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Building on a Budget: Six Money-Saving Secrets of Log and Timber Home Design

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There is a time-tested principle that we live by here at 1867 Confederation Log & Timber Frame: Building a custom home doesn’t have to mean expensive home. With the right approach—and a few expert tips—you can save some serious cash and begin living your log or timber dream now. Here are some budget-saving ideas to get you started on the right track.

1. Plan Ahead

Giving yourself ample time to design and build your dream home will not only lower your stress levels, it can also reduce your bottom line. CL&TF clients can take advantage of our special “lock-in” pricing program that allows you to take advantage of this year’s pricing but take delivery the next. You won’t have to worry about any potential cost increases on your log or timber products or a jump in permit prices. Plus, having ample time to plan your home project will give you the opportunity to spot good deals on your finishing products from flooring to light fixtures.

2. Splurge Where it Matters

To save on cost without sacrificing the “wow”, skip the full timber frame structure and introduce architecturally-rich decorative timber elements instead. Rather than having timbers supporting the entire skeleton and showing up in closets and bathrooms where they’ll rarely be seen, a building plan that includes decorative log posts or timber accents will place those beautiful boards and beams in high-visibility areas.

Think: tongue and groove paneling in the kitchen ceiling or a network of posts and beams in the great room. When building on a budget, these strategic touches will give you the biggest bang for your buck. (Check out this article for more ideas on creating a log and timber frame home with style.)

3. Factor in Site Prep

A significant amount of your building budget will go towards getting your property construction-ready. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce infrastructure costs. If you haven’t already purchased your property, consider looking for land that requires minimal clearing and excavation, especially if you plan to add a basement.

Also, keep the cost of grading and compacting in mind when choosing where to locate your home on the property. Opting for a shorter driveway could keep thousands of dollars in your pocket. (For more tips on how to find the right site for you, check out Rich’s journey as our own Rich Kinsman shares his hunt for the perfect property.)

As with the construction of the home itself (see tip #6 below), sweat equity can result in significant savings when it comes to site prep. Consider clearing the land yourself or hiring and coordinating a crew to do it for you. To amp up your reward, set aside any usable lumber for future projects or firewood.

4. Minimize Changes

One of the biggest budget busters in custom home building is making changes to a design once the plans have been finalized and construction is underway. That’s why we rely on the best design technology to give our clients a chance to experience their home in realtime via “3D snapshots” and a “3D walkthrough.” Knowing exactly how your home will look, feel and function inside and out before a piece of lumber is ever cut or placed will give you complete confidence in your design and eliminate the need for costly, on-site changes. (Find out more about our 3D-design experience here and see a 3D Walkthrough video of an actual Confederation log home.)

5. Look Below

You don’t have to build a monster home to build a gorgeous home. That seems to register with an awful lot of Confederation’s customers and it’s why our “Living Large in Small Spaces” article is our most popular of all time.

Adding a basement to your design plan is the single best way to as much as double your square footage — affordably.

Our designers can help you save money when planning out your lower level with cash-saving design tricks like stacking bathrooms above and below each other to keep plumbing costs down. Likewise, if your basement design includes a fireplace, opting for a stacked design and a dual-flued chimney will minimize construction costs.

If you don’t require the room now but envision needing more living space in the future, have the basement stubbed-in for utilities during the initial build; you’ll be able to finish the project down the road with far less hassle and cost. It will also enhance the resale value.

Check out our pricing article and download our pricing calculator to experiment with sizes and features for a rough estimate.

6. Be your own GC or DIY

In this roundup of budget-saving tips, we’ve saved the best for last. Taking on a DIY build and erecting the shell yourself—with CL&TF to help you through the process with training, a manual and an on-site visit—is the single biggest way to save on your log or timber frame home. If you’ve got a good handle on the basics of construction and feel comfortable coordinating a construction schedule, a DIY build might be for you. (Interested? See what it takes to DIY.)

Even if you’re not up to wielding a hammer and taking on a full build, acting as your own general contractor will have a positive impact on your bank balance. Selecting and supervising a crew, planning and overseeing your building schedule, securing materials and even doing small tasks like staining or painting your walls or installing light fixtures will all lower your bottom-line. (Get an in-depth look at what it takes to act as your own GC.)

Ready to put these money-savings secrets into action and find out what it will take to make your dream home a reality? Check out our handy online pricing calculator.


* Please note all prices and square-foot costs are estimates at time of writing. These numbers as well as exchange rate examples are subject to change without further notice. On the other hand, why delay – prices generally only go one way over time! Let’s plan your perfect home today!