Summit Co man makes cabins out of beetle-kill |

Summit Co man makes cabins out of beetle-kill

Bob Berwyn
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Bob Berwyn/Summit Daily NewsTodd Gourley hand-peels a beetle-killed log near his Peak 7 home as part of his custom log cabin operation.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Along with composting chips from dead lodgepole at the landfill, turning them into pellets for fuel in Kremmling and lathing logs, another Summit County resident has found a way to use some of the beetle-killed trees.

Up on Peak 7, Todd Gourley is converting the dead trees into handsome cabins, one log at a time.

Gourley hand-peels the logs, then cuts notches and stacks them into walls, a life-size version of the classic Lincoln Log toys.

“Kits are 95 percent of what’s on the market. I want this to look 150 years old when I’m done,” Gourley said, walking around a small cabin on his wooded property in the Tenmile Range that will serve as a sales model of sorts if Powder River Log Cabins takes off as a business.

“Let’s say I get some orders for this. I could build one in about two weeks,” he said. The cabins meet all applicable Summit County building codes. Depending on the finish, Gourley reckons he can erect a cabin at about $200 per square foot.

The 200-square-foot cabin on his Peak 7 lot required about 42 logs, ranging from 110 to 16 inches in diameter.

The characteristic blue-stain in the logs isn’t a drawback for this type of construction, Gourley said. It’s visible as a faint grayish-blue tint in the cut ends of the logs. For the inside finish like the floors and ceilings, the blue stain is considered an aesthetic enhancement.

“People would request it back in the ’90s when we were building out of the log yard in Fairplay. It used to cost a ton. Now it’s cheap,” Gourley said.

Gourley came to Summit County in 1989, working a variety of typical resort jobs, including a stint as a resort photographer at Keystone and running a T-shirt shop for a while.

“I wanted to learn how to build log homes,” he said, explaining how he was drawn to Colorado’s historic residential architecture.

To that end, he went to work with Pete Behme, a custom log homebuilder based in Fairplay.

Now, Gourley said he’s not interested in building log mansions. Rather, he wants to recreate the smaller-scale one room cabins typical of Summit County’s mining era.

For now, the cabins aren’t intended as primary residences. Instead, he envisions that people might use them as a small guest house, or even a playhouse or addition to an existing structure.

But he could also go as big as about 1,600 square-feet for someone who is thinking about a log home as a primary residence, he said.

With no shortage of raw material, Gourley reckons that he can meet the demand for small-scale log structures for some time to come. For the model home on his own lot, Gourley used trees from his own property.

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