How to build a simple log cabin

Written by gail logan
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Since the early days in America, log cabins have been a popular choice for a simple and affordable residential structure. A log cabin can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose. Here is the basic outline of how to build a simple log cabin.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Logs for the main structure
  • Timber for the floor, roof, doors and window openings
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Saw

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    Building Basics

  1. 1

    When choosing a location for your log cabin, it is important to choose an elevated position or an area you know will stay relatively dry year-round. Marshy land or a spot at the bottom of a hill where water runoff could collect is not an ideal place for a wood structure such as a log cabin. Clear the land of any additional brush that would interfere with the building process and level the ground as much as possible. Depending on the size of the cabin, you may want to lay a foundation of concrete, or simply use large logs for sills, and place them parallel to one another on the corners for a foundation.

  2. 2

    Choosing the wood for your cabin is the most important structural choice you will make. Hewing your own logs is a work-intensive option, but there are log companies that offer hand and machine hewn logs in a variety of sizes. The size of your logs will depend on the size of your cabin. The general rule of thumb is the smaller the cabin, the smaller the logs. For example, if you are building a 500 square foot cabin, you would want to opt for logs 12 to 14 inches in diameter. If you are building a 2,000 square foot cabin, logs with a 16-inch circumference may be more appropriate.

  3. 3

    Before the walls can go up, you need to consider the floor. The sill logs used for the foundation should be notched with a saw to fit the timber that will support the floor boards. Or, you can bottom notch the support timbers to fit over the sills. Once the supports are laid end-to-end length and width-wise across the floor area, the actual floor boards may be bottom notched to fit over the supports, or the supports may be notched to accommodate the floor boards. Once the boards are laid, they should fit tightly with no gaps.

  4. 4

    Once the flooring is established, you can begin work on the walls. Joining the logs together is what will allow your log cabin to take form. There are a number of choices for connecting the logs at the corners, including the lock-joint, dovetail, and butt and pass method. To build a simple log cabin, the best method is most likely the lock-joint process. Cut a notch one foot from the end of each log. Once the logs are cut, fit them into the foundation sills. Continue notching the logs at the ends and resting them upon one another at each corner of the cabin until the desired vertical height is reached. Be sure, though, once the logs reach the height of your planned window and door openings, that you cut the openings at once, rather than waiting until the walls are completed.

  5. 5

    When you are finished with the walls, you are ready to construct the roof. One of the simplest ways to make a log cabin roof is to layer the logs as you did for the walls, but place each pair of logs on either side of the roof in such a way that they meet in a point in the middle of the roof. If you do not want to use logs for the roof, you can opt for natural materials such as straw or bark. The layering must be heavy and straw woven tightly together, otherwise the roof will be prone to leaking. If you prefer to use shingles, simply nail boards across the top of the roof and nail the shingles onto the boards in a consistent pattern.

    Finally, you will want to obtain a door and window coverings for your simple log cabin. If you do not want to use glass, wooden shutters may be nailed to the outside of the cabin and closed off for privacy and safety.

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