Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's been our dream, we want a log cabin in the woods...where do we start? PART TWO.


About 4 months after hiring Becky, she called, asking when I could come to Montana. Two weeks later I was driving across the pan handle of Idaho across the old Bonners Ferry and into Montana on the new Highway 2 .I was on my way to meet Becky and look at some land. Being excited to be in the mountains again, I forgot the time change and was an hour late. With an embarrassed smile and a shake of the hands we were off.

When Andi, my wife and I sat down to establish for ourselves what we were looking for, we wrote down a list of the things we needed in the purchase of our land. This was the catalyst in taking the first step. For us, our priorities were a minimum 10 acres, lots of trees, access by maintained county road, lots of trees, a stream if possible and minimal neighbors were the bulk of our list. Oh, did is say “lots of trees”. We wanted to be within 30 minutes from a hospital and other services and yes of course we had a budget.

Becky and I drove 20 miles west of Kalispell, and turning a few miles up an old county road we meet a developer who was subdividing a 400 acre tract into 20, 40 and 60 acre lots adjoining a small 10 acre lake. The road only had the first cut with a dozer and the travel was rough. The topo map and subdivision map however told the story. I loved the lot layouts and the land, a part of an old homestead ranch like the one I grew up on. This was the only piece of land ever sold from this ranch and none of the adjoining property around had been developed for 100 years. The only tenants aside from the family at the ranch were the Angus cattle that seemed to be everywhere, some deer and a few wild turkeys that seemed to own the place. A quick note: if you need to review engineered maps when looking at property to understand what you get, bring a professional that can interpret for you. In my case I am a builder and understood what was presented.

At this point its time to remember that we did have a plan and although most of the items we had on our list are present, we needed to look at the land to see if we could find a desirable building site for our new log home. Its hard not to get caught up in the moment and forget what the ultimate goal is. For us to find some land we could develop for our selves, our dream log home and have space for horses and room for a little log guest cottage was all we wanted.
The lot we ultimately chose was 20 acres bordered by the stream coming from the lake and Flanked by a spring on the other end of the acreage, that flows year round. In the middle of the property there is a small rise (about and acre) coming off the road. The rise is facing south west with a view of the mountains. Tamarack forest and aspens lined the stream to west. The space was perfect. We had trees, open pasture, a nice building site and water.

I traveled back to California with photos for my wife and an offer to review. A few weeks later, Andi and I flew up to Glacier Airport and renting a car drove to the site. The minute we arrived on the land, Andi confirmed my feelings and said it feels like home. In our case the subdivision included, new county approved roads, power to each site, certified perk for septic and phone. The land also included and easement of 8 acres that connected to the small lake that was designated for private community use. This 20 acres was our ideal scene, truly the beginning of our dream.

We purchased our land and began the process to design our dream log home. Now, more planning, more priorities, more lists and new dreams.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Its been our dream, we want a log cabin in the woods…were do we start?

Its been your dream for years. You subscribe to all the log home magazines . It’s an ache you have and the only way to fine peace is to take the step and start down the path to having your own Log Home or Log Cabin in the woods. The first question is… where do we start? The best place to start down this path is with your land. With rural land there many options!

I think the first thing you have to figure out is where do I want this log home. Where do I want my log cabin? The first item on your list is to examine how you live. If you really intend to use this new log home, is it accessible? This is an important question. Only we know our own life styles. Some people will drive 6 hours in the middle of the night to catch fresh snow on the slopes or that perfect stream with grandpa’s fly rod. Others will travel a few hours at most and will feel its too much. Some already know, and have been looking for a place, but have not really seriously said to themselves, it’s time to buy some land, I want my own log home in the mountains. For my wife and I, we figured a days drive or access by air would be acceptable travel.

When my new bride and I began feeling the urge to get out of the city and possibly build a second home we had to look at the long term plan. We had to examine what we really wanted. We were newlyweds with two boys in high school and found that one thing we had in common was the peace that comes when we left the city and went to Beaver Island on lake Michigan and or our trips up to the Flathead Lake in Montana . Being from Montana I always longed for the smell of bailed hay in the fields and the smell of the larch and pines on our old family ranch. Our homestead ranch house was an old log home built in the late 1800s, as was the barn and I missed the place. The wood burning cook stove the wood shed and the two sweater outhouse I could live without.

We decided to find some land and build a log home in Montana that could be used in summer and winter. As we were not familiar with North Western Montana, we hired a local Realtor. The first Realtor was a real disappointment, sending us on a wild goose chase for over a year. This person never really took the time to listen as to what we were looking for and sent us looking at everything.

It is important to be real clear with what you want. You need to lay out your intention for yourself and your Realtor so nobodies’ time is being wasted. It is important to write your intentions down and its ok to refine them as you progress. With our budget , we had to decide that what was more important, being on a body of water or having more land. We decided we wanted a large piece of land with a view.

After stepping back and reassessing our intentions, we found a new Realtor at Coldwell Banker Wachholz & Company Real Estate. Becky Jones of Coldwell Banker in Flathead Valley was like an angel from heaven. What we liked her low key attitude and we didn’t feel like she was trying to sell us every dirt lot in the mountains. Every time we had a question or need some impute she was there. We finally felt like we were on our way to finding that perfect place for our new mountain home.

Cont. in Part Two............

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Log and wood stain sealer - low VOC information

We have started this blog to help inform log home owners and enthusiasts of log home related products, ideas, solutions and even questions. So in this avenue, here is an article about the safety and environmental issues of log treatments.

Some important items you should know about stains, sealers and strippers used in the treatment and maintenance of your log home, log cabin and decks by one of our vendors, Timber Pro UV.

The article was written by Sheri Steber of Timber Pro UV this year.

It's important to know the right questions to ask to determine how safe the products are that you are going to use.

Sheri Steber suggests visiting company websites and calling tech support lines to realize better answers than the ones you might get from clerks at store counters. Many higher durability green and sustainable coating can not be found on chain store shelves, but rather factory direct or through specialty companies such as Ecohaus, Eco Home Improvement, Wholesale Log Depot, or Green Building Center.

Following is Steiber's checklist for determining true environmental product safety:

What are the VOC levels of the product?

The tag line "Low VOC" is simply not enough. Two hundred and fifty grams per liter minus water is considered low VOC, yet many companies are making finishes much lower than that. Ask the manufacturer for the actual numeric level of VOC's.

What is the nature of the active ingredient?

Or what is the ingredient that remains to protect the wood once the solvent and carriers have evaporated in the drying process? "One company I investigated said they used lemon oil and Castor oil as their carrier (the liquid that pulls the active ingredient into the wood), and they were waiving the bio-renewable resource banner", but the active ingredient for this stain was actually a polyester resin which is not made from plant oil. Acrylic and latex stains usually use some form of petroleum in the making of these resins and they can be low VOC and quite durable. With the advent of nanotechnology, new resins, both oil and acrylic are coming into the chemical world which are amazingly durable and low VOC.

What is the clean up material for the finish?

Consider that if you need to clean up with mineral spirits, the clean up must be somewhat toxic and therefore must not be dumped down the drain. You can no longer assume that if the product is water clean up it is water-based. It could be very easily be oil-base water borne which is water clean up and the residue must not be poured down the drain either.

How long has the product been a low-VOC finish?

If it is less than four years, it's probable the track record is yet unproven. Seek a finish that has been around for a while and has several years of R&D behind it to produce it's current level of durability and sustainability.


Well - that's it! Hope you found this to be informative. If you would like more information on the products carried by Timber Pro UV, visit their website or call them for more information. If you are looking to buy stains and log material, please check out Wholesale Log Depot or Lang Creek Log Homes.......... Until next time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Our first post

Being in the log home/construction industry allows us to tap into our creative side to produce works of Art. Both Ed and myself are thrilled to have this opportunity to create these homes for our clients. Ed has been in the construction industry for over 25 years and has been building log homes on and off over those years, I have come from the business side, working in manufacturing and have been in the log home industry since 2005. Together we make a great team.

We came up with the idea of starting our own log home company, Lang Creek Log Homes, after we both left a log home company that we had invested both our time and money into almost two years ago. We are finally putting the final touches on our new facility in Acton, California.

Not all log home manufacturers are created equal and we found that out the hard way by working with a crook! We tried to get them to go straight, but after months and months of trying, we saw there was no light at the end of the tunnel - just fixing the screw ups that were being made over and over again. We actually would get into arguments trying to get our partners to build homes per the engineered plans! We realized the mentality would not change, so we left. So after we brushed off our egos, patched up our elbows and ...... our bank accounts, we set off to open a company with integrity with a real push toward delivering a high quality product at a fair price to our clients. Incidentally, the company we left was forced to closed their doors a year later......

In the time to come, we hope to provide you some insight into what it takes to build a log home, Ed and my ying/yang relationship, offer some suggestions, innovations from from the basics to how to build Green. We have a great desinger in house, a UCLA grad, whos main focus is designing eco friendly, producing amazing amazing log structures.

We apricate your time and hope to see you back soon.

Dean Schinnerer