Log Cabin Construction: 6 Things to Consider Before Breaking Ground

A log cabin is a dream home for many individuals. Regardless of how big or small your dream log cabin is, it’s important to reel back the excitement for a bit and take the planning phase of your future home very seriously. Log cabin construction isn’t a simple process and, considering the time and money you’ll be investing, you want to be positive the end result is the home you always wanted.

Here are six important factors you should think about before you start log cabin construction.

Determine the Purpose of Your Log Cabin

First things first, you need to determine what exactly the purpose of your new log cabin will be. Will this be a vacation home on weekends or seasonally? Will you be hosting large gatherings with family and friends? Do you plan on living in your log cabin full-time? You certainly don’t want a log cabin that is too small or lacking rooms if you’ll be having visitors often. However, you don’t want “too much” house to care for if you’ll be living there all year round.

Take a moment to sit down and think about the previous homes you’ve lived in. Make notes as to whether you felt certain rooms were too small or too large, if you always seem to run out of closet space, whether you preferred closed or open floor plans, etc. All of these things will help you determine the square footage and basic layout of your log cabin.

Custom Built Log Cabin Versus Kit

There are two main options for log cabin construction: either you have a completely custom home designed and built or you choose a pre-made kit. Log cabin kits are surprisingly popular and include self-built or contractor-built plans.

If you want a compact log cabin or have no desire for anything fancy, a log cabin kit can be a great money- and time-saving route to go. Custom built is obviously the most expensive and time-consuming type of log cabin construction, but for many homeowners, it’s worth every penny.

If you find yourself somewhere in the middle, don’t worry. You might find that starting with a kit base or pre-designed plan combined with custom construction and features is the key to your dream log cabin.  

Calculate and Prepare a Realistic Budget

Hand-in-hand with deciding between custom or kit builds is also considering your budget. It’s easy to under-budget for a new home.

Pricing of log cabin construction varies wildly, but consider that a log cabin kit will end up costing roughly $100 to $125 per sq. ft. while a custom log cabin will range from $175 per sq. ft. on up. Don’t forget that the cost of log home construction also includes building site prep, a foundation, roof, interior finishing, utility installation, labor, etc.

Finding the Right Building Site Location

The location you choose for your log cabin shouldn’t be taken lightly. After ensuring that local zoning or building laws will allow for you to build a new log cabin, you’ll need to decide where to construct. This location should allow for easy access, especially during log cabin construction, and ideally have some natural features to protect your future cabin (i.e. a treeline to block harsh winds).

Unless you’re planning on living off-grid, you’ll also need to double-check that utility lines will reach your home. Speaking of energy, try and orient your cabin to maximize energy efficiency. Typically, you’ll want to have the longest/widest walls of your cabin facing north and south. A little research into home orientation relating to maximizing energy conservation will serve you well in the long run.

Tree Species Effect on R-Value of Your Cabin

It’s important to understand R-value vs U-value when choosing materials. Not all trees are created equal when it comes to log cabins. Tree species have a significant effect on longevity and R-value (insulative power) of your future home. The recommended tree species to use for log cabin construction include cedar, pine, spruce, fir, and larch. Be sure that your logs are dry and seasoned.  

It is vital that log cabin construction is only done with dry logs, regardless of what species you’ve chosen. Green logs, those with a moisture content 20% or so, should not be used in log cabin construction. Ensure that moisture content is at minimum 18% to 19% (kiln-dried), but the ideal range is between 12% to 15%.

Steel Log Siding for a Stronger Home Exterior

Chances are high that if you’ve been researching log cabin homes you’re aware of the amount of maintenance these types of homes require. Periodic staining and sealing, worries about pest or moisture damage, and a very real concern about wildfires are a few reasons why some homeowners are wary about real log siding. The first few years might be bliss, but think about whether you’ll still be as enthusiastic 10, 15, or even 20+ years from now.

You can still get your dream log home by opting for steel log siding in place of timber siding. Steel log siding, like TruLog, gives you the same half-log and chinking look of genuine timber, but with the added durability and longevity of steel. As a homeowner, you’ll only need to worry about cleaning any dirt or debris that happens to get stuck to the siding. If you live in a high-risk fire zone or you simply can’t keep up with the demands of caring for real wood, steel log siding is the ideal route to go.

Unless you happen to have experience as a homebuilder or are very comfortable with woodworking, it’s highly recommended that you consult with a professional contractor prior to building, even if you’re using a kit. Remember, you can’t over plan or over prepare for log cabin construction. Take the time in the beginning to really ensure your plan will be a success. You’ll find that soon you’ll have a log home you can enjoy for decades to come.

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