How to build a log cabin with recycled items

Written by bloodmeridian
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How to build a log cabin with recycled items
Log cabins can be built inexpensively and with minimal environmental impact through the use of recycled or reclaimed materials. (Log Cabin in Winter, Sinaia - Romania image by MihAlex from

With a little planning, log cabins can be built to be both cost-effective and ecologically friendly by using reclaimed items. Whether it's 100-year-old logs, vintage fixtures and hardware, or barn-board siding, reclaimed materials can create a weekend getaway or family home. Although locating reclaimed materials takes time and energy, it is an investment in your cabin. In addition to saving you money, these materials can transform your cabin into both a piece of history and a work of art.

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Things you need

  • Architectural plans

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  1. 1

    Purchase architectural blueprints or develop your own. Local jurisdictions will need to approve your plans before construction begins to ensure that they are drawn to code.

  2. 2

    Develop a materials list for your project based on your blueprints. Include items used in the interior and exterior of your cabin, such as logs, roofing material, siding, sinks, doors, windows, etc. Assess specific, accurate quantities of all materials. For example, note that your plans call for two exterior doors and three interior doors of a certain dimension.

  3. 3

    Determine which components on your materials list will rely on reclaimed materials. These choices can be based on aesthetics (how you want your cabin to look) and your budget (how much you are prepared to spend). If you are working with an architect or contractor, go over this list to share your vision and to verify that reclaimed materials are appropriate for these components of the project.

  4. 4

    Calculate the amount of logs needed for your structure. To do this, examine whether logs will be used for log siding or to form all or some of the corners of your cabin. Consider the dimensions of your cabin and its square footage to inform your search for appropriate logs.

  5. 5

    Contact companies that specialise in locating, disassembling, and reselling or reassembling vintage log and timber structures. These companies can be found online using the terms "vintage log cabins," "vintage lumber" or "old log cabins for sale." Old log structures are also frequently listed for sale on eBay and Craigslist.

  6. 6

    Get in touch with relevant suppliers of reclaimed materials. Many urban areas have architectural salvage stores. The staff at these stores will often have many of the items you need on hand or they will be eager to work with you to locate them.

  7. 7

    Scour the classified ads, garage sales, Habitat for Humanity resale stores, Craigslist and eBay for detail work, such as doors, light fixtures, floor tiles and plumbing fixtures.

  8. 8

    Verify that the recycled items you use are safe, operational, structurally sound and meet current building code requirements. Old wood, for example, may contain rotten areas that initially went undetected.

  9. 9

    Be prepared to repair and improve recycled material. For example, a reclaimed window may need to be caulked, the brass on a doorknob may need to be polished, or the porcelain on an old clawfoot tub may need to be touched up.

Tips and warnings

  • Know your local resources and don't be afraid to have friends put the word out for you. If you live in a rural area, consider posting ads or signs at local feedstores, grain coops and general stores expressing your interest in purchasing an old log structure or other building materials. In the Midwest, many farmers have barns falling into disrepair that they are willing to give away if you agree to remove the structure and properly dispose of any resulting waste. These same farmers may also have corrugated steel that can be used for roofing your cabin and barn board appropriate for trim and siding.
  • Use proper protection, especially gloves, when working with old materials. Old logs and lumber are notorious for containing rusty nails. Make sure your tetanus shots are up to date.

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