A Missouri Couple Proved They Could Build the Cabin of Their Dreams By Themselves (with a Little Help from their Friends)

by Claudia Johnson, Honest Abe Log Homes

Randall and Diane McNeese wanted a log home, and they thought they could do it themselves. That’s exactly what they did.

The McNeeses, who built their home in Missouri, found Honest Abe Log Homes through internet research. Like many Honest Abe homeowners, they first spoke with Tammy Taylor at one of the Honest Abe model homes to get more information.

They liked what they heard, so they traveled to Honest Abe’s National Headquarters in Moss, Tennessee. After touring the mill and getting answers to their many questions, they got a firm quote on what they had in mind and put down their deposit.

“After finding a plan, we closed with Wayne Brady,” Randall said. “A very easy and friendly process.”

Wayne, a sales representative at Honest Abe’s Crossville Model, navigated them through the rest of the process.

The McNeeses chose the Creekside floor plan, but made several modifications to fit their personal needs. Among the customizations were:

  • Reversing the layout of the kitchen with the bedrooms
  • Using a ½ vaulted ceiling in the kitchen
  • Moving the location of one closet
  • Redesigning the bathroom
  • Installing a 5’ spiral staircase instead of the standard wooden one
  • Eliminating the linen closet
  • Creating a wall with a door along the stairs in the kitchen to create a pantry

The couple’s hope for building their own log home not only materialized, it progressed more smoothly than they had imagined. They dug, poured and began laying blocks for the basement around Labor Day of 2021, and soon began assembling the log home package. The log house was dried in by Halloween, and the roof was installed just after Thanksgiving. The winter was spent installing insulation, staining and sealing the logs and finishing out the interior.

“The house was ready to move into by Easter 2022, but we had to wait for the contractor to hook us up to city sewer,” Randall said. “That was the only contractor we hired.”

They moved in just after Independence Day.

Randall noted that from January to May of 2022, they used only 250 gallons of propane while heating the entire home with just the gas fireplace in the living room.

“Most of the month of January I was putting insulation in the ceiling myself, so it took me quite a while,” he recalled. “There was no heat or insulation in the basement until after I had shut the fireplace off, so I say it did pretty good for not being totally tight.”

The 8″ D-log cabin, which has 938.78 square feet on the ground floor and 878 square feet in the basement, is on the same property where the McNeeses had already been living.

“It’s close to where my wife works, and we wanted to stay close to the grandkids,” Randall said, adding that the grandkids and their parents will be moving into the McNeese’s old house. “I’m retired, so I get to enjoy the rustic feel and all the beautiful wood.”

It’s a good thing Randall is retired, too. Not only did it give him time to build the cabin, he was able to fashion special details that are created with expertise and love. For instance, the rail at the top of the spiral staircase was crafted from a 3” fence post. The kitchen island featured a handmade butcher block top with a small hand-scraped log column. The front porch balustrade is fashioned from hand-scraped timbers.

“Our grandson’s favorite part is a secret door from the spare bedroom closet into the pantry and then into the kitchen so he can scare grandma,” Randall said.

Throughout the house are testimonials to Randall’s craftsmanship and creativity, but Randall was quick to give credit to others who helped along the way. The McNeeses had help pouring the basement floor – an almost unmanageable job for one couple. Bobby Collins of Honest Abe made a special trip from Tennessee to deliver the gable ends. 

“Thanks to great friends and family it turned out to be a beautiful house we are proud of,” Diane and Randall said. “Special thanks to McGruder Construction for use of their equipment and concrete forms. Thanks to all the coworkers sho helped set the forms and pour the basement and lay the subfloor. And we thank our brother, sister, niece and nephew and their families for helping is set the rafters and install the roof.”

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