How much does it cost to build a log cabin?

Updated April 17, 2017

Imagine a vacation retreat in the mountains, or a summer cottage by the lake. Or maybe you would like the full-time pleasure of a log home. Whatever your motive, the rustic romance of having your own log cabin is a dream for many people. But the idea of building a log home can be overwhelming. The cost, the details, and the size are all considerations in addition to the location and geography of your lot. Education goes a long way to avoid costly mistakes and get a good idea what your log cabin will cost you. Your first consideration is your wish list versus your budget. While the traditional log cabin might be primitive and lacking modern comforts, the 21st century version is all about comfort and coziness. Make a list of the amenities that are important to you and then determine what is realistic.


There are a number of different types of logs, and each will look and function in different ways. Many tongue-in-groove log systems will eliminate the need for “chinking,” or filling the gaps between the logs with a sealant, which can be high maintenance and costly. However, many people like the traditional look of chinking. Look at show houses, both inside and out, to determine what is best for you. The type log is also a consideration that can affect your budget. While cedar is generally more expensive, it can last more than 70 years and has a higher R rating. While pine is not as energy efficient, the R rating is still better than most traditional materials, and is initially more cost efficient. Check with local builders to see which works best for your area and is more readily available.


Perhaps the biggest financial consideration for building your log home, and the one that is the most underestimated, is the land it is built on. The obvious factors are the acreage and location. Determine the cost per acre in the area that you like as well as the amenities. Waterfront or mountain view property is generally more expensive, but if the view isn't as important to you as the size of the lot, then make that a part of your budget process. Much of the charm of log home living is the connection with nature and outdoor activities, but if this is a full-time residence, consider your commute time as well as access to shopping and medical facilities. A much underestimated cost of building a log cabin is the condition of the land and access to utilities. Factor in the cost of the foundation, driveway, sewage, water, phone and electricity. If you are building in a remote location, these costs may increase by tens of thousands of dollars. It also pays to have a geologist survey the land before building. Mountain lots may require special equipment to blast into rock and waterfront homes may need more support in the sandy soil. It's better to spend a few hundred dollars upfront that to have more costly repairs to the structure of the home later.


It's easy to get carried away with the size of a log home with all the choices available, but this is a major consideration in the cost. Honestly assess your potential use for the cabin. If it is a vacation home, how much time during the year will you spend there? If you are planning on using the cabin primarily in warm months, you will probably spend much of your time outdoors. Consider a smaller floor plan and more outside living space. If it is a primary residence, be prepared for more company to enjoy your wonderful home, so a guest area will probably pay off. The cost of the home can range from a low of £7,800 for a one-room bunkhouse prefabricated model to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a log "mansion." Your choice will probably be somewhere in between with a median price range of £19,500 to £32,500. Move-in ready, or turnkey, will add 1/3 to 1/2 more to the price. If you go for full luxury, count on more costs.


Log cabin living is a lifestyle in itself. Choose features that fit in with your needs and activities as well as your budget. If your family likes to cook together, then build a roomy kitchen with plenty of amenities. If wildlife watching is more your style, then put your money into a spacious deck and settle for a more modest kitchen. But be aware that these upgrades can add up quickly and increase your costs by thousands.


While money is a major concern, so is time. If you don't have up to six months for a building project, then you may want to consider prefab log homes or kits. Pre-fabricated homes are generally smaller, and can be an excellent time and money efficient choice for a vacation home. Kits come in a variety of square footage and models, and can be constructed by local building crews. If you are handy with tools, consider investing in a log-home shell. Depending on the package, it may exclude plumbing, electricity, interior walls, cabinets, and baths, but you can save up to 50% by doing the work yourself. If you want to go all the way and make your investment truly personal, consider a custom home. These homes can be time-consuming to plan and build, and the expense can range from £48,750 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you will get a unique home that reflects who you are.

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About the Author

Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh has been a writer and college writing professor since 1992. She has written for international companies, published numerous feature articles in the "Wilmington News-Journal," and won writing contests for her poetry and fiction. Rayburn-Trobaugh earned a Master of Arts in English from Wright State University.