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"Ponderosa Style"

Country's Best Log Homes, July 2001


A retired couple builds a log Bed & Breakfast on their lovely farm.


When Jack and Betty Bonzey honeymooned in Britsh Columbia 35 years ago, they drove throught the Idaho panhandle on their way back to their California ranch house. "What a great place to live," they thought.


Stop. Fast forward. It's January 1989, and the Bonzeys are retracing their honeymoon steps through a snowy Idaho winter.They stop in Athol."What a wonderful place to retire," they think.They spend 10 days looking for the right property in the area on which to spend their leisure years. "There was nothing out here then," recalls Betty, "just a working farm with bales of hay."


But farmland is just what they envisioned, because it offers peace and traquility. So they buy it. For five years, they spend every summer working their 10 arcres of land."We brought the riding lawnmower up and mowed down everything. Anything that wasn't as high as the hood on the mower got mulched," says Jack. What remained, though, were lovely Ponderosa pines, all "volunteers," that is, naturally seeded and not planted by man.


When Jack retires in 1994, the Bonzeys are ready to build. They are living in the travel trailer in the barn they built in 1991.For years, the Bonzeys have been collecting log home magazines and books. The idea of building a log home is the next logical option to investigate, so they begin working with a handcrafted log home builder out of Spokane. When it becomes clear that they just aren't interested in a log home whose walls suffer considerable settlement, the Spokane builder introduces them to a contractor for Precision Craft Log Structures in Meridian, Idaho. The design of a Precison Craft log home takes Jack Bonzey by storm. "When Isaw their design," says Jack, "there just wasn't any point in going further."


Jack recites the features that appeal to his engineering background. "Number one, the logs are kiln dried. Number two, the 10-inch Ponderosa pine "D-profile" logs, which are round on the outside and flat on the inside thus resembling the letter "D", utilize the through-bolt system. Threaded rods are attached to a bolt in the foundation and run through the entire wall. A 950-pound spring is attached to the rod at the top course of logs and is tightened with a pneumatic wrench so the logs won't settle unevenly. The logs are also double tongue-and-groove construction top and bottom with a 40 percent kerf cut in the base, the better to allow for expansion and contraction, thus minimizing surface checking (the cracks that sometimes appear along a log's length).The anchor rods are located nine inches from every window or door opening and at every 40 inches along a wall without any opening. What more do you need?"


Having lived in a low-slung house with a long, damp hallway on the coast of California for 21 years, the Bonzeys are adamant about the desing of their new log home. "No hallways!" they say. "It's just too darn difficult to get heat down them."


The Bonzeys design the 7,200-square-foot two-story log house with basement themselves, knowing that they want this bucolic setting to feature a home suitable for visitors. They christen it "The Ponderosa" Bed & Breakfast and live in the barn in their travel trailer during the nine-month building process. Betty stains all the wood, with the exception of the white pine ceiling and the Arkansas red oak floors, which arrive from Post Falls, Idaho. Jack cleans up the work site each night to expedite the contractors' work the following day.


The Ponderosa D-logs come from Boise, while the vertical Douglas fir comes from Montana, and the 12-by-18-inch, 20-foot timbers from Cataldo, Idaho. The Bonzeys choose McVay Brothers windows from Spokane, a top-of-the-line composite construction window. The roof is anodized steel, while the decking material is a product called Trex and is manufactured from recycled materials by Mobil Oil. "It may cost more than the traditional decking material," explains Jack, "but it has zero maintenance, so it's very economical after the first year."


During one of the most memorable moments of construction, scaffolding goes up from the floor and a false ceiling is installed so that the cosmetic log can be positioned. "It takes 10 minutes to get the log to the top of the scaffolding," says Jack, "and another one-and-a-half hours with four guys holding it in place before they can get it anchored."


"I've got pictures of them all cramped over from holding that log for so long," says Betty "Only young men can do that!" The Bonzeys choose natural-gas, forced-air heating for the house and design the bedrooms with electric baseboard heat that features individual thermostats. The great room has a Vermont Casting top-of-the-line gas log fireplace.


"We designed the guest rooms with the closets and bathrooms in between each other and then double insulated. The use of a high-density soundproof carpet pad prevents any noise from coming through the floor, which makes the rooms pretty soundproof," they say.


"All of our guest notice that," remarks Betty, "because they don't hear anybody snoring in the next room!" The log beds, built by the contractor in the garage, are brought upstairs piece by piece and assembled in the rooms. "Each bed weighs a thousand pounds," says Jack, who adds that when one bed was placed too close to the closet, they had to call the contractor back in to take apart the bed before they could move it a mere six inches.


"We both sat on the floor and tried to slide it by pushing with our feet, but we couldn't even budge it," says Betty. "In fact, four construction workers couldn't move it either!"


When it comes to the design of the entryway, Betty steps in. "I'd been carrying around this photograph from a magazine of an entryway of a conventional home for years," says Betty. "We liked it, but we redesigned the staircase for the center instead of the side and used lodgepole pine logs and red fir to build it."


Betty still gets a thrill when she ushers guests into their home and they say, "Wow!" When she takes them into the living area, she explains that it's called the "Great Room" because "We've had so many wonderful guests here and shared so many great times in it."


Working with Precision Craft was a gratifying experience, they say. "They computer-designed the staircase and included it all as part of the whole package."


The bridge timbers that connect the two upstairs bedroom wings are madefrom 12-by-18-inch Douglas fir logs set on steel beam girders. "We have the appropriate foundation in the 1,800-square-foot basement to support the whole thing," says Jack. "We counted each ring of the Douglas fir logs. There were 75 rings in each, which means the trees had to be considerably older than 75 years for them to get that dimension size."


Betty designs the kitchen with the idea she wants plenty of workable space to help her cater to guests' needs."I've always wanted an island," she says, "and I wanted plenty of outlets at eye level and up next to the ceiling as well." The cabinets are made by Master-Craft Cabinet Company in Kamloops, B.C.


At first, Betty and Jack consider an L-shaped kitchen with a breakfast nook, then go instead with an open plan. Betty says she's glad, because she and Jack enjoy sharing their breakfast in the open space that overlooks the sun porch, which is the continuation of the wraparound porch and is useable year round.


A furniture builder in Coeur d'Alene designs and builds a plate rack for Betty's father's collection of Norman Rockwell plates from old oak that he has been storing in his shop for years. "He also made it look old," says Betty.


Today, Betty and Jack have opened their doors to over 1,400 guest in just four years, but they never grow tired of talking about the joy they have living in their new log home."I love it," says Betty."It's warm in winter and cool in summer, and we don't even need air conditioning."