When you first start to look at the task of building a log or timber home it can look almost impossible due to all the tasks needing completion. Putting together a good contracting plan will help make the job manageable. Barna Log Homes of Pennsylvania is here to help.
The first thing you’ll need to do as you start the work of developing a contracting plan is to decide who will serve as general contractor (GC). The GC is basically the project manager. This is a company that will ensure that the entire project goes as planned, all requirements are implemented and the home is completed on time and within your budget.
The question is, are you going to be your own General Contractor, or are you going to hire a professional?
We’ve found over the years that many log and timber home buyers want to be their own GC because part of the home experience to them is being immersed in the building process. Others would rather let a professional handle it and just watch from the sidelines. It’s completely up to you. We are here to help you make the right decision.
You as the General Contractor
As the GC, you’ll be responsible for locating, interviewing, and hiring subcontractors, preparing specifications, obtaining bids, preparing a complete cost estimate, preparing the construction schedule, ordering materials, and managing the job site. It is a lot of work, but can also be very rewarding as you watch your house being built. Good GC candidates are those individuals that have the ability and expertise to oversee construction and know if it’s going right, and those that have the knowledge, time and persistence to stay on top of the project. Be aware that if you are going to act as the GC, you will often have to be approved by your lender.
One last thought before we move on to GC tips – remember that interest on your construction loan is growing daily. Therefore, if you work at half the speed of a professional GC, you’re in effect doubling the interest you’ll pay on your construction loan. This increase is sometimes enough to have paid for a professional GC in the first place.
Here are some tips and information we’ve put together from experience:
- Every Jim Barna Log and Timber Home package purchase comes with free tuition for our construction training class – use it! After the class, you’ll be much more knowledgeable about building a Barna Log or Timber home
- You’ll receive a very thorough Jim Barna Construction Manual with your log or Timber home purchase. Use it as well!
- Before you start building, develop a schedule and then schedule subcontractors for the dates they’ll be needed. Do it in writing.
- Subcontractors often follow professional general contractors that have multiple jobs for them to work on. They will tend to be more loyal to GC’s with many jobs vs. you with only one. Keep this in mind and get their commitment to your project in writing.
- Make all deals in writing and be sure that the signed agreements are properly notarized and witnessed as required. This will be helpful for remembering who was supposed to do what and when should you need to use the contract for work completion milestones.
- Get 3-4 bids from competing contractors for each sub-project. Often you’ll want to go with the middle bid. The high bidders are probably very busy and bid high to avoid more work or make extra money if they do get the job. It can be hard to work with a contractor that is too busy. The low bidders are often not working as much as they’d like to (this can be a sign of poor quality). The midrange bidder is probably at the fair market price.
- Always ask for and carefully check recent references for all subcontractors you intend to hire.
- Request a copy of all subcontractor’s insurance and ensure that their policy is in force.
If you decide to hire a professional General Contractor, they are responsible for all of the above items. You can then monitor the quality and the progress according to the schedule the GC provides.
Hiring a General Contractor
Should you hire a general contractor, all the above tasks will now be the GCs responsibility. Here are a few items you should check to ensure you are hiring the right GC:
- Choose a GC who has gained your trust.
- Ensure that you fully understand what the GC is going to provide and get it in writing. Review all documents and ensure that you understand each one explicitly.
- Ensure that the GC has the financial means to complete your project by requesting a bank reference.
- Ensure that the GC has the processes in place to have only insured sub-contractors with the GC covering the right insurances for your area.
- Insist that the GC is trained in building Jim Barna Log and Timber Homes.
- If problems arise, discuss them immediately. This will save time and money for all parties. Always address the issues with the GC and not the subcontractors.
- Keep the lines of communication open and let the GC do his job…. And be patient.
Delivery Day of your Log or Timber Home Package
Delivery day is the capstone of all your hard work over the months of planning your log home. Our representative will be right there with you as the log trucks roll up to your property. But a good delivery day depends on good preparation beforehand. Here are a few items that you should be aware of prior to delivery:
- Your foundation or basement walls should be complete and ready for sub-floor and log or timber construction.
- Access to your property from the main road should be prepared. We will need to get right to your foundation/basement.
- Ensure that there is room for 18 wheel tractor trailers to turn around.
- There should be a large area to set 30-40 bundles of logs and materials (about ¼ to ½ acre).
- You’ll need several people to help with unloading process (assuming you are the GC)
- You’ll need to provide an all terrain forklift and driver – if there’s a long distance from drop off point to job site, a second forklift may be required. (assuming you are the GC)
- You’ll need to have an alternative delivery site in case some sort of unforeseen problem or bad weather makes your job site inaccessible. We’ll usually have a chance to look at the jobsite prior to delivery to make recommendations or point out any problems.
You’ll want to have your blueprints, survey and plot plan, and detailed material list at arm’s reach throughout the building process. If you’ve hired a professional GC, make sure he has a copy of all these items. You’ll also want to be sure that if you need a building permits, that all have been acquired and are on site.
Sometimes it’s helpful to rent a temporary building to store weather-sensitive material like permits and certifications, plans and documents, windows and doors. These can be rented from many storage providers.
As the building starts you will also need the following:
- Electrical service: As a minimum, you will need temporary service. In some locations it is possible to install permanent electrical service if your foundation is complete. You can check with your local building authority to determine the path you’ll need to take.
- Water: If your well is already installed, or if you can connect to city water, it is advisable that you complete the hookup. If you do not have water service and it is required in support of any masonry work, you will have to work with your contractors to determine the most economical way to provide water to the site.
- Telephone: You might want to consider this service, but with cell phones today this may not be required.
- Toilet facilities: A temporary bathroom facility will need to be placed on the site.
The construction process for a typical log or timber home ranges 6-9 months when built by professionals. If you are acting as your own GC, or if you’re building a large home, this time can significantly increase. We can help you come up with a good estimate on construction time if you require our assistance.
The entire process of building a log home is very detailed and would take too much room to explain here. Call us and we can schedule time in our office to discuss the entire building process. We offer ½ day seminars at our office location periodically and also offer weekend seminars at our headquarters office in Oneida, Tennessee to discuss the log home building process.
Jim Barna Log and Timber Homes also offers the Log Home Builders Institute that is a multi-day seminar that will give you all the specifics on how log homes are built from the foundation to the roof. You’ll have the chance to ask specific questions and even tour the facility where your logs or timbers will be manufactured should you attend.