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Custom Log Home
Follow along on the journey of a couple building their dream retirement home in Libby, Montana with Caribou Creek Log & Timber.
The Bentley’s Dream Come True
by Billy Soden
Mike and Cheryl Bentley had been planning their dream retirement home for about 40 years. After Mike retired from 35 years in the medical field, the Texas natives moved to Montana and another step closer to fulfilling that dream. They didn’t know it then, but they would soon be the proud owners of a gorgeous 3,000 square foot handcrafted custom log home in the ideal natural setting of Libby, Montana. Previously, on a visit to the Calgary Stampede in Canada, the Bentley’s discovered Libby while picking up some friends who happened to live in the quaint northern Montana town. “On the way back, we decided to take a look around,” explained Mike. “Libby is not a big town, but we’re not big town people. It’s big enough to have a hospital, grocery stores, and most of the amenities we needed.”
It was on that same trip that the Bentley’s purchased seven-and-a-half acres of dream-come-true and decided to move there. Cheryl had once told her husband that she wanted to retire “anywhere with trees and mountains.” The couple did their due diligence in researching other options that might be a good fit for building their custom log home. In fact, they had visited five other states that might possibly include those trees and mountains Cheryl had envisioned. In the end, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, and Alaska all lost out to little Libby, Montana. Or, as the Bentley’s now call it, “home.”
“…they were more than willing to make it the way we wanted it…”The perfect setting the Bentley’s had found first needed a perfect custom log home builder. With 40 years of dreaming about living in their utopia, Mike and Cheryl had invested plenty of time looking and learning and had a pretty good idea of what it was that they wanted. Mike bought every magazine that included information about custom log cabins. He visited stores that offered custom log home designs and ideas. “I even ordered a bunch of different handcrafted log home plans from a variety of websites,” Mike explained. “I came across a rough plan close to what we wanted and started talking with a builder. When they told me the logs would come from somewhere in Wisconsin at ten-thousand-dollars per truckload, we decided to keep looking.”
That’s when somebody referred the Bentley’s to Caribou Creek. Mike and Cheryl quickly learned that Caribou Creek builds authentic custom log homes with impeccable workmanship and attention to detail. “One thing I really liked about Caribou Creek was that we brought our own plans and they were more than willing to make it the way we wanted it instead of just having a cookie-cutter model,” said Cheryl. “We had looked at some other companies that required you to choose one of their plans.”
“They had a solid computer program which made it super easy to change things around,” added Mike. “We could look at two or three different variations of our plan and make informed decisions right there. We could actually physically look at the plan and the changes we were considering. I really like that.”
The Caribou Creek custom log home process begins with the choice of wood. They used Douglas Fir from Oregon and are the only handcrafted company that dries their own logs. The six-week kiln-drying process brings the moisture level at the center of each log to 20%, resulting consistently in only the highest quality logs. Most of the shrinkage occurs before any of their custom log homes are ever built. It’s a process that has elevated Caribou Creek, who for over three decades of building authentically handcrafted custom log homes, to a standard of excellence that puts them in a class of their own. They also work directly with homeowners and highly skilled contractors which makes them extremely cost-effective.
Finding a Log Home Contractor
After getting three quotes from other general contractors, the Bentley’s brought their plans to Stephan Girod, owner and operator of Wildcat Wood. “I chose Stephan because he was experienced in all aspects of building a home,” said Mike. “He was young and eager to do an excellent job.” Cheryl agreed. “I was super impressed. We were given many names, but Stephan was a high-quality referral. He was honest and forthright, and 100% of his crew was like that, too. That meant the world to us. We knew from the get-go what we were getting, and I just appreciated the integrity that came with it.”
Building a Custom Log Home
The customization process continues with uncompromising craftsmanship, another trademark advantage of building a Caribou Creek log home. Part of creating a superior handcrafted custom log home results from using a Scandinavian Full Scribe or “Swedish Cope” method of fitting the logs together. Every log is individually shaped with great detail so, when positioned, each precisely matches the contour of the log placed below it providing a tight fit for every layer.
Caribou Creek log homes and cabins use an engineered non-settling system that locks the logs together. This allows the logs to shrink and expand slightly in any given climate. There are no settling gaps above the windows and doors which allow for precision framing and eliminates the need for jacks to manage the settling you would typically have in a conventional log home.
“The precision they used to put the 14-inch logs together was so impressive, they wanted every corner and every detail perfect, and they worked like clockwork,” added Cheryl.
“…Caribou Creek’s log quality is the best I’ve ever seen.”From design to production, the Bentley’s were welcomed and consulted in every step along the way. Their 40-year retirement dream log home was becoming a reality right before their eyes, and they were grateful for the earnest care and communication that everyone involved was giving. “They involved us in every aspect, and it was amazing to stand in our home as it was being built,” Cheryl commented. “We were at the plant 3 or 4 times where they patiently showed us the kiln-drying process and everything that went into the production of building our dream.”
“I’ve built over 100 log homes, I’m a certified log home builder, and I look at logs really, really closely,” said Steve. “Of all of the log homes I’ve ever built, Caribou Creek’s log quality is the best I’ve ever seen.”
There’s a reason why Caribou Creek selects only the best partners. The commitment to craftsmanship extends directly to their interactions with their customers and contractors like Steve from Wildcat Wood. “I can build the house, but you guys make it home,” said Steve. It’s a reciprocal mindset of excellence and pride in what they do that is contagious and filters throughout the entire crew. “There’s a lot to be said for a company whose employees always show up on time, are safety-conscious, and shared your ethics and values,” described Cheryl. “What I love about them is that they are a Christian crew and you could come out anytime, and they were kind and even sometimes singing! I remember a time Steve reminded everyone to be safe on the ladders. Then someone said, ‘you know what, we’re going to stop and pray for safety right now.’ That means a lot to me as a Christian person, to know that people really care for each other and have integrity.”
Steve echoed that sentiment offering his perspective: “You know, it goes both ways. Because when you’re working on the job site, it’s a relief when you have homeowners that are willing to work with you and know what’s going on. When you have so many options for every situation and know the homeowners are willing to look at all of them and make an educated decision. I love the way the Bentley’s did that because it’s such a beautiful home and they didn’t compromise on creating something exactly how they wanted it. I told Mike that building this house was so fun because if I can work with quality and put in quality, it makes the job enjoyable. Working with the Bentley’s was just awesome.”
Mike had nothing but praise for Steve and how the Wildcat Wood crew worked together. He commented on the timing and communication of everyone involved. “It was like a well-oiled machine,” he said, “and Steve never said no. When I would want him to do this or that or whatever, he always made it work.”
“…standing behind your promises and taking action is what really matters in the end.””Even the best can make a mistake occasionally, and Mike remembered a time when a post had been cut a little short, and he brought his concern to Steve after noticing the error. Of course, everything was corrected immediately with complete professionalism. Jonathan Mast from Caribou Creek knows that when anyone is tested in that way, it’s the response that makes all the difference in the world. “I tell everyone that we will do the best we can and will do it right. If we mess up, we’re going to fix it,” he explained. “People make mistakes and standing behind your promises and taking action is what really matters in the end.”
Therein lies the magic of how an experienced, well-established custom log home business continues to make dreams a reality for so many. Caribou Creek’s well-earned reputation was built one log at a time with consistent ingenuity and expertise. “I thank everybody involved in the whole thing,” said Mike, “Caribou Creek and Steve and his crew, the plumbers, electricians, and sheet-rockers, Kyle and Rob – everybody we encountered were quality people, and I can’t ask for anything more than that. I was so impressed with everybody involved.”
Cheryl agreed, “You can send anyone who is looking to see a finished house our way. We would be proud to show them your work.”