You’ve spent years dreaming about living in a log home: collecting magazine pictures, touring model homes, fleshing out designs, and scoping out the perfect site with a view. Now you’re ready to find the right builder who can transform your dream into reality.
Building a new log home is a significant investment, and you’ll want to take the time to find a reputable, experienced builder. The task may seem daunting, but with careful research you should be able to find the builder who matches your needs—and one you like. Ultimately, you’re looking for a builder who will be a true partner with you throughout the process. Following are some things you’ll want to look for.
Licensures, Credentials, and Insurance
While policies on builders’ licensures (or contractor licenses) will vary from state to state, you’ll want to make sure the prospective builder holds the proper credentials for the state where your building site is located. You can check the listings on your state’s home builders licensure board website to make sure he or she holds a valid license. Dan Mitchell, owner and president of Eagle CDI Inc., in Seymour, Tennessee, points out that some licenses include certain limitations or restrictions. Make sure the builder is credentialed for the full scope of your project.
Before signing a contract with any builder it’s also important to make sure he or she is properly insured with general liability and worker’s compensation. Otherwise, you could be liable for any injuries or damages that occur on your property. Ask prospective builders to show you a copy of their insurance information. By doing that, “you’ll have peace of mind that you’re not going to get caught if someone gets hurt on your job site,” says Josh Watson, project coordinator at Honest Abe Log Homes in Moss, Tennessee.
The Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to investigate a potential builder’s reputation and financial stability.
Commitment to Professionalism
When it comes to finding the right person to transform your vision into reality, you’ll want an experienced professional with a proven commitment to quality and customer service. While membership in trade organizations (such as the National Association of Home Builders or the Log Homes Council) doesn’t have to be a make-or-break factor in your search for the right builder, Mitchell believes these professional associations give builders a competitive edge. Affiliation with a professional group is a good indicator of a builder’s commitment to the highest standards and to keeping up to date with the latest developments in the industry.
“It says a lot about a builder’s credibility and character if they want to be involved and to be educated to be a better contractor or builder in their specific discipline,” says Mitchell, who is chairman of the Systems Building Council. “There are a lot of issues taking place now in the construction industry, from sprinkler systems inside homes to energy code enforcements. Someone who’s involved with a trade organization is keeping up to date with issues that are coming down the pipeline that are going to affect their businesses and how they construct their homes. So it allows us as builders to prepare and know what’s coming up so we don’t get blindsided.”
As you begin interviewing builders, be sure to ask for a list of past customers who are willing to provide references. You’ll want to ask these previous clients if the builder was trustworthy, if he or she delivered what was promised, and if they were satisfied with the final product. You’ll also want to find out how the builder responded to difficulties, because few building projects are completed without any snags.
“Builders are problem solvers,” says Lynn Gastineau, owner and president of Gastineau Log Homes Inc., in New Bloomfield, Missouri. “They take hundreds of thousands of pieces and all these people, and they coordinate them to get the house built. So they’re solving issues, and when things come up, you’ll want to know if the homeowners were happy with the way the builder handled it.”
Mitchell also suggests looking for a builder who has constructed log homes in the past and who has a reliable pool of trade subcontractors at hand.
“The real credentials come down to experience when looking at a prospective builder,” Mitchell says. “Look at the sheer number of projects they’ve built and the number of log cabins they’ve assembled. There’s a tremendous learning curve in building log houses, so find a builder who has built multiple log homes and understands the nuances of what it takes to build a log home.”
During the search for the right builder, you may find several excellent candidates who have the technical know-how and credentials to get the job done. But none of that matters if you aren’t comfortable communicating with your builder about every aspect of the project. You’ll spend lots of time with your builder, so find someone you like.
“Personality is huge,” Watson says. “It will save so many headaches throughout the process if the homeowner and builder like each other and get along. The builder can be top-notch, but if you clash personality-wise, it’s so much rougher to deal with. The homeowner may start nitpicking, or the builder may not be willing to go the extra mile. So that’s very important when you’re making your choice—whether you click or not.”
In the long run, Watson says, doing a thorough search for a builder means “you’ll have a smooth homebuilding process. If you deal with everything on the front end, you don’t have to deal with it on the back end. By doing your homework, you might eliminate problems through foresight.”