Log Homes - Tips for Choosing a Plan
by Al Hearn

With all the choices available, choosing the right floor plan for your log home or log cabin is not as easy as it seems. Here are some tips to help you narrow your plan search.

Use your old home to help you plan your new home
One of the ways to help you decide on a plan for your new home is to take a look at your present home and use it as a reference point for your new plans. Treat your new home plan as an "adjustment" of your old home plan. Make a list of the features you like and dislike in your current home. Add features you don't have now, but would want in your new home. List things you consider to be problems in your home now (not enough storage space, hallways too narrow, family room too small). List the types of rooms you want, and the individual features of those rooms.

Organize your initial plans
Start a scrapbook that includes pictures and illustrations of the styles of log home and specific features that appeal to you. An organized scrapbook can save you time and provide a means of clearly communicating with log home company representatives and builders. As you study the photos in your scrapbook, certain features will stand out. Identifying these features will help you narrow your search for a log home provider. For example, if your scrapbook photos show mostly handcrafted log homes, you can concentrate your search on those log home companies that offer this style.

Start with a simple "box" plan
Make a scaled floorplan drawing of your current residence, with room and building measurements. Then draw a rough layout of rooms for your new home, with the rooms represented only by boxes. Use the dimensions of your old rooms as a reference to upsize or downsize the dimensions for your new rooms. Arrange the boxes in the general pattern that you would want. Account for hallways, closets, and storage spaces. This will give you a good idea of not only your general floor plan, but also your overall home dimensions.

Use your computer
You can also use your computer to help you design your home. There are a variety of home design software products available that can make your planning easy and fun. See here for more details.

Search for standard plans
It's possible that there is already a home plan out there that closely meets your needs. Finding it may not be easy, however. The Internet is one of best search locations and offers a treasure trove of plans. The web sites, CoolHousePlans.com and HousePlans.com are good examples. Other than the "log cabin" or log home" categories, plans in the "country home" or "cottage" categories also work well for log homes.

Of course, log home companies have their own plans, many of which are variations of standard designs that have proven popular over the years. Log home magazines (and their associated web sites) also have plans, usually in advertisements by log home companies. A few books containing nothing but log home plans are also available.

Plans can be customized
Any log home floor plan can be modified to suit your needs. You don't have to choose one of the standard plans offered by log home companies. You can use the plan from one company as the basis for creating a plan to be used by another company. In fact, your base plan doesn't even have to be a plan for a log-style home.

Keep in mind, however, that log homes are somewhat more constrained than conventional homes, from a flexibility of construction perspective. The fewer corners you have, the less complicated the design, the easier the construction and the lower the cost. Building walls of horizontally stacked logs offers fewer design options than building with frames of 2x4 lumber.

Let your log home company help
Log home companies have in-house designers to help you create or modify a plan. They use sophisticated professional Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) software for this purpose. You should have done as much work as possible on your own before you go to the log home company. Don't expect them to create your dream plan out of thin air.

Realize that some parts of your desired plan may not be feasible because of excessive cost, structural problems, or building code restrictions. For example, simply removing a window or changing the type of door in a plan may violate a code that requires a minimum number of windows or a certain type of door. This is why it is very important to consult with a professional architect or designer early in your planning process to make sure your dream plan is actually buildable.

Al Hearn is a log home enthusiast and consumer advisor who has followed and researched the log home industry for over 25 years. After many years, his life's priorities finally allowed him to begin living his own log home dreams. He is owner and operator of  http://www.LogHomeAdvisor.com, a web site in which he shares his knowledge and advice with fellow log home lovers.

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