Building a Summer Cottage or All Season Home?

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Posted by Hermann Thoene | Posted in Building A Log Home, EcoLog | Posted on 07-05-2013

Are you planning to build a cabin or cottage for quite some time now?

Are you overwhelmed by the huge amounts of products you find during your online search?

Don’t you wish you could just snap a maEZLog Cottage Constructiongic wand, and swoooosh, your new cottage is done – ready to use at your building site?

Ok, you don’t need a magic wand, but Vanisle Ecolog Homes can help, as we now offer you a complete we-do-it-all-for-you service. We start by visiting your property, analyzing your requirements and then talk to your municipality to find out if your plans match with their by-laws and regulations. Then we will suggest one or more possible cabins or cottages which you can build. After “zeroing in” on one, we can then create a custom quote for all the material and services you need. If you want, we can do it all – like the magic wand. But if you want to save some money and help with certain parts, we can leave that for you.

Our package deals for prefabricated cabins and cottages make it easy for you to plan your budget, and give you peace-of-mind. Check out the EZLog Europa model to find some sample packages.

It’s challenging to generalize bigger building projects, as each property is different, municipal requirements are different, and of course each customers has different requirements. That’s why we cannot tell you how much YOUR project will cost without seing your property and talking to you. But the following packages give you an idea about the services we provide, and what typical package costs can be for a given situation.

Summer Cottage

Let’s assume you have found a nice property on Vancouver Island, and now you want to build a seasonal 2 bedroom cottage mainly as a summer-getaway for your family.

Mari A 100 sqft cottageA so called seasonal structure does not require a heating system, and there are no minimum insulation requirements. Therefore you can use a prefabricated building kit like the 20′x24′ EZLog Europa with 58 mm thick walls. Apart from purchasing a building kit, what else is required to have a ready-to-use cottage?

  • Planning and permits: If your municipality requires a building permit (check out this blog article to learn more about building code and permits), you will need a whole set of building plans, potentially a lot survey, septic field permit etc. We normally guide our customers through this process – or even get the permit for them – as this can be quite challenging for “regular” (non-trades) people, who don’t speak “building code” and “by-law” lingo.
  • Build a proper foundation: The simplest way is a slab-on-ground, but for very little more money you will have more flexibility by building a crawlspace. Both of these options require proper framing and pouring concrete, and most people will hire trades people for these tasks. A typical 30″ high crawlspace with subfloor costs between $8,000 and $10,000 (that’s without excavation and backfilling, and the price depends much on the price of concrete in your area).
  • Once the foundation is in place the cottage can be erected. A prefab building kit like the Europa can be setup in about 200 “people hours” (maybe a bit longer if you do this type of work for the first time). No crane or other machines are needed for this – muscle power, some good ladders and some basic tools like hammer and drill will do.
  • EZLog kits don’t include the roof finish, as people have different tastes and requirements for a roof. The two most common choices for EZLog cottages are asphalt shingles or metal. Both can be installed pretty quick. If you have no experience in roofing, this should be done by professionals, so that all the right flashing is installed and your roof doesn’t leak.
  • Now the cottage needs to be stained or painted, to protect the wood from moisture and insects. We recommend using water based stains, which are very high quality today and last a long time. Stain or paint on the inside is optional. You can leave the natural wood exposes if you don’t mind some discolouration in areas where the wood gets exposed to the sun.

At this stage the cottage is at what we consider “lockup stage” (the windows and doors have been installed during erection of the walls). If you just use an outhouse and water from a well or river, and don’t require electric, then you seasonal cottage is done.

All Season Cottage

A seasonal log cabin on Vancouver Island could occasionally be used in the winter with no problem. Most areas don’t get so cold that a wood stove or small electric stove can’t heat such a cabin. It might not be the most energy efficient thing to do, but it works for the occasional weekend visit.

Europa CottageTo create a vacation or backyard cottage which can be permanently used all year around requires the building to have a proper heating system and to be fully insulated. Depending on the type of structure you build, the BC building code offers various possibilities to prove “proper insulation” and an “energy efficient building envelope”.  More details on that can be found in my earlier blog post on this topic.

To insulate EZLog cottages in compliance with the BC building code, we suggest (and implement) following solutions to customers:

  • The roof gets insulated with 4″ – 6″ of Polyiso foam, attached with Z-bars on top of the T&G roof decking, which is part of the EZLog kit. The foam comes in 2″ or 3″ thick 4′x8′ panels, and most contractors are familiar with its installation. A Tyvek membrane on top of the foam protects the foam and ensures an airtight roof structure. The metal roof can then be easily attached on top of the foam held by the Z bars as well.
  • The outside walls get insulated in following ways: A Tyvek membrane on the inside of the wall wraps from roof to the floor and into the window and door opening. This forms the air barrier of the home. Now the building attaches 2″-6″ XPS foam panels on top of the tyvek. The panels are installed using vertical 1″x2″ strapping, attached with (countersinking) screws into the log wall. Now a layer of 5/8″ T&G boards it attached on top of the strapping. After installing trim around doors and windows, this “second wall” looks exactly the same as the “thick” outside wall and other interior walls.
  • Insulating a concrete slab is optional and should be done before pouring the concrete. The subfloor above a crawlspace also gets insulated with 2″-4″ XPS foam attached to the bottom of the floor joists.

The amount of insulation and type of windows (double or triple pane, type of filling and coatings) needs to be carefully chosen based on the location where the cottage gets built. Going “over board” with too much insulation doesn’t hurt, but increases the building costs unnecessarily. Vanisle Ecolog Homes uses the Hot200 software from Natural Resources Canada to calculate energy models, which help customers decide which insulation options are appropriate and most cost effective.

In addition to insulation, all season buildings require plumbing, electric and a heating system. Our sample Europa package includes basic plumbing, which in consists of a small hot water tank installed in the crawlspace, and rough in plumbing for a kitchen and bathroom into the subfloor. The electric installation package included in this packages consists of a 100 amp panel with basic light fixtures and plugs and baseboard heaters as a heating system.

For sustainability minded customers we recommend to install LED lights, a hot water tank with built-in heat pump and a “mini-split” heat pump, which provides a very energy efficient and comfortable heating and cooling system for a reasonable price.

 

Log Homes for the Eco-Conscious

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Posted by Hermann Thoene | Posted in EcoLog | Posted on 24-01-2012

Brian Hartz wrote a nice article about Hermann Thoene and his new Vanisle Ecolog Homes business for Douglas Magazine. The article was published in their Nov/Dec 2011 issue.

Brian did a great job in summarizing the background and current status of our business.

Thanks for Douglas Magazine to allow us to allow us to make a copy of the article available for interested people.

Have a Laugh: New videos from EcoLog-Homes.com

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Posted by Hermann Thoene | Posted in EcoLog, Fun Stuff | Posted on 05-03-2010

Tags: big ben, funny, laugh, log buildings, video clips

Why use logs or timbers just for cabins, cottages or log homes?

We wanted to know how a “log look” can improve some well known buildings. Several short video clips will show some interesting and most unusual “log buildings”, starting with Big Ben, the “grand daddy of all clock towers”.

Check out the videos on this page – new videos will be added over the next few weeks.

Your comments / ratings / feedback are welcomed !

Bringing EcoLog Homes to the West Coast

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Posted by Hermann Thoene | Posted in EcoLog | Posted on 05-12-2009

Tags: log homes

Picture HermannMy name is Hermann Thoene, and as you can see on my LinkedIn profile, I have spent a significant time of my “professional life” in the computer industry. For various reasons (maybe I’ll write about that some day in a more personal blog) I had to do something new and different – and that turned out to be manufacturing and building log homes. My family and friends were quite stunned, and during the first months nobody really thought that I was serious about this new business.

Why would somebody with no background or experience in construction want to start a new company manufacturing and building log homes??? And all that during the most difficult economic times, where especially the construction industry has been hit hardest!

I was always fascinated by log homes. To me they are very natural buildings, where you can still smell and feel nature. Most of the material in a log home is wood – a very natural and renewable material. When I first told my friends in Germany that I was planning to move to Canada, many thought (in a more or less serious way) that most Canadians live in the woods, trap animals and live in log homes. Of course I was a bit disappointed after moving to British Columbia in 2000, to see that this is not totally true – but my interest and fascination with log homes remained.

In the summer of 2008 I once again visited my friend Peter Schleifenbaum in Haliburton, Ontario. He manages Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve – a company with many diverse business areas. If you live in Ontario or visit Ontario, I strongly recommend that you check out the many interesting attractions available at Haliburton Forest. It’s worth more then one visit for sure…

Sample EcoLog Home

Peter developed the EcoLog concept about 10 years ago, when he was looking for ways to create high value  products based on wood from his certified sustainable forest. Haliburton County is the most famous cottage country with prestine forests and hundreds of lakes, and many people from all over Ontario enjoy cottage life in the Haliburton region. Peter wanted to address the cottage market, and took old pioneer building methods and tweeked them to fit modern building standards and regulations. The result were EcoLog building kits, which were soon loved by many customers. Very much to Peters surprise, most of the customers wanted pretty big building instead of small and cosy cottages. The reason was that many people not only wanted to use their “cottage” for weekends or vacation, but were building it big enough to be used as their retirement residence. Over the last 10 years Peter and his company have sold more then 100 EcoLog homes of various sizes, and the charming “EcoLog look” is so popular in Haliburton county that people even start imitating it by putting “fake EcoLog siding” on their homes.

But now back to my visit to Ontario in 2008: That summer Peter told me about the background of EcoLog, and about the success as a business. I had a chance to look at several homes and was fascinated from the beatiful natural look, and from the simplicity of the building concept. We discussed if these homes could be a similar “hit” on the West Coast, as I had never seen any similar homes in BC. Peter offered me the chance to use his ideas and concepts to build a simlar business in British Columbia.

In October 2008 I started with some market research to find out what BC people think about these homes. I presented EcoLog homes at a home show, talked to many interested people, and built a website where I collected more feedback from interested potential customers. The feedback was very positive. People loved the charming look and atmosphere. That gave me enough confidence to decide that it’s time for EcoLog homes to “go West”. I started looking for suppliers, potential business partners and many different trades people. I visited Peter a few more times to learn all the details about EcoLog homes. I looked at many existing homes in Ontario, talked to builders and spent some time on construction sites to see how these homes are erected.

I’m very conscious about our environment, and I like to build and sell “eco friendly” homes. Therefore I like to “go local” wherever possible. I formed a partnership with a sawmill on Vancouver Island to provide the timber from locally grown trees. I built a network of reliable local trades people to provide the necessary materials, and to help me and my future customers build EcoLog homes. Our production process and facilities are ready now, and soon we will start putting our first “west coast” EcoLog home kit together. This kit will be used to build our future show home in Saanich, BC.

The building process for this home will be documented through a series of blog posts on this site… Stay tuned !

Update January 2011:

I think it’s time for a little summary what happened since I first published this blog post 2 years ago.

End of 2010 we finished our West Coast Ecolog show home, and it turned out great! A summary of the building features and pictures are available here. The home is a true “head-turner”, as every person driving by the house in their car turns the head to look in astonishment. It sticks out in a very positive way in this neighborhood with mostly 70′s and 80′s style homes.

This home is not only the show home for my business, but also my home and home office. I live in the home for about 1 year now, and I love it! During the summer I enjoyed the big open deck, and when it got too hot I could retreat to the cool interior of the home. During the winter I heat the whole main level and the loft with my beloved wood stove in the living room. I barely ever use the electric heat. Even on the lowest setting, the wood stove easily heats the whole house, and when it’s not too cold I only turn it on every second day. There is lots of discussion around the “thermal mass” effect in log homes – if it provides benefits or not, etc… I must say in our climate on Vancouver Island the thermal mass really works: Once the walls are heated up they store a lot of energy, and release the heat very slowly over up to 24 hours. This makes for a very comfortable living climate: When the wood stove burns down in the evening and I come down into the living area in the morning, it’s still nice and warm!

During the construction of this home I learned a lot! I spent nearly every day on the construction site – not only to help, but also to understand all the challenges in building a home. Half way down the road during our construction process I found out about a government program to measure energy efficiency of homes, the Energuide Rating System. I liked the idea to be able to measure how energy efficient a home is, and to be able to compare homes regarding their energy use, and signed up to get an Energuide rating for the new home. Normally this process should be started at the design stage, where the overall design of a home can still be optimized to increase the energy performance. But even with our late start we achieved an Energuide rating for 79, which is excellent, especially for a log home.

As energy performance becomes more and more important for new homes I actually took the training in 2010/2011 to become a Certified Energy Advisor. I can now model homes for our customers at the design stage and help them optimize their homes from an energy performance perspective.

On the business side things are moving along very nice. We have many people visiting our show home, and the feedback we receive from our visitors is extremely positive. In April 2011 we participated in a home show, where more then 800 people visited our home on a single weekend.

In 2011 we sold several Ecolog homes in BC, and even one to a Saskatchewan.  We just increased our product portfolio and can now offer Ecolog homes with different wood species: Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir and Red Cedar.

I enjoy working in this industry, and I don’t regret making this move.