At one point or another, pretty much everyone has dreamed of relocating to a remote log cabin in the woods, wooed by the fairy-tale charm of these simple homes. There’s something so wholesome and cosy about a robust timber dwelling, that we’re instantly transported back to childhood adventures at their very mention. In fact, this type of house has been around for thousands of years, with the first primitive forms taking shape in around 3500 BC. Since then, these homes became widespread throughout Europe, reaching the shores of North America with the first settlers, where they came to symbolise pioneer life. Relatively simple to construct from abundant natural materials, they could be built anywhere—providing someone had the skills to do so. Traditionally made from horizontal logs interlocked with notches, or cog joints, at each end, any gaps were then stuff with smaller wedges, moss or mortar to keep out the elements. Whereas once a symbol of humble living, modern log houses can be quite the other end of the scale, with multi-storey ranch-style abodes popular to this day.
If you’re considering the move to a log home in the country, there are a few practical considerations to weigh up before you go making any final decisions. In terms of advantages, first and foremost, wood is a sustainable, eco-friendly material that will suit whatever environment it happens to be in. It’s also a relatively strong material for its lightness, and has excellent natural sound insulating properties—so you can be sure of a decent night’s kip! It will also keep the heat in (if properly lined and constructed), thus minimising any energy bills throughout winter. In terms of drawbacks, log cabins are highly susceptible to natural degradation from critters of all kinds, with beetles, termites and woodpeckers a constant threat to the integrity of the structure. Wood also has a natural tendency to shrink or contort, meaning gaps will have to be filled or ‘caulked’ in order to keep things airtight and secure. For this reason, logs will need to be stained or sealed every few years in order to prevent significant decay or splitting, meaning ongoing maintenance will be an issue you’ll need to factor in.
If you’ve done your research and are sure a log cabin is for you, the next step is to have a think about exactly where you want your dwelling to be located, what materials you want to use and whether you’re buying an existing property or building one yourself. It’s also possible to renovate an existing cabin, or opt for a brand new prefabricated model in order to cut down on construction time and effort. In terms of prices, a basic 6m x 5m log cabin could set you back as little as £7,000, with more opulent 9m x 13m varieties going for over £100k. If you’ve got your heart set on the DIY option, there are some complete log home packages from around £70k, or of course, there’s always the possibility of sourcing your own materials and labour and going it alone. The final price you’ll pay will vary wildly depending on where you’re building, the quality of your materials and the time the project takes, so make sure you enlist the help of an experienced architect to guide you through the process.
One of the biggest decisions to make once you’ve plumped for a log cabin is whether to go for the traditional build or prefab option. Be sure to thoroughly research exactly which option is best for you before you invest any money. As a brief overview, the most obvious benefits of prefabs tend to be their swift construction, affordability and energy efficiency—great if you’re in a hurry and on a budget. Some of the downsides to prefabs include the potential issues with getting your utilities set up, the cost of the land on which you’re building, and the fact that payment for the whole property will need to be entirely upfront.