Handcrafted Log Homes

“Which type of modern log cabins are for you”? Part One of a Four part series on choosing the right log home for you.

You’ve driven by that beautiful, handcrafted log home hundreds of times wishing that one day you could own one. That day is today and to start, you need to choose which log cabin style is right for you. We’ll start off by taking a look at a hand crafted log cabin.

Solid handcrafted log homes are built individually so each one has it’s unique character and style based on it’s surroundings. These are the most desired log home, but also the most expensive since each log is cut and hand hewn on site. The first and single most important step of crafting your log home begins before even one tree is cut-picking the site. A few things to keep in mind are:

  • Regulations: The first and most important step is to check your local forest department for rules, regulations and permits for harvesting logs. Your cabin building experience will go much smoother if you line up the permits and paperwork before you begin.
  • Elevations: The cabin must be built on the highest elevation of your site. Low site elevations lead to moisture which will sooner or later lead to home owner headaches.
  • View/Scenery: Once you’ve handcrafted your home you want to be sure that it fits in well with the surroundings and that you maximize your enjoyment of it by having the best possible views from your home.

Once you’ve chosen the ideal site you can clear the area needed and build a foundation. Most modern cabins are placed on a solid foundation–usually of stone or concrete. This is one part of the cabin building that should be left to the professionals because getting a beautiful concrete finish is an art, and without a solid foundation your hard work will literally come tumbling down around you.

After the foundation is set you can begin picking the logs that will become part of your handcrafted log home. Pick trees that are straight and are in open areas that have a clear and unobstructed line of fall. Never cut trees that are leaning or on a slope–it’s dangerous to you and damaging to the logs. You might consider green logs in the spring since they are easiest to peel but avoid building with them until they completely dry because as logs dry, they shrink. Standing dead timber is the best when it’s available because it is dried and ready to build with. Gathering your own logs may be time consuming but the satisfaction of doing it yourself will be rewarding.

Now the logs are peeled and fully dried so you’re ready to begin building. The strength of handcrafted log homes comes from the way their logs are joined. The corners are joined using various notches and overlapping methods that will quickly become second nature. Start the base of the house by stacking logs–lay two logs lengthwise and parallel to each other, with the desired width between them. Cut notches in two other logs, one foot away from the ends. The notches should fit around and lay perpendicular to the two base logs.

With a few logs in place it’s time to beging chinking–filling the gap between the logs with the caulk-like substance that prevents air, moisture and insects from entering. Traditionally, chinking was a mixture of clay, lime, and sand with variations based on what was locally available. The modern log cabin builder can also buy ready-made chinking mixes from bulk suppliers. While chinking, keep in mind that if it’s too thick the chinking is wasted and will take too long to cure. Excess can be cleaned up with soap and water if done immediately. Most of the log companies states 3/8 at the thinnest spot, keeping the thickest areas under 1/2″ when possible.

These are the basic skills that make up the proecess of building our own handcrafted log homes. Log Cabins are beautiful, durable and very energy efficient, quiet and very strong. This handcrafted method is the oldest and by far  the best looking and most rewarding when complete. Some basic construction and woodworking skills are needed but it’s a much easier process than most people would imagine. If you’d prefer to leave the building up to the experts, you’ll want to read part two of the Modern Log Cabins series where we will discuss manufactured log cabins.