After our meeting with the technologist, we were talking about the options we had open. And Sharon said "Does this mean we're definitely not going with log?" Since we had spent a fair bit of time looking at a local builder of log homes, we decided we needed to see for sure whether that was an option before we went any further.
And while we were being definitive, we decided we'd better make sure we had ruled out some of the other options we were considering, such as hiring French's (a large builder in our area), building a Viceroy, or buying a kit from Beaver Homes and hiring a contractor to erect it.
So we've had a couple of meetings this week, one with French's and another with True North. We still don't have a decision, but the numbers are becoming more clear.
True North can give us a clear price on their home package. It includes exterior walls, roofing, windows, etc -- the complete shell. They can also tell us how much it would cost to have them build the shell, or give us a completed, turnkey home... if we want to just pick one out of the plan package and say 'we'll take that one.' If we want to make modifications to an existing plan -- which almost everyone does and we certainly would -- we'd need to plunk down a deposit before they'll start redesigning and repricing. Fair enough: that's quite a bit of design time. But it makes it a bit tricky to price. And, if we go with log, price is a consideration because it's a given that log is more expensive than stick frame.
A bigger problem with log is the insulative value. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the future marketability of a home will have a lot to do with its energy-efficiency. When oil is $200 a barrel, and when every new home coming on the market has an official energy-efficiency number attached to it (which they will), greener homes will be worth more. Even setting aside future sales, one of the things we both really want is a home that is warm in winter and costs little to keep that way. Log homes are great... when they're well built, well-chinked, large round log homes. Engineered log homes, on the other hand, are a little less so. The r-value of softwood is about 1.5 per inch, so an eight inch log (one firm's most popular) has just R12 in the walls. The house we're in now, with its 1970s 2x4 walls, has around R16. Modern homes with 2x6 walls are about R20, I think. If you go with a more creative framing (offset studs, or blockers to end thermal bridging) you can get R30 without too much difficulty. That's a heck of a difference.
Still, the appeal of log is strong, so we're not ruling it out yet. We need to get some solid numbers on foundation costs to pin it down.
We also met with French's. More on that later.