhaps the most awesome part is that it can be built by an average person who does not have any previous construction experience. That’s right, no manufacturing costs for a milled product and no expensive and complicated finishing work.
For example, here’s a picture of the Dale family home.
The Dales attended our log home building class and ended up building their own beautiful log home using trees harvested from their own property. It’s worth noting that the total cost to build this home was less than the cost of their neighbor’s car. That’s right, they built a home for less than it cost to buy a new car. It’s also worth noting that they had no previous construction experience before building this home, they gained all the knowledge they needed just by attending our famous 2-day log home class.
Now let’s talk about all the other materials you’ll need to build log cabins. The windows, doors, roofing material, kitchen cabinets, etc. When dealing with a kit manufacturer or licensed contractor all those supplies will be be brand new. Generally you’ll just be paying straight up “we saw you coming” retail price. They will never spend the time to shop around for the super good deals, or finding surplus or recycled building materials for your project. Even if you get your logs for free, relying on someone else to spend your money is a quick ticket to the poor house.
On the other hand, if you’re an owner builder then you can take steps to minimize the costs of those items. For instance, we recently had a former student obtain brand new windows at $13,000 off the retail price. We had another member who found all the insulation for his roof for literally the spare cash he had in his wallet on that particular day (and he really doesn’t carry much cash). We had another member save 35% on their metal roof, just by making one simple decision. We are so dedicated to the concept of debt free living, and construction cost reduction that we have a section of class dedicated to explaining how to find these deals.
This is exactly what the Dale family did. They used free logs, they supplied their own labor, and they used mostly used or recycled materials. At an estimate their costs breaks down in the following manner:
- Free logs
- Approximately $25,000 worth of building materials
- Free labor (their own)
25K, versus 240K… That certainly shows the stark contrast between the costs typically associated with kit log cabins, versus
the costs that can be associated with Skip style Butt and Pass log cabins. And now you know why this is the “secret” of the log cabin industry: there’s just no money to be made selling a traditional Butt and Pass kit. You can only over-charge so much for a logging truck full of raw logs, before karma comes after you.
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