So you want to build a log cabin? Who can blame you! This is a dream of many homesteaders and off-gridders, and for many it remains just that – a dream. But for you, it doesn’t have to. Handcrafted log cabins are one of the most beautiful rustic looking homes, especially in today’s age where everything is replicated and mass produced.
Contrary to common belief, you don’t have to be an expert to build a log cabin. You don’t need any special talent, skills or prior experience. What you do need though, is determination, a great work ethic, planning skills, time and resources.
Here are the six main steps of building a log cabin
Planning your Log Cabin
Planning is the most important stage of building a log cabin. It is definitely the most time consuming stage, but done well, the more time you spend planning your build, the more successful your build will be.
During the planning stage you should establish your timeline and your budget. Always remember to add a 10% contingency fee on to your total amount.
The timeline should be detailed and include a full construction schedule, bear in mind the average hand built log cabin takes 280 days to build from start to finish.
Once all this is in place, you can start actually planning the floorplan and design of your log cabin.
This stage also includes purchasing land and checking local zoning and planning laws.
Related reading: How to pick land for a new off the grid life
Choosing and preparing logs
With over 800 tree species in North America alone, how do you know which ones to use for your log cabin?
Almost any tree can be used to build a log cabin as long as it is straight and tall, however there are some species which are more favorable than others.
Log cabin manufacturers typically use around a dozen species because of their characteristics and availability. Here is a full glossary of tree species characteristics.
You will need logs that are 30-40ft long, 10-14” in diameter and are of a similar thickness through the entire log.
Building the foundation
The foundation for your log cabin will need to be strong to prevent subsidence and settlement. It should be stronger than the foundation you would plan for a shed, but does not need to be as substantial as a foundation for traditional housing.
Most log cabin foundations are shallow, such as strip raft or pad. The foundation you choose for your log cabin will be influenced bye; the lands soil type, how big your cabin is, land contours, and local resources.
Raising the log walls
Once all the planning is finished, and your foundation is laid, it’s time to start the actual build.
There are many different ways to build your log cabin, including butt and pass, full scribed, dovetail and corner post. The easiest for beginners is the butt and pass. This method doesn’t require any notching or cutting of the logs and minimizes settling.
Building the walls will be done in three main stages; laying the four sill logs, laying the floor and then raising the rest of the walls.
Doors and windows
Installing doors and windows is quite a simple process. You just need to remove the wood and create openings. Do to this you will need a chainsaw and support the opening with a lintel log and tacking cleats.
Most log cabins have a pitched roof and will require two gable walls.
The most common type of roof is the purlin and rafter, this technique is preferred as it is easy to construct and is able to withstand high winds and snow loads.
There are many options for finishing your roof, from traditional wood shingles, to roofing felt – this is mostly just down to personal preference.
And there you have it – your finished log cabin!
Remember, the skills it takes to build a log cabin are not dependent on your previous experience. Anyone who has the patience to persevere, learn new skills and plenty of time, can build a log cabin.
Article written by Sarah Woods from Log Cabin Hub.
Log Cabin Hub are a team of cabin experts, from carpenters and builders to engineers and architects. They are dedicated to sharing their knowledge on all aspects of log cabin building, from planning and buying land, to building and living in a log cabin.