Log cabin business explored

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Dan Lafreniere, the owner and operator of Northern Comfort Construction Ltd., stands next to a log cabin he is building as a pilot project to see if it is feasible as a business venture.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Dan Lafreniere, the owner and operator of Northern Comfort Construction Ltd., stands next to a log cabin he is building as a pilot project to see if it is feasible as a business venture.

A builder wants to start constructing log cabins and homes for the Northern market.

However, before that happens, Dan Lafreniere, owner and operator of Northern Comfort Construction Ltd., wants to get a good understanding of how much it would cost to build such structures in Hay River.

So he’s building a log cabin as a pilot project.

Lafreniere, who has been operating his company in Hay River for about four years, said the numbers for such construction in the south don’t apply in the North.

“Like the materials are a different cost here. Everything is different here,” he said. “So I’ve got to be realistic and have a realistic number to give a client. I’ve got to build one.”

Lafreniere said he could then go to the potential buyer, look him or her in the eye, and give an honest estimate of the cost.

“This gives me a gauge of the overhead and accessibility,” he said of the pilot project. “I don’t want to rush into just a great big build and try to solve these problems as I go.”

Lafreniere is very optimistic the pilot project will show that building log cabins and houses will be a feasible venture for his company.

In the past, he worked for his brother’s company building log structures in B.C. and selling them all over that province and even internationally.

“We’ve been doing it so long that I believe that I can market a sound product for a fair dollar,” he said.

His brother, Gerry Lafreniere, has come up from B.C. to help him with the pilot project.

Work started about two weeks ago on the 400-sq.-ft. log cabin, and it should be completed in about a month.

Once completed, the cabin will be for sale, and there is already interest in the building.

Lafreniere said he could build a log home of any size, such as a 1,500-sq.-ft. house with a loft, and in the past he has worked on up to 11,000-sq.-ft. log homes.

As far as he knows, there is currently no company building log cabins or houses in Hay River, although he said log homes can be purchased from the south and erected in the community.

That’s how some of the existing log homes in Hay River were built, he said, adding some were privately built and others were built by a company that is no longer in business.

Lafreniere said Northern Comfort Construction Ltd. would build log cabins and houses for the North.

“I’m going to built it with Northern temperatures in mind,” he said, adding he buys his supplies in Hay River.

Plus, Lafreniere said the spruce logs for the pilot project cabin were bought from Patterson Sawmill.

“I bought the logs here. I’m going to build the house here. The houses are going to be here,” he said, although he said he can also access cedar and other species of wood from all over B.C.

Lafreniere said Northern spruce logs are different than in the south.

“Our wood up here is real slow-growing wood,” he explained. “Because it’s so cold here, the growth rings are very tight together. So it’s a dense wood.”

Lafreniere, a carpenter by trade, has been living in Hay River for about nine years.

Northern Comfort Construction Ltd. is largely involved in building and renovating houses.

Lafreniere said he has been planning to expand to log home construction and now is a good time.

“You’ve got to keep your eyes peeled for an opening, for a niche or something that not everybody is doing,” he said.

Some people love log homes, while others don’t, Lafreniere noted. “It’s a personal preference. If built properly, it’s warm in the winter and it’s cool in the summer. It’s thick and well-insulated, if built properly. If built by sound builders, it can be a real good, sound home.”

–Paul Bickford