Why Log Cabin Living?
Has the idea of owning your own log cabin crossed your mind as a viable home option? If so, you have probably been considering the costs involved in getting one. As you will soon discover, the environmental impact of owning a log cabin is also worth the while since our society is striving to build more homes that are friendly to the environment.
Log cabin homes are a classic staple of European, Canadian and North American living. Unlike the image from the past of the old pioneer family with the yellow dog, the modern log cabin is environmentally efficient and elicits a feeling of premium comfort and relaxation. Nothing conjures up an image of warm childhood memories like those spent in a log cabin! If you have ever had the experience of spending time in a cottage, you know the appeal and sense of peace a log cabin provides because it allows you to comfortably enjoy your natural environment while appreciating modern conveniences.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, log home construction is also one of the most efficient ways to build a home. With the addition of modern conveniences, these homes are now even more durable and able to withstand the brunt of weather elements. Being made of sustainable and renewable material makes wood a much better option than cement and steel for housebuilding material when it comes to both cost and reduced environmental impact.
The increased demand for more sustainable housing has made the acquisition of log cabin homes one of the largest subcategories in real estate investments. Unlike wooden homes made of processed wood, log cabins are made of natural (and renewable) wood, which has a positive impact on the environment. Problems like insect and mold manifestations are easier to discover in log cabin homes because the walls are not hollow like they are in standard wooden homes, and all you need do is examine the logs around the house to determine if there is a problem. Therefore, you can expect the value of a custom-made log home to appreciate because of the professional care taken into designing these homes and the reduction of issues that come with today’s wooden homes.
When you take time to build and seal the log cabin correctly, you will have a house that has superior energy efficiency—saving up to 15% more on energy than the traditional wooden house. Log cabin homes have what is called thermal mass. In the winter, the wood the house is made of acts like stones that soak up heat from the sun. Inside the house, the heat is evenly distributed over several hours to cut down on utility use. In the hotter months, the air conditioning does not leak through the logs and keeps the house evenly cooled, which decreases excessive use of energy.
Thanks to no air pockets in the logs because they are solid, they are more fire-proof than the traditional wooden home. At best, the fire damage will be only surface burns since the lack of air pockets makes it difficult for the fire to spread quickly throughout the log. This gives you time to put the fire out before any major damage is done.
When you look at all the advantages of building a log cabin, you realize these homes are a great place to live. So, now you may be asking, “What are the steps to building the ideal log cabin home if I’m not an architect?”
Building Your Own Log Cabin
This tutorial will help you build the log cabin home for your dreams. So, now you can have the best of both worlds—modern amenities with the comfort and uniqueness of having a home that speaks appreciation of nature.
Building your own log cabin is a challenge worth undertaking! Besides, you don’t have to be an architect to build an efficient log cabin home. What you will soon realize from this tutorial is that it does not take expert knowledge or special skills to build a log cabin. All it takes is a willingness to use natural resources and the right tools to do all the work needed to complete the project.
This tutorial will teach you all you need—step-by-step—to build your very own log cabin home.
How to Build an Efficient Log Cabin Home of Your Own
It takes hard work to get a log cabin built. You will be felling, lifting, cutting, notching and peeling logs to get this task done. So, you may be asking:
- Can I—a person with no skills in making houses—create a log cabin?
- What’s the cost of building a log cabin?
- Where is the ideal location to build a log cabin?
- How many logs will it take to build my log cabin home?
There are 5 essential steps to building a log cabin home.
Step 1. Planning Your Log Cabin
You need to thoroughly prepare yourself for building a log cabin. For starters, you need to know how many days it will take to build a log cabin, which is about 280 days. Therefore, you need to ensure that you take the right amount of time to plan this project out so that you are comfortable with all the steps that involve building the home.
Keep in mind that the planning stage is not some phase where you are creating some type of architectural design. What you are doing is creating a schedule of the events for the building of your cabin. The planning stage will consist of:
- Goals: How many rooms do you want your log cabin to have? What is your projected time frame for building your log cabin?
- Budget: Did you get an estimate on how much the resources (both material and human) will cost to complete this project?
- Research: What information did you gain from other log cabin owners? Did you watch any informative videos on YouTube to help with understanding various construction techniques?
- Target Area: Buying the land where the cabin will be built.
- Design: Have you created a floor plan that will match your goals?
The planning stage of building a log cabin cannot be ignored because you need to know how much your log cabin building project will cost and what all may be involved in gathering the resources prior to starting the project.
Designing the Floor Plan
Don’t look at designing your log cabin as a nightmare; look at it as a chance to show off your creativity! However, if you are at a loss for creativity, then we recommend you get an architect who specializes in designing log cabins to help you out with this part of the planning stage.
You can also do a little research and look at the available free floor plans out there for a basic log cabin home. You will soon discover there are many designs that have already been created by architects online that you can review and choose from. If you are the more creative type, you can utilize our resources to give you the inspiration needed to design your own plan.
Zoning Laws/Building Codes
Almost every country will have some sort of building and zoning regulations. If we didn’t have these types of regulations, people would erect all types of weird structures in weird places. However, there are some exceptions and loopholes when it comes to certain types of buildings, and you can get around most of them if you build a small or highly creative log cabin.
Becoming familiar with all building and zoning regulations will ensure your compliance with the law. If necessary, you may have to consult an attorney to review the regulations and help you with maintaining building and zoning compliance. After all, you don’t want all that hard work to be destroyed because you neglected to see if your building was in compliance with the building and zoning codes for your cabin’s target area.
Read about planning permissions in Ireland here : https://www.loghouse.ie/planning-permission-republic-ireland/
If you are planning on building a log cabin, then most likely, you already have bought your land. But, if you haven’t gotten your land yet, then take some time to consider the following:
- Knowledge of the Laws Concerning Construction of Buildings: Become familiar with all the local and regional building and zoning laws for your area. Take note of any existing restrictions and hints of new laws concerning construction
- Cost of Installing Utility Lines: Most utility companies provide up to 100ft of line for free to new customers and charge $7 per foot after that. Contact all utility companies needed to ensure you can use the local utility companies, water sources and drainage sources.
- Make Sure the Ground is Suitable for Building the Home:
- Identify the type of soil that is present (like clay, gravel, rock, etc.), the style of land (whether flat or sloping) available and any boundaries or water tables present to make sure the land chosen is suitable for the construction of a log cabin.
The easiest and cheapest way to get most of your logs is to get a piece of property that has a good bit of trees.
Log Cabin Cost
The goal is to get the most for your money when having a log cabin built. It’s at the planning stage that you try to secure as many resources as you can for free or at discounted prices.
You will soon discover that expenses can mount quickly when securing the following resources and performing the following activities:
- Tools needed to build the house
- Preparing the Foundation: the cost is according to the type of ground acquired
- Getting Utilities and Services: the cost of building/installing what is needed for energy, water and waste management
- Timber: securing the right number of logs to be used
- Roofing: depends on the type of material used (tiles, logs, felt or singles)
- Fixings (windows, doors and interior panels)
- Insulation: price varies depending on the method of insulation used
As stated earlier, it’s worthwhile to see how many human and material resources you can get for free or at reduced prices to reduce the overall expense of building your own log cabin. So, it’s possible to build an economical log cabin if you are willing to invest in land with suitable log material and persuade people to do free labor.
If you’re wondering where to begin concerning budget, just think of it this way: you will pay about $25/square foot. That would mean a 900 square foot log cabin would cost you around $22,500.
The two factors that will greatly affect the cost of your log cabin is its style complexity and size. For example, an L-designed log cabin would cost more than a square or rectangle log cabin that was the same size.
Planning Step Recap
Now that we’ve gone over the planning of the construction of your cabin, you should have a good understanding of:
- The overall cost of your log cabin
- Who will build your cabin
- Location of your future cabin
- Building and/or zoning codes that impact the building of your log cabin
- What will my log cabin look like once it has been built?
If you aren’t aware of all topics mentioned in the recap, now is the time to ensure you have a definite answer before going to the next step.
For those who feel the construction part will be the most difficult, this next part of the tutorial should put your mind at ease.
Step 2. Foraging (Log Picking and Preparation)
Now that you’ve acquired your land for your log cabin home, it’s time to start rounding up your logs. This step will require a lot of manual labor because you will be foraging for trees. Your course of work will include locating, chopping down, transporting, debarking and drying trees.
The goal is to get quality logs that will be good for insulation and will require less maintenance.
You may be wondering what type of trees to look for. Out of the hundreds of North American tree species available, log cabin home builders only use a few of them because some tree species are more durable and have better insulation.
These trees—found in North America—are ideal wood material for building log cabins: you want to be looking for the below trees:
- Cedar (Western White)
- Hardwoods (Oak, Poplar or Walnut)
- Pine Trees (Red, White or Yellow)
In European areas, your selections are limited, but try to find pine or spruce trees. In Australia, you can focus on Douglas Fir or Redwood trees.
The Number of Logs Needed to Make the Log Cabin
You need to estimate the number of logs needed prior to felling the trees. For example, if you are creating a rectangular log cabin that will have the measurements of 20 ft (width) by 40 ft (length) by 9ft (height) and your typical log diameter is 12 inches, then you will need:
- 3 x 44ft logs for the ridge and purlin logs
- 22 x 24ft logs for the gable ends
- 18 x 44ft logs for the length
- 18 x 24ft logs for the width
In other words, you will need a total of 61 logs, but this is assuming all logs felled are not warped, dry or cracked (and you will have a 4ft log overhang for notching.
This example is simplistic as it assumes all logs felled will be okay to use (no warping, checking or cracking after drying) and a 4FT log overhang for notching.
Debarking and Drying the Logs
The debarking and drying of the logs will take a lot of patience on your end. After you have felled your trees, the wood will need to be debarked with a drawknife (used at a 30-degree angle) because that part of the tree is moist and is a breeding ground for insects.
Keep in mind that not all tree species will have the same drying time. Some species—like pine or spruce—may take up to a year to dry.
While drying the logs, they will need to be covered with either plastic or some other type of breathable material to keep the weather elements from affecting them. Also, you will need to keep them off the ground, stack them and use stickers to space them out so the logs in the center of the pile get a chance to dry also.
If you want to seal the log ends to help with preventing rapid water evaporation (which could cause ring separation and cracking), you will need to do this right after you fell the trees. Therefore, it is recommended that you fell, debark and seal the logs on the same day. That way, you will save yourself a lot of extra work of having to replace cracked or split logs.
Step 3. Creating the Log Cabin Foundation
Your choice of foundation for your log cabin will not be as simple as the foundation of a shed, and here’s why: the log cabin foundation must be sturdy enough to support the weight of the logs required for the cabin’s structure.
You cannot overlook this important feature of the log cabin foundation because it will need to be able to support the cabin’s load when it’s in the sub-ground. Your foundation should also be durable enough to keep the cabin from sinking should the soil around it decrease. So, keep the following factors in mind when determining the type of foundation your cabin needs:
- Type of soil on the cabin’s lot
- The size and shape of the cabin
- Resources available (like local cement companies)
When trying to decide on the type of foundation for your log cabin, keep in mind that traditional houses need more foundational structure than log cabins. Thus, your choice of foundation needs to be pad, raft or strip.
We highly recommend using the pad foundation because it keeps your cabin off the ground and creates a “splash zone” (a damp-proof area that makes it hard for water to splash back onto your log cabin home.
Step 4. Laying the Logs
A lot of time will have passed between planning the construction of the log cabin and determining the type of foundation needed. However, you will start to see drastic changes in the building process when you start laying the logs.
Prior to laying the logs, you must choose which type of notch style you will use to make the corners of your log cabin.
Notches are cut into logs to help join the corners of the log cabin. You may want to choose one of these common notch styles:
- Butt and Pass (popular style for modern log cabin homes)
- Corner Post
- Full or Half-Dovetail
- Full Scribed (This notching style is one of the original methods used to create corner notches.)
The butt and pass notch style is designed for making building log cabins simple enough for novices to do. You don’t have to worry about having any settling when using this style. So, this style has a become a favorite among novices because it does not require any skill to do it.
Laying the first round of logs (Sill logs)
The sill logs will require a lot of manual labor because of the size and weight of these logs. So, exercise caution and patience when doing this portion of laying your logs.
You will use your best logs as your sill logs. These are the ones that are the largest, longest and straightest out of all the logs you felled. Once you’ve cut them to length (using a chainsaw) and pre-drilled them, you are ready to put them in place.
For those using the pad foundation, you lift the first two logs over the rebar and slide them down the rebar. The last two (called sleeper logs) will be laid using the butt and pass style. You will fix the logs together with rebar pins to complete fitting the perimeter of your log cabin.
Installing the Floor
You will use a suspended lumber floor to do this part. Each floor joist (2 X 7”) will be laid 14 inches apart and run parallel and flush with the sill logs. This means you will need to create a notch on your sill logs every 14 inches to match the laying of each floor joist. Your notches should be equal to the width of your floor joists to ensure they fit securely.
If your joists are more than 7ft, you can use pillars (for vertical restraint) and struts at the midpoint of your joists (for lateral restraint).
The last step of installing the floor is to plank it at right angles, and then the floor is done.
Building the Walls
When building the walls, don’t think about openings (windows, doors, etc.). Just keep stacking the logs (according to the notch style you have chosen) until all walls are completed.
To keep the wall level, you will rotate each log’s direction for each layer of your log cabin. For instance, you will alternate between the tip and butt of the logs for each layer.
If you are using the butt and pass notch style, your logs will be fixed using short rebar fixtures. Therefore, you will be cutting each notch to stack them. If using the saddle notch style (which is a more traditional notch style), cut downward facing notches if your log cabin will be in a rainy climate. Also, instead of cutting the top of the most recent log to fit the next log, cut the bottom of the next log.
Creating Your Openings (Doors and Windows)
All you need to do when making your openings for your windows and doors is cut out the space from the wall where you want it located. The opening will be supported by a lintel log, and cleats will be used to keep the opening fixed in place. Once you have secured the openings for each door and window, you can insert the door jambs and window frames to keep these openings intact.
You will need to use lintel logs above each window and door to keep the structural integrity of the log cabin intact.
Framing and Attaching the Roof
The roof on your log cabin should be easy to do since most people build square or rectangle log cabins.
Although there are a variety of options available for notching and roof design, it is recommended to do the traditional pitched roof design for your log cabin.
The type of roof style discussed here is called the “purlin and rafter” roof technique. It is a popular roof style because it’s easy to do and is highly durable.
For starters, you will build the gable wall by doing the same thing you did for the other walls—except this time, you will stop at half the height of the wall. Then, fix the two purlin logs. After that, fit the ridge log. The ridge log will support the rafters used to keep the last piece of roofing material intact. That is why you will notch your rafters into the ridge logs (and the purling logs). Next, you will attach plywood roofing boards to the rafters.
There are four types of finishes for your log cabin’s roof:
- Metal Sheeting
- Roofing Felt
- Thatched Roof
- Traditional Wood Shingles
Step 5. Log Cabin Exterior and Maintenance
After building your log cabin home, you will need to weatherproof it to prevent rotting from damp, rainy and humid environments. You will do this by cleaning, chinking and staining your cabin.
Cleaning Your Cabin
Dirt will accumulate on your logs from the activities involved in building your cabin. Therefore, your first maintenance task will be to clean the logs. You will also wash your logs when mineral deposits, pollen and dust also start to accumulate on them.
Start cleaning your logs by wetting them with water, then you will use a mild detergent to scrub your logs (using a small circular motion)—starting from the bottom of your log home and working your way up to the top and vice versa. Let the cabin dry for a minimum of two days.
Staining Your Cabin
You can elect to stain your logs after you fell them or after you have completed building the cabin.
A borate solution can be applied to your logs after you remove the bark to keep them protected.
After the log cabin has been completed, you stain the logs, so they maintain their original color and stay protected from the sun’s rays. We recommend using an oil-based stain product and back brushing your logs for a more even coverage.
The coverage should last from 18 months to two years, but this will all depend on how much your cabin is exposed to UV rays.
Chinking Your Cabin
Chinking is the application of a flexible sealant to the log joints to keep out outside air and moisture. Whereas some notch styles won’t need chinking, the butt and pass style will require chinking. If you find any cracks, checks or splits over 2cm in any area of your logs, these areas will need to be filled up and sealed with chinking. Also, the length of the joints will need chinking by going over them with a trowel.
After chinking your log cabin, make sure to finish it by cleaning it with a damp cloth.
To prevent insulation issues, make sure you inspect your logs twice a year to keep splits, cracks and checks sealed with chinking. We recommend you use this checklist to the help you create your own maintenance inspection routine.
Your Log Cabin is Now Complete!
Congratulate yourself on creating your very own log home! And now you can enjoy a piece of nature that is just as efficient as the ones the pioneers made.