When it comes to log cabins most people are simply looking for a place to get away from it all. Perhaps they want a garden office, playhouse for the kids or a ‘granny annexe’. Equally, with the build quality available on kits, more people are looking for self build log cabins to live in. Permanently.
You can live very comfortably in a residential log cabin. If constructed correctly on the right site, it can be an excellent long-term permanent home.
What is it about building your own log cabin which really appeals to people?
- The lower cost of construction (i.e. not requiring a third party building company)
- The sustainability of a log cabin
- Speed of the build versus a traditional home
- Ease of heating and creation of a cosy environment
- Feeling closer to nature (particularly if your site is in/close to woodland)
How long does a log cabin last?
The vast majority of individuals in the UK/Europe understand to ‘bricks and mortar’ properties. They can be are unsure of the longevity of a log cabin or wooden chalet. A question we get asked a lot is, “How long does a log cabin last?” If you are looking to make a significant investment of money and time you need reassurances.
Make sure the timber in your log cabin is treated correctly. Then, if the kit has been put together well, it will last a lifetime. Wood is a very durable material if looked after. Think about garden sheds, wooden front doors and boats – all of which are exposed to the elements for years.
The most important thing you can to is to protect the structure from moisture. The timber frame, especially the lower section which is in contact with the ground, must be kept dry. To do this, construct your self-build log cabin not on a solid concrete surface, but must be raised up off the ground. This will stop water pooling underneath the structure and eroding the timbers.
What about self-build log cabins to live in the garden?
Building your own log cabin is not just about the kit. You also have to have somewhere to erect it. Somewhere legal, with planning permission. Or which doesn’t need planning permission.
In this sense, we have many clients. Many with with large back gardens who want to build the cabin next to their main residence. The planning process can be simplified. Consider what you want to build. And then consider any potential impact on neighbours.
Importantly, if you aren’t building on your own land, you will need full planning permission.
Why wood as a construction material?
Aside from the romantic, wistful reasons why living in a log cabin has held such an appeal for centuries, it is also empirically better for the environment and is sustainable source material. You can’t argue with the science. Tonne for tonne, timber uses approximately 5 times less energy to produce than concrete, and 6 times less than metal. An average-sized log cabin home will save approximately 4 tonnes of CO2 being spewed into the atmosphere, and in fact timber stores CO2 rather than producing it! For more information on environmentally-friendly construction materials, click here.
Is it expensive to heat a log cabin?
If the log cabin or chalet is well-designed and built to a high standard, then the lodge should be easy to heat and very cost-effective. Expertly-manufactured logs with precision joints will present ventilation and unwanted condensation and leakage. Obviously the self-build kits will come with all the right component parts, designed to a schematic. All you have to (!) is to make sure you build it correctly!
All timber for self-build log cabins to live in from kits is typically kiln-dried. The thermal qualities of dry, solid wood keen a consistent temperature in all conditions. As a material it is very energy efficient.
What about weather cover?
If you are intending to use the log cabin as a permanent residence to live in all-year-round, then how you approach weather-proofing the exterior, particularly the roof, will be critical.
The majority of log cabins (as long as your local planning allows it) can support most roof covering – slates, tiles, felt etc.
With regard to the wood, you should be able to use any good-quality wood preserver on the outside and there is a wealth of choice. The manufacturer supplying the modular log cabin kit may well have a preferred brand they recommend. It may be most expensive buying via the manufacturer because of their mark-up, so it pays to shop around.
How much preservative you will need will depend upon your location. If you are building your cabin in a relatively sheltered area with good sunlight, you would need as frequent treatment as a cabin in the woods with more shade and a potentially damper environment.
Putting a self-build log cabin together
Okay, so this is pretty important.
Constructing a log cabin for residential use is not a one-man job, and you will need a team of people to help.
You may well have a trades background yourself in which case a lot of the activity will be second nature. You’ll still need an extra few pair of hands though when you’re moving and positioning heavy logs. You may be able to source a local building contractor or carpentry firm to help you build your log home. Usually in a kit every log is pre-cut and numbered so you know where it goes, so as long as you have the muscle most DIY builders should be able to do the majority themselves.
Can I get insurance for a log cabin?
As with any property you own, correct buildings insurance is essential. Is it harder to insure log cabins or wooden chalets, particularly those being used as residences? Yes, it is a bit more difficult as it often will be considered a specialist product.
You’ll want to obtain the insurance from an insurer with experience of this kind of risk. A wooden-structure presents a very different set of risks to a brick or stone structure, and if there was a fire, for example, it will potentially be far more expensive to remedy.
The build quality of log cabins – particularly where the kits have been provided by reputable, experienced manufacturers – is likely to be fairly similar wherever the log cabin is situated. What’s more likely to be different is the way each country’s rules and regulations treat wooden-constructed properties. The insurance company will want to be as informed as possible in order to assess the risk and provide you with the best quote, so be honest. Be prepared to provide as much information as you can on the foundations, how the property is heated and what the water and power sources are, and what has been used on the roof and exterior to protect it.
What about finance? Can I get a mortgage on self-build log cabins to live in?
Yes and no. It depends.
Despite the popularity of timber-framed homes like log cabins and wooden chalets, some lenders have classified the construction as ‘non-standard’, and it might be harder to get a mortgage on a log cabin.
As with any mortgage application, there will be a number of factors in play. These might include:
Age and Type of Property: From glorified garden sheds to luxury timber-framed chalets in the French Alps, there is a huge diversity of product. The age and manufacture of the property will be very important to a lender, and a detailed survey will be crucial.
Structural Survey: If the lender required a full structural engineering survey then this may be tricky if the survey can’t see what they need to see – i.e. joints are hidden or cavities are filled with insulation foam! You may be required to take out additional ‘hidden defects’ insurance.
Materials: The bank or lender will be interested to know about the cladding and exterior of the log cabin. Although it runs slightly contrary to the look you might be going for, lenders prefer timber-framed houses to be faced with brick or stone.