Log cabins have been around for hundreds of years. The first cabins were created in the Scandinavian countries, and it was settlers from these countries that first brought the look and style of the log cabin to America.
Over the years, log cabins have changed considerably. While they were originally created using one of a few limited styles, now a log home can be built or created using a variety of methods and materials.
Log Cabin Construction Styles and Types
When deciding whether a log home is right for you, it’s important to take a look at the various construction styles and types to get a better understanding of what they entail.
One of the first methods of building a log cabin, which is still used today, is the full scribe method. In this method, the logs are stacked on top of one another horizontally. The logs are milled or cut to sit tightly against one another without gaps.
This home will have little to no frame, and the logs will be seen both inside and out. Over the first few years, the logs will settle and shrink, so adjustments will be needed to keep the joints tight. No insulation is used with this type of build, so it’s important to monitor the joints to make sure they remain tightly secured together to keep air gaps from forming.
Another older method of log cabin building is the chink method. This method also uses full logs stacked on top of one another, but in this case, the logs are not joined or fitted together. Instead, the gaps between the logs are filled with some kind of mortar known as chink.
Chinking may need to be reapplied after the first few years when the home has had a chance to settle, in order to keep it at its most air and watertight. This method can be slightly easier to build, because the logs don’t need to be scribed to one another prior to building.
Post and Beam
In a post and beam log home, vertically placed logs are used to hold larger horizontal logs in sections. This method uses fewer logs than full scribe or chink style homes, so it’s more cost effective. The areas between the logs are filled in, usually with some kind of traditional stick-built frame. The exterior may then be finished with half logs, timber, or other materials. This type of home is usually also lower in maintenance than a full scribe or chink style home as well, because there’s less shrinking and settling over the first few years.
Timber frame log homes are built in much the same way that a post and beam home is built. The difference is that instead of using rounded logs for the frame, the logs are squared off. There are no settling issues, and the home is typically easier to build. You can use any type of siding on the exterior. It’s possible to use half logs to create the look of a log cabin or to use another type of siding, such as shiplap or horizontal Dutch lap siding instead.
If building a log home using either the chink or full scribe method of construction, you have choices as to what to do with the corners of the home. There are several options when using full logs including dovetailing the logs together, saddle notching them, or allowing them to butt and pass.
However, there is another method of construction as well, called the corner post. In this instance, full logs are used to create the walls and frame of the home, either full scribed or chink. The difference is that squared off posts are used on the corners to frame the edges of the home and to give the logs a natural place to end at the corners. The logs are fixed to the post at the corners, creating a stable design with a clean, more finished edge.
It’s also very common to use half logs, quarter logs, log veneer, or log-look siding to get the appearance of a log home. Sometimes these methods can be used with a post and beam or timber framed log home, giving the exterior a finished appearance that makes it look like a full scribe home, but without the maintenance.
These materials can also be used on any stick-built home to give it the look of a log home as well, by installing over the exterior in place of other types of siding. These methods can be used to create a hybrid style home, one that has all the looks and charm of a log cabin, but with the ease of building of a traditional stick-built home.
When choosing log-look siding, it’s important to remember that using a half log will have many of the same issues of a full scribe; the half logs could shrink, and require adjustment. They’ll also require maintenance to keep them looking their best.
An alternative would be to use a steel, log-look siding. Steel siding is highly durable, and won’t expand and shrink like half logs. It’s very low maintenance and is backed by insulation, so it will make your home more comfortable as well. With steel log-look siding you can get the hybrid style, with more benefits than wood facing.
Build Your Ideal Home
Log homes and log cabins definitely have a unique style and charm. Consider the different methods of building or retrofitting to get the look that you want, and build your ideal home.