Building Homes or Extensions/plans/permits


first thank you so very much for using your time to answer questions!
i am hoping this year to sell my house in illinois and buy a piece of property in california.  what i want to do is buy two yurt kits to put on this property.  i want these two yurts connected with a building in between that will have a garage below with a laundry room above. i am planning on renting out the second yurt.  what i am wondering is, will a contractor actually draw up the plans, submit them to the county (or whatever agency grants permits) and then build the decks/yurts and connecting building?  what should i be looking for the builder / contractor to charge and how will i find a good one?
thank you again for your time!
take care.

Hi Sonya,

First point pertains to California!  It is highly regulated and often restrictive in many ways, but there are areas that are not burdened with excessive regulation.  Your first step is to determine who is the authority controlling residential construction.  It is usually at the county level in the body of a planning commission or codes compliance or plans review dept.  Talk to an appropriate person in this organization outlining your proposed plans in general and with specifics.  Be sure to cover the rental aspect of your plans as this may put your project in a different arena, commercial vs. residential.  That could affect the codes that apply and who is approved to design and/or contract the construction.

Being that you are planning yurts as the primary structure you may find some requirements applied to your project that don't normally apply to typical residential or light commercial construction regardless whether you are building in a highly regulated or more relaxed county.  This often occurs when your project involves "non conventional" construction which is sometimes viewed with a jaundiced eye.  For example, the officials may require drawings from a professional engineer or registered architect and often only accept California registered engineers or architects.  This could add significant costs and time to your project.

Using a design/build contractor to construct your project may only be possible if he is, or has, a registered engineer or architect on staff.  Again, this aspect of this project should be discussed with the code officials up front so you don't get down stream and find yourself in a blind alley.

If you are planning on purchasing a package from a yurt kit manufacturer they may provide construction drawings or sealed drawings or steer you to approved people who can satisfy this requirement if it arises.  Since there are some different engineering aspects involved in yurt construction versus conventional construction it might be a prudent option to engage a professional engineer even if not required.

The same it true for selecting a contractor; one that is familiar and experienced with yurt construction might be a better choice than one who doesn't know what a yurt is.

The costs of drawings/design can vary dramatically; generally, a design/build contractor will charge less than a P.E. or architect to develop the plans and carry them through the approval process, but this may not be true if he has to go outside to secure the required seal on the drawings.  The costs can and do range from  low single digit percentages to teen percentages of the total project cost and sometimes a flat fee for specified services provided.  The responsibility for shepherding the project through the administrative process can be the architect, possibly the P.E., but seldom, or the home owner if capable and willing.

In summary:
         1.  Determine who the authorities are and discuss the project with them to learn the
         requirements pertaining to drawings, codes, and contractors.
         2.  Select a kit manufacturer if you are going that route.
         3.  Find an approved designer/engineer/architect if necessary or required.
         4.  Find a contractor experienced with yurt construction or at least recommended for
         knowledgeable quality construction.
         5.  With respect to #3 and #4 look for someone who can and will take charge of coordinating
         the project or plan on doing so yourself.
         6.  Whoever you work with, remember what a famous President cautioned, "Trust but Verify."
         7.  Don't let your guard down; stay on top off all aspects of the project; meet and communicate
         throughout and don't hesitate to question whatever you feel you need an answer to.

Some tips on finding the right people:  start with the code/plan review people--ask them if they know appropriate design and contractors that might help you with this project.  Be careful to avoid asking for a
"recommendation" because they are not suppose to do that.  Use your charm to "help little ole me out."
Do the same with a P.E. or architect to find a contractor and vice versa with a contractor to find a P.E.  Contact the local builders association to get names of good contractors--again be cautious with "recommendations."  Charm not inquisition.  Talk to local building supply "pro staff" or "contractor services" personnel for recommendations (they don't have the same rules as public employees, but still charm goes a long way).

If you are inclined let me know how it goes over time.  Good luck.

Len Kroll
Wood House Log Homes LLC
8346 Nubbin Ridge Rd.
Knoxville, TN 37923

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Len Kroll


I can answer questions concerning log home design, manufacture, construction, maintenance/repair, restoration and insect control in log homes. I can also answer questions pertaining to wood properties, characteristics and performance as they relate to log home applications. Additionally, I can answer questions pertaining to residential construction and repair, some engineering and trade issues.


I have been in the log home and construction industry for 38 years, 10 years in a specialty contracting field and 28 years in the log home field. My company has designed, produced and supplied over 3,000 log homes and built over 500 and restored over 600 during that 28 year period. I was a volunter in AllExperts for several years and somehow fell off the map. I answered hundreds of questions during that term and had a very high rating.

I authored a monthly column in an in house publication expressing the Vice President and General Manager's "Observations and Insights" which was distributed to approximately 300 employees and management.

I have a BS Accounting degree from the University of Illinois, 1963, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago, 1968. I have participated in numerous relevant seminars over the years including an intense two week broad business administration seminar at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, 1978. I have participated in the National Association of Home Builders Graduate Builders continuing education program.

Awards and Honors
National Honor Society Student, Illinois State Academic Scholarship, Dean's List

Past/Present Clients
Aaron Tipon, Randy Travis, Billy Dean, Maryland State's Attorney General, US Army Retirement Complex, Boys Scouts of America.

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