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Mark Zaugg

Sawyer Showcase:

Mark Saw the Price for a New Garage and Said ‘I Think I Can Do Better’

After building his own cabin in the Uinta Mountains in the 1980s, this sawyer decided he wanted to make his own addition

It was a sharp increase in the cost of materials that made Mark Zaugg decide to build his own log-cabin-style garage in the mountains of Utah beside his hand-made cabin.

“When I finally decided I needed a garage about four years ago, I started pricing them out and I could’ve built a post-and-beam garage for about $27,000 about four years ago. I finally decided in 2022 I was going to go ahead and do it, but the price of a post-and-beam garage had gone up to about $50,000 and just a stick construction would be about that same price.”

It was those quotes that prompted the 78-year-old to buy himself a Woodland Mills HM122 Portable Sawmill, but he credits smart decision-making and planning for how his project turned out so successfully.

Log cabin style garage built with portable sawmill

Mark's log-cabin-style garage was finished just before snowfall, and he's currently figuring out what project he'd like to do next.

“The best part was being able to use my own logs."

Mark originally built his cabin in 1985 in the beautiful Uinta Mountains in Utah, sitting at an elevation of 8,500-feet.

But just a few years ago he decided to add a garage. Though when he finally got around to pricing out the materials the cost had wildly ramped up from his original design.

Even reaching out to the company which provided the logs for the cabin he built back in the ‘80s, they told him the materials to make his garage would cost about $25,000 now, he says.

“So I thought, ‘my goodness, I think I can do better than that.’”

Mark's original cabin in the snow

Mark’s original plan was to use a chainsaw to cut up eight-inch-thick logs, but he quickly realized how much work that would be. So he did some research and ended up buying an HM122.

In the time it took to get permits and approvals from his county and pour the concrete base, he was able to build his sawmill by about mid-August.

Mark’s property has about nine acres of Lodgepole Pine and Quaking Aspen. To get materials he started accumulating logs from trees which had naturally fallen, and he also bought a tractor to carry his timber.

“The best part was being able to use my own logs,” said Mark.

“It takes a lot of detailed planning in the initial phase.”

A pile of treated logs ready to be assembled

So he started milling and building up the walls of his garage. The first row of logs were actually leftovers from the construction of his cabin. He was about four layers of logs in when his son came up and found some larger trees to use.

“That’s why if you look at the pictures, about halfway up the logs are more square. That’s when he showed up… the aesthetics of it were not the most important but it still looks pretty good.”

In his construction, Mark did a “butt-and-pass” method for the corners, butting one log up against the other and then driving a half-inch of steel rebar to tie the corners together.

The next step was bringing in a roofer to do the steel roof and getting the garage door installed. Once everything was closed in, he sprayed the exterior with linseed oil and mineral spirits. The following day it ended up snowing.

Construction of mark's log cabin garage

“We got it done just in time.”

To prepare for this project, Mark says he had to visualize his ideas before he could execute them. His local county requires drawings and engineering plans for outbuildings beforehand, but he found few were able to do those plans for a log building.

Through some back and forth he was able to explain the project to some engineers and get some plans drawn up and approved by the county.

One thing Mark says he would do differently is a bit more research. The trusses came from a local company, but when they came to deliver them they told him they could have done log trusses which would blend in with the design.

Two workers assembling the roof of the cabin

“I said, ‘I didn’t know that.’ Of course I didn’t ask him,” he explains, laughing. “So I ended up with standard roof trusses but I could have had something a little more rustic in there, but it’s alright, it works fine.”

Plan your projects ahead of time and know what your end goal looks like so you can prepare accordingly, he advises.

“It takes a lot of detailed planning in the initial phase.”

For the next project, Mark is still figuring out whether he wants to get a trailer for his portable sawmill or build a new saw shed on the back of the garage. But right now his property is still covered in 35 inches of snow so he has plenty of time to plan out his next job.

Exterior shot of the new garage in the distance

Did you enjoy reading about Mark's garage project? Check out Rick's home-made Unplanned barn expansion which went out of control, made using "ugly" wood around him.