Building your own log cabin may seem like a huge feat but with the right tools and guidelines, it’s a challenge worth trying! In fact, you can save a considerable amount of money and have the long-term satisfaction of knowing you build an awesome log home from scratch. For those that are considering building a log cabin, we have all the information that you could need in the guide below.
From sourcing materials and preparing the area prior to beginning the construction itself, there are a number of stages you’ll need to take. This easy-to-follow D.I.Y guide is intended for anybody who may find themselves part through a log house build or for someone who wants to try their hand at building a log home for the first time from scratch. Read on to learn everything you need to about building a log home.
Ready to dive in? Here’s everything you need to know if you’re sick of googling how to build a log cabin!
10 Easy Steps to Building a Log Cabin
Have you been browsing log cabin designs and dreaming of building your own? If so, you’re in the right place! Below, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on all the stages for building a log cabin home that you’ll be proud of. While the task is certainly not short and will require heaps of patience (and nails!), by the end you’ll have a log cabin to relax in whenever you please. Here’s how to build a log cabin in 10 steps…
1. Plan your Design
It takes approximately 280 days to build a log cabin yourself, therefore it’s wise to dedicate a good chunk of your time on planning. When you plan to build a log cabin the most crucial step is planning ahead. You will need to consider the land that you intend to build the log home and purchase it if it doesn’t already belong to you. Following this it’s time to assess your budget and work out the costs of materials that will be involved in the construction of the structure.
You should be completely confident in every stage that you have planned out for your log home. From sourcing the materials to designing the log home on paper, plan every step as carefully as possible. We recommend starting with a checklist and include the following:
- Where is the log cabin going to be built?
- Where will you source the logs needed for the home?
- How much is your budget?
- What will your log cabin look like? (A pencil design is needed)
- Have you reviewed the zoning laws in the area?
Once you have everything in the checklist above prepared for your log cabin, you’re set to get going on the exciting part – the construction of your log home!
2. Consider Zoning Laws
The zoning laws in your area will reviewed prior to going ahead with building your log cabin. As convenient as it would be to buy a plot of land and then go ahead with constructing the cabin of your dreams, zoning laws in the U.S.A can be fairly strict.
Understanding the zoning codes in your areas is a fundamental step in building your log home. Zoning codes differ in each state which will affect how you can plan ahead to construct your log cabin. Log home owners must possess the right type of paperwork to make their cabin.
3. Consider the Cost
The cost of your new log cabin is a big factor to consider. Of course, you will set out a budget from the get-go but it’s always advisable to predict costs to the exact dollar where possible. Many homeowners find that they go over budget easily by overlooking things such as materials or the labor involved.
We recommend writing a clear and concise list of the costs involved in the construction for your log home. Many log home owners set out with good intentions but end up spending more than they intended overall due to poor budgeting. While a log home is certainly smaller than an average house, they can still be expensive builds.
With this said, it is entirely possible to build a cozy log cabin even on a budget. Here is a checklist of the cost breakdown to consider when it comes to log homes:
- Preparation of the site and laying the foundation
- Utilities and services for your log house (water, electricity, gas)
- Timber sourcing for the walls and roof
- Insulation for your home
- The interior (windows, doors, and fixtures)
- Tools and equipment required for the construction
4. Select your Logs
As one of the most important stages when it comes to the building your new log cabin, finding the right logs for the job can be a big task. The type of wood that you choose to use in its construction will greatly affect the overall build and so this step should be taken cautiously. When working with a budget you may think that you have to go for sub-par quality logs for the house but this is far from the case.
You’ll be pleased to know that you can source excellent quality logs for the wall construction and roof at a reasonable price. Pine tends to be a popular wood choice for a log home as it is a soft wood that is good quality while being easy enough to work with. These trees grow in abundance and therefore you won’t have to worry about resourcing if ever you have a repair to carry out.
5. Prepare your Logs
There are a few preparation stages that must be carried out in order to get the wood in the condition you require it to be for building log homes. If you’re a complete newbie when it comes to how to build a log cabin, we’ve set out the process for you below:
1. The first step is to source the lumber for your log home. There are different options as mentioned, but the easiest and most convenient choice for many is to buy them directly from a tree feller or saw mill. If you are choosing to cut down trees on your own land for the build, choose to do so in the winter months when sap levels are at their lowest. If you have the confidence to source your own logs, this will certainly bring about a far more rewarding build in the long-run.
2. When you have sourced your wood it is time to get down to the technical stuff for the log house. You should work out the measurements for the sill logs and other logs for your cabin. If you choose to source the logs from a saw mill you can usually pay them to cut to exact measurements for you.
3. Once you have the logs cut to the measurements that you require the next step is to debark them. Again, you can find professional help for this step of the log preparation process if needed or choose to do it yourself. If you wish to debark the logs on your own, ensure that you are wearing safety glasses when doing so.
4. After the logs have been debarked for your cabin, the next step is to dry them out for the construction of the house. Logs must be kept off the ground and far away from any contact with water in order to dry them out properly. They will have to be exposed to the air surrounding on all sides, you can expect drying times to vary for logs depending on the trees’ species.
5. Now that your logs are fully prepared, it is time to treat them and start using them for the construction of your log home. While you can buy log home kits which certainly speed up the process of the above stages, there is plenty of satisfaction to be had knowing that you’ve done everything yourself.
6. The 3 S’s of Planning the Foundation
There are 3 S’s when it comes to building a log home: subsidence, strength, and settlement. With these 3 checks you’ll have the key elements in place for the construction of any log cabin build.
The first S of the 3 is subsidence – a problem that you will definitely want to avoid with your home. Subsidence refers to when soil moves away from your home resulting in the removal of the foundation that you’ve laid. If left untreated, log homes can end up lopsided as a result.
You should ensure that the home is strong in its structure and this is entirely dependent on the wood you choose and the way you construct it. The ideal choice for a log home is pine as it is relatively cheap and not prone to decay. Other good options include Cedar and Spruce in the New England area.
Settlement is the final S of the 3 to pay attention to. This issue can occur when the weight of the home is too much for the foundation below causing soil to move away and the cabin to slowly sink into the ground. Be sure to build the home on the highest point of the ground where possible to avoid this from happening.
7. Build the Foundation
Building the foundation is key when it comes to constructing your dream cabin home. The foundation of your log home must be flat and even prior to laying down the sill logs which will create the initial frame. This is a step that you won’t want to mess up as it will affect how the rest of your log cabin unfolds.
The base of your log cabin should be stable enough to support the walls of the house. When it comes to sizing of the foundation, you should note that it should be about the same size of the footprint of the house and be constructed of a strong material. Concrete, paving slabs, or a hard deck are all ideal materials to use when constructing the foundation of log homes.
You must ensure that the foundation is flat and level, if you’re not able to carry out this task yourself be sure to enlist the help of a professional. The foundation beams must be laid in the right place alongside the wall beams prior to the rest of the build.
8. Choose a Notch System
Choosing a corner notch system for your log cabin can cause some confusion, after all, there are multiple options to choose from. If you’re wondering which one is best for log homes, allow us to talk you through the different types and benefits of each. Notches are important for all log cabin homes as they help to weatherproof your home and enhance its stability.
Scandinavian saddle notch
This notch system is the most traditional of all and belongs to a family of notches that vary in both shape and size. The construction is used to join two logs in a perpendicular way which consequently will form the corner of the cabin. With a semi-circular scribe, this design allows you to fit precisely to the log below. You should use this type of notch for log homes if you’re seeking a quick route that is going to be air-tight and stable.
A common carpentry joint, the dovetail notch comprises a series of trapezoidal shapes which are cut into logs allowing them to interlock. This type of notch system is most commonly used for Appalachian log cabins and it has been used throughout Europe for centuries. Less commonly used for modern log homes, the notch still is a really good choice if you want versatility. Its beautiful and detailed design is a hallmark of complete craftsmanship which is ideal for anyone who wants to create an authentic log home.
Butt and pass notch
Probably the most popular type of notch used in log homes this is an ideal choice for any beginner as it doesn’t require a notch. This is more so a type of construction technique that is used to join logs while not creating a notch, which helps to speed up building time. Logs have to be laid on top of each other for this and a metal bar is driven through the logs to assemble. A fast and easy construction method for those that are looking to build reliable log home structures.
9. Lay the Logs
The next job is to lay the logs for your cabin in the right way to begin building your home. After the foundation has been built, you will have to lay the sill logs into the base and you should choose the best wood that you have to do this. If you’re unsure about which are the best logs, these are generally the widest in diameter and the straightest ones too.
You’ll need to create a floor for log homes too. If its your first log home, the floor joists should run parallel in order for the flat planks to be laid on top for the flooring. Next, its onto the walls and you should build the cabin as if it doesn’t have doors or any other openings. For each line of logs, rotate the direction too in order to ensure complete stability.
10. Exterior and Maintenance
For the creation of doors and windows for views as well as any other openings you will have to use a saw to cut the wood. A window can be created pretty easily as long as you support the lumber using a lintel when cutting. Once you have created the openings, the next step is to install the windows and door of your choice into the home.
Congratulations! You’ve built the log cabin’s exterior. Now it’s time to furnish the interior and make it feel like a real home. From start to finish, there is nothing quite as satisfying as building a place that you can rest and relax in.
So long as you have used quality woods throughout the construction of your home, the need to carry out maintenance should be kept to a minimum. However, from time to time you may be required to reapply sealant and treatment products – especially if you live in harsher climates. Logs are susceptible to cracks in any log homes designs which can be problematic when left untreated.
Be sure to attend to any cracks and seal them where you can so that they don’t worsen over time leading to more serious problems.
Do you still have some questions about building your log home? We’ve covered the most commonly asked questions below to help you along the way!
How much does it cost to have a log cabin kit build?
When you choose log cabin kits, the manufacturer will send you all the things needed exclusive of hand tools as part of your kit. You can expect to pay a moderate amount of money for a cabin kit build which will help you to create your new home. Some kits come at a more affordable price, however, you can expect to pay under $50,000 on average for log home kits.
What is the best wood to build a log cabin with?
The best trees to use are pine and cedar for the construction phase of log cabins. They are easy to source and strong enough for the walls of a log home while not being as susceptible to cracks when compared to softer woods like cypress for example. Log home owners will need to choose carefully when they build their cabin in order to ensure longevity and no risk of damage further down the line.
How many logs does it take to build a log cabin?
You will need to know what your cabin home will look like in order to work out the amount of logs needed for the job. Some smaller homes require less logs of course, but it is not as simple as this when working out the total. You will need to use all the details you have in terms of measurements prior to working out the exact number of logs needed for homes.
If your cabin is 20×24 inches and has 9 inch walls then each wall will be 108 inches in total. To determine the number of logs needed for the walls you will need to divide 108 by 10 meaning that 11 will be required.