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"The Great Escape"

Log Home Design Ideas, November 2004


A second home close to home, this cabin boasts an efficient floor plan that allows its owners to get all they can from their city escape.


The difference between stress and sanctuary is measured in mileage for the Folsom family of Utah. Forty-five miles to be exact. That's the distance from their primary residence in the Salt Lake City suburb of North Salt Lake to their log home getaway in Heber City, adjacent to Park City high in the Wasatch Mountains.


Doug, Teresa and their four children spend a couple weekends a month at their four-bedroom, four-bath cabin. Doug says the change of scenery brings the family closer together and allows them to dodge the "pressures and routine of normal home life."


The custom-built 2,200 square foot home is set on a hillside on a one-acre parcel in a vacation area where log homes dominate. The Folsom's retreat has a full basement with a game room, a second-story loft and a two-car garage. The logs are 10" ponderosa pine, premium graded to ensure maximum structural integrity. Doug, a Utah native, always knew he wanted an authentic all-log home, a hankering that harkens back to boyhood.


"My grandparents had a log cabin not far from here and we grew up spending the summers there," he explains.


Ask Doug about the architectural style of his home and he confesses, "I have no idea." The layout was the result of a collaborative effort with his brother, Paul, and sprang from need and imagination.


Doug spent about six months heavily researching floor plans and driving around neighborhoods to scout out different log home layouts and styles, but says he "couldn't find one that had all the assets we wanted." He and Teresa wanted four bedrooms, which was difficult to come by in a home of limited size. In addition, the couple sought big open areas for entertaining, so a spacious kitchen and roomy family room were musts.


In the final design, they compromised by sacrificing some square footage in the bedrooms for the good of the common areas. Another consideration? Snow. Accumulations upwards of eight feet are not uncommon here. As a result, the roof was designed to take a 135-pound live load.


"The roof lines had to accommodate a heavy amount of snow without creating ice dam problems," Doug explains. He says he saw rooflines that were intricate, detailed and smart looking, but given the snow-belt conditions would have caused major ice problems. In the end he selected a steep metal roof that allows the snow to slide right off rather than pile up.


"In the upstairs bedroom you can see how steep the roof line is," he points out.


The roof is supported by heavy 12" Douglas Fir logs. The way it's structured, the snow lands away from the cabin, not right against it. "You dont want the snow against the log. It worked out great," Doug says.

When it came to log manufacturers, Doug and his brother Paul visited three different manufacturing plants to see the process firsthand. The Meridian, Idaho, facilities of Precision Craft Log and Timber Homes was one of them and the pair liked what they saw. Doug went with Precision Craft because he was impressed with their "soup-to-nuts approach."


Ryan Archibald, Client Representative for Precision Craft, says the process customers like the Folsoms go through is a common one. "They have a conceptual design on paper and bring the idea to the company's in-house design team. The designers, in turn, make any adjustments the homeowner deems necessary and do whatever it takes in the final construction drawings to assure structural stability," he says.


Bill Palm, design manager at Precision Craft, worked with the Folsoms to "fine tune their design until they were happy with what we drew. We accommodated their styles and preferences, and at the same time made sure it met all codes."


The Folsom home features round double tongue-and-groove, kiln-dried timber, which is not only a popular choice for its traditional look but also for the added security it provides. The interlocking system runs the entire length of the log wall, creating an airtight seal as well as added wall strength.


Thru-bolt construction was another important feature offered by Precision Craft. The system keeps the walls true and helps pre-settle them as the logs are stacked. A 1,000-pound tension spring on the top of each all-thread thru-bolt helps to maintain constant, even pressure and a tight seal around the entire structure. No chinking or caulking is necessary.


All of the structural members in Doug and Teresa's home are manufactured out of Douglas fir. "It's the strongest softwood and that's why we use it in the log floor joists, vertical posts and rafters," Archibald explains.

Doug, a financial officer for an advertising agency, and Paul, president of Paul Folsom Construction, self-contracted the home. It took about eight months to complete and Doug says he relied heavily on his brothers expertise. The Folsom's primary home was a built-from-scratch stone-and-stucco rambler, but this was Dougs first log-building experience. He says building his weekend home called for a very different approach.


"Log requires more advanced planning," he says. For starters, the family didn't want plumbing or wiring exposed when the subfloor was put down. Consequently, it was necessary to preplan where every light switch and outlet would be placed because wires had to be run at the same time the logs were stacked. "You have no freedom to make changes like you do in a normal home," Doug says. "With logs, you can't change a wall. It's all engineered from the start."


Precision Craft's Ryan Archibald says, "The thing about this home that was always pretty impressive to me was that it's a fairly small home, but the way it's designed makes excellent use of every inch of space."


The kitchen and dining areas both open onto the great room, which is dominated by a huge river rock fireplace of stones taken from the surrounding area. The Folsoms opted for a gas log unit.


"We didn't want the inside of the cabin to ever get that smoky smell," Doug says. "Plus, you can just press a button to turn it on or off and not worry about the ashes." The gas fireplace also provides heat for the entire home.


The fireplace is striking for another reason. It's two-sided, also opening up to a wood-burning unit on the deck, which is accessible off the great room. According to Archibald, "the Folsoms took an extremely simple design and with a few unique features made the home really memorable. The double-sided masonry fireplace is really impressive. Everyone gets really excited when they see it."


The chimney is 24 feet high and was built with 17 tons of indigenous rock. Doug credits his wife, Teresa, with the idea, which was inspired by her love of marshmallows.


"At night we go out and build a fire on the deck. We love to roast marshmallows and hot dogs. We also have a sound system throughout the cabin with speakers on the deck so we can really enjoy it," he says.


The deck looks out onto heavily forested pine trees and quaking aspens, a species native to Utah. The views were important from every vantage point. Doug says his design incorporated a liberal use of glass "to appreciate all the foliage."


Doug says the home is "perfect for our lifestyle. Its a huge respite for me." It takes just over an hour to make the trip from garage to cabin.


"It's far enough where I truly feel like I'm away but close enough so we can just jump in the car and go."