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Log Homes Grow in Popularity

There's nothing like tending the fire heating the one-room log cabin while Pa skins a bear he just killed outside, junior splits kindling, and the wilderness stretches as far as the eye can see.

That's hardly the scenario for the log home featured for the month of February 2004 in the Log Home Living calendar, with a great room, picture windows, a two-car garage and square footage galore. Log homes are back and they aren't for the survivalist. Plans and materials alone for the Mountain Ranch by International Homes of Cedar, Inc., for example, are in the $119,325-$137,387 range, and that doesn't include the land. Patty Manning, director of operations at Log Home Living Institute in Chantilly, looks at the log home buyers as those in search of a lifestyle change.

"I think it's a lifestyle people are aspiring. It's not Abe Lincoln's cabin anymore," she said.

It's also not a matter of cutting down a few trees, cutting a few notches, and fitting them together like Lincoln Logs either.

"It takes some really skilled people," Manning said.

There is a line of log homes assembled at the factory, to make sure everything fits, and then reassembled on the buyer's plot of land.

"These are the ones that are really elaborate," Manning said.

All electrical and plumbing additions have to be done by a licensed contractor. The selection of wood is important as well. Cedar is the most durable, while pine has knots and provides the rustic look.

"You have to apply preservatives. Cedar is sturdiest," Manning added.

Not all are in the six-figure range either. The Cabin Kit Company has one on the Abe Lincoln one-room level, a "Golden Rod," model, 342 square feet, for $10,825.

FRANCONIA RESIDENT Michael Walton grew up in a partial log cabin in Alabama. He's still pursuing his dream to build one. Walton's Alabama house started out as a log cabin in the 1800s with no running water and was added on afterward. Walton has land in Florida and Maryland but he hasn't finalized his plans for a retirement cabin so far.

"When I get ready to retire for a second time, I'm going to build one," he said.

His family sold the house in Alabama to a state trooper but "it's still there," Walton said.

According to Log Home Living Institute, there were 21,662 log homes constructed in the U.S. in 2001 and "more families live in a modern log home today than at any time in the history of the country," its information stated.

Ryan James, a contractor with James and Breeden Quality Homes in Bealeton, Virginia, is working on a log home in Marshall, Virginia. They are adding on a log addition to a farm house, which dates back to the late 1800s and belongs to William Seatt, who also owns Summit Point Racetrack in West Virginia. Seatt is a log cabin aficionado and wanted the addition to be authentic, so they are using old construction techniques and old logs that were in storage from other old structures. James and Breeden Quality Homes usually builds homes in the conventional processes and James is not used to the old ways of notching the logs and filling the spaces between logs. The floors are hard pine, dove-tail notched logs, and one log, which was the base for one wall was 40-feet long.

"This was totally like doing it with the old ways, it was much sturdier than anything we've worked on. It was more of a place to live in the old days than fashionable," James said. "He's going to have that old, antique-y looking, very rustic. He wants it to be rough."

Passersby have stopped to ask questions.

"We've had several people come by and look at it," he said.

Log homes aren't as common in Fairfax County or inside the beltway but there are a few to be found. In Burke, there is a log home along Lee Chapel Road, and in Arlington, there is one on Glebe Road.