"High Country Haven"Country's Best Log Homes, November 2000
Ken and Marcia Lane's dream home began with a unique log bed they bought from a local craftsman at the Bozeman, Mont. Sweet Pea Art Festival a few years ago. "That bed was crammed into our tiny bedroom in our house in town," says the Bozeman anethesiologist. "Our original intention was to build a post-and-beam house, but the more we thought about it, we decided to build a log home around the bed."
For two years the couple searched for a wooded piece of property with enough elevation to provide a beautiful view within good driving distance of Bozeman. They wanted some open space for themselves and their five-year-old springer spaniel named Cosmo. When they finally found what they'd been looking for, a 10-acre parcel perched on the side of a mountain at 6,800 feet overlooking the Bridger Mountain Range, their contractor, Chuck Graden, tried to dissuade them from building on it.
"We did try to talk them out of it," admits Graden, "because it's just such a tough site. The biggest challenge was just getting there. In fact, one lumber truck rolled over trying to reach the site. In the wintertime, it's a little bit hairy, and we built the house during the winter. It takes a real pioneer spirit to live in a place like that. It can be pretty formidable sometimes."
Ken and Marcia combined their talents in planning their new log home. "It was a 50/50 collaboration," says Ken. "Marcia has a flair for design, and I'm more into the structural side of things." Once they'd settled on a log home, the Lanes began their research. "I'm a methodical person," says Ken, "and Marcia is an art history major with a good eye, so we sent away to about 25 log home companies, got their plan books and sorted through them. We subscribed to numerous log magazines, and we took pictures of things that we liked. Then we went around and visited every log home we could wangle our way into--both log home company models and private homes. Gradually, we pieced together the parts of the puzzle that we liked and what we didn't like and drew up a floorplan."
Using their rough floorplan and pictures, they consulted with Bozeman architect Ron Yaw, who helped them put their ideas into a formal plan.
The Lanes chose a PrecisionCraft home because they liked the company's construction process, and they appreciated having a local representative in Steve DeBoer of Bozeman Log Homes. "What we liked about their system was that it used milled logs, ones that were kiln-dried," says Ken. "The logs have double tongue-and-grooves,and through bolts go from the top of a wall to the bottom. We knew that being up at 6,800 feet with a lot of exposure, we wanted a tight system." The 3,600-square-foot home is built of 10-inch-diameter round, V-grooved, coped Ponderosa pine logs; the exterior finish in Mesmers UV-Plus.
Despite the obstacles presented by the site and the season, all who were involved, including Steve DeBoer, Chuck Graden and his construction foreman Bob McDonald and, of course, the Lanes, agree that the project went smoothly. "The fact that both Ken and Marcia went out there and got their hands dirty really helped," says Graden, "because they knew how difficult it was to do the job. We like to make it a team effort to build these homes, and we work together to accomplish that goal."
The Lanes wanted to be a part of that team. Having little construction experience, they elected to chink the entire house themselves using a product called Log Jam. "Every weekend we'd come up and spend the whole time chinking the inside and out," says Ken. "It was very tedious, but when we finished we felt like we'd accomplished something." Because the Lanes started with a post-and-beam house in mind, they wanted to introduce something of that style into their log home. "There are two trusses made of old bridge timbers in the great room--one spans the dining room octagon, and the one that holds up the whole roof runs over the kitchen," says Ken. "We've got an interesting mix of logs and timber frame."Marcia's greatest fear in building a log home was that it would appear too rustic. "I'm not really into the country look," she says. "I wanted something more contemporary." To achieve that effect, Bob McDonald suggested drywall ceilings instead of tongue-and-groove decking in the great room.
"He told us it would be much brighter and lighter, and it would look more contemporary," says Ken, "and he was absolutely correct." Marcia was pleased with the result, too. "It ended up saving us money in the long run," she adds. "Bob McDonald said we would lose sight of those trusses against a tongue-and groove ceiling, and I think he was right. He gave us a lot of real practical advice like that."
Because they're located in the snow belt, an area that received more than 350 inches the first winter they lived in the new house, the Lanes chose a metal roof that sheds snow. Its Tahoe-blue color was selected to blend with the sky.
Steve DeBoer recommended purlins 22 inches in diameter at the butt to support a heavy snow load, and the roof is super-insulated for the harsh climate. Pozzi windows with low-E glass flood the rooms with light while they keep out the cold winds that often buffet the Lane's exposed site. "It's a very well-built house," says Marcia. "We've compared it with othere we've been in, and we've noticed the difference.
I would caution people who are going to build a log home to go with a contractor who has done log construction before, because I think it really makes a difference."
If they had it to do over again, both Ken and Marcia would make a few minor changes. Marcia, who has landscaped the lot herself hauling hundreds of river rocks up to create paths and perennial beds around the house, would plan the landscape before the house is built. Ken would lower the master bedroom ceiling a little bit and choose more practical flooring for the kitchen, entry and hallway. "Cosmo gets so excited when she hears someone coming that she races around the corner, and she's scratched up the hardwood flooring pretty good," he says.
Ken and Marcia are proud of their new home and the part they played in building it. They encourage Steve DeBoer to send prospective clients up to take a look, because they enjoy showing it off."We feel we've put a lot of ourselves into it," Ken says. "It blends in beautifully with the area, and it's a very special house. When I come home from work, I feel like I'm on vacation. I'm in another environment entirely. We can snowshoe or cross-country ski right out the back of our deck. We're content just to stay at home on our weekends now."