How To Build A Simple Log Cabin

Categories: Homes / Dwellings

The image and appeal are eternal. A log cabin not only represents the beauty of the wild and the value of Independence and thrift, but also the spirit that founded our nation. Beautiful by any standard, energy-efficient and environmentally sound, log structures are the yardstick by which lasting value is measured. Like all too many skills once handed down from parents to children, however, the art of homebuilt structures like these has atrophied in the age of affluence and cookie-cutter developments. The Simple, liberating fact is that YOU CAN BUILD YOUR OWN HOME—this home—for about $30,000 (in 1999), even if you end up having to buy the logs. No mortgages, no lifelong servitude to the "variable interest rate," just a simple home that you will be proud to take food and rest in.

Notes on Construction

Start by taking your plans around and getting bids from at least three suppliers for foundation, logs, plumbing, etc. The idea is to make sure you have enough money to cover all the bases, plus 10% mare far unforeseen expenses. A small cabin can be built in as little as one to two weeks if you gather all the materials to the site and have the foundation installed in advance, so that you' re ready to build when all the materials arrive. It is wise to secure the location where you will be storing the materials to prevent them from "walking off the job" Materials are not cheap and you don't want to loose anything to then. It might also be wise to camp out at the site during construction.

Unless you have experience with foundations and are familiar with site preparation and concrete, sub this part out to local contractors, who can get you started on the right footing. If you can build on high, well-drained ground, or even solid rock, your foundation will remain firm forever. Of course, you must start off with a level surface. After clearing the site and excavating the places where the piers (or footers) will go, form and pour the column (pier) bases, inserting the required reinforcing bars (called "rebars") per your plans. Be certain to pour the bases at least 18" below the frost line (check with your area building department for local depth requirements). Allow at least four days curing time. Once cured, the blocks can be laid to form the piers. Fill the empty cells with rebar, anchor bolts or straps, and concrete as called for on the plans. Allow four more days for curing.

The Floor

Now you're ready to build the floor. Using the plans as a guide, install the plates that go on top of each pier (or if you build the floor first, it will be easier to stand while you build).  Next, lay out the perimeter and center beams and secure them together with metal connectors and screws recommended by the manufacturer. Secure them to the pier plates with locally approved metal connectors, or straps with matching fasteners. Once you have the center and perimeter beams in place, install the metal joist hangers 16" on center and hang the floor joists on them. Secure with recommended fasteners. Now that you have the floor framing completed, install the tongue and groove sub floor sheathing at right angles to the joists. To prevent floor squeaks, run a bead of construction adhesive down each board before applying the sheathing. Make sure all tongues fit tightly into matching grooves. If you have access to electricity, an air compressor with a nail gun can pop the sheathing on in no time.

Be careful to purchase your logs from a manufacturer recommended by local building authorities or your local lumber yard. Make sure the logs are aged two years or more, or kiln dried to local requirements for log moisture content. Note that some settling will occur over time and you may need to compensate for this when building partitions or hanging cabinets. This usually can be done by chain-sawing a kerf in the logs for cabinet parts or paneling to slide along (for round inside logs only). Some builders hang a threaded rod from rafters or trusses to secure cabinets or partitions from above. Consider carefully how you want to seal (or "chink") the spaces between the logs. Some folks use to seal any imperfections in rougher cut logs and to prevent infiltration of the elements. Many log manufacturers discourage the use of chinking, due to yearly maintenance or replacement requirements. These manufacturers machine the logs with rabbets and grooves to eliminate the need for chinking. Choose a log style you can best enjoy living with. Some prefer square logs (or "D" logs), which feature a flat inner surface, making them easy to finish or stain. Erect the log walls as recommended by your supplier, making sure not to skip any lagging or jointing that needs to be done to hold the logs in place and keep them straight. Have the manufacturer precut the window and door areas for you. Stain or finish the logs as required or desired.

Once the log walls are in place, it's time to "set" the trusses. This is another phase best left to the experts. Most truss manufacturers have erection crews, who come out with a boom or crane to set them upon delivery.

Secure them in place using recommended metal straps and fasteners. It is recommended that a stringer (usually a 2 x 4) be nailed near the top inside of each truss to hold each one in place until the roof sheathing can be applied. (The wind has been known to blow over an entire set of trusses before the plywood is applied.) When the trusses are braced and fastened securely, apply the sheathing, tar paper, and roofing. Install metal flashing around all roof penetrations, such as plumbing vents, chimneys, or skylights.

Now you can install fascia boards, metal fascia strips, and drip edge. Apply gable-end siding of your choice or per plan. Stain or paint. Next, install the decking, posts, railings, and bracing, using metal brackets made for that purpose and available at your local hardware store, lumber yard, or building center. Paint or stain per taste.

  Page Turn