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Self-Build Log Cabins: A Guide

Self-build log cabins

Log home owners attest to the warmth, cosiness and proximity to nature they enjoy with this kind of house – self-build log cabins have a simple structural building technique and so many practical advantages that they appeal to both professional and novice builders.

Construction is done quickly. Foundations and groundwork can be finished while the house frame is crafted and test-fitted in the workshop. The shell is usually reassembled and made impermeable within weeks of delivery on site. The low-carbon timber is naturally thermally efficient, and is usually milled and handcrafted, the result of which is a durable structure that can remain standing for centuries, as seen in the log houses in Finland that are still occupied today.

The popularity of self-build log cabins is steadily growing in the UK, mostly among travelers who witness the simplicity and sophistication of such dwellings in North America or Scandinavia. While self-building log cabins is not as popular as conventional masonry and timber techniques, those who try are able to appreciate the ease and speed of the technique, while still being pleased with the results.

So How Do You Do It?

The fundamental technique is one that has been in use for centuries now: the bark is peeled off the wood, which is then slick knifed to dress it and kept in its natural shape to form the structural shell of the house. The logs are notched to allow them to fit together (a process known as scribing) in the workshop and test-erected, then labelled, dismantled, and delivered to the building site.

A more contemporary technique involves building with milled logs, which are cut out in uniform profiles in a factory. From there, they can be used to either form the structural skeleton, or the cabin can be built with a post and beam frame, and then clad in timber. However, profiled joinery is dwindling in popularity because builders feel that the method is not as meticulous as hand scribing, which provides faultless joints and usually produces more energy efficient buildings.

Suppliers usually offer a range of different sizes and profiles, with the option of laminated timber where one requires exceptional stability. The many options are ideal to give the builder a bespoke home that suits their budget, energy efficiency goals, and how they want the finished cabin to look.

And Where Do You Get The Timber?

Logs are sourced from FSC-certified sustainable forests, chiefly in Scandinavia, Canada, Latvia, and Britain. The choice of timber varies among builders, and depends on what you’re going for. Some contractors prefer Canadian Western Red cedar due to its weather resilience and natural oils that protect it from parasites. Eastern White pine is famous for its warp resistance, minimal shrinkage, and low sap content, which helps with dimensional stability. Others opt for Northern European pine from Latvia, while others swear by Scots pine logs from Finland – trees near the Arctic Circle grow slower, producing a tighter and stronger grain.

What About energy Efficiency?

Self-build log cabins easily meet Building Regulations requirements for energy efficiency because the entire structure is made of naturally insulating timber. Wood has a high ability to absorb heat and steadily redistribute it to its surroundings. The thickness of the logs allows them to soak up sunlight and radiate it to the interior of the house even on the coldest days. Some Canadian log cabins have been shown to provide comfortable degrees of insulation without extra materials when outside temperatures are -40˚.

UK Building Regulations have CO2 emissions thresholds and nominal targets for wall U-values, which means our homes require more insulation. This is usually achieved by building in an internal skin in the wall that is a cavity filled with breathable insulation like wood fibre, cellulose fibre or sheep’s wool.

Design and Action Construction

Owing to their style, commercial and self-build log cabins are generally built in rural locations. Getting planning permission for one might be rather challenging if you wish to build in a modern neighbourhood. A workaround is to look at knock-down-and-rebuild opportunities where you can replace a tired existing building with a new log cabin. If you’ve contracted an overseas firm for the project, you will need a UK engineer to finalise your plans in order to get Building Regulations approval.

You have three main options when choosing the log cabin package:

  • Self-build log cabins kit that you can put together DIY style or with the help of friends. Starts from around £70,000.
  • A watertight shell that is ready for fitting on the house’s frame. This goes for around £125,000.
  • Full turnkey service where you pick your design and choose your finishes, and leave the contractor to handle the project. You can move in when it’s complete. Price starts at around £170,000.

Log cabin kits usually come with instruction manuals to guide hands-on self-builders, which are quite easy to follow. If you wish to learn more about construction, you can check on YouTube for instructional videos or sign up for a log cabin building workshop.

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