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Log Home Article

Log Home Specialist Offers Wood Direct to Home Buyers

Chicago Tribune – Chicago, Ill

Author: Jeff Zimmer, Knight Ridder/Tribune

Ron Wolfe has built a business out of logs — specifically 8- to 16-foot eastern white pine logs.

The Hillsborough resident’s business, Wholesale Log Homes Inc., is just what the name suggests — a company that sells the milled timber used to build log homes.

The log-home industry is dominated by companies that sell log home packages that can include a home’s blueprints and floor plan, as well as pre-cut logs and log home construction services. But Wolfe’s business just deals in logs and log-home accessories.

“I sell logs to people who make log home kits or people who want to build a log home,” Wolfe said. “Depending on how much you want to save or not save, you have the opportunity to buy from another vendor or buy from me wholesale.”

While the company’s logs are shipped worldwide, they’ve ended up in homes and buildings around the country, including Dave and Josie Owen’s home in northern Durham, N.C.

The Owens came across Wholesale Log Homes as they weighed the different options for building their dream log home near the Eno River.

For Dave Owen, a naturalist who works for a park, it didn’t take long to realize the value of purchasing logs wholesale versus buying them as part of a log-home package.

“We checked out the kit companies and it seemed like we got to pay for a middle person to sit in an office and sell these things to you,” Dave Owen said. So the couple designed its own home and then found a local construction company to build it.

A builder by nature, Wolfe started out remodeling barns in Vermont and worked up to building rustic frame houses. “It’s just like a big crafts project; that’s how I look at building a house,” he said.

Wolfe joined the log-home industry in 1972 in New Hampshire selling log-home packages. After several years, Wolfe tired of the sales side of the business.

In 1977, Wolfe moved to Hillsborough where his business evolved from retail to wholesale and in 1982 emerged as Wholesale Log Homes.

“I realized logs made the home, not the package,” he said. “Now I’m more in the service side of the business.”

While log homes represent a small part of the home-building business, it’s a growing industry.

Log homes are easily a billion-dollar-a-year industry, said David Kaufman, executive director of the Building Systems Council of the National Association of Home Builders.

“It used to be people only put log homes in wooded areas or ski lodges but now they put them in regular neighborhoods,” he said. “The industry has made it easier and more cost-effective to produce these for people.”

The cost of a home can vary by size, type of logs and a host of other factors, Kaufman said.

Honka Log Homes, a Colorado company, was the top U.S. log-home building company in 2001 with a reported 3,500 units built and $100 million in revenue, according to Builder magazine.

The publication ranked Wholesale Log Homes sixth in 2001 with 88 units, which generated sales of $2 million. Wolfe said he has already sold logs for 50 units so far this year.

While Wolfe has built a number of log homes, his focus these days is providing the materials that go into building a log home.

A licensed general contractor, Wolfe spends time fielding questions on the phone and helping customers calculate how much the logs will cost for their home. But he’s not going to walk you through the entire process of building a log home or build your home for you.