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This A-frame style takes full advantage of views.
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Log Stone Home
This Appalachian Log Structures home brings the warm welcome of a log home to fruition.
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This A-frame style takes full advantage of views.
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Wood and Tin
Reclaimed wood and tin make for a unique structure.
Nick Berndt, owner of Appalachian Custom Homes in Sylva, N.C., wheels his Tundra up a winding incline to the site of a 3,700-square-foot hybrid timber frame home he’s building for a Dillsboro restaurant owner who recently moved to the area from Florida.
With the skeleton of the house in place, it’s easy to examine one of the insulation features. Green ZIP system panels cover the exterior of the home, with joints covered in black tape. A stack of the ZIP panels stretches across the deck and Berndt picks one up to show it’s a regular panel on one side, and coated on the other.
“This provides an air-tight seal,” says Berndt. “It acts as a moisture barrier and air barrier.”
The use of this type wall and roof sheathing actually saves builders like Berndt a step. They no longer have to use a house wrap or felt. These products have achieved National Green Building Certification, and Berndt says a real plus for customers who want to incorporate green elements without spending the money to qualify their home for a full LEED certification.
Attention to Detail
It’s not unusual to find Berndt at the job site. In fact, it would be rare to not see him there. He believes in a hands-on approach and believes he can ensure quality and attention to detail when he’s available to oversee the process.
“We’re not a big company,” says Berndt, who started the business in 2004 with his wife, Sheyenne. She keeps their office running on Main Street in Sylva and handles customer service and marketing.
“We try to limit the number of houses we build each year to two or three,” he says. “That way we can control it better and make sure it’s built to our standards.”
Despite the downturn in the economy, the Berndts say their customers (primarily out-of-town folks looking to build a vacation or retirement home) aren’t willing to sacrifice space when building.
“They’ve worked their entire lives to get to this point,” says Nick.
“And they want a family homestead,” Sheyenne finishes his sentence. “They don’t want to put their family up in hotels. They want everyone to be together.”
When hard financial decisions have to be made, clients are making sacrifices when it comes to finishes. Previously, customers all wanted granite and stainless steel. Now they are willing to adjust those desires in order to keep a large house.
“A lot of what we do now is conventional with timber frame accents,” says Nick. Back in his office, he points to a blueprint of the current house project. It weaves a mixture of manmade materials and natural materials to create an aesthetically pleasing design. This particular house features cement board siding, exposed timber frame, mountain laurel rails and cultured stone, to name a few of the materials.
Opposite Trend in Virginia
While the Berndts see steady interest in building large homes, the opposite is true for Southern Heritage Homes in Rocky Mount, Va.
“The biggest trend we are seeing is that people are thinking smaller,” says owner Dave Peters. “We’re seeing a push for anything under $225,000. That’s including land and house. The customers still want something really nice, but they don’t want so much debt.”
Peters says they are doing just about anything these days as they expand their offerings to keep the business financially sound. One of the popular options is a hybrid that combines a traditional modular home with the beauty of logs and/or timber framing.
They are currently building a modular log home for Bernie Edwards, a North Carolina developer who will use it as a model for future sales.
“We’re building it here in Virginia and we’ll deliver it in four sections,” says Peters. “We’ll put it together on site.”
“We’re pouring the foundation for the 2,300-square-foot, two-story model right now,” Edwards said at the time of this article in June 2010. “I own five acres of land in Weaverville right between the McDonalds and Bojangles on Weaver Boulevard and that’s where we’re putting the model. We’re Southern Log Homes of Weaverville and we have the franchise to sell these modular log homes in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.”
Edwards says he is pleased to be able to partner with Southern Heritage Homes. “It’s an Amish family business and they do excellent work,” Edwards says. “I’ve been in the modular industry for 43 years. Here I am a baby boomer going back into business, but you have to do what you can to survive in this economy.”
The Dream Continues
Ken Loomis of Ken Loomis Construction in Sevierville, Tenn. says while he still builds traditional log homes, he has migrated toward more timber frame construction.
“I made the shift consciously because I’ve always loved post and beam and the big timbers. Timber frame homes are a lot less maintenance than a log home. I’ll build whatever my client wants, but I educate them so they know that logs shift more. There’s more expansion and contraction of logs.”
Of course, skilled builders like Loomis can make some creative changes to make sure the shifting logs don’t result in any gaps where homeowners can see daylight coming through. “We like cutting our own splines. When it contracts, you don’t have a big opening.”
The biggest trend Loomis notices in Sevier County, Tenn. is that the housing market is returning to the basics. There are more starter homes and overnight cabin rentals being built. He has been concentrating on high-end housing (retirement homes, vacation homes and investment properties), but finds that he is reinventing his company during this economic recession.
“We’re now doing a lot of renovations and additions – things we haven’t done in 15 to 16 years,” he says. “To keep that cash flow going, you’ll do almost anything now.” But new construction remains his love. He’s currently beginning a project to build a 10-inch-log home for a couple from Mississippi.
Another trend he is seeing is that customers are spending more time educating themselves and researching their options. He says by the time customers contact him they often have a clear-cut game plan for what they want to create.
“It then comes down to what species of wood they want to use, and most of what we have done has been Eastern white pine,” says Loomis.
Sheyenne Berndt agrees. She says at one time people would come into their office and say they wanted to build a house. The Berndts would then guide them through the entire process. Now, she says, more customers come in with a clear idea and just seek direction on some of the choices in design and building materials.The Berndts say “green” has become a national trend in building, but customers enjoy putting in some green elements without making everything green.
They say customers appreciate the fact that they use local logs. For the big timber frame, Appalachian Custom Homes is an authorized distributor for Rocky Mountain Log Homes and Timbers.
Click here for 5 Things To Know Before Building A Log Home
For More Information
The Log Home Council of the National Association of Home Builders is a great source for event listings, featured homes and membership information. To contact them, write 1201 15th Street, Washington, DC 20005; call 800-368-5242 ext. 8576; or visit their website at loghomes.org.