Designing Your Log Home: Tips To Keep You Out of Trouble

Nearly every log home is a custom design, whether you are altering a stock plan or starting from scratch. By their very nature, custom floor plans open up a large number of untested challenges – especially if you are trying to design the house yourself. With almost all log home manufacturers, an in-house architect will take your design and turn it into a set of drawings that conform to their building system. Your home will be structurally sound. However, don’t necessary expect them to point out every inconvenience or snafu in your design. This is a hands-on business, and in the end, your house design is on you… and you’ll have to live with it. Here are a few pointers I can suggest to make your design more efficient.

MECHANICALS: Open floor plans are the essence of the modern log home. They make a home feel larger, and keep the cook from feeling isolated. However, if you have a second floor you need to consider how you are going to get the plumbing, the electric and the ductwork (both supply and return) to the upstairs rooms. You won’t be using the exterior walls for that, so you need to create enough interior walls downstairs to fit all the mechanicals. Each object in all likelihood will take its own space between the 2x4s. Even if you use radiant-floor heating, you’ll need ductwork for the air conditioning. There are some systems that use high-pressure ductwork much smaller in diameter than conventional ducts, so there are other possibilities if you are pressed for space. But the best solution is to think ahead. If you’re tempted to use an interior full-log wall (or none at all), you may be sacrificing an opportunity to get more ductwork upstairs.

PLUMBING: The wisest floor plans are the ones that try to keep the bathrooms together (either back-to-back or one directly above the other) and the shortest runs on the plumbing. This can’t always be done, but when placing the upstairs bathroom, try to line it up with an interior downstairs wall. This way the plumbing doesn’t have to snake all over the place.

CLOSETS: I would venture to guess that log homes are usually notoriously short on closet space. I know my home is. First of all, it would be a terrible waste to put a closet against an exterior log wall. Why hide your beautiful logs? And because we try to keep the square footage down to a minimum, it almost seems a crime to waste precious space on closets. However, there’s more than one reason to include them. Not only do we seem to collect more stuff as we get older, but by law in several states the closet determines whether a room is a bedroom or an office. This could affect the resale (or refinancing) of your house. Here is a suggestion: put two closets side-by-side on the wall separating two rooms; the closets may not be huge, but it doesn’t change the shape of the rooms. Try to include a coat closet near your front door.

WINDOWS: As I’m sure you’ve already read many times, you can’t have too many windows in a log home. The wood sucks up the light like a sponge. If you have a large empty wall, the insertion of a window near the peak not only lets in more light, it adds character. Some people add windows along either side of a shed dormer. In my case, I had to move the roof line to increase the size of my bedroom window, because by code it needed to be 6′ square for egress. In any upstairs bedroom you’ll need your windows to be large enough to climb out in case of fire. Also remember that too many direct-set windows will decrease the amount of air flow to your upstairs. In my house I added an awning (a small hinged window) to the bottom of stationery windows in my dormers. This helped let air in, but even so the rooms can be stuffy. A ceiling fan helps, but ultimately I may need to add a skylight to create a draft.

KITCHEN VENT: One of the more difficult decisions we made concerned how to vent the range hood. If you don’t want your stove to be on an exterior wall, you are going to have an interesting puzzle. Will you run the exhaust duct between the floor joists to the exterior? Will the run be so long you’ll have to add another fan? I gave in and moved my stove to the exterior wall, but then we had to cut a hole in the logs for the vent. Horrors! How do you hide that? My builder built a little cedar box around the hole and we were lucky enough to have a porch roof underneath, so you can’t see it from every direction. Still, this ugly vent is on the front of the house, and had I thought of it, I may have moved the kitchen to the back of the house.

CRAWL SPACE vs. BASEMENT: There are many reasons to opt for a crawl space rather than a basement – none of them particularly comfortable. Aside from the obvious disadvantages of a crawl space, there are a few things we didn’t think of. I, in my blissful ignorance, didn’t give any thought to the ugly electrical panel. Of course, I knew we’d have meters and a panel, but I didn’t think of where they were going. What I didn’t know was that by code, we couldn’t put the panel in the crawl space. Since we don’t have a garage, the electrical panel was installed in one of our rooms on the log wall. Isn’t that lovely? Another disadvantage of the crawl space: you’ll need a short water heater if that’s where it is going, and you may need to purchase a horizontal-mount furnace. Because our water quality was poor, we had to install a purification system. This 54″ unit must be mounted upright, and our crawl space is 48″ tall. We had to punch a hole through the concrete floor to make room for the unit.

GUTTERS: Yes, you want to get the water away from your log home at all costs. There can be challenges; we have an alpine-style home with a vaulted ceiling. However, the roof comes to a deep V on the corners that create a magnificent rain chute. This is not necessarily wonderful when it dumps onto your deck! Because of the generous overhang that comes with a log home, the end of that V projects far from the walls and doesn’t make a logical angle from which to hang a downspout. On one corner I satisfied myself with an old-fashioned rain barrel, and on the deck side we had to divert the water to the pergola we built against the house, and ran a gutter along the edge of the pergola.

OVERHANGS: You should have at least a 1′ foot and preferably a 2′ overhang to protect your logs. This overhang needs to be taken into consideration when designing your roof line. If you have overlapping angles, make sure you are not creating a water trap or a snow trap. There are times your overhang might bump into another angle of the roof. You may actually have to raise part of the roof a little to make clearance.

DOOR SWINGS: This can be one of the most annoying errors you can make and not catch until too late. Think of what your door is covering when opened all the way. Is it covering another doorway? Will two doors bang together? If you are in a tight space, will it open all the way at all? When we installed our bathroom vanity, we didn’t think about the door swing until the plumbing was already hooked up. The door cleared the vanity by one whole inch; it could have been worse. You can compensate by swinging the other way (before it’s already hung, or your hinges will be on the wrong side). Or, in the design phase you can use a narrower door. Or get a smaller vanity.

ELECTRICAL: The electrical and plumbing layout will not come from your log home architectural drawings. The manufacturer is not concerned about where you put your outlets. Once the plans are firmed up, the time will come for you to sit down with the electrician and mark exactly where you want your outlets, switches and light fixtures. Local code will determine the minimum distance between outlets, but anyone will tell you to put in more than you need; eventually you will probably use them anyway. Even if you don’t need it, put your cable and telephone into every room; it’s so much easier and cheaper to do it up front. Also remember, you can’t ever have too many lights in a log home. Plan ahead for those fixtures – especially the ones in the ceiling. They will not be pretty to add later on.

DEAD SPACE: If you are building a huge log home, you’ve got so much space it doesn’t really matter. But for most of the rest of us, every inch counts. There are some approaches that might maximize your floor space. First of all, do you really need hallways? Some space-saving designs arrange the rooms so they all open into a small hallway. I prefer none at all. Also, consider that every closet door creates dead space. If you can arrange your floor plan so that closet door swings into a place which is already dead (for instance, another closet door or a foyer), you might open up the room a bit. Does your loft serve a purpose or is it merely an open hallway from room to room? Can you put a piece of furniture on it? If not, perhaps it would serve to give it an angle and make your “open to below” space a little smaller.

Hopefully I’ve helped a little bit. I learned many of these tips the hard way, and I’m sure there are plenty more I haven’t bumped into yet. After all, a custom home is one giant learning curve.

Commercial Building Inspections – Tips for Finding a Reliable and Competent Building Inspector

If and when planning to purchase a commercial property, the question often arises, ‘How Can I Find a Reliable and Competent Building Inspector for Conducting a Commercial Building Inspection?’ While one could easily write an eBook on this subject matter, this article offers several tips to help you hire a reliable and competent inspector for the purpose of obtaining a thorough and diligent commercial building inspection. So without further ado, let me begin by telling you ‘What Not to Do’.

Never hire a commercial building inspector who was referred to you by the real estate agent or any other outside party who has a vested interest in and stands to gain from the sale of the property.

Although this statement goes without saying, it’s worth mentioning simply because many of those looking to purchase commercial real estate believe it is standard protocol to rely upon the realtor’s recommendation for hiring an inspector. In reality, this practice poses a conflict of interest that can have dire consequences for the party purchasing the property. Unfortunately, real estate agents who knowingly partake in this practice along with inspectors who continue to burn the candle from both ends know exactly what they’re doing and how to get away with it. While there may be a few exceptions to what I am telling you, I can assure you that the majority of inspectors who rely heavily upon referrals from real estate agents for their business are not going to rock the boat by disclosing any information to the client during the course of an inspection that may later serve to jeopardize their relationship with the broker or real estate company who referred them in the first place.

Never hire a Home Inspector to conduct a Commercial Property Inspection.

As for hiring a home inspector to conduct a commercial building inspection, suffice it to say that in most cases, conducting a commercial building inspection is altogether different from performing a home inspection for reasons too numerous to list in this article. However, the proliferation of home inspectors over the past twenty years (everyone wants to be one, especially in those States where home inspection licensing has become mandatory making it relatively easy for anyone to become licensed), hasn’t helped either as this has spawned an increasing number of home inspectors who are still unable to properly inspect a home, much less a commercial building, even if their life depended upon it. Moreover, given the number of significant and distinct differences between residential and commercial property, while experience in inspecting homes may well serve as a prerequisite, it is by no means a substitute for the vast amount of knowledge and experience required and yet to be learned by most home inspectors before they can even begin thinking about conducting a diligent and thorough building inspection.

Aside from ‘What Not to Do’, there are also other criteria you need to consider or at least be aware of in your quest to hire a reliable and competent commercial building inspector. namely:

Know the fundamental difference between a Commercial Building Inspection and a Property Condition Assessment (PCA).

Although this topic warrants a separate discussion, it’s important to note that the terms ‘PCA’ and ‘Commercial Building Inspection’ are often used interchangeably in the commercial sector. This in turn has resulted in a lot of confusion not only among real estate investors and others looking to purchase commercial property but real estate agents as well who more often than not simply do not know much less understand the difference. To make matters worse, the ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials) has also gotten in on the act by promulgating their ASTM Standards for Conducting a Baseline PCA. What this means is that since they happen to be a nationally recognized organization in the construction industry, in certain respects they’re similar to the AMA in the medical profession meaning anything and everything they write on a particular subject happens to bear a lot of weight. The problem arises in that the Standards for Conducting a Baseline PCA are often misunderstood by many in the profession and seldom if ever read by those buying and selling real estate.

To simplify things, all one really has to know is that the difference between a commercial building inspection and a Baseline PCA is like night and day since the later can be performed in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct a thorough and diligent commercial building inspection. The reasoning behind this is pure and simple in that a PCA is essentially a cursory walk-through of the property that relies heavily upon second hand information obtained through interviews and documentation (that may/may not be readily available let alone veritable) normally obtained through the owner and/or occupants of the property. Hence, my advice to anyone who is seriously considering having a PCA in deciding whether or not to purchase a commercial property is to forget it since in most cases a PCA is a total waste of time and money in providing information contained in a property condition report that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Try to obtain as much information as you can about the company and the inspector beforehand

This is another statement that goes without saying but I mention it because many people feel uncomfortable in asking questions of this nature especially when speaking with someone they don’t already know. However, if you reflect upon what I’ve just said for a moment, the fact you don’t know anything about the company or the inspector should be reason enough to ask all the questions you can to solicit answers without being embarrassed.

Be sure to ask the company or building inspector for references

Last but not least, do not be embarrassed to ask for bonafide references regarding recent clients for whom they have conducted similar commercial building inspections. If the company or inspector is reputable and if they have confidence in the service they provide, they normally will not have any reservations whatsoever in providing you with this information.

My next article will provide tips as to what questions you need to ask and what else you need to be aware of in looking to hire a reliable and competent commercial building inspector.

Important Tips To Avail The Roofing Restoration Service

The roof is the most significant part of the house, commercial building, government construction, and others. Hence, it should be the strongest and durable. In order to bear the natural hazards, and keep the building stand sturdy, it is necessary to uphold the high standards of the quality of the roof. The roof must be made of the high-quality materials. However, sometimes to have a new and modern look we do not give due importance to the material and quality of the roof.

Roof installation is not an easy task. It requires expertise and highly-skilled professionals. Not just roof installation, but a quality roof installation matters. It provides protection to the house. When installing a quality roof, new technology has proved beneficial for the method. Once the roof is installed, it requires maintenance, and the restoration is an indispensable part of it.

Nevertheless, Roofing restoration is a complex thing for any style of roof. The lifespan of the roof depends on the climatic condition of the area and the building material used in making the roof. In order to counter the environmental conditions, it is necessary to monitor the roof. Check out the destruction caused due to the natural hazards and sought the roofing repair service accordingly.

• If you found any wear and tear on the roof of your house or building then, you must go for the roofing service provider that uses latest technology and materials of high-quality. However, before seeking the roofing restoration or repair service from any roofers make sure you are fully satisfied with the past work of the company.

• Additionally, see to it that their works are durable and long lasting. Check out the techniques that are used by the roofing service providers. The experts and professionals work and service provided by the company to various clients.

• Go through the web for the best roofing restoration and roof installation service provider in your area. Make proper research and then try to meet personally with the contractors. Ask for the experts’ advice for taking the service.

• Ask about the costing and crosscheck whether it meets your budget or not. Try to take the service, which is of the best quality, also keep up according to your budget. Ask what can be done in your budget. It needed to increase the budget and other such relevant questions to the professionals.

Finally, limit the time duration and fix the deal for the restoration according to the time that is needed for the roof restoration. Before permitting for the repair service and starting the work make sure, everything is clear between the contractor and you so that you do not face any trouble in the future.

Tips For Saving On Those Energy Bills

You may have noticed that your energy bills are always on the up, the energy companies just don’t seem to care about the consumer, all they care about is profits.

So here are a couple of tips on how to save on those energy bills.

Most homes these days have some form of central heating installed to keep you warm in the winter time, they also supply you with all the hot water you need as and when you need it.

Tip 1 is to have the boiler serviced at least once a year.

The boiler is the main heat source and seems to get overlooked until it stops working.

By having the boiler serviced the engineer is checking that everything is working 100%, just as it was when it left the factory.

A boiler left unserviced over time will start to use more energy and you will notice your energy bills start to rise.

Whatever type of boiler you may have, LPG, Natural gas, Oil even electric it should have an annual service to keep it in good working order.

Tip 2 If your home has water filled radiators fitted.

The water inside the whole of the system should be checked to ensure it is clean and protected from internal corrosion.

When a water-filled heating system is installed, the water should first be flushed out to remove any debris and flux residue that may be present.

Once the water is clean, an inhibitor should be added, this will stop the internal corrosion and keep the water clean.

Over time the inhibitor dilutes down and should be topped up to keep the system protected.

A wet central heating system with dirty water inside will put a bigger demand on the boiler to heat your home than it would with clean water.

You will notice over time that it takes longer to heat your home than it did before. So it’s always best to have the water checked while the boiler is being serviced.

Tip 3 Energy saving controls

Most new build homes now come fitted with thermostatic control valves to all of the radiators as standard.

This gives total independent control of each room, you set the thermostat to the desired temperature and once that temperature is reached it will close the valve and stop the flow of heat.

As the temperature falls the valve will reopen and start to heat the room again. These thermostatic valves will help cut those energy bills if used in the correct way.

Having a smart thermostat fitted to your heating system will also help cut down those energy bills.

They connect to the internet via your broadband and collect details of the weather in your area.

They will then start learning about how long it takes to heat your home to your desired temperature and adjust the boiler as needed.

Some even sense when the home is unoccupied and adjust the heating to very low temperature or even switch off.

These smart thermostats can be fitted to the most central heating system and can be controlled via your smartphone.

Tip 4 Insulation

Good Insulation of your home will help keep the energy bills down.

If your property has a loft make sure it is fully covered with insulation, as heat rises naturally you will lose a lot of heat through the loft if not insulated.

You can buy radiator insulation that you fix behind the radiator, it will help reflect the heat out and help make the room heat up a little quicker.

If you have radiators covers fitted make sure they have sufficient openings so the heat can flow freely.

The most common fault with these covers is they have no opening on the top part and because heat rises the heat is blocked from entering the room.

Radiator covers can reduce the heat needed to heat the room by as much as 40%

If your covers do have an opening on the top make sure they are kept clear so you have a good movement of air.

These are just a few tips on how to keep those energy bills down, so let’s recap.

Have the boiler serviced at least once a year, don’t forget to use someone who is registered for your type of boiler.

Get the water inside the heating system checked to ensure it is free of corrosion and clean, top up the inhibitor.

Consider having some form of Energy saving controls installed.

Last but not least, insulation, ensure your home is well insulated otherwise those energy bills will keep rising.