Sheppard says that many clients solicit his advice on not just the log frame, but where to go for roofing, flooring and interiors. “Our clients generally aren’t contractors, so they have no idea how jobs are split up. So the minimum we have to do is close it in so it’s dry, and put windows and doors in it. The finishing can be done by someone we contract out, or someone they find. We occasionally do some interiors and finishing, but not often.” To date, Near North hasn’t had to venture any further than a couple of hours away from their South River, Ontario home base. “Our clients have so far been pretty close to home. When I was working out west, we were building homes all over the world. The U.S., Germany, Finland, Iceland, it was interesting. We haven’t gotten to that point yet. I don’t know if we will. If a client is willing to pay for all the things that are attached to travelling great distances, we’d defi- nitely do it.” “We are definitely looking to grow, and we are thinking that this year might be that year where we expand.” Crossing jurisdictions also creates its fair share of red tape, due to possible insect infestations and disease. “The only logs you can ship to Europe without kiln-drying them first is red cedar from BC. So if someone over there wanted white pine, I’d have to kiln-dry it. And I don’t really know of a kiln that’s 40 feet long and could dry 70 logs. So that get’s costly. I’m not sure I’ll ever go that route,” Sheppard points out. That’s not to say Near North needs Europe, or any far-off land, to sustain business at the moment. Their location near cottage country is keeping their chainsaws busy enough within a two-hour radius. “We are north of the Muskokas, which is the getaway area for Toronto and the big urban areas. Lots of cottages, and I think that because the Muskokas are not only full, but property there is really expensive, people are looking further north. Up where we are, it’s very similar geography. It’s all forests and lakes. So there are a lot of people moving up this way for cottages or

four-season homes. It’s affordable and available around here.”

All this translates into busy summers for Near North. “We’re right at the beginning of a boom, I think. Not only for log homes, but cottages and property development in general,” Sheppard explains. A boom indeed. It never hurts to have popular culture focus its attention on your industry. In this case, television shows like HGTV’s Timber Kings has perhaps sparked some interest in the log and timber construction options. Sheppard admits that he tends to be too busy to watch the show, but feels that it has had a positive effect on the industry. “I’d say the TV show absolutely has had an impact on what people want in a country home… Every single person that I show homes to asks if I have seen certain episodes of Timber Kings. It is definitely in the minds of consumers.” Visitors to Near North’s website are met with a half-dozen designs and floor plans of beautiful log-constructed homes. However, these are merely a few examples from the drafts- man’s table. Near North has a go-to book of 100 or more designs that potential clients can peruse. And customization is the name of the game in the log and timber business. “Some people approach me with their own ideas and drawings and I just take it and hand it over to the drafts- man. He draws it up and fine tunes it, going back-and- forth with the client until they are happy. Then we go ahead and build it at that point. I only offer samples if they need guidance. Many of the custom ideas come from the clients themselves.” The current log construction trend is leaning toward open concept with lofts overlooking the great room. And why not? If you are going to the trouble of designing a home that highlights the splendour of nature’s creations, you’ll probably want to see it from every vantage point inside. Sheppard figures that log homes, on average, are actually more efficient than a standard home construction build. The logs’ natural insulation properties make bats and bats of fibreglass insulation unnecessary. And log homes



Made with FlippingBook HTML5