Unfettered Mountain Views
Drew & Jo Ann Hodges completed the 15-room home of their dreams in 2017. The Virginia couple talked with Honest Abe Log Homes about their journey to find the right land, the right plan and the right company.
HA: Tell us a little about yourselves.
Drew: Jo Ann and I are both from the Roanoke, Virginia, area and prefer the mountains to the flatlands where most of my USAF assignments took us. We were married in 1975 and went almost immediately into the United States Air Force. Moving back to Virginia after 10 years, we settled in Botetourt County to raise our children. Twelve years later I returned to active duty to finish a career and retire in 2010. Remaining with the USAF as a DoD contractor, Jo Ann and I had time to search for the piece of land that felt “right” for our retirement home. We have two adult children and five grandchildren, which drove our design considerations when building this home.
HA: Why did you choose a log home over a conventional home.
Drew: We have had a lifelong preference for rustic, rural style of living. Both of us enjoy the look, feel and ambiance of wood grain. We researched construction options, costs and reviewed countless log home magazines to ascertain advantages of log design and engineering. We attended a session of Log Home Institute to determine best practices/processes for determining when/how to purchase land and compatible log designs. We also toured a friend’s Honest Abe log home as well as several other log home manufacturers’ models.
HA: Is the floorplan standard or custom?
Drew: It’s the Honest Abe Castlerock basic design, customized for stairway, larger loft and downstairs. Friends of friends invited us to view their Honest Abe Castlerock and gave us a few suggestions.
We added the additional course of logs to provide higher ceilings and enlarged the great room to accommodate the stone fireplace against a side wall to provide unobstructed sighting from front foyer to rear mountain views. We redesigned all windows and doors to maximize the 360° mountain views all around the house, including a window wall at the rear of the great room. We replaced all 6×6 supports with treated 8x8s to increase the post & beam appeal and replaced all interior round vertical supports with white oak and eastern red cedar trees from the property.
The entire two-flight staircase to the loft was designed and hand constructed by Tinker Mountain Construction using large eastern red cedar (ERC) logs and incorporated “floating” 4×12 ERC step treads. We enlarged the rear deck to extend across entire rear and designed the front covered porch to extend across entire front of house. The front portico is designed to provide higher gabled entrance onto the covered porch. The 24’ x 24’ carport and “dogleg” breezeway were also designed and constructed by Tinker Mountain Construction using a heavy post & beam design. The carport used 8×8 supports and 8×12 beams with prefab trusses to provide higher gables front and rear.
All exterior surfaces were stained with two coats of Perma-Chink’s Stone Gray Lifeline Ultra 2 stain (commensurate with the Appalachian smokehouse/tobacco barn appearance) with Lifeline Advanced Gloss Topcoat. All interior surfaces were stained with Perma-Chink’s Lifeline Interior Light Natural and satin topcoat. We selected Perma-Chink’s sandstone chinking to be compatible with both interior and exterior log stains.
HA: How did you settle upon the final design, your choice of log style and other technical specifics.
Drew: We did not desire a typical round log style. Too common and too “Lincoln Log” in appearance. Being from southwest Virginia, we wanted to design the home to be reminiscent of the historical Appalachian smokehouse/tobacco barn. We selected the flat 6 x 10 log style (6” per regional climate suggestions) with the wider chink joints to provide this effect. Regrettably, the hand-hewn option was desired but out of our budget. The aforementioned exterior stain gave the desired effect. In our opinion, the 6×10 Original Chinked log style demanded the heavier post & beam dimensions throughout the remaining structure. Michael Sharp of Tinker Mountain Construction played a significant role by designing the carport and breezeway to be compatible with our vision.
HA: What is your favorite thing about your new home and why?
Jo Ann: The absolute best quality of the home is that the natural log interior “fits” our personality and desire for rustic living. The ample windows provide unfettered views of the Appalachian Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. Its location on 29 wooded acres provides a secluded, rural setting commensurate with log home living. This house was designed and built with a mindset to comfort, leisure and relaxation. Coming home to this house and these mountains is good for my soul. I can’t believe I live here!
HA: What’s special about the home’s location?
Drew: We had been searching southwestern Virginia for four years for the perfect piece of property. During this period, we were researching log home styles and various manufacturers. Having adult children and their families in the upper and lower Shenandoah Valley pointed to central southwestern Virginia as a perfect location to settle. When we finally purchased the property in Botetourt County, Virginia, we were certain of the design and style of log home we wanted to put on the property. We built on the highest knoll on the property with 360° views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains and installed more windows for that purpose. Michael Sharp also provided insight as to position and orientation of the home to best capture those views.
HA: Are there any outstanding features?
Jo Ann: Woodgrain throughout. Abundant windows. Custom-designed stairway to loft. Indigenous trees off the property built into the design of the interior. The heavier post & beam appeal of the front covered porch, rear deck, carport and breezeway mesh perfectly with the 10” face of the logs. Open, all-inclusive great room on the main floor. Rough oak flooring with smooth finish (sourced through Tinker Mountain Construction) shows intricate woodgrain patterns, sawmill pattern and original grading marks – a perfect complement to the white oak tree columns.
HA: Were there any design choices you made to accommodate specific pieces of furniture, collectibles or personal hobbies, etc.
Jo Ann: Yes, we have a significant collection of family heirloom antique furniture that meshes nicely with the rustic interior ambiance of our log home. Much of the interior design is indigenous to southwest Virginia, including the vertical supports, the ERC staircase and the ERC fireplace mantle. The downstairs permits grandchildren’s play areas and living quarters. Moreover, we designed one downstairs wing to accommodate a wood shop for Drew. The open carport and breezeway provide a more unobstructed view of the mountains to the east and creates “breathing room” visibility from the dining area.
HA: Why did you choose Honest Abe Log Homes?
Drew: We chose Honest Abe after considerable research, Log Home University, and touring various models. We especially liked the Christian values of the company leadership and the way they incorporated all levels of employees into the family. The friends’ home we visited happened to be an Honest Abe D-log Castlerock design and was exactly what we had envisioned in our home. The owner indicated that his research proved Honest Abe to be the better value for the cost of the log package. Once we met Honest Abe Independent Dealers Wayne and Cindy Parent of Virginia Mountain Log Homes we were convinced that this was the business model with which we wished to deal.
HA: What was your experience working with Honest Abe?
Drew: I have bragged on the “team” mentality that our Independent Dealers, the general contractor and Jo Ann and I had developed throughout the project. Wayne and Cindy Parent both cared that we got the home we had always envisioned. They visited the jobsite frequently and were present at the delivery of every load of materials shipped from Honest Abe. David Everitt, Honest Abe’s Dealer Manager, provided direct contact with Honest Abe and visited the jobsite numerous times to oversee progress. As mentioned previously, the leadership and management of Honest Abe Log Homes was a clincher in us feeling comfortable with the ethics and quality of the company.
HA: How did the construction stage go?
Drew: The construction experience was wonderful. Since southwest Virginia is out of Honest Abe’s contractors’ venue, I interviewed four local contractors. Only one of these had custom log home experience – Michael Sharp of Tinker Mountain Construction. After researching Tinker Mountain’s credibility, customer satisfaction and online job pictures, we decided that Mike was the builder for this project. Since I myself have building material and construction experience, I was able to foster a most positive relationship with Mike and his subs. There was never any doubt that he was the boss on the jobsite, despite my daily presence and menial contribution to the construction tasks. However, since there were considerable design alterations and engineering changes, I was available throughout the construction process to expeditiously answer questions and consult on suggestions. Honest Abe deliveries were arranged by Mike Sharp and were received in accordance with his schedule and arrangements.
HA: Any advice for others wanting a log home?
Drew: Compatibility of the owner, distributor and contractor is the single most important ingredient of a successful and satisfying log home experience. As mentioned, this was the case in our project. I was VERY happy with Honest Abe’s perseverance in providing drawings and final engineering plans to assure a satisfying end product.
HA: Would you do this again?
Drew: We would do it again if we were younger. However, we will not do this again as this is our long-awaited dream home, and we’ll probably die on the rear deck with a smile on our faces. The teamwork we forged with Honest Abe, the dealer and the general contractor was the key to our success.
Interview by Claudia Johnson, Director of Marketing, Honest Abe Log Homes
Photography by Drew and Jo Ann Hodges
Main floor: 1,700 SF
Upstairs loft: 400 SF
Upstairs storage: 220 SF
Garage – 2-car carport with breezeway: 700 SF
Covered front porch: 400 SF
Rear Deck: 565 SF of which 270 SF is covered
Shingle covered heavy timber roof system with 4”x 8” beams forming an interior cathedral ceiling
List of Rooms
Main Floor Great Room includes living room, dining room, foyer & kitchen
Loft + 2 x storage rooms in the wings
Downstairs Walk-out Basement