For a long time, we dreamt of building a log house. We pored over books and magazines, mostly American (because there wasn’t much else available in NZ, pre internet) and full of enormous houses with soaring ceilings, great rooms and equally enormous price tags. We wanted a house, not a palatial residence but the books still gave us ideas.
Then one day on a drive to Rotorua, we stopped to talk to the people at NZ Log Chalets at Rotoiti. Peter Dorfliger showed us through his beautiful house that had the log look on the outside but the inside walls looked like tongue and groove and he had polyurethaned them to a warm golden glow.
‘Wow, this is for us,’ we said and we went home to make plans.
A little while later, our friend Bill took us to see his neighbour’s house at Rotoehu. Mel and Raema had built their own house overlooking the lake, from full round douglas fir logs. And we fell in love. We didn’t know what we were looking for until we saw it. There was no way we would settle for half logs now; as beautiful as they were, they couldn’t match the rustic look of a full log.
The Man of the House wanted to build the house himself, even though he wasn’t a builder so, armed with his chainsaw, he went to Masterton and completed a 2 week Introduction to Log Building course, run by the Log Builders’ Association of New Zealand (LBANZ).
That was in 1996. They still run an annual course that the Course Information booklet describes as:
‘an introductory course suitable for those who have had no previous log building experience.’
Nowhere in the course information does it say that participants will be able to build their own house when they have completed the course but The Man of the House came home ready to build ours. I’ve often wondered how many other participants build their own houses. Our friend Rob went to the same course but is unlikely to build his own house.
The log building community supported us and offered advice and help when we needed it. Local log builder and LBANZ committee member, Peter Hadley referred us to a draftsman who could draw up plans acceptable to the council and we submitted them with our fingers crossed. At the course, the tutor, Graeme Mould (Mouldy) of NZ Natural Log Homes told the students there was one council that would give them trouble when they applied for consent to build a log house. Guess who’s council it was. That’s right, ours. And he wasn’t wrong. Our council is afraid of anything that deviates from the norm and required us to prove our house would last 50 years or more. Did they think we were building out of toothpicks?
We didn’t want to build with pine treated with copper, chromium and arsenic. The chemicals had turned so many of the houses we had seen green and it wasn’t the look or the natural feel we were after. So we chose douglas fir, a semi durable wood we would treat with a linseed oil based product. Wide verandahs would give added protection from rain and sun and the house would undoubtedly outlast us. We gathered our evidence, gave it to the council and crossed our fingers again.
Finally, they couldn’t think of any more stupid questions to ask, granted consent and we embarked on another big adventure. We estimated it would take five years to build, but what did we know. Not a lot, it turns out.
The next hurdle was sourcing logs. There are thousands of hectares of plantation forest in the Bay of Plenty but no one wanted to sell us 100 trees. In the end we went to Derek Mulloly at New Zealand Log Homes and he arranged for two truck loads of douglas fir logs to be delivered to our top paddock. That’s when the work really started.